PICTORIAL FIELD BOOK OF THE REVOLUTION.
BY BENSON J. LOSSING
Canal Voyage from Waterford to Bemis’s Heights. – Appearance of the Country. – Young Tourists from Saratoga Springs. – Gates and Burgoyne. – An Evening Visit to Bemis’s Heights. – View from Bemis’s Heights. – Topography. – Origin of the Name. – Headquarters of Revolutionary Officers. – Localities about Bemis’s Heights. – Gates’s Quarters. – Willard’s Mountain. – Condition of the Northern Army. – British Reverses in the Mohawk Valley. – Perplexity of Burgoyne. – Advance of Gates to Stillwater. – Kosciusko. – Fortifications at Bemis’s Heights. – Their present Appearance. – Preparations for Battle. – Approach of the two Armies. – Engagement between the Advance Corps. – Maneuvers of Arnold and Fraser. – Approach of a British Re-enforcement under Phillips. – View of the Battle-ground. – A Lull in the Battle. – Renewal of the Battle. – Loss sustained by both Armies. – The number and the particular Troops engaged. – Baroness Reidesel’s Notice of the Battle. – Major Hull. – Narrow Escape of Burgoyne. – Arnold, and the Testimony of History. – Colonel Varick’s Letter respecting Arnold. – General Gates’s Treatment of Arnold. – Rupture between them. – Condition of the Armies after the Battle. – Burgoyne’s Encampment. – Poverty of the American Commissariat. – Fortifications of both Camps. – Junction of Lincoln with the Army at Bemis’s. – Relative Position of the Armies. – Effect of the Battle on the People. – Diminution of Burgoyne’s Army, and increase of Gates’s. – Condition of the Enemy. – Hostile Movements of the British. – Preparations of the Americans for Battle. – Second Battle of Stillwater. – Bravery of both Armies. – Quick and bold Movements of Morgan. – Impetuosity and Bravery of Arnold. – General Fraser. – Death of General Fraser. – Censure of Morgan. – Panic in the British Line. – Timothy Murphy. – Bravery of General Arnold. – Assault on the German Works. – Arnold Wounded. – Gates and Sir Francis Clarke. – Retreat of the Germans, and Close of the Battle. – Preparations of Burgoyne to Retreat. – The Killed and Wounded. – Place of General Fraser’s Death. – Account of his Death by the Baroness Reidesel. – Fraser’s last Request granted. – Burial of Fraser. – Humanity of the Americans. – Lady Harriet Ackland. – Courage and Fortitude of Lady Harriet Ackland. – Burgoyne’s Request and Gates’s Generosity.
"Led on by lust of lucre and renown,
Burgoyne came marching with his thousands down;
High were his thoughts and furious his career,
Puff'd with self-confidence and pride severe;
Swoll'n with the idea of his future deeds,
Onward to ruin each advantage leads."
We left Waterford at two o'clock P.M. for Bemis's Heights, the famous battle-ground where Burgoyne was checked and defeated in the autumn of 1777, a few weeks after General Gates succeeded to the command of the northern army. Our conveyance was a neat little canal packet, its cabin crowded with passengers and a well-supplied dinner-table, and its deck piled with as much luggage and as many loungers as low bridges and a hot sun would allow. For a loiterer who takes no note of passing hours but to mark and mourn their excessive length, and who loves to glide along listlessly among green fields and shady woods without the disturbance of even a carriage ride, a day voyage upon a canal is really delightful, especially if the face of nature is attractive, and a pleasant companion or agreeable book assists in smoothing the passage of time. Such seemed to be the character of nearly all our fellow-passengers, pleasure from personal enjoyment being their chief object. When dinner was over, some slept, some read, and every body talked to every body as freely as old acquaintances would chat.
The country through which we passed is very fertile, and beautifully diversified in aspect. The plain over which the Hudson here flows is a narrow alluvial bottom, of garden richness, along the western edge of which passes the canal. Green woods and cultivated fields skirted the river on either side, and those conical hills and knolls, like western tumuli, which are prominent features from Stillwater to Sandy Hill, here begin to appear. Some of them were still covered with the primeval forest, and others were cultivated from base to summit, giving a pleasing variety to the ever-changing landscape. The dark green corn, just flowering; the wheat ears, fading from emerald to russet; the blackberries, thick in the hedges; the flowers innumerable, dotting the pasture fields, and the fragrance of new-mown hay, scattered in wind-rows along the canal, were pleasant sights to one just escaped from the dust and din of the city, and imparted a gratification which only those can feel and appreciate who seldom enjoy it. There was one thing wanting, which leafy June would have supplied – the melody of birds.
"Silence girt the woods; no warbling tongue
Talks now unto the echo of the groves;
Only the curled stream soft chidings kept;
And little gales that from the green leaves swept
Dry summer's dust, in fearful whisperings stirr’d
As loth to waken any singing bird,"
for it was just the season when the warblers of the forest are still, except at early morning, when they carol a brief matin hymn, and the are quiet. Yet
"The poetry of earth is never dead.
At the Borough, or Mechanicsville, nine miles above Waterford, the rail-road from Saratoga Springs reaches the canal. Here our boat was filled to repletion with a bevy of young people, who, tired of medicinals and midnight merriment at that Mecca of fashion in summer, had determined to take a "slow coach" to Whitehall, and meet the stronger tide of gay tourists flowing to Ticonderoga from Lake George. They were full of life, and not one of them had ever passed a night upon a canal-boat. Poor souls! how we pitied them, while we rejoiced at our better fortune, intending, as we did, to debark toward cooling sunset. If "affliction is necessary to temper the over-joyous," our young travelers were doubtless well annealed before morning in the vapor bath of a packet cabin.
One of the passengers was a roving journeyman printer, full of the general intelligence of the craft, an inveterate tobacco chewer, and evidently a boon companion of John Barleycorn and his cousins. His hat was a-slouch and his coat seedy. His wit kept the deck vocal with laughter; yet, when at times he talked gravely, the dignity of intelligence made us all respectful listeners. He was perfectly familiar with the history of the classic grounds through which we were then passing. His father was one of the special adjutants appointed by General Gates on the morning of the action of the 19th of September, and from him he had often received minute details of the events of that contest. He mentioned a circumstance connected with the commander on that occasion, which, in some degree, explains the singular fact that he was not upon the field of action – a fact which some have adduced as evidence of cowardice. It is admitted that General Gates did not leave his camp during the contest; and the special adjutant referred to asserted boldly that intoxication was the chief cause. That, in the opinion of the world at that time, was a weakness far more excusable, and a crime less heinous, than cowardice; for a night’s debauch and a morning of dullness and stupidity were things too common among gentlemen to affect reputation seriously, unless bad consequences ensued. He was not alone in devotion to the wine-cup at that very time, for it is said that Burgoyne and Earl Balcarras did not leave their flagon and their cards until dawn that morning. Burgoyne and the earl, however, had either stouter heads or stouter hearts than Gates, for they were on duty in the field when the contest was raging. It may be that neither wine nor cowardice controlled the American commander. Let us charitably hope that it did not, and charge the fault upon a weak judgment; for we should be ever ready to act toward erring brother-man according to the glorious injunction of Prior:
"Be to his faults a little blind;
Be to his virtues very kind."
We reached Bemis’s Heights between five and six o’clock in the evening. The hotel is situated a few rods south of the site of the old residence of Bemis. The obliging landlord anticipated our impatience to view the battle-ground, and when supper was over we found a horse and light wagon in readiness to carry us to the residence of Charles Neilson, Esq., on the summit of the heights, whence a fine view of the whole scene of conflict and of the surrounding country might be obtained. 1 It was too late for much observation, for twilight soon spread its veil over every object. After spending an hour pleasantly and profitably with Mr. Neilson and his family, I made an engagement to meet him early next morning, to ride and ramble over the historic grounds in the neighborhood.
The morning broke with an unclouded sky, and before the dew was off the grass I was upon Bemis’s Heights, eager to see what yet remained of the military works of a former time. Alas! hardly a vestige is to be seen; but a more beautiful view than the one from Mr. Neilson’s mansion I have seldom beheld. The ground there is higher than any in the vicinity, except the range of hills on the east side of the Hudson, and the eye takes in a varied landscape of a score of miles in almost every direction. Bounding the horizon on the north and west are the heights of Saratoga and the high mountains on the eastern shore of Lake George. On the south stretch away into the blue distance toward Albany the gentle hills and the pleasant valley of the Hudson. On the east, not far distant, rises Willard’s Mountain, and over and beyond its southern neighbors of less altitude may be seen the heights of Bennington on the Walloomscoik, 2 the Green Mountains, and the lofty summit of far-famed Mount Tom.
Bemis’s Heights are situated on the right bank of the Hudson, about four miles north of the pleasant village of Stillwater (which is on the same side of the river), and about twenty-five miles from Albany. The ground here rises abruptly from an extensive alluvial flat, about half a mile in width a little above, but here tapering until it forms quite a narrow defile of not more than thirty or forty rods on each side of the river. At the time of the Revolution, the whole country in this vicinity was covered with a dense forest, having only an occasional clearing of a few acres; and deep ravines furrowed the land in various directions. Fronting the river, a high bluff of rocks and soil, covered with stately oaks and maples, presented an excellent place on which to plant a fortification to command the passage of the river and the narrow valley below. The bluff is still there, but the forest is gone, and many of the smaller ravines have been filled up by the busy hand of cultivation.
The only road then much traveled passed along the margin of the river. Upon the road, at the southern extremity of the bluff, was a tavern kept by a man named Bemis, the only one of note between Albany and Fort Edward. Good wines and long pipes, a spacious ball-room and a capital larder, made Bemis’s house a famous place of resort for sleighing parties in winter, throughout the whole of the Saratoga valley of the Hudson. He owned a portion of the heavy-timbered heights near him, and from that circumstance the hill derived its name.
On the summit of the height, three fourths of a mile northwest of Bemis’s, the father of Mr. Neilson owned a clearing of a few acres when the war broke out, and he had erected a small dwelling and a log barn thereon. The dwelling, with large additions, is still there, but the log barn, which was picketed and used for a fort, has long since given place to another. Around that old mansion cluster many interesting historic associations, and if its walls could articulate, they might tell of heroism in action and patient endurance which the pen of history has never yet recorded.
