History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Celebrations of the State of New York
Prepared pursuant to a Concurrent Resolution
of the Legislature of 1878 and Chapter 391 of the Laws of 1879
By Allen C. Beach, Secretary of State.
Weed, Parsons & Co. Printers 1879.
Graphic contributed by Jerod Rosman. "All are from John Grafton's copyright-free book by Dover Publications, The American Revolution - A PICTURE SOURCEBOOK. The flyleaf says, 'You may use the designs and illustrations for graphics and craft applications, free and without special permission, provided you include no more than ten in the same publication or project.'"
Burgoyne's Surrender, Part Two
Historical Address by William L. Stone
General Horatio Gates
The battles of the 19th of September and the 7th of October were so fully described at the Bemus Heights celebration, that I pass at once to the occurrences succeeding that event, and immediately preceding the surrender.
On the morning of the day succeeding the action of the 7th of October, Burgoyne, before daybreak, left his position, now utterly untenable, and defiled on to the meadows by the river (Wilbur's basin) where were his supply trains; but he was obliged to delay his retreat until the evening, because his hospital could not be sooner removed. He wished also to avail himself of the darkness. The Americans immediately moved forward, and took possession of the abandoned camp. Burgoyne having concentrated his force upon some heights, which were strong by nature, and covered by a ravine running parallel with the entrenchment's of his late camp, a random fire of artillery and small arms was kept up through the day, particularly on the part of the German chasseurs and the provincials. These, stationed in coverts of the ravine, kept up an annoying fire upon every one crossing their line of vision, and it was by a shot from one of these lurking parties that General Lincoln received a severe wound in the leg while riding near the line. It was evident from the movements of the British that they were preparing to retreat; but the American troops, having in the delirium of joy, consequent upon their victory, neglected to draw and eat their rations -- being withal not a little fatigued with the two days' exertions, fell back to their camp, which had been left standing in the morning. Retreat was, indeed, the only alternative left to the British commander, since it was not quite certain that he could not cut his way through the American army, and his supplies were reduced to a short allowance for five days.
Meanwhile, in addition to the chagrin of defeat, a deep gloom pervaded the British camp. The gallant and beloved Fraser -- the life and soul of the army -- lay dying in the little house on the river bank occupied by Baroness Riedesel. The lady has described this scene with such unaffected pathos that we give it in her own words, simply premising that on the previous day she had expected Burgoyne, Phillips and Frraser to dine with her after their return from the reconnaissance. She says:
"About four o'clock in the afternoon, instead of the guests who were to have dined with us, they brought into me upon a litter poor General Fraser, mortally wounded. Our dining table, which was already spread, was taken away, and in its place they fixed up a bed for the general. I sat in a corner of the room, trembling and quaking. The noises grew continually louder. The thought that they might bring in my husband in the same manner was to me dreadful, and tormented me incessantly. The general said to the surgeon, 'Do not conceal any thing from me. Must I die?' The ball had gone through his bowels precisely as in the case of Major Haarnage. Unfortunately, however, the general had eaten a hearty breakfast, by reason of which the intestines were distended, and the ball had gone through the. I heard him often, amidst his groans, exclaim, 'O fatal ambition! Poor General Burgoyne! My poor wife!' Prayers were read to him. He then sent a message to General Burgoyne, begging that he would have him buried the following day at six o'clock in the evening, on the the top of a hill which was a sort of a redoubt. I knew no longer which way to turn. The whole entry was filled with the sick, who were suffering with the camp sickness -- a kind of dysentery. I spent the night in this manner; at one time comforting Lady Ackland, whose husband was wounded and a prisoner, and at another looking after my children, whom I had put to bed. As for myself, I could not go to sleep, as I had General Fraser and all the other gentlemen in my room, and was constantly afraid that my children would wake up and cry, and thus disturb the poor dying man, who often sent to beg my pardon for making me so much trouble. About three o'clock in the morning they told me that he could not last much longer. I had desired to be apprised of the approach of this moment. I accordingly wrapped up the children in the coverings, and went with them into the entry. Early in the morning, at eight o'clock, he died.
