History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution/Chapter XI
From the time that Quebec was invested by Montgomery and Arnold, at the close of 1775, until the termination of General Burgoyne's campaign, in the autumn of 1777, the successes, the expectations, and the disappointments from that quarter had been continually varying.
Sir Guy Carleton, the governor of Canada, and who for a number of years had been commander in chief of all the British forces through that province, was a officer of approved fidelity, courage, and ability. He had successfully resisted the storm carried into that country by order of Congress. He had triumphed in the premature fall of the intrepid, but unfortunate Montgomery. He had driven back the impetuous Arnold to the verge of the lakes. He had defeated the operations of General Thomson in a bold and successless attempt to surprise the British post at Trois Rivieres: General Thomson was there made a prisoner, with all his party who escaped the sword. This happened about the time a detachment was marched northward under the command of General Thomas. He died of the small pox, as related above, when most of his army was destroyed by the sword, sickness, or flight.
Though General Carleton had occasionally employed some of the Indian allies of Great Britain, he had by his address kept back the numerous tribes of savages, near and beyond the distant lakes. He rather chose to hold them in expectation of being called to action, than to encourage their ferocious inclination for war, which they ever prosecute in those horrid forms that shock humanity too much for description. Whether his checking the barbarity of the savages or whether his lenity to the unfortunate Americans that had fallen into his hands operated to his disadvantage, or whether from other political motives is uncertain; however, he was superseded in his military capacity, and the command given to General Burgoyne, who had re-embarked from England early in the spring, and arrived at Quebec in the month of May, 1777, with a large and chosen armament.
General Carleton felt the affront as a brave officer, conscious of having discharged his trust with a degree of humanity on one side, and the strictest fidelity to his master on the other. He immediately requested leave to quite the government and repair to England. Yet he did not at once desert the service of his King. His influence was too great among the Canadians and over all the Indian tribes to hazard his absence at this critical conjuncture. His return to Europe was therefore postponed. He encouraged the provincials to aid his successes, and exerted himself much more than heretofore to bring on the innumerable hordes of the wilderness. IN consequence of this, they poured down from the forests in such multitudes as to awaken apprehensions in his own breast of a very disagreeable nature. But he cajoled them to some terms of restraint; acted for a time in conjunction with Burgoyne, and made his arrangements in such a manner as greatly to facilitate the operations of the summer campaign.
General Burgoyne was a gentleman of polite manners, literary abilities, and tried bravery; but haughty in his deportment, sanguine in opinion, and an inveterate foe to America from the beginning of the contest with Britain. This he had discovered as a member of the House of Commons, as well as in the field. On his arrival in Canada, he lost no time, but left a sufficient force for the protection of Quebec, and proceeded immediately across the lakes, at the head of 8000 or 10,000 men, including Canadians, and reached the neighborhood of Crown Point before the last of June.
There, according to the barbarous system of policy adopted by his employers, though execrated by a minority in Parliament, he summoned the numerous tribes of savages to slaughter and bloodshed. A congress of Indians was convened, who met on the western side of Lake Champlain. He gave them a war feast, and though his delicacy might not suffer him to comply with their usual custom and taste the goblet of gore by which they bind themselves to every ferocious deed, he made them a speech calculated to excite them to plunder and carnage, though it was speciously covered by some injunctions of pity towards the aged and infirm, who might experience the wretched fate of becoming their prisoners. Yet, he so far regarded the laws of humanity as to advise the savages to tomahawk only such as were found in arms for the defense of their country, and gave some encouragement to their bringing in prisoners alive, instead of exercising that general massacre usual in all their conflicts; nor would he promise a reward for the scalps of those who were killed merely to obtain the bounty.