Upon the next page are given a group of localities about Bemis’s Heights and a miniature map of the engagements there. The picture at the top of the page represents the mansion of Mr. Neilson, as seen from the opposite side of the road, looking eastward. It stands upon the east side of the highway leading to Quaker Springs, about one hundred rods north of the road from Bemis’s Heights to the watering places of Ballston and Saratoga. It is a frame house, and the part next to the road is modern compared with the other and smaller portion, which is the original dwelling. The room in the old part (a sketch of which is given in the third picture from the top) is quite large, and was occupied by Brigadier-general Poor and Colonel Morgan as quarters at the time of the encampments there. It was in this room that Major Ackland, the brave commander of the British Grenadiers, who was severely wounded in the battle of the 7th of October, was kindly received by the American officers, and visited and nursed by his heroic wife, Lady Harriet Ackland, of whom, and the event in question, I shall hereafter speak. The bed of the wounded officer was beneath the window on the left. The door in the center opens into a small bed-room; and this, as well as every thing else about the room, is carefully preserved in its original condition. Where the smaller poplar tree stands was a building which General Arnold occupied; and further to the left the small buildings are upon the spot where the fortified log barn stood, which was at the northwest angle of the American works. In compliment to the owner, the rude fortification was called Fort Neilson.
Between the smaller poplar tree and the house is seen Willard’s Mountain, five miles distant, on the east side of the Hudson. This eminence commands a fine view of the valley for many miles. From its summit a Mr. Willard and a few others, with a good spy-glass, watched all the movements of Burgoyne, and made regular reports to General Gates. This service was exceedingly valuable, for a fair estimate of the number of troops, their baggage, stores, artillery, &c., was made from his observations. His name is immortalized by a gigantic monument, which has borne it ever since.
The second vignette from the top is a view of Gates’s headquarters at the time of the battle of the 7th of October. He first made his headquarters at Bemis’s house, but afterward removed them hither. This house was demolished about four years ago, but, from a sketch furnished by Mr. Neilson, I am enabled to give a correct view. The old well curb is still there, and seems as though it might survive a generation yet. This house stood about one hundred and fifty rods south of Fort Neilson, and the traces of the cellar may now be seen a few yards to the left of the Ballston road, ascending from the river.
The third vignette represents the room mentioned above. The picture at the bottom of the page is a view from the Bemis’s Heights Hotel, representing the Champlain Canal, the Hudson River, and the hills on the eastern side. Near the large trees on the left may be seen traces of a redoubt which defended a floating bridge that was thrown across the river here, and so constructed that one end could be detached at pleasure, allowing the bridge to swing around with the current, and thus prevent the enemy from entering upon it. The lumber for this bridge was furnished by General Schuyler, at his own private expense, and floated down the river from Saratoga or Schuylerville.
The map I shall have occasion to refer to when noticing the fortifications and the battles. The halbert, represented on the left of the picture, was plowed up in the neighborhood, and is in the possession of Mr. Neilson. When found, it had a small British flag or cloven pennon attached to it, which soon occupied the utilitarian and more peaceful position of patches in the bed-quilt of a prudent housewife.
When General Gates took the command of the Northern Army [August 19, 1777.], events were occurring favorable to his success. Burgoyne was at Fort Edward, paralyzed with alarm and perplexity on account of the failure of an expedition to Bennington – a failure, in its immediate as well as prospective effects, extremely disastrous. The obstructions which General Schuyler had thrown in the way on his retreat from Fort Anne, made the march of the enemy slow and toilsome in the extreme. 3 The plethora of the commissariat department was rapidly subsiding by the delay; the supplies of the surrounding country, already heavily levied on, were totally inadequate to the demand, and the capture of American stores was an object called for by stern necessity. Burgoyne, therefore, halted at Fort Edward, and sent an expedition to Bennington to seize a large quantity of clothing and provisions with the Americans had collected there. The detachment sent thither so weakened his forces that he dared not proceed until it should return, bringing back, as he confidently expected, ample provisions for his army until he should enter Albany triumphant. But the New England militia were on the alert, and they not only saved their stores and live cattle at Bennington, but defeated and dispersed the enemy [August 16.], capturing a large number, together with arms and ammunition, then much needed by the growing ranks of volunteers.
Burgoyne had hardly recovered from this shock, before a courier, guided by a friendly Indian, came in breathless haste by the way of Saratoga Lake and Glenn’s Falls, bearing the direful news of the desertion of the Indians, the defection of the loyalists of the Mohawk Valley, and the complete defeat of St. Leger at Fort Schuyler [August 22.]. These reverses fell like an incubus upon the spirits of his army. The Indians in his camp, already vexed because Burgoyne’s humanity had restrained their purposes of rapine and murder, began to waver in their fidelity, and the Canadians and timid loyalists became luke-warm through very cowardice, and deserted by hundreds.
Burgoyne was greatly perplexed. To proceed at that time would be madness; to retreat would not only lose him a promised order, perhaps a peerage, but would operate powerfully in giving friends to the republicans. The idea of British invincibility would be dissipated, and thousands who favored the cause of the king on account of that supposed invincibility and the hopelessness of resistance, would join the patriots, or would, at least, become mere passive loyalists. In view of all these difficulties, the British commander wisely resolved to remain at Fort Edward until the panic should subside and stores should be brought forward from his posts on Lake George and Lake Champlain. He was also in daily expectation of advices from General Howe or Sir Henry Clinton, at New York, announcing a movement upon the Hudson for the purpose of producing a diversion in favor of Burgoyne, by drawing away a portion of the American army from the North.
These disasters of the enemy greatly inspirited the Americans, and the Eastern militia, among whom Gates was very popular, flocked to his standard with great alacrity. The murder of Jane M‘Crea at Fort Edward (of which I shall hereafter speak) was another powerful agency in swelling the ranks of the patriots. Fierce indignation was aroused in every honest heart by the highly-colored recital of that event, and loyalists by hundreds withdrew their support from a cause which employed such instrumentalities as savage warriors to execute its purposes.
Perceiving the disposition of Burgoyne to halt at Fort Edward, and the difficulties that were gathering around him, General Gates advanced up the Hudson to Stillwater, and prepared to act offensively or defensively, as circumstances should dictate. It was at first resolved to throw up fortifications at the place where the village of Stillwater now is; but the narrowness of the valley and the abruptness of the bank on the western margin of the flat at Bemis’s offered a more advantageous position, and there, by the advice of Kosciusko, who was an engineer in the army, General Gates made his encampment and fortified it. 4
Along the brow of the hill toward the river a line of breast-works was thrown up, about three fourths of a mile in extent, with a strong battery at each extremity, and one near the center in such position as to completely sweep the valley, and command even the hills upon the eastern side of the river. Faint traces of these redoubts and the connecting breast-works are still visible. At the northern extremity, where the largest and strongest battery was erected, the mound is leveled, but the ditch is quite deep, and may be traced many rods westward from the brow of the hill, along the line of breast-works that were thrown up after the first battle. But every year the plow casts in the soil of its furrows, and ere long no vestige will remain of these intrenchments. Within the area of the northeast redoubt, at the time of my visit, potatoes in desecrating luxuriance were flourishing, except upon a very small spot occupied as a burial-place for a few of the Vanderburgh family. It really seemed sacrilegious for the vulgar vines of the nutritious tuber to intertwine with the long grass and beautiful wild flowers that covered the graves. The elder one of those buried there was an active republican, and had his house burned by the enemy. A few plain slabs with inscriptions tell who lie beneath the several mounds, but no stone marks the grave where sleeps that venerable patriot.
From the foot of the hill, across the flats to the river, an intrenchment was opened, and at the extremity, on the water’s edge, a strong battery was erected, which guarded the floating bridge constructed there, and also commanded the plain on the east side of the river in such a manner that the enemy might have been terribly enfiladed in case they had attempted to pass down the river or the valley.
Near where the road crossed Mill Creek, a small stream nearly half a mile above Bemis’s tavern, were a short line of breast-works and a strong battery, which, with those mentioned above, composed all the fortifications previous to the first battle. These being completed about the 15th of September, and the enemy approaching, General Gates made preparations for resistance. Brave officers and determined soldiers, in high spirits, were gathered around him, and the latter were hourly increasing in numbers. The counsels of General Schuyler and the known bravery of General Arnold were at his command; and he felt confident of victory, aided by such men as Poor, Learned, Stark, Whipple, Paterson, Warner, Fellows, Bailey, Glover, Wolcott, Bricketts, and Tenbroeck, with their full brigades, and the brave Virginian, Colonel Morgan, with his unerring marksmen, supported by the regiments of Dearborn, Brooks, Cilley, Scammel, and Hull.
Small successes about this time, important in the aggregate result, tended materially to keep up the spirits of the American troops, and made them eager to encounter the main body of the enemy. General Lincoln, with about two thousand militia, got in the rear of Burgoyne, and, by dividing his forces into detachments, operated with much effect. One detachment, under Colonel Brown, surprised the British posts on Lake George, captured a vessel containing provisions for the enemy, took possession of Mount Hope and Mount Defiance, and, appearing before Ticonderoga, demanded its surrender. But the walls and garrison were too strong, and, after a cannonade of four days, the siege was abandoned, and all the troops prepared to unite and attack the enemy in the rear. The threatening aspect of this movement of Lincoln at the beginning, and the probability of having his supplies from the lakes cut off, induced Burgoyne, in self-defense, to move forward and execute promptly what he intended to do. Having, by great diligence, brought forward provisions for about thirty days, he advanced along the left bank of the Hudson to the mouth of the Batten Kill, where he encamped preparatory to crossing the river.5 His officers were somewhat divided in opinion in regard to the expediency of further attempts to reach Albany; and it had been plainly intimated to Burgoyne that it might be greater wisdom to fall back from Fort Edward, rather than advance, for it was evident that perils of no ordinary kind were gathering around the invading army.
Unwilling to act in opposition to the expressed opinions of his officers, Burgoyne avoided any intimations of judgment on their part by omitting to consult them at all; and he assumed the responsibility of crossing the Hudson, resting for his defense, if adversity should ensue, upon the peremptory nature of his instructions.6 He constructed a bridge of boats, and on the 13th and 14th of September passed his whole army over, and encamped on the heights and plains of Saratoga, at the mouth of the Fish Creek, where Schuylerville now is, and within about five miles of the American works below. On the 15th, having succeeded in getting his artillery, baggage, and stores across the river, Burgoyne moved down as far as Do-ve-gat (now Coveville), where he halted until the morning of the 17th, for the purpose of repairing the roads and bridges before him, when he advanced as far as Sword’s house and encamped for the night. On the morning of the 18th he moved down as far as the place now called Wilbur’s Basin, within two miles of the American camp, and here he made preparations for battle. His chief officers were Major-general Phillips, of the artillery, who had performed signal service in Germany; Brigadier-general Fraser, commander of the grenadiers and light infantry; Brigadiers Hamilton and Powell; and the Brunswick major general, Baron de Reidesel, with his brigadiers, Specht and Gall. Earl Balcarras, Colonel Breyman, Major Ackland, Lieutenant Kingston, and others of minor grade, were men of tried courage, and ardently attached to their general and the service.
