History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Campaign of Lieut. Gen. John Burgoyne
and The Expedition of Lieut. Col. Barry St. Leger.
by William L. Stone.
Albany, NY, Joel Munsell. 1877.
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 upon 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 gingling 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. 1 Great as
1 Were this statement made by Mrs. Riedesel only - for she states the same thing-instead of by the Brunswick Journal, it might be necessary to receive it with caution, since her prejudices sometimes unintentionally led her into extremes. Mr. Fonblanque, however, in his admirable Life and Correspondence of General Burgoyne, recently published, admits this by implication, but seeks to leave the impression that the champagne and the " flirtation," as he calls it, were indulged in by the British general to relieve the mental agony consequent upon his defeat. Mr. Fonblanque's book is characterized by great fairness and liberality-a circumstance which should commend it to American readers.
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 Mrs. Riedesel who also adds, "the following day General Burgoyne repaid the hospitable shelter of Schuyler's mansion by burning it, with its valuable barns and mills, to the ground, under pretence that he might be better able to cover his retreat, but others say, out of mean revenge on the American general." 1 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 kil, on the
1 Lamb who was present at tile time of the fire claims, on the contrary, that the burning of the barns was purely accidental, and of the house, the rasult of military necessity. For Lamb's version of the affair which, in justice to Burgoyne, should be read, see Appendix, No. VIII.
The present Schuyler mansion which was rebuilt soon after by Schuyler, stands a few yards northeast of the site of the one burned by Burgoyne. The timber for it was cut down and drawn from the forest, and the house rebuilt and put in complete readiness for the reception of the family in the space of fifteen days ! Schuyler, "however, had the assistance of the entire army of Gates for this purpose. This fact was related to the author by Mr. Strover, who now owns and occupies the house, and who also was in Gates's army.
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 a road to Fort Edward, his intention being to continue his retreat along the west bank of the Hudson river to the front of that fort, force a passage across and take possession of the post. Col. Cochran, however, had already garrisoned it with two hundred men, and the detachment hastily fell back upon the camp.
Copyright © 1998, -- 2003. Berry Enterprises. All rights reserved. All items on the site are copyrighted. While we welcome you to use the information provided on this web site by copying it, or downloading it; this information is copyrighted and not to be reproduced for distribution, sale, or profit.