Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

The 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. VI.

The following incident, printed in The Old Settler in 1851 is certainly most curious ; nor have I any doubt but that the tradition held to this day at Wilbur's basin of the remains of General Fraser having been removed to England, had its rise in the circumstances here related. This opinion, moreover, receives, in my mind, additional confirmation in the fact that P. Stansbury, who published an account of his visit to the battle ground in 1821, states that the farmers there told him that Fraser's body had " lately been taken to England." This date, it will be observed (1821) corresponds exactly with the one mentioned by Peter Barker.


MR. ALLEN - About thirty years ago, the late Peter Barker, then of Schuylerville, Saratoga county, related to me an extraordinary circumstance which occurred in that village, during the time he was proprietor of the hotel, and also land agent of Philip Schuyler, Esq. 'Tis an old affair, and may perhaps be interesting to the readers of The Old Settler. From a memorandum made at the time, I am enabled to give you the precise language of Mr. Barker. He said : "One morning a carriage drove up to my door, from which there alighted three gentlemen - one very aged, the other two much younger. On learning that Mr. Schuyler was absent (for whom they inquired), they informed me that their business with him was to obtain permission to remove the remains of a relative, who was many years ago buried on his land. I replied, that as agent of Mr. Schuyler, I would not only grant the permission, but would render them any assistance in my power to effect the object of their visit. They thanked me, and requested me to order a box to be made, sufficiently large to contain the bones of a person, and also to engage six men to be in attendance when wanted, with implements for digging , and after ordering an early dinner, they left the house, on foot. They were absent about two hours. On their return, they intimated to me that they had discovered the grave. After eating a hasty dinner, we summoned the men, and having obtained the box, started under the guidance of the old gentleman. He led us to the plain east of the house, and about half way to the river, to a large primitive elm tree, where he ordered us to stop. He then, with a pocket compass, ascertained the due north course from the tree, and measured off a certain distance from the tree by pacing; there he stuck a stake. After spending half an hour or more in measuring and remeasuring, he marked on the surface of the ground an oblong square of about five by eight feet, and directed the workmen to there commence digging, giving them particular directions if they should discover anything like rotten or decayed wood to stop. At the depth of four feet such . a discovery was made. The old gentleman, much agitated, got into the pit, and under his direction the earth was carefully removed from off the decayed wood, which was in length about seven feet. Beneath the wood was another decayed substance, which the old gentleman said was the remains of woolen blankets, and, on removing that covering, human bones were discovered ; with them, the remains of two bayonets, which appeared to have been crossed on the breast-a silver stock buckle, a gold masonic medal, and several musket balls, by which the remains were fully identified by the old gentleman, who, with his own hands, the tears streaming down his cheeks, and with the greatest care and reverence, gathered up all the bones and ashes, and placed them in the box which was carefully closed. " It was dark when we returned to the house. After supper, the two young gentlemen invited me to their room, to give me an explanation of the singular events of the day. They said the remains they had removed, were those of a British officer in Burgoyne's army. In the war of the Revolution, and the old gentleman who accompanied them was the servant of that officer. The officer was mortally wounded in the battle of Saratoga. His servant (the old gentleman) and three of his soldiers carried him off the field of battle in blankets, and as far north as the elm tree, under which he died. The servant was determined, and did most effectually mark the place, that the grave might be found, should occasion ever afterwards require. They hastily dug a grave, laid the body in it in full dress, covered it first with several blankets, then with three or four boards, and filled it up with earth.

" After peace the servant returned to England, and for many years afterwards importuned the family of that officer to send him over for the remains. They placed but little reliance upon his representations and declined doing it ; and so the matter rested until that time, when the old gentleman became so importunate, giving them no peace, that they, grandsons of the officer, finally decided to gratify him by bringing him over to this country, but without, they said, the least hope or expectation of success ; and they attributed the finding of the remains more to accident, than to the recollection of the old gentleman.

Troy, May, 1851
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