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.
At eleven o'clock on the morning of the 17th, the royal army left their fortified camp, and marched to the green in front of old Fort Hardy, on the meadow just north of Fish creek, at its junction with the Hudson.1 Here in the presence only of Morgan "Lewis and Wilkinson, representing the American army, 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. 2
1 Fort Hardy was a military work built by the English, during the governorship of Sir Charles Hardy, and was intended to supersede the old fort which had been erected as early as the war of William and Mary, during the latter part of the 17th century. The lines of the entrenchments embrace about fifteen acres of ground. The outer works yet retain the appearance of a strong fortification, bounded south by the north side of Fish creek, and east by the right bank of the Hudson. Human bones, fragments of fire-arms, swords, balls, tools, implements, and broken crockery, are frequently picked up on this ground. In excavating the earth for the Champlain canal, which passes a few rods west of this fort, such numbers of human skeletons were found, as make it highly probable that this was the cemetery of the garrison.
2 " General Riedesel was deeply affected by the sad events. At eight o'clock in the morning of the 17th, he collected all the German troops, and informed them of their fate. In solemnity and in silence, and with drooping heads, the brave and tried warriors heard the words from the mouth of their beloved leader, whose voice, manly at all times, trembled on this occasion, and who was obliged to summon all of his self-control to hide his emotions. ' It was no lack of courage on your part,' said he, among other things, to his men, ' by which this awful fate has come upon you. You will always be justified in the eyes of the world.' He concluded his address, with the exhortation, that as good soldiers they should bear their misfortune with courage, and do their duty at all times, displaying order and discipline; for in so doing, they would retain the love of their sovereign, and the respect of their enemies.
" General Riedesel's next care was to save the colors. He, therefore, had them taken down from the flag staff, and gave them to his wife, who had them sewed up by a faithful soldier who was a tailor. Henceforth he slept upon them and fortunately saved them. What a dreary future was now in store for the weary soldier in this distant land ! Certain of victory a few days ago after so many glorious battles, all prospect for honor and glory was lost in this campaign. In a few hours they were to lay down their arms, those arms with which they had so bravely fought against their enemies, those arms, too, that were now to be surrendered to the enemy, on whose will they were now dependent. Verily, a sadder fate than this cannot be imagined for a soldier !
" Inwardly, however, Riedesel chafed exceedingly at the result and at the bad management which had brought it about. In the first moments of vexation he wrote to the reigning prince at Brunswick as follows :
" ' Your serene highness will understand by the accompanying report, now submitted to you, into what a desolate position our fine maneuvers have placed me and the troops of your highness. The reputation I have gained in Germany has been sacrificed to certain individuals, and I consider myself the most unfortunate man on earth.'
" But neither the court nor the public of Brunswick laid anything to the charge of Riedesel, or the troops. On the contrary, they felt the greatest sympathy with them in their unfortunate fate. This is shown, not only by the letters of Duke Charles, and Duke Ferdinand, the hereditary prince of Brunswick, but by the newspapers of that day, in which neither the troops nor their generals are in the slightest degree reproached. On the contrary, they acknowledge their good behavior."- Memoirs of General Riedesel.
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 base of the hill where Fraser was buried.
As they debouched from the meadow, where they had 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 Lieut. 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 deportment to a captured enemy, unmarred by the exulting air of victors." 1
Early the same morning General Wilkinson, before the capitulation, visited Burgoyne in his camp, and accompanied him to the ground where his army were to lay down their arms. Having inspected the place, the two generals rode to the bank of the Hudson, where Burgoyne, surveying it with attention, asked his companion whether it was not fordable at that place ? " Certainly, sir," said Wilkinson, " but do you observe the people on the opposite shore ?" " Yes," replied Burgoyne, "I have seen them too long!"
The English general having expressed a wish to be formally introduced to his old comrade. Gates, Wilkinson arranged an interview a few moments after the capitulation. In anticipation of this meeting, Burgoyne had
1 "General Gates showed himself on this occasion, exceedingly noble and generous toward the captives. That he might show in some manner the feeling of the Americans, he commanded his troops to wheel round the instant the English laid down their arms. He, himself, drew down the curtains of his carriage in which he had driven to the ground, and in which he was then seated." -Brunswick Journal.
bestowed the greatest care upon his toilet. He had attired himself in full court dress, and wore costly regimentals and a richly decorated hat with streaming plumes. Gates, a smaller man and with much less of manner, on the contrary, was dressed merely in a plain blue overcoat, which had upon it scarcely anything 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 fortune 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."1 As soon as this introduction was over the other captive generals and their suites repaired to the cabin which constituted the head-quarters of Gates, where they
1 A marginal note - supposed to be in the hand-writing of George Clinton - in Burgoyne's orderly book, gives the conversation between the two generals as follows : " ' I am glad to see you,' said Gates. ' I am not glad to see you,' replied Burgoyne, ' It is my fortune, sir, and not my fault that I am here.' " Wilkinson, however, an eye-witness of the scene, and generally very accurate, gives the version in the text, which is more in keeping with the urbane manner that invariably characterized the English general.