When the defeat of Burgoyne, a few days later, became known in England, the crossing of the Hudson River and his persistence in pressing toward Albany, with the American army in front and a wilderness filling with armed republicans in his rear, formed the chief theme for the vituperative assaults of his enemies; and to these steps all his subsequent misfortunes were attributed. But, as we have seen, he retreated behind the peremptory instructions of ministers; and Botta very justly observes, "that at that time he had not yet received any intelligence either of the strength of the army left at New York, or the movements which Sir Henry Clinton intended to make, or had made, up the North River toward Albany. He calculated on a powerful co-operation on the part of that general. Such was the plan of the ministers, and such the tenor of their peremptory instructions."7
Whether the movement was judicious or injudicious we will not stop to inquire, but, having arranged the two armies within cannon-shot of each other, will pass on to the consideration of an event which solved the question by arguments far more potential than logic can command –
THE FIRST BATTLE OF STILLWATER8
The morning of the 19th of September[1777.] was clear and calm, and every thing without was white with hoar-frost. The hostile armies, within ear-shot of each other’s reveille, were disposed in similar order, each extending from the river westward over the hills. The main body of the American army composing the right wing, which consisted chiefly of Glover’s, Nixon’s, and Patterson’s brigades, was under the immediate command of General Gates, and occupied the hills near the river and the narrow flats below them. The left wing, composed of the brigade of General Poor, consisting of Cilley’s, Scammel’s, and Hale’s regiments, of New Hampshire; Van Courtlandt’s and Henry Livingston’s, of New York; Latimer and Cook’s Connecticut militia; the corps of riflemen under Morgan, and infantry under Dearborn, was posted on the heights about three fourths of a mile from the river, and commanded by General Arnold. 9 The center, on the elevated plain near the residence of Mr. Neilson, was composed of Learned’s brigade, with Bailey’s, Wesson’s, and Jackson’s regiments, of Massachusetts, and James Livingston’s of New York.
The left wing of the British army, which included the immense train of artillery under Generals Phillips and Reidesel, rested upon the flats upon the bank of the river. The center and the right wing, composed principally of Hessians,10 extended westward upon the hills, and were commanded by Burgoyne in person, covered by General Fraser and Colonel Breyman, with the grenadiers and light infantry. The front and flanks were covered by the Indians, Canadians, and loyalists, who still remained in the camp.
General Gates resolved to maintain a defensive position, and await the approach of Burgoyne, who, on the contrary, had made every preparation for advancing. Phillips and Reidesel were to march with the artillery along the road on the margin of the river. The Canadians and Indians were in front to attack the central outposts of the Americans, while Burgoyne and Fraser, with the grenadiers and infantry, in separate bodies, and strongly flanked by Indians, were to make a circuitous route through the woods back of the river hills, form a junction, and fall upon the rear of the American camp. It was arranged that three minute-guns would be fired when Burgoyne and Fraser should join their forces, as a signal for the artillery to make an attack upon the American front and right, force their way through the lines, and scatter them in confusion.
At an early hour the American pickets observed great activity in the British camp; the glitter of bayonets and sabers and the flashing of scarlet uniforms were distinctly seen through the vistas of the forest as the troops of the enemy marched and countermarched to form the various lines for battle. These movements were constantly reported to General Gates, yet he issued no orders and evinced no disposition to fight. About ten o’clock it was clearly perceived that the whole of the enemy’s force was in motion, and separated into three divisions. Phillips and Reidesel, with the artillery, commenced marching slowly down the road along the river; Burgoyne, with the center division, followed the course of the stream, now forming Wilbur’s Basin, westward; and Fraser and Breyman commenced a circuitous route along a new road partially opened from the basin, and intersecting the road from Bemis’s about two and a half miles north of the American lines.
Arnold was fully apprised of all this, and became as impatient as a hound in the leash. His opinion, earnestly and repeatedly expressed to the commander during the morning, that a detachment should be sent out to make an attack, was at length heeded. About noon, Colonel Morgan with his light-horse, and Major Dearborn with his infantry, were detached from Arnold’s division, and, marching out, made a vigorous attack upon the Canadians and Indians who swarmed upon the hills. They met at the middle ravine, south of Freeman’s cottage.11 The enemy was repulsed; but so furious was Morgan’s charge, that his men became scattered in the woods, and a re-enforcement of loyalists under Major Forbes soon drove the Americans back. Captain Van Swearingen and Lieutenant Morris, with twenty privates, fell into the hands of the British. For a moment, on finding himself almost alone, Morgan felt that his corps was ruined; but his loud signal-whistle soon gathered his brave followers around him, and the charge was renewed. Dearborn seconded him, and Cilley and Scammel hastened to their support. The contest was quite equal, and both parties at length retired within their respective lines.
About the same time a party of Canadians, savages, and loyalists were detached through the skirt of the woods along the margin of the flats near the river. They were met by the American pickets on a flat piece of ground near Mill Creek, and a smart skirmish ensued. The enemy was much cut up and broken, and finally fled, leaving thirteen dead on the field and thirty-five taken prisoners. In the mean while, Burgoyne and Fraser were making rapid movements for the purpose of falling upon the Americans in front and on the left flank. The center division marched through some partial clearings to Freeman’s farm,12 while Fraser, having reached a high point about one hundred and fifty rods north of the "cottage," moved rapidly southward for the purpose of turning the left flank of the Americans. Arnold, at the same time, made a similar attempt upon Fraser. He called upon Gates for a re-enforcement from the right wing, but the commander deemed it prudent not to weaken it, for the left of Burgoyne’s army was then within half a mile of his lines, and spreading out upon the heights.
Arnold resolved to do what he could with those under his command, which consisted of General Learned’s brigade and the New York troops. With these he attempted to turn the enemy’s right, and, if possible, cut off the detachment of Fraser from the main army. So dense was the forest and so uneven was the ground, that neither party fairly comprehended the movements of the other, or knew that each was attempting the same maneuver. They met suddenly and unexpectedly upon the level ground near Mill Creek, or Middle Ravine, about sixty yards west of Freeman’s cottage, and at once an action, warm and destructive, began. Arnold led the van of his men, and fell upon the foe with the fury and impetuosity of a tiger. By voice and action he encouraged his troops; but the overwhelming numbers of the enemy for a time repulsed them. By a quick movement, Fraser attacked the left flank of the right wing of the American army; but fearing that Arnold (who had rallied his troops, and was re-enforced by four regiments under Lieutenant-colonels Brooks, Cilley, Scammel, and Majors Dearborn and Hull) might cut the British lines and separate the two wings, he brought up the twenty-fourth regiment, some light infantry, and Breyman’s riflemen, to strengthen the point of attack. The Americans made such a vigorous resistance, that the British began to give way and fall into confusion; but General Phillips, who, from his position below the heights, heard the din of conflict on the right wing of his army, hurried over the hills, through the thick woods, with fresh troops and part of the artillery under Captain Jones, and appeared upon the ground at the very moment when victory seemed within the grasp of the Americans. For an hour the republicans had disputed the ground inch by inch, but the crushing force of superior numbers pressed them back to their lines.
It was now about three o’clock. The contest suddenly ceased, but it was only the lull which precedes a more furious burst of the tempest. Each army took breath, and gathered up new energies for a more desperate conflict. They were beyond musket-shot of each other, and separated by a thick wood and a narrow clearing. Each was upon a gentle hill, one sloping toward the south, the other toward the north. The Americans were sheltered by the intervening wood; the British were within an open pine forest. The Americans stood in determined silence, and heard distinctly the voices of the officers upon the opposite hill as they gave their orders along the lines.
Again the enemy made the first hostile movement, and from a powerful battery opened a terrible fire, but without effect. To this the Americans made no reply. Burgoyne then ordered the woods to be cleared by the bayonet, and soon, across the open field, column after column of infantry steadily advanced toward the patriot lines. The Americans kept close within their intrenchments until the enemy fired a volley and pressed onward to the charge, when they sprang upon their assailants with a force that drove them far back across the clearing. Like the ebbing and flowing of the tide, the contending armies alternately advanced and retreated, and for more than three hours the conflict was severe and the result doubtful. And it was not until the sun went down and darkness came upon them, that the warriors ceased their horrid strife. Even amid the gloom of evening there were furious contentions. Just at dusk, Lieutenant-colonel Marshall, with the tenth Massachusetts regiment, encountered some British grenadiers and infantry on a rise of ground a little west of Freeman’s cottage, and a brisk but short action ensued.14 The commander of the enemy was killed, and the troops fled in confusion. Lieutenant-colonel Brooks, of the eighth Massachusetts regiment, remained upon the field until eleven o’clock at night, and in the course of the evening he had a skirmish on the extreme left with some of Breyman’s riflemen, whom he knew as such only by the brass match-cases upon their breasts. He was the last to leave the field of action. The conflict at length ended. The Americans retired within their lines, and the British rested on their arms all night upon the field of battle. 15
The loss of the Americans was, officers included, sixty-four killed, two hundred and seventeen wounded, and thirty-eight missing; in all, three hundred and nineteen.16 The British lost, in killed, wounded, and prisoners, "rather more than less than five hundred." 17 Both parties claimed the honor of victory. The British, it is true, remained masters, or, at least, possessors, of the field, but this was not their ultimate object. It was to advance, and that they failed to do; while the Americans were intent only upon maintaining their ground, and this they accomplished. The advantage, therefore, was certainly on the side of the republicans.
Very few battles have been marked by more determined bravery and patient endurance on both sides than this. Phillips and Reidesel, who had served in the wars in Flanders and other parts of Europe, said they never knew so long and hot a fire; and Burgoyne, in his defense before Parliament, remarked, "few actions have been characterized by more obstinacy in attack or defense." The number of Americans engaged in the action was about two thousand five hundred, and of the British about three thousand. The whole British Army in camp and on the field numbered about five thousand, and that of the Americans about seven thousand.
Although the aggregate number of killed on both sides did not exceed one hundred and fifty, the slaughter and maiming were dreadful in particular instances. Major Jones, of the British army, commanded a battery, and fell, while at his post, during the swaying to and fro of the armies across the clearing, toward evening, when several of the cannons were taken and retaken a number of times. Thirty-six out of forty-eight of his artillery-men were killed or wounded. Lieutenant Hadden was the only officer unhurt, and he had his cap shot from his head by a musket-ball while spiking the cannon. The sixty-second regiment18 of Hamilton’s brigade, which consisted of six hundred when it left Canada, was so cut in pieces, that only sixty men and five officers were left capable of duty. The commander, Colonel Anstruther, and Major Harnage, were both wounded.