General Fraser belonged to the house of Lovatt, whose family name was Fraser. The Earl of Lovatt was one of the noblemen who were comprised by the rebellion of the last Stuart pretender, and whose fortunes were ruined at the battle of Culloden, in 1745. General Fraser, a scion of the house, of a sanguine temperament, ardent and ambitious, entered the army, and became so distinguished for his military ability as to be advanced to the rank of brigadier-general, and was selected for a command in Burgoyne's expedition. He had received intimations that if the enterprise were successful, the government would revoke the act of attainder, and restore to him the family title and estate. With a knowledge of these facts, it is easy to understand the meaning of the wounded general's exclamations as he lay waiting for death in the little "Taylor Farmhouse" -- the first alluding to the sad extinction of his own cherished hopes or well earned position and renown, the second betraying his anxiety for his commander, whose impending disgrace he clearly foresaw.
"After they had washed the corpse, they wrapped it in a sheet and laid it on a bedstead. We then again came into the room, and had this sad sight before us the whole day. At every instant, also, wounded officers of my acquaintance arrived, and the cannonade again began. A retreat was spoken of, but there was not the lease movement made toward it. About four o'clock in the afternoon I saw the new house which had been built for me, in flames; the enemy, therefore, were not far from us. We learned that General Burgoyne intended to fulfill the last wish of General Fraser, and to have him buried at six o'clock in the place designated by him. This occasioned a unnecessary delay, to which a part of the misfortunes of the army was owing.
"Precisely at six o'clock the corpse was brought out, and we saw the entire body of generals with their retinues assisting at the obsequies. The English chaplain, Mr. Brudenell, performed the funeral services. The cannon balls flew continually around and over the party. The American general, Gates, afterward said that if he had known it was a burial, he would not have allowed any firing in that direction. Many cannon balls also flew not far from me, but I had my eyes fixed upon the hill, where I distinctly saw my husband in the midst of the enemy's fire, and therefore I could not think of my own danger." "Certainly, says General Riedesal, in his journal, "it was a real military funeral -- one that was unique of its kind."
General Burgoyne has himself described this funeral with his usual eloquence and felicity of expression: "The incessant cannonade during the solemnity; the steady attitude and unaltered voice with which the chaplain officiated, through frequently covered with dust, which the shot threw up on all sides of him; the mute but expressive mixture of sensibility and indignation upon every countenance -- these objects will remain to the last of life upon the mind of every man who was present. The growing duskiness added to the scenery, and the whole marked a faithful page of a more important historian, gallant friend! I consider thy memory. There may thy talents, thy manly virutues, their progress and their period, find due distinction; and long may they survive, long after the frail record of my pen shall be forgotten!"
As soon as the funeral services were finished and the grave closed, an order was issued that the army should retreat as soon as darkness had set in; and the commander who, in the beginning of the campaign, had vauntingly uttered in general orders that memorable sentiment, "Britons never go back," was now compelled to steal away in the night, leaving his hospital, containing upward of four hundred sick and wounded, to the mercy of a victorious and hitherto despised enemy. Gates in this, as in all other instances, extended to his adversary the greatest humanity.
The army began its retrograde movement at nine o'clock on the evening of the 8th, in the midst of a pouring rain, Riedesel leading the van, and Phillips bringing up the rear with the advanced corps.
In this retreat the same lack of judgment on the part of Burgoyne is apparent. Had that general, as Riedesel and Phillips advised, fallen immediately back across the Hudson, and taken up his former position behind the Batten Kill, not only would his communications with Lake George and Canada have been restored, but he could at his leisure have awaited the movements of Clinton. Burgoyne, however, having arrived at Dovogat two hours before daybreak on the morning of the 9th, gave the order to halt, greatly to the surprise of his whole army. "Every one," says the journal of Riedesel, "was, notwithstanding, even then of the opinion that the army would make but a short stand, merely for its better concentration, as all saw that haste was of the utmost necessity, if they would get out of a dangerous trap." At this time the heights of Saratoga, commanding the ford across Fish creek, were not yet occupied by the Americans in force, and up to seven o'clock in the morning the retreating army might easily have reached that place and thrown a bridge across the Hudson. General Fellows, who, by the orders of Gates, occupied the heights at Saratoga opposite the ford, was in an extremely critical situation. On the night of the 8th, Lieutenant-Colonel Southernland, who had been sent forward to reconnoiter, crossed Fish Creek, and, guided by General Fellows' fire, found his camp so entirely unguarded that he marched around it without being hailed. He then returned, and reporting to Burgoyne, entreated permission to attack Fellows with his regiment,but was refused. "Had not Burgoyne halted at Dovogat," says Wilkinson, "He must have reached Saratoga before day, in which case Fellows would have been cut up and captured or dispersed, and Burgoyne's retreat to Fort George would have been unobstructed. As it was, however, Burgoyne's army reached Saratoga just as the rear of our militia were ascending the opposite bank of the Hudson, where they took post and prevented its passage." Burgoyne, however, although within half and hour's march of Saratoga, gave the surprising order that "the army should bivouac in two lines and await the day."