The place where this meeting took place is about a hundred rods south of Fish creek, and fifty rods notch of Gates's headquarters The bridge over the Champlain canal at this point probably indicates pretty accurately the precise spot.
The headquarters of Gates was, in the language of Wilkinson, " A small hovel, about ten feet square, at the foot of a hill, out of which it had been partially dug , the floor had been prepared by nature, while in one corner four forks with cross-pieces, supported the boards which received the general's pallet."
were received with the greatest courtesy, and with the consideration due to brave but unfortunate men. After Riedesel had been presented to Gates, Morgan 1 and other American officers, 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 our 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 condition. I confess I feared to come into the enemy's camp, as the thing was so entirely new
1 'Morgan was a large, strong bodied personage, whose appearance gave the idea history has left us of Belisarius. His manners were of the severer cast, but where he became attached he was kind and truly affectionate. This is said, from experience of the most sensitive and pleasing nature, activity, spirit and courage in a soldier, procured his good will and esteem. He was a strict disciplinarian. Permit an anecdote. He had obtained the command of the rifle corps from Arnold without any advertence to the better claim of Hendricks, who, though the younger man was of the three captains, in point of rank, by the dates of commissions, the superior officer. Hendricks, for the sake of peace in the army, and of good order, prudently and good naturedly acquiesced in his assumption of the command, for Morgan had seen more service in our former wars.
At this place Morgan had given it out in orders, that no one should fire. One Chamberlaine, a worthless fellow, who did not think it worth while to draw his bullet, had gone some hundreds of yards into the woods, and discharged his gun. Lieut. Steele happened to be in that quarter at the time; Steele had but arrived at the fire, where we sat, when Morgan, who had seen him coming, approached our camp, and seated himself within our circle. Presently Chamberlain came, gun in hand, and was passing our fire, towards that of his mess. Morgan called to the soldier, accused him as the defaulter, this the man (an arrant liar) denied. Morgan appealed to Steele. Steele admitted he heard the report, but knew not the party who discharged the gun. Morgan suddenly springing to a pile of billets, took one, and swore he would knock the accused down unless he confessed the fact. Instantly, Smith seized another billet, and swore he would strike Morgan if he struck the man. Morgan knowing the tenure of his rank receded. This was the only spirited act I knew of Smith. Such were the rough-hewn characters which, in a few subsequent years, by energy of mind and activity of body, bore us safely through the dreadful storms of the revolution. Morgan was of an impetuous temper, yet withal, prudent in war, as he was fearless of personal danger. His passions were quick and easily excited, but they were soon cooled. This observation is applicable to many men of great talents, and to none more than Morgan. His severity, at times, has made me shudder, though it was necessary, yet it would have been a pleasing trait in his character if it had been less rigid."- Henry's Journal of Arnold's Expedition against Quebec in 1775.
to me. When I approached the tents a noble looking man came toward me and took the children out of the wagon ; embraced and kissed them ; and then 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 by 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 Americans 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 funds of men," he said to Gates, "are 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 in a letter to the Earl of Derby. In that letter, the captive general particularly mentioned one circumstance which he said exceeded all 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 not 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; and was spoken of by the officers of Burgoyne in the strongest terms of approbation. 1
As the company rose from table, the royal army filed past in their march to the seaboard. Thereupon, by preconcerted arrangement, the generals stepped out, and Burgoyne drawing his sword presented it in the presence of the two armies to General Gates. The latter received it with a courteous bow, and immediately returned it to the vanquished general. Colonel Trumbull has graphically depicted this scene in one of his paintings in the rotunda at Washington.2
1 Remembrancer of 1777, pages 482 and 3. A letter published in that repository of the American Revolution, at the same time, stated that " some few of the New England men desired to have Burgoyne in their hands for half an hour. Being asked for what purpose, they said they 'would do him no harm , they would tar and feather him, and make him stand on the head of one of his own empty beef-barrels, and read his own proclamation.' " p. 481-82. If made at all, the suggestion must have been merely the sportive sally of a wag.