The Baroness Reidesel, wife of General Reidesel, who accompanied her husband through this whole campaign, wrote an admirable narrative of the various events connected therewith. In relation to the battle of the 19th of September, she says, "An affair happened, which, though it turned out to our advantage, yet obliged us to halt at a place called Freeman’s farm. I was an eye-witness to the whole affair, and, as my husband was engaged in it, I was full of anxiety, and trembled at every shot I heard. I saw a great number of the wounded, and, what added to the distress of the scene, three of them were brought into the house in which I took shelter. One was a Major Harnage, of the sixty-second regiment, the husband of a lady of my acquaintance; another was a lieutenant, married to a lady with whom I had the honor to be on terms of intimacy; and the third was an officer by the name of Young."
More than one half of an American detachment under Major Hull,19 consisting of two hundred men, was killed or wounded. Some of the Americans ascended high trees, and from the concealed perches picked off the British officers in detail. Several were killed by the bullets of these sure marksmen. Burgoyne himself came very near being made a victim to this mode of warfare. A bullet, intended for him, shattered the arm of Captain Green, aid-de-camp to General Phillips, who at that moment was handing a letter to Burgoyne. The captain fell from his horse. In the confusion of the smoke and noise, it was supposed to be Burgoyne, and such was the belief, for some hours, in the American camp. Among the Americans who were killed in the battle were Colonels Adams and Colburn, valuable officers. But it is unpleasant and unprofitable to ponder upon the painful details of a battle, and we will pass on to the consideration of subsequent events.
Let us pause a moment, however, and render justice to as brave a soldier as ever drew blade for freedom. Although in after years he was recreant to the high and sacred responsibilities that rested upon him, and committed an act deserving the execrations of all good men, strict justice demands a fair acknowledgement of his brave deeds. I mean Benedict Arnold.
The testimony of historians is in conflict respecting the part which Arnold performed in the battle just noticed; and prejudice and evident falsehood have denied him the honor of being personally engaged in it. Gordon says, "Arnold’s division was out in the action, but he himself did not head them; he remained in the camp the whole time." General Wilkinson, the adjutant general of Gates at that time, says in his Memoirs that "no general officer was on the field of battle during the day," and intimates that he himself chiefly conducted affairs. He further says, that when, toward evening, Gates and Arnold were together in front of the camp, Major Lewis20 came in from the scene of action, and announced that its progress was undecisive. Arnold immediately exclaimed, "I will soon put an end to it," and set off in a full gallop from the camp. Gates dispatched an officer after him, and ordered him back. Botta, who was acquainted with many of the foreign officers who served in this war, and whose sources of correct information were very ample, observes, "Arnold exhibited upon this occasion all the impetuosity of his courage; he encouraged his men by voice and example." Stedman, a British officer who served under Cornwallis here, says, in his "History of the American War," "The enemy were led to the battle by General Arnold, who distinguished himself in an extraordinary manner." Allen, in his Biographical Dictionary, says, "In the battle near Stillwater, September the 19th, he conducted himself with his usual intrepidity, being engaged incessantly for four hours." M‘Farlane, in the Pictorial History of England, says, "Gates’s detachment, being re-enforced and led on by Arnold, fell upon Burgoyne and the right wing." Again: "Arnold behaved with extraordinary gallantry, but he could make an impression nowhere." Again: "Every time that Arnold was beaten back, Gates sent him more men from the star redoubt." The well-founded traditions of the vicinity support the position that Arnold was actively engaged in the conflict, and a knowledge of the locality is sufficient to cause a doubt of the correctness of Wilkinson’s statement.
Finally, Colonel Varick, writing from camp to General Schuyler, three days after the action, said, "He [Gates] seems to be piqued that Arnold’s division had the honor of beating the enemy on the 19th. This I am certain of, that Arnold has all the credit of the action. And this I further know, that Gates asked where the troops were going when Scammel’s battalion marched out, and, upon being told, he declared no more troops should go; he would not suffer the camp to be exposed. Had Gates complied with Arnold’s repeated desires, he would have obtained a general and complete victory over the enemy. But it is evident to me he never intended to fight Burgoyne, till Arnold urged, begged, and entreated him to do it." In another letter which he wrote to Schuyler, about a month afterward, from Albany, Colonel Varick observed, "During Burgoyne’s stay here, he gave Arnold great credit for his bravery and military abilities, especially in the action of the 19th, whenever he spoke of him, and once in the presence of Gates."
Under ordinary circumstances, the statements of General Wilkinson, he being adjutant general at that time, and presumed to be cognizant of all the events of the battle, ought to be received as semi-official; but in this case they must be taken with great allowance. Gates was evidently jealous of Arnold’s well-earned reputation and growing popularity with the army; and Wilkinson, who was his favorite, and seemed ever ready to pander to his commander’s vanity, caused, by his officious interference at that very time, a serious misunderstanding between the two generals, which resulted in an open rupture. In the first place, he caused a part of Arnold’s division to be withdrawn without his knowledge, and he was put in the ridiculous light of presuming to give orders which were contravened by the general orders of the commander-in-chief. Wilkinson also insisted upon the return of a part of Arnold’s division (Morgan’s corps) being made directly to him, and Gates sustained the unjust demand in general orders. And then, to crown his injustice toward a brave officer, Gates, in his communication to Congress respecting the battle, said nothing of Arnold or his division, but merely observed that "the action was fought by detachments from the army." This was ungenerous, not only to Arnold, but to the troops under his command, and he justly complained of the neglect when it became known. Harsh words passed between the two officers, and Gates even told Arnold that he thought him of little consequence in the army, that when Lincoln arrived he should take away his command, and that he would give him a pass to leave the camp as soon as he pleased.21
Under the excitement of his feelings, Arnold demanded a pass for himself and suite to join General Washington. The pass was granted, but in his cooler moments he saw how injurious it might to the cause, and how hazardous to his reputation, if he should voluntarily leave the army when another battle was hourly expected. He remained, but without any employment in the camp, for Gates put his threat into execution, took command of Arnold’s division himself, and, on the arrival of General Lincoln, on the 29th, placed him over the right wing.
The morning of the 20th of September was cloudy, dull, and cheerless, and with the gloomy aspect of nature the spirits of the British army sympathized. The combatants had slumbered upon the field during the night, and at dawn, seeing no disposition on the part of the Americans to renew the conflict, they retired to their camp on the river hills, and upon the flats at the mouth of the creek, now Wilbur’s Basin.
BURGOYNE’S ENCAMPMENT ON THE WEST BANK OF THE HUDSON, SEPTEMBER 20, 1777.
From a print published in London, 1779.
Burgoyne was surprised and mortified at the bold and successful resistance of the Americans, and saw clearly that it would be useless to attempt to carry the works by storm, or in any other way to push forward toward Albany. He resolved to strengthen his position, endeavor to communicate with Howe and Clinton at New York, and effect by their co-operation what his own unaided troops could not accomplish. Had he been aware of the true condition of the Americans on the morning after the battle, he might easily have won a victory, for the soldiers composing the left wing, which sustained the conflict, had only a single round of cartridges left. Nor was the magazine in a condition to supply them, for such was the difficulty of procuring ammunition at that time, that the army had a very meager quantity when the conflict began the day previous, and now there were not in the magazine forty rounds to each man in the service. At no time was there more than three days’ provisions in the camp, and on the day of action there was no flour. A supply arrived on the 20th, and the disheartening contingency of short allowance to the weary soldiers was thus prevented. General Gates alone was privy to this deplorable deficiency, and it was not until after a supply of powder and window-leads for bullets was received from Albany that he made the fact known, and thus gave a plausible reason for not complying with Arnold’s urgent request to commence the battle early again the next morning.
Both parties now wrought diligently in strengthening their respective positions. The Americans extended and completed their line of breast-works from the northeastern angle on the river hills,22 westward about three fourths of a mile, to the heights, a few rods north of the dwelling of Mr. Neilson. From this point they were extended south and southwest to a large ravine, now on the south side of the road leading to Saratoga Springs. At the northwest angle, near Mr. Neilson’s, stood the log barn before alluded to. This was strengthened by a double tier of logs on three sides. Strong batteries, in circular form, extended about one hundred and fifty feet south. The whole was encircled by a deep trench and a row of strong palisades. The area was about half an acre. When completed, it formed quite a strong bulwark, and was named Fort Neilson.
About fifty rods south of the fort was a strong battery; and in the rear, near the center of the encampment, stood the magazine, made bomb-proof. The front of the camp was covered by a deep ravine skirted by a dense forest, running nearly parallel with the lines, from the river hills westward. For some distance west of the fort, large trees were felled, and presented a strong abatis toward the enemy.23
Burgoyne was equally busy in strengthening his position. His camp was pitched within cannon-shot of the American lines. Across the plain to the river hills a line of intrenchments, with batteries, was thrown up, crossing the north ravine not far from its junction with the Middle Ravine or Mill Creek. The intrenchments extended northward on the west side of Freeman’s farm. The Hessian camp was pitched upon an eminence about half a mile northwest of Freeman’s farm, where a strong redoubt was reared, and a line of intrenchments of a horse-shoe form was thrown up. Intrenchments were also made along the hills fronting the river; and four redoubts, upon four hills or huge knolls, were erected, two above and two below Wilbur’s Basin. A short line of intrenchments, with a battery, extended across the flats to the river, and covered their magazine and hospital in the rear. These composed the principal defenses of the enemy. In many places these works may still be traced, especially by mounds and shallow ditches in the woods.
As soon as the works were completed, General Gates moved his quarters from Bemis’s house to theone delineated in the second picture from the top, among the group of localities on page 46. The house belonged to Captain Ephraim Woodworth. A barn, which stood about fifteen rods east of the house, was used for a hospital.
General Lincoln, with two thousand New England troops, joined the main army on the 29th[September, 1777.]. Gates at once gave the right wing to him, and assumed the command of the left, which was composed of two brigades under Generals Poor and Learned, Colonel Morgan’s rifle corps, and a part of the fresh New England militia. Morgan occupied the heights immediately south of the fort; Learned’s brigade the plain on the east, and General Poor’s brigade the heights south of Morgan, between him and Gates’s headquarters. 24 In fact, the position of the American army was about the same as at the time of the battle of the 19th. Burgoyne disposed his troops to the best advantage. The Hessians, under Colonel Breyman, occupied a height on the extreme right, and formed a flank defense rather than a wing of the main army. The light infantry, under Earl Balcarras, with the choicest portion of Fraser’s corps, flanked on the left by the grenadiers and Hamilton’s brigade, occupied the vicinity of Freeman’s farm; the remainder of the army, including the artillery under Phillips and Reidesel, occupied the plain and the high ground north of Wilbur’s Basin; and the Hessians of Hanau, the forty-seventh regiment, and some loyalists, were situated upon the flats near the river, for the protection of the bateaux, hospital, and magazine. Thus in parallel lines to each other, and within cannon-shot, the two armies lay in menacing attitude from the 20th of September until the 7th of October. Each exercised the utmost vigilance, expecting the other to fall upon them in full power, or entangle them by strategy. There were constant skirmishes between small detachments, sometimes foraging parties, and at others a few pickets; and not a night passed without the performance of some daring exploit, either for the sake of adventure, or to annoy each other. The Americans were constantly gaining strength, and their superiority of numbers enabled them to form expeditions to harass the British, without weakening their lines by fatigue or endangering the safety of the camp.