Having thus, as he supposed, secured the fidelity of savages, whom no laws of civilization can bind when in competition with their appetite for revenge and war, he published a pompous and ridiculous proclamation. In this, he exhorted the inhabitants of the country, wherever he should march, immediately to submit to the clemency of his royal master. To quicken their obedience, he ostentatiously boasted that "he had but to lift his arm, and beckon by a stretch thereof" the innumerable hordes of the wilderness, who stood ready to execute his will and pour vengeance on any who should yet have the temerity to counteract the authority of the King of England. He concluded his proclamation with these memorable threats: "I trust I shall stand acquitted in the eyes of God and man in denouncing and executing the vengeance of the state against the willful outcasts. The messengers of justice and wrath await them in the field, and devastation, famine, and every concomitant horror that a reluctant, but indispensable prosecution of military duty must occasion, will bar the way to their return." [See Burgoyne's speech to the Indians, and his singular proclamation at large, in the British Remembrancer, the Annual Register, and many other authentic records.]
After these preliminary steps, General Burgoyne pushed forward with his whole force, and possessed himself of Ticonderoga, without the smallest opposition. This was a strong post commanded by General St. Clair, an officer always unfortunate, and in no instance ever distinguished for bravery or judgment. Though the Americans here were inferior in numbers to the British, they were not so deficient in men as in arms, more particularly musketry and bayonets. But their works were strong, the troops healthy, and they had just received a reinforcement of men, and a fresh supply of everything else necessary for defense. In these circumstances, there could scarcely be found a sufficient excuse for calling a hasty council of war and drawing off by night 5000 or 6000 men, on the first approach of the enemy. The want of small arms was the only plausible pretense offered by the commander to justify his conduct. This deficiency St. Clair must have know before July 5, when he in a fright felt with his whole army, and left everything standing in the garrison. [About this time a misfortune befell the Americans not far distant from Montreal, at a place called the Cedars. There Major Butterfield with his party were compelled to surrender prisoners of war. This party captured by Captain Forster, who commanded the British, consisted of 400 or 500 men. It was warmly disputed afterwards between Congress and the British commanders whether the Cedars men, who were permitted to depart on parole, should be exchanged for British prisoners taken under Burgoyne.]
It is not probable the Americans could have long kept their ground against the superiority of the British officers, and the number and discipline of their troops. Yet, undoubtedly, measures might have been early taken by a judicious commander to have retreated if necessary without so much disgrace and the total loss of their artillery, stores, provisions, their shipping on the lake, and many valuable lives. The order for retreat was unexpected to the army. They had scarce time to secure a part of their baggage. The flight was rapid, and the pursuit vigorous. The soldiers having lost confidence in their commander, the out-posts were everywhere evacuated, and a general dismay pervaded the fugitives, who, in scattered parties, were routed in every quarter, and driven naked into the woods.
After two days wandering in the wilderness, the largest body of the Americans who had kept together were overtaken and obliged to make a stand against a party that much outnumbered them, commanded by Colonel Frazier, who had been indefatigable in the pursuit. The action continued three or four hours, when the Americans, though they fought with bravery, were totally routed with very great loss. Colonel Francis, the gallant commander of this party, was killed, with many other officers of merit. 200 or 300 privates were left dead on the field, thrice that number wounded or taken prisoners. Most of the wounded perished miserably in the woods. The British lost several officers highly esteemed by them, among whom was Major Grant, a man of decided bravery. Yet General Burgoyne found to his cost, his incapacity to execute the boast he had some time before made in the House of Commons that "so little was to be apprehended from the resistance of the colonies that he would engage to drive the continent with 500 disciplines troops."
General St. Clair had made good his own retreat so far as to be six miles ahead with the van of the routed army. Such was his terror on hearing of the defeat of Colonel Francis and some other successes of the royal army, that, instead of proceeding to Fort Ann, as intended, he shrunk off into the woods, uncertain where to fly for security. Another party of the Americans, who had reached Fort Ann, were attacked and reduced by Colonel Hill, with one British regiment. They set fire to the fortress themselves to prevent its falling into the hands of the victors, and fled with the utmost speed toward Ford Edward, on the Hudson. General St. Clair, and the miserable remains of his army who escaped death either by fatigue or the sword, after a march of seven days, through mountainous and unfrequented passages, harassed in the rear, and almost without provisions of any kind, arrived at Fort Edward in a most pitiable condition.