Mr. Bancroft ascribes this delay to the fact that Burgoyne was still clogged with his artillery and baggage, and that the night was dark, and the road weakened by rain. But according to the universal testimony of all the manuscript journals extant, the road, which up to this time was sufficiently strong for the passage of the baggage and artillery trains, became, during the halt, so bad by the continued rain, that when the army again moved, at four o"clock in the afternoon, it was obliged to leave behind the tents and camp equipage, which fell most opportunely into the hands of the Americans. Aside, however, from this, it is a matter of record that the men, through their officers, pleaded with Burgoyne to be allowed to proceed notwithstanding the storm and darkness, while the officers themselves pronounced the delay "madness." But whatever were the motives of the English general, this delay lost him his army, and, perhaps, the British crown her American colonies.
During the halt at Dovogat's there occurred on of those incidents which relieve with fairer lights and softer tints the gloomy picture of war. Lady Harriet Ackland had, like the Baroness Riedesel, accompanied her husband to American, and gladly shared with his the vicissitudes of campaign life. Major Ackland was a rough, blunt man, but a gallant soldier and devoted husband, and she loved him dearly. Ever since he had been wounded and taken prisoner his wife had been greatly distressed, and it had required all the comforting attentions of the baroness to reassure her. As soon as the army halted, by the advice of the latter she determined to visit the American camp and implore the permission of its commander to join her husband, and by her presence alleviate his sufferings. Accordingly, on the 9th, she requested permission of Burgoyne to depart. "Though I was ready to believe," says that general, "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 want of food, drenched in rains for twelve hours together, that a woman should be capable of such an undertaking and 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. 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."
In the midst of a driving autumnal storm, Lady Ackland set out at dusk, in an open boat, for the American camp, accompanied by Mr. Brundenell the chaplain, her waiting maid and her husband's vale. At ten o'clock the reached the American advanced guard, under the command of Major Henry Dearborn. Lady Ackland herself hailed the sentinel, and as soon as the bateau struck the shore, they party were immediately conveyed into the log cabin of the major, who had been ordered to detain the flag until the morning, the night being exceedingly dark, and the quality of the lady unknown. Major Dearborn gallantly gave up his room to his guest, a fire was kindled, and a cup of tea provided, and as soon as Lady Ackland made herself known, her mind was relieved from its anxiety by the assurance of her husband's safety. "I visited," says Adjutant General Wilkinson, "the guard before sunrise. Lady Ackland's boat had put off, and was floating down the stream to our camp, where General Gates, whose gallantry will not be denied, stood ready to receive her with all the tenderness and respect to which her rank and condition gave her a claim. Indeed, the feminine figure, the benign aspect, and polished manners of this charming woman were alone sufficient to attract the sympathy of the most obdurate; but if another motive could have been wanting to inspire respect, it was furnished by the peculiar circumstances of Lady Harriet, then in that most delicate situation which cannot fail to interest the solicitudes of every being possessing the form and feelings of a man." *
*The kindness which had been shown to his wife Major Ackland reciprocated,while on a parole in New York, by doing all in his power to mitigate the sufferings of the American prisoners. His end was particularly sad. On his return to England he was killed in a duel to which he had been challenged for having warmly defended American courage against the aspersions of a brother officer.