The success of the Americans in the late battle, and the rapid increment of the army, almost annihilated loyalty in the neighborhood, and made every republican, whether soldier or citizen, bold and adventurous. At one time about twenty young Americans, farmers residing in the vicinity, not belonging to the camp, and intent on having a frolic, resolved to capture an advance picket-guard of the enemy, stationed on the north bank of the middle ravine. They selected their officers, and each being armed with a fowling piece and plenty of powder and shot, they marched silently through the woods in the evening, until they got within a few yards of the picket. The captain of the party then gave a tremendous blast upon an old horse-trumpet which he carried, and, with yells and the noise of a whole regiment, they rushed through the bushes upon the frightened enemy. No time was given for the sentinel’s hail, for, simultaneously with their furious onset, the captain of the frolickers cried out lustily, "Ground your arms, or you are all dead men!" Supposing half the American army was upon them, the astonished pickets obeyed, and thirty British soldiers were taken by the jolly young farmers into the republican camp with all the parade of regular prisoners of war. This was one of many similar instances, and thus the British camp was kept in a state of constant alarm.25
Burgoyne saw, with deep anxiety, the rapid increase of the American forces, while his own were daily diminishing by desertion. Nearly one hundred and fifty Indian warriors, from the tribes of the Oneidas, Tuscaroras, Onondagas, and Mohawks, accepted the war-belt, partook of the feast, and joined the republican army within three days after the battle of the 19th. The Indians with Burgoyne were so dissatisfied with the results of that battle, and so disappointed in their hopes of blood and plunder, that they deserted him in large numbers in that hour of his greatest peril. It was their hunting season, too, and this was another strong inducement to return to their wives and children, to keep starvation from their wigwams. The Canadians and loyalists were not much more faithful.26
Burgoyne used every means in his power to transmit intelligence of his situation to Howe, and to implore his assistance either by co-operation or a diversion in his favor. But the American pickets, vigilant and wary, were planted in all directions; and it was by the merest chance that the British commander received a letter from Sir Henry Clinton, at New York,27 written in cipher on the 10th, informing him that he should make a diversion in his favor by attacking Forts Clinton and Montgomery, in the Hudson Highlands, on the 20th. This information raised the hopes of Burgoyne, for he supposed that the attack at those points would draw off large detachments from Gates for their defense, and render the belligerent forces at Stillwater nearly equal in numbers. He immediately dispatched two officers in disguise, and several other persons in different directions, to Sir Henry Clinton, with a letter, urging him to make the diversion without fail, and saying that he had provisions enough to hold out until the 12th of October.
Time rolled on, and Burgoyne heard nothing further from Clinton. His provisions began to fail, and on the 1st of October he was obliged to put his troops on short allowance. Not a man or a biscuit was allowed to reach him from any quarter. The militia were flocking into Gates’s camp from all directions, and perils of every kind were weaving their web around the proud Briton. At last he was reduced to the alternative to fight or fly. The latter was both impracticable and inglorious, and at a council of officers it was resolved to fight.
On the morning of the 7th of October, Burgoyne, at the head of fifteen hundred regular troops, with two twelve pounders, two howitzers, and six six pounders, moved toward the American left, to the northern part of a low ridge of land about three fourths of a mile northwest from the American camp, where they formed a line in double ranks. He was seconded by Phillips, Reidesel, and Fraser. The guard of the camp upon the high grounds was committed to Brigadiers Hamilton and Specht, and that of the redoubts and plain near the river to Brigadier-general Gall. This movement was for a two-fold purpose, to cover a foraging party sent out to supply the pressing wants of the camp, and, if the prospect was favorable, to turn the left of the American army, and fall upon its flank and rear. Small parties of loyalists and Indians were sent around through by-paths, to hang upon the American rear and keep them in check.
Before this movement was known to General Gates, he had ordered out a detachment of three hundred men under Colonel Brooks, to gain the rear of the enemy and fall upon his outposts. While Brooks was at headquarters, receiving his instructions, a sergeant arrived with intelligence of the movement of the British army. The order to Colonel Brooks was revoked, the officers in camp were summoned to their posts, and an aid was sent out by the commander-in-chief to ascertain the exact position and probable intentions of the enemy. He proceeded to a rise of ground covered with woods, half a mile from Fort Neilson (near the house of Asa Chatfield), where he discovered the British in a wheat field cutting straw, and several officers on the top of a cabin (Joseph Munger’s) with a spy-glass, endeavoring to ascertain the condition of the American left. The aid returned, and had just reached headquarters with his intelligence, when a party of Canadians, Indians, and loyalists, who had been sent forward to scour the woods, attacked the American pickets near the middle ravine. They were soon joined by a detachment of grenadiers, drove the Americans before them, and pressed forward until within musket-shot of the republican lines. For half an hour a hot engagement ensued at the breast-work, a little south of the fort. Morgan, with his riflemen, supported by a corps of infantry, at length charged the assailants with such deadly effect, that they retreated in confusion to the British line, which was forming upon a newly-cleared field, preparatory to marching into action.
It was now two o’clock, about the same hour at which the two armies summoned their strength for combat on the 19th of September. The grenadiers, under Major Ackland, and the artillery, under Major Williams, were stationed on the left, upon a gentle eminence on the borders of a wood, and covered in front by Mill Creek or Middle Ravine. The light infantry, under Earl Balcarras, were placed on the extreme right, and the center was composed of British and German troops, under Generals Phillips and Reidesel. Near the cabin of Mr. Munger, and in advance of the right wing, General Fraser had command of a detachment of five hundred picked men, destined to fall upon the American flank as soon as the action in front should commence.
This design was at once perceived, and, at the suggestion of Morgan, Gates dispatched that sagacious officer, with his rifle corps and other troops amounting to fifteen hundred men, in a circuitous route to some high ground on the extreme right of the enemy, thence to fall upon the flanking party under Fraser at the same moment when an attack should be made upon the British left. For the latter service the brigade of General Poor, composed of New York and New Hampshire troops, and a part of Learned’s brigade, were detached.
About half past two the conflict began. The troops of Poor and Learned marched steadily up the gentle slope of the eminence upon which the British grenadiers, and part of the artillery under Ackland and Williams, were stationed, and, true to their orders not to fire until after the first discharge of the enemy, pressed on in awful silence toward the battalions and batteries above them. Suddenly a terrible discharge of musket-balls and grape-shot made great havoc among the branches of the trees over their heads, but scarcely a shot took effect among the men. This was the signal to break the silence of our troops, and, with a loud shout, they sprang forward, delivered their fire in rapid volleys, and opened right and left to avail themselves of the covering of the trees on the margin of the ridge on which the artillery was posted.
The contest now became fierce and destructive. The Americans rushed up to the very mouths of the cannon, and amid the carriages of the heavy field-pieces they struggled for victory. Valor of the highest order on both sides marked the conflict, and for a time the scale seemed equipoised. Five times one of the cannon was taken and retaken, but at last it remained in possession of the republicans as the British fell back. Colonel Cilley, who, during the whole contest, had fought at the head of his troops, leaped upon the captured piece, waved his sword high in air, dedicated the brazen engine of death to "the American cause," wheeled its muzzle toward the enemy, and with their own ammunition opened its thunder upon them. It was all the work of a moment of exultation when the enemy fell back from their vantage ground. The effect was electrical, and seemed to give the republicans stronger sinews and fiercer courage. The contest was long and obstinate, for the enemy were brave and skillful. Major Ackland, who was foremost in the conflict, was at last severely wounded, and Major Williams was taken prisoner. Suddenly deprived of their superior officers, the grenadiers and artillery-men fled in confusion, and left the field in possession of the Americans.
Almost simultaneously with the attack on the British left, Morgan with his corps rushed down the hills that skirted the flanking party of Fraser in advance of the enemy’s right, and opened upon them such a destructive storm of well-aimed bullets, that they were driven hastily back to their lines. Then, with the speed of the wind, Morgan wheeled and fell upon the British right flank with such appalling force and impetuosity, that their ranks were at once thrown into confusion. The mode and power of attack were both unexpected to the enemy, and they were greatly alarmed. While thus in confusion, Major Dearborn, with some fresh troops, came up and attacked them in front. Thus assailed, they broke and fled in terror, but were rallied by Earl Balcarras, and again led into action. The shock on right and left shook the British center, which was composed chiefly of Germans and Hessians, yet it stood firm.
General Arnold had watched with eager eye and excited spirit the course of the battle thus far. Deprived of all command, he had no authority even to fight, much less to order. Smarting under the indignity heaped upon him by his commander; thirsting for that glory which beckoned him to the field; burning with a patriotic desire to serve his country, now bleeding at every pore; and stirred by the din of battle around him, the brave soldier became fairly maddened by his emotions, and, leaping upon his large brown horse, he started off on a full gallop for the field of conflict. Gates immediately sent Major Armstrong28 after him to order him back. Arnold saw him approaching, and, anticipating his errand, spurred his horse and left his pursuer far behind, while he placed himself at the head of three regiments of Learned’s brigade, who received their former commander with loud huzzas. He immediately led them against the British center, and, with the desperation of a madman, rushed into the thickest of the fight, or rode along the lines in rapid and erratic movements, brandishing his broadsword above his head, and delivering his orders every where in person. Armstrong kept up the chase for half an hour, but Arnold’s course was so varied and perilous that he gave it up.