General Burgoyne was too much the experienced officer to neglect his advantages. He pushed forward with equal alacrity and success; and in spite of the embarrassments o bad roads, mountains, thickets, and swamps, he reached the neighborhood of Fort Edward within a few days after the broken remnant of St. Clair' army had posted themselves there. On his approach, the Americans immediately decamped from Fort Edward, under the command of General Schuyler, whom they found there, and withdrew to Saratoga. He had been making some efforts to collect the militia from the country contiguous, to aid and support the routed corps; but on their advance, he did not think it prudent to face the British troops.
A share of the public odium on this occasion fell on General Schuyler. His conduct, as well as the delinquency of General St. Clair, was very heavily censured. They were both ordered, with some other of the principal officers of the late council of war at Ticonderoga, to repair to Congress to answer for the loss of that fort, and the command of the Lake Champlain. On the other hand, it was no small triumph to General Burgoyne and his army thus to have chased the Americans from the province of Canada, to find themselves in possession of all the lakes, and to see the British standard erected on the Hudson, which had long been an object of importance with administration.
Exaggerated accounts of the weakness of the Americans, the incapacity of their officers, and the timidity of the troops were transmitted to England; and the most sanguine expectations formed by people of every description through the island They were ready to imagine that, hunted from post to post, both in the northern and southern departments, the spirits of the colonists must be broken, their resources fail, and the Untied States thus repeatedly disappointed would lose all energy of opposition and soon fall a prey to the pride and power of Great Britain. But notwithstanding the unhappy derangement of their affairs at the northward, and the successes of General How in the southward, there appeared not the smallest inclination among the people at large throughout the American states to submit to royal authority. the untoward circumstances that had taken place neither exhausted their hopes nor damped the ardor of enterprise. The dangers that lowered in every quarter seemed rather to invigorate the public mind and quicken the operations of war.
On the defeat of St. Clair and the advance of the British army, the eastern states immediately drafted large detachments of militia and hastened them forward. Congress directed General Washington to appoint proper officers, to repair to Saratoga and take the command. They also appointed a court of inquiry to take cognizance of the delinquency of the suspended officers. But their influence was too great with the commander in chief and some principal members of Congress to subject them to that measure of degradation which it was generally thought they deserved. They were dismissed, though not with approbation, yet without any severe censure. But as the conduct of St. Clair was disgraceful and that of Schuyler could not be justified, they were neither of them appointed to active service.
General Gates, a brave and experienced officer formerly in British service, a man of open manners, integrity of heart, and undisguised republican principles, was vested with the chief command to act against Burgoyne. On his arrival at Saratoga, he drew back the army and encamped at a place called Stillwater, where he could more conveniently observe the motions of Colonel St. Ledger, who was advancing to the Mohawk River to invest Fort Stanwix. This post was commanded by Colonel Gansevoort, whose bravery and intrepidity did honor to himself and to his country. General Arnold was sent on with a reinforcement from the continental army and a large train of artillery to the aid of General Gates. He was ordered to leave the main body and march with the detachment towards the Mohawk River to the assistance of Gansevoort. But before there was time sufficient for his relief from any quarter this gallant officer found himself and the garrison surrounded by a large body of British troops, in conjunction with a formidable appearance of savages, yelling in the environs, and thirsting for blood. At the same time, he was threatened by their more enlightened, yet to more humanized allies, that unless he immediately surrendered the garrison or if he delayed until it was taken by storm, they should all be given up to the fury of the Indians, who were bent upon the massacre of every officer and soldier.
St. Ledger, by letters, messages, and all possible methods, endeavored to intimidate the commander of the fortress. He observed that the savages were determined to wreak their vengeance for the recent loss of some of their chiefs on the inhabitants of the Mohawk River and to sweep the young plantations there, without distinction of age or sex. He made an exaggerated display of his own strength, of the power and success of Burgoyne, and the hopeless state of the garrison, unless by a timely submission they put themselves under his protection. On this condition, he promised to endeavor to mitigate the barbarity of his Indian coadjutors and to soften the horrors usually attendant on their victories.
