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.


Some letters passed between the opposed generals. The first was from General Burgoyne, by Lady Ackland, whose husband was dangerously wounded and a prisoner, recommending her ladyship to the care and protection of General Gates. Gates's answer was pointed with the sharpest irony, in which he expresses his surprise that his excellency, after considering his preceding conduct, should think that he could consider the greatest attention to Lady Ackland in the light of an obligation. These epistles, although mere communications between individuals, and frequently on private affairs, yet serve to portray the disposition of the times, and unveil the cause that gave rise to the unhappy contest.

"The cruelties," added he, " which mark the retreat of your army, in burning the gentlemen's and farmer's houses as they went along, are almost, among civilized nations, without a precedent; they should not endeavor to ruin those they cannot conquer ; this conduct betrays more the vindictive malice of a monk, than the generosity of a soldier."

What gave rise to this charge was the following circumstance. On the west bank of Hudson's river, near the height of Saratoga, where the British army halted after their retreat,'stood General Schuyler's dwelling house, with a range of barracks, store-houses, etc. The evening the army arrived at these buildings, the weather being very wet and cold, the sick and wounded were directed to take possession of these barracks, while the troops took post on the height above it. In the course of the night, the barracks took fire by accident, and, being built of wood, were soon consumed. It was with the greatest difficulty that the wounded soldiers were rescued from the flames. 1 Two days after this, the enemy had formed a plan of attack , a large column of troops was approaching to pass the river, preparatory to a general action. This column was entirely covered from the fire of the British artillery by some of these buildings. General Burgoyne ordered them to be set on fire ; but so far was the sufferer from putting an invidious construction upon that action, that one of the first persons General Burgoyne saw after the convention was signed was the owner, General Schuyler, who, instead of blaming the English general, owned he would have done the same upon the like occasion, or words to that effect.

1 The author was in the house when it took fire, and it was with the greatest difficulty he escaped.
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