The Hessians received the first assault of Arnold’s troops upon the British center with a brave resistance; but when, upon a second charge, he dashed furiously among them at the head of his men, they broke and fled in dismay. And now the battle became general along the whole lines. Arnold and Morgan were the ruling spirits that controlled the storm on the part of the Americans, and the gallant General Fraser was the directing soul of the British troops in action. His skill and courage were every where conspicuous. When the lines gave way, he brought order out of confusion; when regiments began to waver, he infused courage into them by voice and example. He was mounted upon a splendid iron-gray gelding; and, dressed in the full uniform of a field officer, he was a conspicuous object for the Americans. It was evident that the fate of the battle rested upon him, and this the keen eye and sure judgment of Morgan perceived.29 In an instant his purpose was conceived, and, calling a file of his best men around him, he said, as he pointed toward the British right, "That gallant officer is General Fraser. I admire and honor him, but it is necessary he should die; victory for the enemy depends upon him. Take your stations in that clump of bushes, and do your duty." Within five minutes Fraser fell mortally wounded, and was carried to the camp by two grenadiers. Just previous to being hit by the fatal bullet, the crupper of his horse was cut by a rifle-ball, and immediately afterward another passed through the horse’s mane, a little back of his ears. The aid of Fraser noticed this, and said, "It is evident that you are marked out for particular aim; would it not be prudent for you to retire from this place?" Fraser replied, "My duty forbids me to fly from danger," and the next moment he fell. 30
Morgan has been censured for this order, by those who profess to understand the rules of war, as guilty of a highly dishonorable act; and others, who gloat over the horrid details of the slaying of thousands of humble rank-and-file men as deeds worthy of a shout for glory, and drop no tear for the slaughtered ones, affect to shudder at such a cold-blooded murder of an officer upon the battle-field. War is a monstrous wrong and cruel injustice at all times; but if it right to kill at all upon the field of battle, I can perceive no greater wrong in slaying a general than a private. True, he wears the badge of distinction, and the trumpet of Renown speaks his name to the world, but his life is no dearer to himself, and wife, and children, and friends, than that of the humblest private who obeys his commands. If Daniel Morgan was guilty of no sin, no dishonor, in ordering his men to fall upon and slay those under the command of Fraser, he was also guiltless of sin and dishonor in ordering the sacrifice of their chief. Indeed, it is probable that the sacrifice of his life saved that of hundreds, for the slaughter was stayed.
As soon as Fraser fell, a panic spread along the British line. It was increased by the appearance, at that moment, of three thousand New York troops, under General Tenbroeck. Burgoyne, who now took command in person, could not keep up the sinking courage of his men. The whole line gave way, and fled precipitately within the intrenchments of the camp. The tumultuous retreat was covered by Phillips and Reidesel. The Americans pursued them up to their very intrenchments in the face of a furious storm of grape-shot and musket-balls, and assaulted their works vigorously without the aid of field pieces or other artillery.
The conflict was now terrible indeed, and in the midst of the flame, and smoke, and metal hail, Arnold was conspicuous. His voice, clear as a trumpet, animated the soldiers, and, as if ubiquitous, he seemed to be every where amid the perils at the same moment. With a part of the brigades of Patterson and Glover, he assaulted the works occupied by the light infantry under Earl Balcarras, and at the point of the bayonet drove the enemy from a strong abatis, through which he attempted to force his way into the camp. He was obliged to abandon the effort, and, dashing forward toward the right flank of the enemy, exposed to the cross-fire of the contending armies, he met Learned’s brigade advancing to make an assault upon the British works at an opening in the abatis, between Balcarras’s light infantry and the German right flank defense under Colonel Breyman. Canadians and loyalists defended this part of the line, and were flanked by a stockade redoubt on each side.
Arnold placed himself at the head of the brigade, and moved rapidly on to the attack. He directed Colonel Brooks to assault the redoubt, while the remainder of the brigade fell upon the front. The contest was furious, and the enemy at length gave way, leaving Breyman and his Germans completely exposed. At this moment Arnold galloped to the left, and ordered the regiments of Wesson and Livingston, and Morgan’s corps of riflemen, to advance and make a general assault. At the head of Brooks’s regiment, he attacked the German works. Having found the sally-port, he rushed within the enemy’s intrenchments. The Germans, who had seen him upon his steed in the thickest of the fight for more than two hours, terrified at his approach, fled in dismay, delivering a volley in their retreat, which killed Arnold’s horse under him, and wounded the general himself very severely, in the same leg which had been badly lacerated by a musket-ball at the storming of Quebec, two years before. Here, wounded and disabled, at the head of conquering troops led on by his valor to the threshold of victory, Arnold was overtaken by Major Armstrong, who delivered to him Gates’s order to return to camp, fearing he "might do some rash thing!" He indeed did a rash thing in the eye of military discipline. He led troops to victory without an order from his commander. His conduct was rash indeed, compared with the stately method of General Gates, who directed by orders from his camp what his presence should have sanctioned. While Arnold was wielding the fierce sickle of war without, and reaping golden sheaves for Gates’s garner, the latter (according to Wilkinson) was within his camp, more intent upon discussing the merits of the Revolution with Sir Francis Clarke, Burgoyne’s aid-de-camp, who had been wounded and taken prisoner, and was lying upon the commander’s bed at his quarters, than upon winning a battle, all-important to the ultimate triumph of those principles for which he professed so warm an attachment. When one of Gates’s aids came up from the field of battle for orders, he found the general very angry because Sir Francis would not allow the force of his arguments. He left the room, and, calling his aid after him, asked, as they went out, "Did you ever hear so impudent a son of a b---h?" Poor Sir Francis died that night upon Gates’s bed.
"It is a curious fact," says Sparks, "that an officer who really had not command in the army was the leader of one of the most spirited and important battles of the Revolution. His madness, or rashness, or whatever it may be called, resulted most fortunately for himself. The wound he received at the moment of rushing into the arms of danger and of death added fresh luster to his military glory, and was a new claim to public favor and applause. In the heat of the action, he struck an officer on the head with his sword, and indignity and offense which might justly have been retaliated upon the spot in the most fatal manner. The officer forbore; and the next day, when he demanded redress, Arnold declared his entire ignorance of the act, and expressed his regret."31
It was twilight when Arnold was wounded and conveyed by Major Armstrong and a sergeant (Samuel Woodruff) from the field. The Germans who fled at his approach, finding the assault general, threw down their arms and retreated to the interior of the camp, leaving their commander, Colonel Breyman, mortally wounded. The camp of Burgoyne was thus left exposed at a strong point. He endeavored to rally the panic-stricken Germans in the midst of the increasing darkness, but they could not be again brought into action.32 In truth, both armies were thoroughly fatigued, and the Americans were as loth to follow up the advantage thus presented as were the British to repair their discomfiture. As night drew its curtain over the scene, the conflict ended, the clangor of battle was hushed, and all was silent except the groans of the wounded, an occasional word of command, and the heavy tread of retiring columns, seeking for a place of repose.
About midnight, General Lincoln, with his division, which had remained in camp during the action, marched out to relieve those upon the field, and to maintain the ground acquired. Perceiving this, and knowing the advantage the Americans would possess with fresh troops and such an easy access to his camp, Burgoyne felt the necessity of guarding against the peril at once by changing his position. Before dawn he removed the whole of his army, camp, and artillery about a mile north of the first position, above Wilbur’s Basin, whence he contemplated a speedy retreat toward Fort Edward.
Early on the morning of the 8th[October, 1777.] the Americans took possession of the evacuated British camp, and skirmishes took place between detachments from the two armies during the day, in one of which General Lincoln was badly wounded in the leg. As the news that the British had retreated spread over the surrounding country, a great number of men, women, and children came flocking into camp to join in the general joy, or to perform the more sorrowful duty of seeking for relatives or friends among the wounded and slain.
The loss of the Americans in killed and wounded did not exceed one hundred and fifty. Arnold was the only commissioned officer who received a wound. The British army suffered severely, and their loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners was about seven hundred.33 Among the officers killed were the gallant Fraser, Sir Francis Clarke Burgoyne’s aid-de-camp, Colonel Breyman, and Lieutenant Reynell. The latter two died on the field; Sir Francis Clarke was taken prisoner and carried to Gates’s quarters, where he died that night. Major Ackland, who was severely wounded, was also taken prisoner, and, with Major Williams, was carried into the American camp; and Fraser, who was conveyed to
HOUSE IN WHICH GENERAL FRASER DIED.
the house of John Taylor, near Wilbur’s Basin, expired the next morning at about eight o’clock. Burgoyne had several narrow escapes. One ball passed through his hat and another his coat.
The house in which General Fraser died stood until 1846, upon the right bank of the Hudson, about three miles above Bemis’s Heights, near Ensign’s store, and exhibited the marks of the conflict there in numerous bullet-holes. It was used by Burgoyne for quarters when he first pitched his camp there, and it was a shelter to several ladies attached to the British army, among whom were the Baroness Reidesel and Lady Harriet Ackland. General Fraser was laid upon a camp-bed near the first window on the right of the door, where he expired. I can not narrate this event and its attendant circumstances better than by quoting the simple language of the Baroness Reidesel.
"But," she says, "severer trials awaited us, and on the 7th of October our misfortunes began. I was at breakfast with my husband, and heard that something was intended. On the same day I expected Generals Burgoyne, Phillips, and Fraser to dine with us. I saw a great movement among the troops; my husband told me that it was merely a reconnoissance, which gave me no concern, as it often happened. I walked out of the house, and met several Indians in their war dresses, with guns in their hands. When I asked them where they were going, they cried out, ‘War! war!’ meaning that they were going to battle. This filled me with apprehension, and I had scarcely got home before I heard reports of cannon and musketry, which grew louder by degrees, till at last the noise became excessive.
"About four o’clock in the afternoon, instead of the guests whom I had expected, General Fraser was brought in on a litter, mortally wounded. The table, which was already set, was instantly removed, and a bed placed in its stead for the wounded general. I sat trembling in a corner; the noise grew louder, and the alarm increased; the thought that my husband might, perhaps, be brought in, wounded in the same manner, was terrible to me, and distressed me exceedingly. General Fraser said to the surgeon, ‘Tell me if my wound is mortal; do not flatter me.’ The ball had passed through his body, and, unhappily for the general, he had eaten a very hearty breakfast, by which the stomach was distended, and the ball, as the surgeon said, had passed through it. I heard him often exclaim, with a sigh, ‘O fatal ambition! Poor General Burgoyne! Oh! my poor wife!’ He was asked if he had any request to make, to which he replied that, if General Burgoyne would permit it, he should like to be buried at six o’clock in the evening, on the top of a mountain, in a redoubt which had been built there. I did not know which way to turn; all the other rooms were full of sick. Toward evening I saw my husband coming; then I forgot all my sorrows, and thanked God that he was spared to me. He ate in great haste, with me and his aid-de-camp, behind the house. We had been told that we had the advantage over the enemy, but the sorrowful faces I beheld told a different tale; and before my husband went away, he took me aside, and said every thing was going very badly, and that I must keep myself in readiness to leave the place, but not to mention it to any one. I made the pretense that I would move the next morning into my new house, and had every thing packed up ready.
"I could not go to sleep, as I had General Fraser and all the other wounded gentlemen in my room, and I was sadly afraid my children would wake, and, by their crying, disturb the dying man in his last moments, who often addressed me and apologized ‘for the trouble he gave me.’ About three o’clock in the morning I was told that he could not hold out much longer; I had desired to be informed of the near approach of this sad crisis, and I then wrapped my children in their clothes, and went with them into the room below. About eight o’clock in the morning he died.