2 The headquarters of General Gates-when the surrender took place were situated about one hundred and fifty rods south of Fish creek, very nearly on the west side of the present river road from Schuylerville to Stillwater, in a rude cabin partially dug out of the bank on that side of the road. By some-and it has given rise to much discussion - it has been supposed, that these headquarters were on a bluff overlooking the scene of the laying down of arms, just south of Fish creek, and nearly fronting Schuyler's house. This mistake, how-ever, probably arose from the fact, that, during the negotiations between the two generals for the surrender, a tent, for the accommodation of General Wilkinson on the part of Gates, and of Major Kingston of Burgoyne, was pitched, says Wilkinson, " between the advanced guards of the two armies, on the first bank just above General Schuyler's saw-mill." Thus, very naturally, the mistake arose - that it was a mistake, there can be not the shadow of a doubt, as any one, who will read Wikinson attentively, must at once perceive.- See General Mattoon's Letter, Appendix XIII.
"My father, then a small boy, living a mile and a half west of this village (Ballston, N. Y.), which was then a wilderness, remembers to have heard the noise of the artillery in both engagements. Several of the neighbors went over to Saratoga (Schuylerville) to witness the capitulation. He remembered that Judge Beriah Palmer stopped at the house on his return and said he saw Gen. Burgoyne surrender his sword to Gen. Gates, and gave many particulars of the occurrence."-Hon. Geo. G. Scott of Ballston, N. Y., to the author, June 13, 1877.
General Schuyler, as we have seen, was in the camp with Gates at the time of the surrender ; and when Burgoyne, with his general officers, arrived in Albany, they were the guests of Schuyler, by whom they were treated with great hospitality. Madame Riedesel, also, speaks with much feeling of the kindness she received on this occasion at the hands of Mrs. Schuyler and her daughters. The urbanity of General Schuyler's manners, and the chivalric magnanimity of his character, smarting as he was under the extent and severity of his pecuniary losses, are attested by General Burgoyne, himself, in his speech in 1778, in the British House of Commons, He then declared that, by his orders, " a very good dwelling house, exceeding large store-houses, great saw-mills, and other out-buildings, to the value altogether perhaps of £10,000 sterling," belonging to General Schuyler, at Saratoga, were destroyed by fire a few days before the surrender to give greater play to his artillery. He said further, that one of the first persons he saw, after the Convention was signed, was General Schuyler, and when expressing to him his regret at the event which had happened to his property. General Schuyler desired him " to think no more of it, and that the occasion justified it according to the rules of war." "He did more," continued Burgoyne ; " he sent an aid-de-camp' to conduct me to Albany, in order, as he expressed it, to procure better quarters than a stranger might be able to find. That gentleman conducted me to a very elegant house, and to my great surprise, presented me to Mrs. Schuyler and her family. In that house I remained during my whole stay in Albany, with a table of more than twenty covers for me and my friends, and every other demonstration of hospitality."2
1 The late Col. Richard Varick, then the military secretary of General Schuyler.
2 Parliamentary History, Vol. xix, p. 1182, as quoted by Chancellor Kent in his address before the N. Y. His. Soc.
During Mrs. Riedesel's stay at Albany, as the guest of Gen. and Mrs. Schuyler, one of her little girls, on first coming into the house, exclaimed, " Oh mama ! Is this the palace papa was to have when he came to America?" As the Schuyler family understood German, Madame Riedesel colored at the remark, which, however, was pleasantly got over.- Life of Peter Van Schaick.
The Schuyler mansion, which stands on Clinton street facing Schuyler street, was not built by Schuyler, himself, but by the wife of General Bradstreet while the latter was on his expedition to Oswego in 1759. The barracks stood some fifteen rods back of the house, between which it is supposed an underground passage existed, though no traces of it have ever been found. The mansion even for this day is a fine one , and for that period must have been superb. It is now (1877) owned and occupied by Mrs. John Tracey. Mrs. Tracey, who cherishes all the traditions of the place, received the author with great courtesy, and kindly acted as his cicerone in visiting the interior of the house and the grounds. For the attempt to capture Schuyler by the Indians and Tories see Lossing's Field Book of the Revolution. The mark of the tomahawk, which, hurled at Mrs. Schuyler's daughter as she snatched her infant sister from its cradle to bear it to a place of safety, is still clearly seen on the banister.
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