Colonel Gansevoort, instead of listening to any proposals of surrender, replied "that entrusted by the United States with the charge of the garrison, he should defend it to the last extremity, regardless of the consequences of doing his duty." Their danger was greatly enhanced by the misfortune of General Harkimer, who had marched for the relief of Fort Stanwix, but with too little precaution. At the head of 800 or 900 militia, he fell into an ambush consisting mostly of Indians, and, notwithstanding a manly defense, few of them escaped. They were surrounded, routed, and butchered, in all the barbarous shapes of savage brutality, after many of them had become their prisoners, and their scalps carried to their British allies to receive the stipulated price. A vigorous sally from the garrison, conducted by Colonel Willet of New York, and his successful return with a number of prisoners, gave the first information of the failure of Harkimer. This instead of discouraging, inspirited to fresh enterprise. The valiant Willet, in contempt of danger and difficulty, hazarded a passage by night through the enemy's works, and traversed the unexplored and pathless wilderness for upwards of 50 miles, to the more inhabited settlements, in order to raise the country to hasten to the relief of the garrison and the protection of the inhabitants scattered along the borders of the Mohawk River.
General Arnold had marched with a thousand men for the relief of the besieged; but though in his usual character he made all possible dispatch, the gallant Gansevoort had two days before his arrival repulsed the assailants and obliged them to retreat in such disorder that it had all the appearance of a flight. In consequence of this, St. Ledger was obliged to relinquish the siege with so much precipitation that they left their tents, stores, and artillery behind them, and their camp kettles on the fire. This movement was hurried on by the sullen and untractable behavior of the Indians, which rose to such a height as to give him reason to be apprehensive for his won safety. His fears were well founded. Their conduct had become so outrageous that it was not in the power of Sir John Johnson, Butler, and other influential friends of the savages to keep them within any bounds. They frequently plundered the baggage of the British officers; and when an opportunity offered the slightest advantage, they murdered their British or German allies, with the same brutal ferocity with which they imbrued their hands in the blood of Americans.
The next movement of importance made by General Burgoyne was an attempt to get possession of the little obscure town of Bennington, lying in the Hampshire Grants among the Green Mountains and made considerable only by the deposit of a large quantity of cattle, provisions, carriages, and other necessaries for the use of the American army. For the purpose of seizing these, as well as to intimidate the people in that quarter by the magnitude of his power and the extent of his designs, he detached a party of Hessians, with a few loyalists, and some Indians, to the amount of 1500, and gave the command to colonel Baum, a German officer. He was commissioned, after he had surprised Bennington, to ravage the adjacent country, and, if possible, to persuade the inhabitants that he was in force sufficient and that he designed to march on to Connecticut River, in the road to Boston. He was ordered to inform them that the main body of the British army was in motion for the same purpose [See General Burgoyne's orders to Colonel Baum in Note 1, at the end of this chapter.], that they were to be joined at Springfield by a detachment from Rhode Island, and that by their irresistible power, they meant to bring the rebellious Americans to due submission, or to sweep the whole country.
It is astonishing that a man of General Burgoyne's understanding and military experience should issue orders so absurd and impracticable. He must have been very little acquainted with the geography of the country, and less with the spirit of the inhabitants, to have supposed that a detachment of 1500 men could march from Saratoga until they reached the Connecticut River, take post at a variety of places, levying taxes on the inhabitants, making demands of provisions, cattle, and all other necessaries for the use of his army, without any resistance; thence to proceed down the river to Brattleborough, and to return by another road and take post at Albany; and this business to be completed in the short term of a fortnight. Nor did he discover less ignorance if he expected a detachment to leave Rhode Island and march through the country to Springfield on the same design, and from there to meet Colonel Baum at Albany.