On the evening of the 9th the main portion of the drenched and weary army forded Fish creek, waist deep, and bivouacked in a wretched position in the open air on the opposite bank. Burgoyne remained on the south side of the creek, with Hamilton's brigade as a guard, and passed the night in the mansion of General Schuyler. The officers slept on the ground with no other covering than oilcloth. Nor did their wives fare better. "I was wet," says the Baroness Riedesel, "through and through by the frequent rains, and was obliged to remain in this condition the entire night, as I had no place whatever where I could change my linen. I therefore seated myself before a good fire and undressed my children, after which we laid down together on some straw. I asked General Phillips, who came up to where we were, why we did not continue our retreat while there was yet time, as my husband had pledged himself to cover it and bring the army through. 'Poor woman,' answered he, 'I am amazed at you. Completely wet through, have you still the courage to wish to go further in this weather! Would that you were our commanding general! He halts because he is tired, and intends to spend the night here, and give us a supper.'" Burgoyne, however, would not think of a further advance that night; and while his army were suffering from cold and hunger, and every one was looking forward to the immediate future with apprehension, "the illuminated mansion of General Schuyler," says the Brunswick Journal, "rang with singing, laughter, and the jingling of glasses. There Burgoyne was sitting with some merry companions at a dainty supper, while the champagne was flowing. Near him sat the beautiful wife of an English commissary, his mistress. **
**Were this statement made by the Baroness Riedesel alone, and not by the Brunswick Journal, it would be necessary to receive it with caution, since her prejudices often carried her unintentionally into extremes. Mr. Fonblanque, however, in his admirable Life and Correspondence of General Burgoyne, admits this by implication, but seeks to leave the impression that the champagne and the "flirtation", as he calls it, were indulged in to relieve the mental agony consequent upon his defeat. Mr. Fonblanque's book is characterized by great fairness and liberality of tone -- a circumstance which must commend it to the American reader.
Great as the calamity was, the frivolous general still kept up his orgies. Some were even of opinion that he had merely made that inexcusable stand for the sake of passing a merry night. Riedesel thought it his duty to remind his general of the danger of the halt, but the latter returned all sorts of evasive answers." This statement is corroborated by the Baroness Riedesel, who also adds; "The following day General Burgoyne repaid the hospitable shelter of the Schuyler mansion by burning it, with its valuable barns and mills, to the ground, under pretense that he might be better able to cover his retreat, but others say out of mean revenge on the American general."
But the golden moment had fled. On the following morning, the 10th, it was discovered that the Americans, under Fellows, were in possession of the Batten Kill, on the opposite side of the Hudson; and Burgoyne, considering it too hazardous to attempt the passage of the river, ordered the army to occupy the same quarters on the heights of Saratoga which they had used on first crossing the river on the 13th of September. At the same time he sent ahead a working party to open the road to Fort Edward, his intention being to continue his retreat along the west bank of the Hudson to the front of that fort, force a passage across, and take possession of the post. Colonel Cochran, however, had already garrisoned it with tow hundred men, and the detachment hastily fell back upon the camp.
Meanwhile General Gates, who had begun the pursuit at noon of the 10th with his main army, reached the high ground south of Fish creek at four the same afternoon. The departure of Burgoyne's working party for Fort Edward led him to believe that the entire British army were in full retreat, having left only a small guard to protect their baggage. Acting upon this impression, he ordered Nixon and Glover, with their brigades, to cross the creek early the next morning, under cover of the fog, which at this time of the year usually prevails till after sunrise, and attack the British camp. The English general had notice of this plan, and placing a battery in position, he posted his troops in ambush behind the thickets along the banks of the creek, and concealed also by the fog, awaited the attack, confident of victory. At early daylight Morgan, who had again been selected to begin the action, crossed the creek with his men on a raft of floating logs, and falling in with a British picket, was fired upon, losing a lieutenant and two privates. This led him to believe that the main body of the enemy had not moved; in which case, with the creek in his rear, enveloped by a dense fog, and unacquainted with the ground, he felt his position to be most critical.
Meanwhile the whole army advanced as far as the south bank of the creek, and halted. Nixon, however, who was in advance, had already crossed the stream near its confluence with the Hudson, and captured a picket of sixty men and a number of batteaux, and Glover was preparing to follow him, when a deserter from the enemy confirmed the suspicions of Morgan. This was corroborated, a few moments afterward, by the capture of a reconnoitering party of thirty-five men by the advanced guard, under Captain Goodale, of Putnam's regiment, who, discovering them through the fog just as he neared the opposite bank, charged, and took them without firing a gun. Gates was at this time at his headquarters, a mile and a half in the rear; and before intelligence could be sent to him, the fog cleared up, and exposed the entire British army under arms. A heavy fire of artillery and musketry was immediately opened upon Nixon's brigade, and they retreated in considerable disorder across the creek.
