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.
No. XIII. Continued
LETTER FROM THE DUC DE LA ROCHEFOUCAULD- LlANCOURT, WHO VISITED THE SURRENDER GROUND IN 1795.
"In 1795, the then Due de La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt visited the famous battle fields of Saratoga, and in his published account of his travels in the new world upon his return gives a graphic account of the scenes of Burgoyne's surrender.
"I have seen," says the Duc, " John Schuyler, the eldest son of the general. For a few minutes I had already conversed with him at Schenectady, and was now with him at Saratoga. The journey to this place was extremely painful, on account of the scorching heat; but Saratoga is a township of too great importance to be passed by unobserved. If you love the English, are fond of conversing with them, and live with them on terms of familiarity and friendship, it is no bad thing if occasionally you can say to them, ' I have seen Saratoga.'
" Yes, I have seen this truly memorable place, which may be considered as the spot where the independence of America was sealed ; for the events which induced Great Britain to acknowledge that independence were obviously consequences of the capture of General Burgoyne, and would, in all probability, never have happened without it. The dwelling-house of John Schuyler stands exactly on the spot where this important occurrence took place.1 Fish creek, which flows close to the house, formed the line of defence of the camp of the English general, which was formed on an eminence a quarter of a mile from the dwelling. The English camp; was also entirely surrounded with a mound of earth to strengthen its defence. In the rear of the camp the German troops were posted by divisions on a commanding height communicating with the eminence on which General Burgoyne was encamped. The right wing of the German corps had a communication with the left wing of the English, and the left extended towards the river. General Gates was encamped on the other side of the creek at the distance of an eighth of a mile from General Burgoyne, his right wing stretched towards the plain; but he endeavored to shelter his troops as much as possible from the enemy's fire until he resolved to form the attack. General Nelson, at the head of the American militia, occupied the heights on the other side of the river, and engaged the attention of the left wing of the English while other American troops observed the movements of the right wing. In this position Gen. Burgoyne surrendered his army. His provisions were nearly consumed, but he was amply supplied with artillery and ammunition. The spot remains exactly as it then was, excepting the sole circumstance that the bushes
1 This is of course, and error.--Author.
were cut down in front of the two armies are since grown up again. Not the
least alteration has taken place since that time. The entrenchments still
exist; nay, the footpath is still seen on which the adjutant of Gen. Gates
proceeded to the English general with the ultimatum of the American commander;
the spot on which the council of war was held by the English officers, remains
unaltered. You see the way by which the English column, after it had been
joined by the Germans, filed off by the left to lay down their arms within
an ancient fort which was constructed in the war under the reign of Queen
Anne; you see the place where the unfortunate army was necessitated to ford
the creek in order to reach the road to Albany, and to march along the front
of the American army. You see the spot where Gen. Burgoyne surrendered up
his sword to Gen. Gates, when the man, who two months before had threatened
all the rebels, their parents, their wives and their children with pillage,
sacking, firing and scalping, if they did not join the English banner, was
compelled to bend British pride under the yoke of these rebels, and when he
underwent the two fold humiliation as a ministerial agent of the English government
to submit to the dictates of revolted subjects and a commanding general of
disciplined regular troops, to surrender up his army to a multitude of half-armed
and half-clothed peasants. To sustain so severe a misfortune and not to die
with despair exceeds not, it seems therefore, the strength of man. This memorable
spot lies in a corner of the court yard of John Schuyler, he was then a youth
twelve years old, and placed on an eminence at the foot of which stood Gen.
Gates, and near which the American army was drawn up to see their disarmed
enemies pass by. His estate includes all the tract of ground on which both
armies were encamped and he knows as it were their every step. How happy must
an American feel in the possession of such property if his bosom be anywise
susceptible of warm feelings ! It is a matter of astonishment that neither
congress nor the legislature of New York should have erected a monument on
this spot reciting in plain terms this glorious event and thus calling it
to the recollection of all men who should pass this way to keep alive the
sentiments of intrepidity and courage and the sense of glory which for the
benefit of America should be handed down among Americans from generation to
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