It is impossible to suppose that so renowned a commander as General Burgoyne could mean to deceive or embarrass his officers by his orders; but if he flattered himself that they could be executed, he must still have cherished the opinion that he once uttered in the House of Commons, that 4000 or 5000 British troops could march through the continent and reduce the rebellious states to a due submission to the authority of Parliament. In this march, Burgoyne ordered all acting in committee or in any other capacity under the direction of Congress to be made prisoners.
These pompous orders and bombastic threats were far from spreading the alarm and panic they were designed to excite. The adjacent country was immediately in motion, and all seemed animated with the boldest resolution in defense of the rights of nature, and the peaceable possession of life and property. When Colonel Baum had arrived within four miles of Bennington, appearances gave him reason to apprehend that he was not sufficiently strong to make an attack on the place. He judged more prudent to take post on a branch of the River Hoosuck, and by express inform General Burgoyne of his situation and the apparent difficulty of executing his orders with only 1500 men.
In consequence of this information, an additional party, principally Waldeckers, were sent on under the command of Colonel Breyman. But before he could surmount the unavoidable impediments of marching over bad and unfrequented roads and reach the camp of his friends and his countrymen, a body of militia commanded by General Starks had pressed forward, attacked, routed, and totally defeated Colonel Baum, in the neighborhood of Bennington. General Starks in his early youth had been used to the alarm of war. His birthplace was on the borders of New Hampshire, which had been long subject to the incursions of the savages. When a child, he was captured by them and adopted as one of their own, but after a few years restored. He led a regiment to the field in 1775 and distinguished himself as a soldier. On the new arrangement of the army, he retired as a citizen. His manners were plain, honest, and severe; excellently calculated for the benefit of society in the private walks of life. But as a man of principle, he again left the occupation of the husbandman when his country was in danger. On Burgoyne's approach, he voluntarily marched to the state of Vermont, at the head of the militia, and immortalized his name by his signal success at Bennington, in one of the darkest periods of the American war.
Bennington, the present scene of action, as the first settlement in the territory of Vermont, which was as recent as the year 1769. This was made by the possessors of the tracts called the New Hampshire Grants, robust and hardy set of men, collected from the borders, and under the jurisdiction of the provinces of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York. Rough, bold, and independent, these people, generally denominated the Green Mountain Boys, were brave and active, not only in the present conflict, but were eminently useful to their country by their intrepidity and valor, to the conclusion of the American war. [General Burgoyne observed in a letter to Lord George Germaine "that the Hampshire Grants, almost unknown in the last war, now abound in the most active and most rebellious race on the continent, and hang like a gathering storm on my left." See further particulars of the state of Vermont in Note 2, at the end of this chapter.]
Governor Skeene, a singular character, who had been a colonel in one of the king's regiments, had obtained a commission from the Crown to act as governor at and about Lake Champlain, had assumed jurisdiction over the Hampshire Grants, and acted as companion and guide to Colonel Baum in the expedition. He fled on the first appearance of danger, as did the loyalists, the Canadian provincials, and the Indians. Baum was wounded and taken prisoner, and his whole corps captured by this small body of American militia. Colonel Breyman, who arrived in the afternoon of the same day, escaped a similar fate only by flight, after a short and brave defense, and the loss of most of his men.
This memorable even would perhaps at any other period have appeared of less moment; but when so renowned a commander as General Burgoyne, in the zenith of success and the pride of victory, was threatening with the aid of his savage adherents to execute all the deeds of horror enjoined by his employers, a repulse from so unexpected a quarter was humiliating indeed. It gave a new turn to the face of the campaign. The success at Bennington took place on August 16, 1777.
On the first rumor of this action through the country, the loyalists, who in great numbers still resided among the opposers of royal authority, affected everywhere to cast over it the shade of ridicule. They alleged that the raw militia of Hampshire, and Starks their commander, must have been too much awed by the name and prowess of General Burgoyne and his experience veterans to attempt anything of consequence. Nor were they convinced of the truth of the report until they saw the prisoners on their way to Boston. But the people at large, who appeared to have been waiting with a kind of enthusiastic expectation for some fortunate event that might give a spring to action, at once gave full credit to the account and magnified this success in strains of the highest exultation and defiance, and in the warmth of imagination anticipated new victories.