"After he was laid out, and his corpse wrapped up in a sheet, we came again into the room, and had this sorrowful sight before us the whole day; and, to add to the melancholy scene, almost every moment some officer of my acquaintance was brought in wounded. The cannonade commenced again; a retreat was spoken of, but not the smallest motion was made toward it. About four o’clock in the afternoon I saw the house which had just been built for me in flames, and the enemy was now not far off. We knew that General Burgoyne would not refuse the last request of General Fraser, though, by his acceding to it, an unnecessary delay was occasioned, by which the inconvenience of the army was much increased. At six o’clock the corpse was brought out, and we saw all the generals attend it to the mountain. The chaplain, Mr. Brudenell, performed the funeral service, rendered unusually solemn and awful from its being accompanied by constant peals from the enemy’s artillery. Many cannon-balls flew close by me, but I had my eyes directed toward the mountain34 where my husband was standing amid the fire of the enemy, and of course I could not think of my own danger.
FRASER’S BURIAL PLACE35
It was just at sunset, on that calm October evening, that the corpse of General Fraser was carried up the hill to the place of burial within the "great redoubt." It was attended only by the members of his military family and Mr. Brudenell, the chaplain; yet the eyes of hundreds of both armies followed the solemn procession, while the Americans, ignorant of its true character, kept up a constant cannonade upon the redoubt. The chaplain, unawed by the danger to which he was exposed, as the cannon-balls that struck the hill threw the loose soil over him, pronounced the impressive funeral service of the Church of England with an unfaltering voice.36 The growing darkness added solemnity to the scene. Suddenly the irregular fire ceased, and the solemn voice of a single cannon, at measured intervals, boomed along the valley, and awakened the response of the hills. It was a minute-gun fired by the Americans in honor of the gallant dead. The moment information was given that the gathering at the redoubt was a funeral company, fulfilling, amid imminent perils, the last-breathed wished of the noble Fraser, orders were issued to withhold the cannonade with balls, and to render military homage to the fallen brave.
How such incidents smooth the rough features of war! In contrast with fiercer ages gone by, when human sympathy never formed a holy communion between enemies on the battle-field, they seem to reflect the radiance of the future, and exhibit a glimpse of the time to which a hopeful faith directs our vision, when "nation shall not war against nation," when "one law shall bind all people, kindreds, and tongues, and that law shall be the law of UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD."
The case of Major Ackland and his heroic wife presents kindred features. He belonged to the corps of grenadiers, and was an accomplished soldier. His wife accompanied him to Canada in 1776, and during the whole campaign of that year, and until his return to England after the surrender of Burgoyne, in the autumn of 1777, endured all the hardships, dangers, and privations of an active campaign in an enemy’s country. At Chambly, on the Sorel, she attended him in illness, in a miserable hut; and when he was wounded in the battle of Hubbardton, Vermont, she hastened to him at Skenesborough from Montreal, where she had been persuaded to remain, and resolved to follow the army thereafter. Just before crossing the Hudson, she and her husband came near losing their lives in consequence of their tent taking fire from a candle overturned by a pet dog. During the terrible engagement of the 7th of October she heard all the tumult and dreadful thunder of the battle in which her husband was engaged; and when, on the morning of the 8th, the British fell back in confusion to Wilbur’s Basin, she, with the other women, was obliged to take refuge among the dead and dying, for the tents were all struck, and hardly a shed was left standing. Her husband was wounded, and a prisoner in the American camp. That gallant officer was shot through both legs when Poor and Learned’s troops assaulted the grenadiers and artillery on the British left, on the afternoon of the 7th. Wilkinson, Gates’s adjutant general, while pursuing the flying enemy when they abandoned their battery, heard a feeble voice exclaim, "Protect me, sir, against that boy." He turned and saw a lad with a musket, taking deliberate aim at a wounded British officer, lying in a corner of a worm fence. Wilkinson ordered the boy to desist, and discovered the wounded man to be Major Ackland. He had him conveyed to the quarters of General Poor (now the residence of Mr. Neilson), on the heights, where every attention was paid to his wants.
When the intelligence that he was wounded and a prisoner reached his wife, she was greatly distressed, and, by the advice of her friend, the Baroness Reidesel, resolved to visit the American camp, and implore the favor of a personal attendance upon her husband. On the 9th[October, 1777.] she sent a message to Burgoyne by Lord Petersham, his aid, asking permission to depart. "Though I was ready to believe," says Burgoyne, "that patience and fortitude, in a supreme degree, were to be found, as well as every other virtue, under the most tender forms, I was astonished at this proposal. After so long an agitation of spirits, exhausted not only for want of rest, but absolutely for want of food, drenched in rains for twelve hours together, that a woman should be capable of such an undertaking as delivering herself to an enemy, probably in the night, and uncertain of what hands she might fall into, appeared an effort above human nature. The assistance I was enabled to give was small indeed; I had not even a cup of wine to offer her; but I was told she had found, from some kind and fortunate hand, a little rum and dirty water. All I could furnish to her was an open boat and a few lines, written upon dirty wet paper, to General Gates, recommending her to his protection." 37
She set out in an open boat upon the Hudson, accompanied by Mr. Brudenell the chaplain, Sarah Pollard her waiting-maid, and her husband’s valet, who had been severely wounded while searching for his master upon the battle-field. It was about sunset when they started, and a violent storm of rain and wind, which had been increasing since morning, rendered the voyage tedious and perilous in the extreme. It was long after dark when they reached the American outposts. The sentinel heard their oars and hailed them. Lady Harriet returned the answer herself. The clear, silvery tones of a woman’s voice amid the darkness filled the soldier on duty with superstitious fear, and he called a comrade to accompany him to the river bank. The errand of the voyagers was made known, but the faithful guard, apprehensive of treachery, would not allow them to land until they sent for Major Dearborn. This delay was only for a few minutes, not "seven or eight dark and cold hours," as asserted by Burgoyne. They were invited by that officer to his quarters, where a cup of tea and other comforts were provided, and Lady Harriet was also comforted by the joyful tidings that her husband was safe. In the morning she experienced parental tenderness from General Gates, who sent her to her husband at Poor’s quarters, under a suitable escort. There she remained until he was removed to Albany.38
When we consider the delicate form, the gentleness and refinement in which she had been nurtured in the lap of rank and fortune, the shining virtues of connubial constancy, heroic devotion, and unbending fortitude stand out in bold relief in the character of Lady Harriet Ackland; and these, in their practical development in her case, furnish romance with a stranger page than imagination can command, and lend to poetry half its inspiration. They gave impulse to the lyre of the accomplished lady of Perez Morton, Esq.; and I will close this chapter with an extract from her poem, suggested by the events above noticed.
"To gallant Gates, in war serenely brave,
The tide of fortune turns its refluent wave;
Forced by his arms, the bold invaders yield
The prize and glory of the well-fought field:
Bleeding and lost, the captured Ackland lies,
While leaden slumber seals his Fraser’s eyes;
Fraser! Whose deeds unfading glories claim,
Endeared by virtues and adorned by fame.
* * * * * * *
’Twas now the time, when twilight’s misty ray
Drops the brown curtain of retiring day,
The clouds of heaven, like midnight mountains, lower,
Waft the wild blast and dash the drizzly shower,
Through the wet path her restless footsteps roam,
To where the leader spread his spacious dome.
Low at his feet she pours the desperate prayer –
Give my lost husband to my soothing care,
Give me in yonder solitary cave,
With duteous love, his burning wounds to lave;
On the warm pillow which his breast supplies,
Catch his faint breath and close his languid eyes,
Or in his cause my proffered life resign –
Mine were his blessings, and his pains were mine."
1 Mr. Neilson occupies the mansion owned by his father, an active Whig, at the time of the battles there. He has written and published a volume entitled, "An original, compiled, and corrected Account of Burgoyne’s Campaign and the memorable Battles of Bemis’s Heights." It contains many details not found in other books, which he gathered from those who were present, and saw and heard what they related. It is valuable on that account.
2 It is said that the smoke of the battle of Bennington, thirty miles distant, was distinctly seen from Bemis’s Heights.
3 General Schuyler felled large trees across the roads and bridle-paths through the woods, sunk deep ditches, and destroyed all the bridges. These evils Burgoyne was obliged to overcome and repair. With immense toil, the obstructions were removed, and no less than forty bridges over streams and morasses were constructed, so as to allow the passage of artillery. It must be remembered, too, that a soldier in actual service is not so lightly accoutered as a soldier on parade. Besides the actual fatigue of traveling and labors, he has a heavy back-burden to bear. Respecting this, we quote Burgoyne’s own words: "It consists of a knapsack, containing his bodily necessaries, a blanket, a haversack with provisions, a canteen, a hatchet, and a fifth share of the general camp equipage belonging to his tent." These articles (reckoning the provisions to be for four days), added to his accouterments, arms, and sixty rounds of ammunition, make a bulk totally incompatible with combat, and a weight of about sixty pounds.
4 Thaddeus Kosciusko was born in Lithuania in 1736, of an ancient and noble family. He was educated at the military school of Warsaw, and afterward became a student in France. There he became acquainted with Dr. Franklin, and was by him recommended to General Washington. Before leaving Poland, he had eloped with a beautiful lady of high rank. They were overtaken in their flight by her father, who made a violent attempt to rescue his daughter. The young Pole had either to slay the father or abandon the young lady. Abhorring the former act, he sheathed his sword, and soon after obtained permission of his sovereign to leave his country. He came to America, and presented himself to the commander-in-chief. He answered the inquiry of his excellency, "What do you seek here?" by saying, "I come to fight as a volunteer for American independence." "What can you do?" asked Washington. "Try me," was Kosciusko’s laconic reply. Greatly pleased with him, Washington made him his aid. In October, 1776, he was appointed engineer by Congress, with the rank of colonel. In the autumn of 1777 he fortified the camp of Gates at Bemis’s Heights, and afterward superintended the construction of the works at West Point, among the Hudson Highlands. He was greatly esteemed by the American officers, and admitted a member of the Cincinnati Society. At the close of our Revolution he returned to Poland, and was made a major general under Poniatowski. He commanded judiciously and fought bravely; and when, in 1794, a new revolution broke out in Poland, he was made generalissimo, and vested with the power of a military dictator. In October of that year he was overpowered, wounded, and taken prisoner. In reference to this event, Campbell, in his Pleasures of Hope, says,
"Hope for a season bade the world farewell,
And freedom shrieked when Kosciusko fell."