General Learned had in the meantime reached Morgan's corps with his own and Patterson's brigades, and was advancing rapidly to the attack in obedience to a standing order issued they day before, that, "in case of an attack against any point, whether in front, flank, or rear, the troops are to fall on the enemy at all quarters." He had arrived within two hundred yards of Burgoyne's battery, and in a few moments more would have been engaged at great disadvantage, when Wilkinson reached him with the news that the right wing, under Nixon, had given way, and that it would be prudent to retreat. The brave old general hesitated to comply. "Our brethren," said he, "are engaged on the right, and the standing order is to attack." In this dilemma Wilkinson exclaimed to one of Gates' aids, standing near, "Tell the general that his own fame and the interests of the cause are at hazard -- this is presence is necessary with the troops." Then, turning to Learned, he continued, "Our troops on the right have retired, and the fire you hear is from the enemy. Although I have no orders for your retreat, I pledge my life for the general's approbation." By this time several field officers had joined the group, and a consultation being held, the proposition to retreat was approved. Scarcely had they faced about, when the enemy, who, expecting their advance, had been watching their movements with shouldered arms, fired, and killed an officer and several men before they made good their retreat.
The ground occupied by the two armies after this engagement resembled a vast amphitheater, the British occupying the arena, and the Americans the elevated surroundings. Burgoyne's camp, upon the meadows and the heights of Saratoga north of Fish creek, was fortified, and extended half a mile parallel with the river, most of its heavy artillery being on an elevated plateau north east of the village of Schuylerville. On the American side Morgan and his sharp shooters were posted on still higher ground west of the British, extending along their entire rear. On the east or opposite bank of the Hudson, Fellows, with three thousand men, was strongly entrenched behind heavy batteries, while Gates, with the main body of Continentals, lay on the high ground south of Fish Creek and parallel with it. On the north, Fort Edward was held by Stark with two thousand men, and between that post and Fort George, in the vicinity of Glens Falls, the Americans had a fortified camp; while from the surrounding country large bodies of yeomanry flocked in and voluntarily posted themselves up and down the river. The "trap" which Riedesel had foreseen was already sprung.
The Americans, impatient of delay, urged Gates to attack the British camp; but that general, now assured that the surrender of Burgoyne was only a question of time, and unwilling needlessly to sacrifice his men, refused to accede to their wishes, and quietly awaited the course of events.
The beleaguered army was now constantly under fire both on its flanks and rear and in front. The outposts were continually engaged with those of the Americans, and many of the patrols, detached to keep up communication between the center and right wing, were taken prisoners. The captured batteaux were of great use tot he Americans, who were now enabled to transport troops across the river at pleasure,and reinforce the posts on the road to Fort Edward. Every hour the position of the British grew more desperate, and the prospect of escape less. There was no place of safety for the baggage, and the ground was covered with dead horses that had either been killed by the enemy's bullets or by exhaustion, as there had been no forage for four days. Even for the wounded there was no spot that could afford a safe shelter while the surgeon was binding up their wounds. The whole camp became a scene of constant fighting. The soldier dared not lay aside his arms night or day, except to exchange his gun for the spade when new entrenchments were to be thrown up. He was also debarred of water, although close to Fish creek and the river, it being at the hazard of life in the day time to procure any, from the number of sharp shooters Morgan had posted in trees, and at night he was sure to be taken prisoner if he attempted it. The sick and wounded would drag themselves along into a quiet corner of the woods, and lie down and die upon the damp ground. Nor were they safe even here, since every little while a ball would come crashing down among the trees. The few houses that were at the foot of the heights were nearest to the fire from Fellows' batteries, notwithstanding which the wounded officers and men crawled thither, seeking protection in the cellars.
In one of these cellars the Baroness Riedesel ministered to the sufferers like an angel of help and comfort. She made them broth, dressed their wounds, purified the atmosphere by sprinkling vinegar on hot coals, and was ever ready to perform any friendly service, even those from which the sensitive nature of a woman will recoil. Once, while thus engaged, a furious cannonade was opened upon the house, under the impression that it was the head quarters of the English commander. "Alas!" says Baroness Riedesel, "it harbored none but wounded soldiers or women!" Eleven cannon balls went through the house,and those in the cellar could plainly hear them crashing through the walls overhead. One poor fellow, whose leg they were about to amputate in the room above, had his other leg taken off by on of these cannon balls in the very midst of the operation. The greatest suffering was experienced by the wounded form thirst, which was not relieved until a soldier's wife volunteered to bring water from the river. This she continued to do with safety, and American gallantly withholding their fire whenever she appeared.