It is certain that from this moment fortune seemed to have changed her face. Whether the spirits of the British officers and troops flagged in equal proportion, as the enthusiasm fro glory and victory seemed to rekindle in the bosoms of their antagonists, or whether General Burgoyne was restricted by orders that obliged him in some instances to act against his own better informed judgment, his success terminated with the capture of Fort Edward.
By some of his letters written soon after this to the Minister of the American Department, the situation of the British army began to appear to General Burgoyne exceedingly critical. He intimated his apprehensions; and with an air of despondency, in one of them he observed "that circumstances might require that he and the army should be devoted; and that his orders were so peremptory that he did not think himself authorized to call a council of war with regard to his present movements." [See General Burgoyne's own letters in his defense and narrative.] It was doubtless thought necessary, at all hazards, to prevent the forces under General Gates from being at leisure to join General Washington. It was also a favorite point with the ministry that Burgoyne should push on to Albany. But, however dubious the prospect might then appear to himself, or whatever might be his own expectations, General Burgoyne thought proper to pass the Hudson and, about the middle of September, he encamped on the heights and plains of Saratoga.
Supported by a number of brace, experienced and most approved officers in British services, a large armament of British, Hessians, and provincials, with a prodigious train of artillery and his copper-colored scouts and allies, he with all industry prepared to offer battle and try the fortune of war in a general engagement. The Americans, in equal readiness for action, marched from their camp on the 19th, and at a place called Stillwater attacked the right wing of the British army, commanded by Burgoyne himself. Meeting a repulse, they turned their whole force to the left, commanded by the Baron Reidesel, and supported by General Phillips at the head of a formidable artillery. The Americans sustained the combat for several hours, against officers of distinguished bravery and more experience than themselves, who commanded some of the best troops the princes of Germany or even the monarch of Britain could boast; but evening advancing, without decided advantage, the loss of men being nearly equal on both sides, the Americans retreated and recovered their camp with little interruption.
The British troops lay on their arms through the night, and in the morning took an advantageous position and spread themselves along a meadow, in full view and almost within canon-shot of the American camp. Here General Burgoyne received intelligence from Sir Henry Clinton that he had embarked for the North River with several thousand troops, in order to make a diversion in his favor that might greatly facilitate his operations. This account flattered the former expectations of Burgoyne; who judged that General Gates would be obliged to divide his army to succor the distressed villages on each side of the Hudson, now exposed to the most cruel ravages. Expectation was again raised, and the British army invigorated by fresh hopes that a junction at Albany might soon be effected.
With these ideas, General Burgoyne found means to dispatch several messages by private ways through the woods to General Clinton. The purport of these was "that if possible to remain unmolested, he should keep his present position a few days longer; when probably the American army might be weakened by the necessity of detachments for other service." He was further strengthen in the ideas of success by a recent disappointment of the Americans in an attempt to recover Ticonderoga. Had this enterprise succeeded, it would at once effectually have prevented the retreat of the British army, which began to be contemplated.
The business was principally committed to the direction of General Lincoln, and prosecuted with vigor by the Colonels Brown, Johnson, Woodbury, and other spirited officers. They passed the mountains between Skeensborough and Lake George in so rapid and private a manner that before any intimation of the business was disseminated, they seized the outposts and captured the armed vessels and a number of boats on the lake and with four companies of foot and a party of Canadians they took possession of Mount Independence and summoned the garrison in Ticonderoga to surrender. This was gallantly refused, and the fortress bravely defended by Brigadier General Powell. The Americans made several efforts to storm the garrison; but repulsed with resolution and valor, they found themselves not in force sufficient for farther trial; and after a few days, they relinquished the design and retired.
Yet notwithstanding the rebuff and retreat from Ticonderoga, with the advantages the British affected to claim from the action at Stillwater and the flattering encouragement received from Sir Henry Clinton, General Burgoyne was still involved in complicated difficulties. The dangers he had to encounter increased on every side. Fresh troops of militia were continually reinforcing the army of his enemies, while his own daily lessened by the desertion of the Canadian militia, the provincial loyalists, and the defection of the Indians.