He was kept in prison in St. Petersburg until the death of the Empress Catharine, when he was liberated by Paul, loaded with honors, and offered a command in the Russian service, which he declined. The emperor besought him to accept the proffered honor, and presented him with his own sword. But bitterly reflecting that his country had been annihilated, he refused to receive his sword, saying, "I no longer need a sword, since I no longer have a country to defend." He visited the United States in 1797, and received from Congress a grant of land for his services. He returned to Switzerland toward the close of his life, and died there October the 16th, 1817. His remains were taken to Cracow, and at Warsaw a public funeral was made for him. At West Point, on the Hudson, the cadets erected a monument to his memory. We shall give adrawing of the monument, and a more particular notice, in another part of this work.
5 His place of encampment was about one hundred rods north of Lansing’s saw-mill. The farm, till within a few years, was occupied by Mr. Thomas Rogers. Burgoyne had quite an extensive slaughter-yard there, which so enriched the soil, that its effects are still visible on the corn crops and other productions. – C. Neilson.
6 In his dispatch to Lord George Germain, dated at Albany, October 20th, 1777, Burgoyne alludes to this fact and says, "I did not think myself authorized to call any men into council, where the peremptory tenor of my orders and the season of the year admitted no alternative." – State of the Expedition, &c., Appendix, p. lxxxiv.
7 Otis’s Botta, vol. ii., p. 9.
8 The conflicts at this point are known by the several titles Bemis’s Heights, Stillwater, and Saratoga, from the fact that the battles occurred upon Bemis’s Heights, in the town of Stillwater, and county of Saratoga.
9 These were the same troops which formed the left wing of the army when encamped at the mouth of the Mohawk. They were stationed at Loudon’s ferry, five miles from the mouth of the river, and there Arnold took the command after his return from Fort Schuyler.
10 The Hessians were some of the German soldiers, hired by Great Britain of their masters, petty German princes, at a stipulated sum per head, to come to America and butcher her children. The Landgrave of Hesse-Casell furnished the larger number, and from that circumstance all of the Germans received the general appellation of Hessians. I have givena minute account of them, and of the debates in Parliament which the infamous bill providing for the hiring of these mercenaries produced, on page 589, of this volume.
11 The attention of the reader is called to thesmall map or plan of the engagement, upon page 46, while perusing the notices of the battle.
12 Freeman’s farm, as it was called, was a small cultivated clearing, about half a mile east of the present road leading to Quaker Springs. The farm was an oblong clearing in front of the cottage, about sixty rods in length from east to west, skirted by thick woods, and sloping south. – Neilson, p. 141.
13 This view is taken from near the house of Mr. Neilson, looking northwest. In the foreground, on the right, are seen the remains of intrenchments which here crossed the road from Fort Neilson, the fortified log barn. The light field in the distance, toward the right of the picture, with a small house within it, is the old clearing called "Freeman’s farm." On the rising ground over the tree upon the slope, near the center of the foreground, is the place where Fraser wheeled southward to turn the right flank of the Americans. On the level ground, near the small trees on the right of the large tree upon the slope, is the place where Arnold and Fraser met and fought. On the high middle ground beyond the woods, toward the left, where several small houses are seen, the British formed their line for the second battle on the 7th of October. The detachments under Poor, Learned, and Morgan, which marched to the attack on that day, diverged from near the point seen in the foreground on the right, and marched down the slope by the sheep, across the flat. The brigade of Learned passed on where are seen the dark trees on the left. Morgan kept further to the extreme left, and Poor made a direct line across the level ground and up the hill in the direction marked by the four slender trees by the fence in the center of the picture. The range of mountains in the extreme distance borders the eastern shore of Lake George. The highest peak in the center is Buck Mountain, and that upon the extreme left is French Mountain, at the foot of which are the remains of Forts George and William Henry, at the head of Lake George.
14 At the urgent solicitation of Arnold, Gates sent out this feeble re-enforcement, which was all that was detached from the right wing during the action. Had fresh troops been supplied to support the left wing, no doubt the Americans would have gained a decided victory.
15 See Gordon, Ramsay, Botta, Marshall, Sparks, Pictorial History of the Reign of George III., Stedman, Burgoyne’s State of the Expedition, Thatcher, Neilson, &c.
16 Report to the Board of War.
17 Lieutenant-colonel Kingston, the adjutant general, before a committee of Parliament.
18 The particular troops engaged in this action were, of the British, the ninth, twenty-first, sixty-second, and twentieth of Hamilton’s brigade; the twenty-fourth, belonging to Fraser’s brigade; Breyman’s riflemen; a corps of grenadiers; a part of the artillery, and a motley swarm of Indians and loyalists. The American troops in action were those under Morgan and Dearborn; the first, second, and third New Hampshire regiments; the eight, ninth, and tenth Massachusetts regiments; the second and third of New York, and a Connecticut regiment of militia.
19 He was a major general in our war with Great Britain in 1812. He surrendered his whole army, with all the forts and garrisons in the neighborhood of Detroit, to General Brock on the 16th of August of that year. His wife, Sara Hull, to whom he had been married but a few weeks when the battle of Stillwater occurred, determined to share the fortunes and perils of her husband, was in the camp, and was active among those American women who extended comfort and kind attentions to the ladies of the British army after the surrender of Burgoyne. Because of his surrender at Detroit, General Hull was tried for cowardice; treason, &c., and condemned to be shot; but in consideration of his Revolutionary services and his age he was pardoned. He lived to see his character vindicated, and died in 1825. His wife died the following year.
20 Morgan Lewis, afterward governor of the state of New York.
21 Sparks’s Life of Arnold.
22 See thesmall map (on page 46).
23 Abatis is a French word signifying trees cut down. It is a phrase used in fortifications; and an abatis which is composed of trees felled, so as to present their branches to the enemy, is frequently found in a woody country one of the most available and efficient kinds of defense.
24 Neilson, p. 15, 35.
25 "I do not believe either officer or soldier ever slept during that interval without his clothes, or that any general officer or commander of a regiment passed a single night without being upon his legs occasionally at different hours, and constantly an hour before daylight." – Burgoyne’s "Review of the Evidence," p. 166.
26 Marshall’s Life of Washington.
27 General Howe had left Clinton in command at New York, and was then engaged against Washington on the Delaware, for the purpose of making a conquest of Philadelphia.
28 The author of the celebrated "Newburgh letters," written in the spring of 1783. I shall have occasion hereafter to givea full account of that affair.
29 Samuel Woodruff, Esq., of Connecticut, a volunteer in the army at the time, visited Bemis’s Heights some years since, and wrote an interesting account of some of the transactions of the day. He says the importance of the death of Fraser was suggested to Morgan by Arnold.
30 The name of the rifleman who killed General Fraser was Timothy Murphy. He took sure aim from a small tree in which he was posted, and saw Fraser fall on the discharge of his rifle. Fraser told his friends before he died that he saw the man who shot him, and that he was in a tree. Murphy afterward accompanied General Sullivan in his expedition against the Indians in Central and Western New York, where he had a narrow escape from death. In the fall of 1778 he was stationed in Schoharie county, where he became enamored of a young girl of sixteen, named Margaret Feeck. He was twelve years her senior, yet his love was reciprocated. Her parents "denied the bans," and attempted to break off the engagement by a forcible confinement. But "love laughs at locksmiths," and, under pretense of going after a cow some distance from home to milk her, she stole away one evening barefooted, to meet her lover, according to an appointment through a trusty young friend, upon the bank of the Schoharie Creek. He was not there, and she forded the stream, determined to go to the fort where Murphy was stationed. She found him, however, upon the opposite side of the stream, and, mounting his horse behind him, they entered the fort amid the cheering of the inmates. The young females there fitted her up with comfortable attire, and the next day they set out for Schenectady. There the soldier purchased for his intended bride silk for a gown, and several dress-makers soon completed it. They repaired to the house of Rev. Mr. Johnson, where they were married, and then returned to Schoharie. The parents became reconciled, and they lived happily together many years. Murphy was an uneducated man, but was possessed of a strong intellect, and had a good deal of influence over a certain class. He was an early friend of the Hon. William C. Bouck, late governor of New York, and was among the most active in bringing him forward in public life. He lost his Margaret in 1807, and in 1812 married Mary Robertson. He died of a cancer in his throat in 1818. – See Simm’s "History of Schoharie County."
31 Life of Arnold, p. 118.
32 Evidence of Captain Money before a committee of Parliament in the case of Burgoyne.
33 "The British and Hessian troops killed in the foregoing actions were slightly covered with earth and brush on the battle-field. It was not uncommon, after the land was cleared and cultivated, to see many, sometimes twenty, human skulls piled upon stumps in the fields. I have myself, when a boy, seen human bones thickly strewn about the ground, which had been turned up by the plow." – C. Neilson. Burgoyne’s Campaign, p. 182.
I saw, in the possession of Mr. Neilson, many relics plowed up from the battle-field, such as cannon-balls, grape-shot, tomahawks, arrow-heads, buttons, knives, &c., and among them were some teeth, evidently front ones, but double. It is supposed that they belonged to the Hessians, for it is said that many of them had double teeth all around, in both jaws. The annexed are drawings of two tomahawks in my possession. No. 1 is made of iron, No. 2 of stone. It is graywacke, and is creased for the purpose of securing the handle by a string or by green withes.
34 The height occupied by Burgoyne on the 18th, which ran parallel with the river till it approached General Gates’s camp.
35 The hill on which the "great redoubt" was erected, and where General Fraser was buried, is about one hundred feet high, and almost directly west from the house where he died. The relative situation of this eminence to the Hudson will be best understood by looking at theview of Burgoyne’s encampment, page 57. The center hill in that drawing is the one here represented. The grave is within the inclosure on the summit of the hill.
36 Burgoyne’s "State of the Expedition," p. 169. Lieutenant Kingston’s Evidence, p. 107.
37 The following is a copy of the note from Burgoyne to General Gates: "Sir – Lady Harriet Ackland, a lady of the first distinction of family, rank, and personal virtues, is under such concern on account of Major Ackland, her husband, wounded and a prisoner in your hands, that I can not refuse her request to commit her to your protection. Whatever general impropriety there may be in persons in my situation and yours to solicit favors, I can not see the uncommon perseverance in every female grace and exaltation of character of this lady, and her very hard fortune, without testifying that your attentions to her will lay me under obligations.
"I am, sir, your obedient servant,
* The original is among Gates’s papers (vol. x.), in the possission of the New York Historical Society, from which this was copied.
38 Major Ackland reciprocated the generous treatment here extended, by doing all in his power, while on parole in New York, to alleviate the condition of distinguished American prisoners there. After his return to England, he warmly defended American courage, at a dinner party, against the aspersions of a Lieutenant Lloyd. High words passed, and a duel ensued. The major was shot dead; Lady Harriet became a maniac, and remained so two years. After her recovery, she married Mr. Brudenell, the chaplain already mentioned.
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