Meanwhile order grew more and more lax, and the greatest misery prevailed throughout the entire army. The commissaries neglected to distribute provisions among the troops, and although there were cattle still left, no animal had been killed. More than thirty officers came to the baroness for food, forced to this step from sheet starvation, one of them, a Canadian, being so weak as to be unable to stand. She divided among them all the provisions at hand, and having exhausted her store without satisfying them, in an agony of despair she called to Adjutant General Petersham, on of Burgoyne's aids, who chanced to be passing at the time, and said to him passionately, "Come and see for yourself these officers who have been wounded in the common cause, and are now in want of every thing that is due them! It is your duty to make a representations of this to the general" Soon afterward Burgoyne himself came to the Baroness Riedesel and thanked her for reminding him of his duty. In reply she apologized for meddling with things she well knew were out of a woman's province; still, it was impossible, she said, for her to keep silence when she saw so many brave men in want of food, and had nothing more to give them.
On the afternoon of the 12th Burgoyne held a consultation with Riedesel, Phillips, and the two brigadiers, Hamilton and Gall. Riedesel suggested that the baggage should be left, and a retreat begun on the west side of the Hudson; and as Fort Edward had been reinforced by a strong detachment of the Americans, he further proposed to cross the river four miles above that fort, and continue the march to Ticonderoga through the woods, leaving Lake George on the right, -- a plan which was then feasible, as the road on the west bank of the river had not yet been occupied by the enemy. This proposition was approved,and an order was issued that the retreat should be begun by ten o'clock that night. But when everything was in readiness for the march, Burgoyne suddenly changed his mind, and postponed the movement until the next day, when an unexpected maneuver of the Americans made it impossible. During the night the latter, crossing the river on rafts near the Batten Kill, erected a heavy battery on an eminence opposite the mouth of that stream, and on the left flank of the army, thus making the investment complete.
Burgoyne was now entirely surrounded; the desertions of his Indian and Canadian allies, * and the losses in killed and wounded, had reduced his army one half; there was not food sufficient for five days; and not a word from Clinton. Accordingly, on the 13th, he again called a general council of all his officers, including the captains of companies. The council were not long in deciding unanimously that a treaty should be at once opened with General Gates for an honorable surrender, their deliberations being doubtless hastened by several rifle-balls perforating the tent in which they were assembled, and an 18 going cannonball sweeping across the table at which Burgoyne and his generals were seated.
*In justice to Burgoyne it should be stated that the chief cause of the desertion of his Indian allies was the fact that they were checked by him in their scalping and plundering of the unarmed. Indeed, the conduct of the English general was, in this respect, most humane; and yet, with strange inconsistency, he was among the first strenuously to urge upon Lord North the employment of the Indians against the colonists. See Fonblanque's work, p. 178.
The following morning, the 14th, Burgoyne proposed a cessation of hostilities until terms of capitulation could be arranged. Gates demanded an unconditional surrender, which was refused; but he finally agreed, on the 15th, to more moderate terms, influenced by the possibility of Clinton's arrival at Albany. During the night of the 16th a provincial officer arrived unexpectedly in the British camp and stated that he had heard, through a third party, that Clinton had captured the forts on the Hudson highlands, and arrived at Esopus eight days previously, and further, that by this time he was very likely at Albany. Burgoyne was so encouraged by this news, that, as the articles of capitulation were not yet signed, he resolved to repudiate the informal arrangement with Gates. The latter, however, was in no mood for temporizing, and being informed of this new phase of affairs, he drew up his troops in order of battle at early dawn of the next day, the 17th, and informed him in plain terms that he must either sign the treaty or prepare for immediate battle. Riedesel and Phillips added their persuasions, representing to him that the news just received was mere hearsay, but even if it were true, to recede now would be in the highest degree dishonorable. Burgoyne thereupon yielded a reluctant consent, and the articles of capitulation were signed at nine o'clock the same morning.