These last grew sullen from the disappointment of plunder and were irritated from the notice General Burgoyne was obliged in honor to take of the barbarous murder of a Miss McCrea, on which many of them drew off in disgust. This beautiful young lady, dressed in her bridal habiliments, in order to be married the same evening to an officer of character in Burgoyne's own regiment, while her heart glowed in expectation of a speedy union with the beloved object of her affections, was induced to leave a house near Fort Edward, with the idea of being escorted to the present residence of her intended husband, and was massacred on the way, in all the cold-blooded ferocity of savage manners. Her father had uniformly been a zealous loyalist. But it was not always in the power of the most humane of the British officers to protect the innocent from the barbarity of their savage friends.
General Burgoyne was shocked by the tragic circumstances that attended the fate of this lovely, unfortunate girl. But he attempted to palliate the crime, though he did not neglect an endeavor to inflict due punishment on the perpetrators. Yet such was the temper of his Indian adherents that instead of inflicting death, he was obliged to pardon the guilty chiefs, notwithstanding the cry of justice and the grief and resentment of her lover. [The Earl of Harrington observed in evidence on Burgoyne's trial that it was his opinion and that of other officers that when General Burgoyne threatened the culprit with death and insisted, that he should be delivered up that it might have been attended with dangerous consequences. Many gentlemen of the army besides himself believed that motives of policy alone prevented him from putting this threat in execution; and that if he had not pardoned the murderer, which he did, the total defection of the Indians would have ensured. He observed that "the consequences on their return through Canada might have been dreadful, not to speak of the weight they would have thrown into the opposite scale, had they gone over to the enemy, which I rather imagine would have been the case."] The best coloring that could be given the affecting tale was that two of the principal warriors, under a pretense of guarding her person, had, in a mad quarrel between themselves, which was best entitled to the prize, or to the honor of the escort, made the blooming beauty, shivering in the distress of innocence, youth, and despair, the victim of their fury. The helpless maid was butchered and scalped, and her bleeding corpse left in the woods, to excite the tear of every beholder.
In addition to the complicated embarrassments the British commander had to conflict, provisions grew short in the camp. He was obliged to lessen their rations and put his soldiers on allowance. The most he could hope, as he observed himself in a letter to Sir Henry Clinton, was to hold out to October 12, or effect a retreat before, in the best possible manner. The last expedient he soon found impracticable, by the precaution taken by General Gates to guard all the passes, to cut off all supplies, and nearly to surround the British army. In this uncertain and distressed situation, General Burgoyne waited with all the anxiety of a faithful servant, and the caution and vigilance of an able commander, from the action of September 19 until October 7, without any nearer prospect of a diversion in his favor. He then found it necessary to make a general movement, either to decide the fate of his brave officers and men in the field of battle by a general engagement, or force a retreat.
General Gates equally prepared, either for attack or defense, a warm engagement ensured, which proved fatal to many of the best officers in the British line; but after a sharp conflict of several hours, and the highest exhibitions of military prowess, the British found it necessary to recover their camp before evening, which they did in some disorder. They had scarcely entered it when it was stormed on every side. Lord Balcarras with his light infantry, and a part of the British line, were ordered to throw themselves into the entrenchments, which they executed with spirit, and made a gallant and resolute defense. But the action led on by the ardent and undaunted Arnold, who acquitted himself with his usual intrepidity, was vigorously pushed in spite of the most valiant opposition, until almost in the moment of victory, Arnold was dangerously wounded and his party obliged to retreat. The Americans were fortunate enough to carry the entrenchment of the German reserve, commanded by Colonel Breyman, who was killed in the engagement. All the artillery and equipage of the brigade, and about 200 officers and privates were captured.