They provided that the British were to march out with the honors of war and to be furnished a free passage to England under promise of not again serving against the Americans. These terms were not carried out by Congress, which acted in the matter very dishonorably, and most of the captured army, with the exceptions of Burgoyne, Riedesel, Phillips and Hamilton, were retained as prisoners while the war lasted. The Americans obtained by this victory, at a very critical period, an excellent train of brass artillery, consisting of forty-two guns of various caliber, 4,647 muskets, 400 set of harness, and a large supply ammunition. The prisoners numbered 5,804, and the entire American force at the time of the surrender, including regulars (Continentals) and militia, was 17,091 effective men.
At eleven o'clock on the morning of the 17th the royal army left their fortified camp, and formed in line on the meadow just north of the Fish creek, at its junction with the Hudson. Here they left their cannon and small arms. With a longing eye the artilleryman looked for the last time upon his faithful gun, parting with it as from his bride, and that forever. With tears trickling down his bronzed cheeks, the bearded grenadier stacked his musket to resume it no more. Others, in their rage, knocked off the butts of their arms, and the drummers stamped their drums to pieces.
Immediately after the surrender, the British took up their march for Boston, whence they expected to embark, and bivouacked the first night at their old encampment at the foot of the hill where Fraser was buried. As they debouched from the meadow, having deposited their arms, they passed between the Continentals, who were drawn up in parallel lines. But on no face did they see exultation. "As we passed the American army," writes Lieutenant Anbury, one of the captured officers, and bitterly prejudiced against his conquerors, "I did not observe the least disrespect, or even a taunting look, but all was mute astonishment and pity; and it gave us no little comfort to notice this civil department to a captured enemy, unsullied with the exulting air of victors."
The English general having expressed a desire to be formally introduced to Gates, Wilkinson arranged an interview a few moments after the capitulation. In anticipation of this meeting, Burgoyne had bestowed the greatest care upon his whole toilet. He had attired himself in full court dress, and wore costly regimentals and a richly decorated hat with streaming plumes. Gates, on the contrary, was dressed merely in a plain blue overcoat, which had upon it scarcely any thing indicative of his rank. Upon the two generals first catching a glimpse of each other, they stepped forward simultaneously, and advanced until they were only a few steps apart when they halted. The English general took off his hat, and making a polite bow, said, "The fortunes of war, General Gates, has made me your prisoner." The American general, in reply, simply returned his greeting, and said, "I shall always be ready to testify that it has not been through any fault of your excellency." As soon as the introduction was over, the other captive generals repaired to the tent of Gates, where they were received with the utmost courtesy, and with the consideration due to brave but unfortunate men.
After Riedesel had been presented to General Gates, he sent for his wife and children. It is to this circumstance that we owe the portraiture of a lovely trait in General Schuyler's character. "In the passage through the American camp," the baroness writes, "I observed, with great satisfaction, that no one cast at us scornful glances; on the contrary, they all greeted me, even showing compassion on their countenances at seeing a mother with her little children in such a situation. I confess I feared to come into the enemy's came, as the thing was so entirely new to me. When I approached the tents, a noble looking man came toward me, took the children out of the wagon, embraced and kissed them, and with tears in his eyes, helped me also to alight. He then led me to the tent of General Gates, with whom I found Generals Burgoyne and Phillips, who were upon an extremely friendly footing with him. Presently the man who had received me so kindly, came up and said to me, 'It may be embarrassing to you to dine with all these gentlemen; come now with your children into my tent, where I will give you, it is true, a frugal meal, but one that will be accompanied with the best of wishes.' 'You are certainly,' answered I, 'a husband and a father, since you show me so much kindness.' I then learned that he was the American General Schuyler."
The English and German generals dined with the American commander in his tent on boards laid across barrels. The dinner, which was served up in four dishes, consisted only of ordinary viands, the American at this period being accustomed to plain and frugal meals. The drink on this occasion was cider, and rum mixed with water. Burgoyne appeared in excellent humor. He talked a great deal, and spoke very flatteringly of the Americans, remarking, among other things, that he admired the number, dress, and discipline of their army, and, above all, the decorum and regularity that were observed. "Your fund of men," he said to Gates, in inexhaustible; like the Hydra's head, when cut off, seven more spring up in its stead." He also proposed a toast to General Washington -- an attention that Gates returned by drinking the health of the king of England. The conversation on both sides was unrestrained, affable, and free. Indeed, the conduct of Gates throughout, after the terms of the surrender had been adjusted, was marked with equal delicacy and magnanimity, as Burgoyne himself admitted to a letter to the Earl of Derby. In that letter the captive general particularly mentioned one circumstance, which he said, exceeded all that he had ever seen or read of on a like occasion. It was that when the British soldiers had marched out of their camp to the place where they were to pile their arms, not a man of the American troops was to be seen, General Gates having ordered his whole army out of sight, that no one of them should be a spectator of the humiliation of the British troops. This was a refinement of delicacy and of military generosity and politeness, reflecting the highest credit upon the conqueror.
As the company rose from the table, the royal army filed past on their march to the seaboard. Thereupon, by preconcerted arrangement, the two generals stepped out, and Burgoyne, drawing his sword, presented it, in the presence of the tow armies, to General Gates. The latter received it with a courteous bow, and immediately returned it to the vanquished general.
General Burgoyne added to a prepossessing exterior the polished manners and keen sagacity of a courtier. He was also witty and brave. But person courage alone does not constitute a commander; for of a commander other qualities are expected, especially experience and presence of mind. Burgoyne lacked both. In his undertakings he was hasty and self-willed. Desiring to do everything alone, he hardly ever consulted with others and yet he never knew how to keep a plan secret. While in a subordinate position, continually carping at his military superiors and complaining of the inferiority of his position, yet when given a separate command he was guilty of the same faults which he had reprehended in others. Being a great Sybarite, he often neglected the duties of a general, as well toward his king as his subordinates; and while he was enjoying choice food and wines, he army suffered the keenest want. Soon after the surrender he returned to England, and justly threw the failure of the expedition upon the administration.* He was received very coolly at first by the court and people, the king refusing to see him; but, upon a change of the ministry, he regained somewhat of his popularity.
*There can be no doubt that had Burgoyne been properly supported by Howe, he would, despite his mistakes, have reached Albany, since in that case Gates would not have been at Stillwater with an army of men to oppose him. Mr. Fonblanque makes public, for the first time, a fact throwing entire new light on the apparent failure of Howe and clears up all that has hitherto seemed mysterious and contradictory. Orders fully as imperative as those to Burgoyne were to have been sent to Howe, but owing to the carelessness of Lord Germaine, they were pigeonholed and never forwarded. Hence he obeyed discretionary orders sent him previously, and concluded to go to Philadelphia, instead of to Albany merely telling Clinton, if other reinforcements came meanwhile from English, he might make a diversion in favor of Burgoyne. Primarily, then, the failure of Burgoyne's expedition was due to the negligence of the war minister. Even, however, with the failure of Howe's support, Burgoyne, but for his errors, might have joined Clinton. Neither does this failure of Howe palliate the blunders by which he lost his army during the retreat. It should also be stated that Burgoyne, in arranging with the king for the campaign, insisted most strongly that his success depended on Howe's cooperation.
In regard to General Gates, the same incapacity which afterward characterized his unfortunate southern campaign was manifested from the time of his assuming the leadership of the northern army until the surrender. It was, perhaps, no fault of his that he had been placed in command at the North just at the auspicious moment when the discomfiture of Burgoyne was no longer problematical. But it is no less true that the laurels won by him ought to have been worn by Schuyler. Wilkinson, who was a member of Gates's own military family, has placed this question in its true aspect. He maintains that not only had the army of Burgoyne been essentially disabled by the defeat of the Germans at Bennington, before the arrival of Gates, but that the repulse of St. Leger, at Fort Stanwix, had deranged his plans, while safety had been restored to the western frontier and the panic thereby caused had subsided. He likewise maintains that after the reverses at the North, nowise attributable to him, and before the arrival of Gates, the zeal, patriotism, and salutary arrangements of General Schuyler had vanquished the prejudices excited against him; that by the defeat of Baum and St. Leger, Schuyler had been enabled to concentrate and oppose his whole Continental force against the main body of the enemy; and that by him, also before the arrival of Gates, the friends of the Revolution had been reanimated and excited to manly resistance, while the adherents of the royal cause were intimidated and had shrunk into silence and inactivity. From these premises, which are indisputable, it is no more than a fair deduction to say that "the same force which enabled Gates to subdue the British army would have produced a similar effect under the orders of General Schuyler, since the operations of the campaign did not involve a single instance of professional skill, and the triumph of the American arms was accomplished by the physical force and valor of the troops, under the protection and direction of the God of battles."
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