The engagement was continued through the whole of this fated day, which closed the scene of conflict and mortality on many brave men, and a number of officers of distinguished valor. The first in name who fell was Brigadier General Frazier. "Before his death, General Frazier requested that his body might be carried to his grave by the field officers of his own corps, without any parade, and buried there. About sunset, the body was brought up the hill, attended only by the officers of his own family. They passed in view of the greatest part of both armies. Struck with the humility of the scene, some of the first officers of the army joined the procession, as it were from a natural propensity, to pay the last attention to his remains.
"The incessant cannonade during the solemnity; the steady attitude, and unaltered voice of the chaplain, though covered with the dust which the shot threw up on all side; the mute, but expressive sensibility on every countenance; the growing duskiness of the evening, added to the scenery -- combined to maker a character and to furnish the finest subject for the pencil or a mater that any field has exhibited." [Extracted from a letter of General Burgoyne.]
Colonel Breyman and Sir James Clark, aide decamp to General Burgoyne, were also killed. Major Ackland was dangerously wounded, and taken prisoner. Lady Ackland, whose conjugal affection had led her to accompany her husband through all the dangers and fatigues of a campaign in the wilderness, was a woman of the most delicate frame, of the genteelest manners, habituated to all the soft elegancies and refined enjoyments that attend high birth and fortune. Her sufferings exhibit a story so affecting to the mind of sensibility that it may apologize for a short interlude in the most interesting detail of military transactions.
She had accompanied Major Ackland to Canada in 1776. After which she traversed a vast woody country, in the most extreme seasons, to visit her husband, sick in a poor hut at Chamblee. On the opening of the campaign of 1777, the positive injunction of her husband prevented her risking the hazards expected before Ticonderoga. There Major Ackland was badly wounded, on which she crossed the Champlain to attend him. She followed his fortune and shared his fatigues, through the dreary way to Fort Edward; there lodged in a miserable tent which by accident took fire by night, when both Major Ackland and herself were saved by an orderly sergeant, who dragged them from the flames almost before they awoke.
Lady Ackland lost not her resolution or her cheerfulness by the dangers she had encountered; but accompanied by her soldier to the action on September 19. By his order, she had followed the route of the artillery and baggage, where she would be least exposed, until she alighted at a small uninhabited tent, which, when the action became general, the surgeons took possession of to dress their wounded.
Thus, within hearing of the roar of cannon, when she knew the situation of her beloved husband was in the most exposed part of the action, she waited some hours in a situation and in apprehensions not easily described. The Baroness of Reidesel, and the wives of the Majors Harnage and Reynal were with her; but she derived little comfort from their presence. Major Harnage was soon brought into the tent dangerously wounded, accompanied with the tiding of the death of the husband of Mrs. Reynal. Let imagination paint the misery of this little group is distressed females. Here among the wounded and the dying, Lady Ackland with her usual serenity, stood prepared for new trials, until the fatal October 7, when her fortitude was put to the severest test by the intelligence that the British army was defeated and that Major Ackland was desperately wounded and taken prisoner. Not borne down by grief or anxiety, she the next day requested to leave to attend the wounded prisoner, to the last moment of his life.
General Burgoyne, from whose narrative some circumstances of Lady Ackland's story are selected, observes "that though he had experienced that patience and fortitude in a supreme degree, were to be found, as well as every other virtue, under the most tender forms, he was astonished at this proposal. After so long an exposure and agitation of the spirits, exhausted not only for want of rest, but absolutely for want of food, drenched in rain for 12 hours together, that a woman should be capable of delivering herself to the enemy, probably in the night, and uncertain what hands she should fall into, appeared an effort above human nature." He adds, "he had not a cup of wine to offer her; all which the hapless lady could be furnished was a little rum and dirty water, an open boat, and a few lines to General Gates."
Thus this lady left the British lines, attended only by Mr. Brudenell, chaplain to the artillery, the major's valet-de-chambre, and one female servant. She was rowed down the river to meet the enemy, when her distresses thickened anew. The night advanced before she met the outposts. The sentinel would neither let the boat pass, nor the passengers come on shore, notwithstanding the singular state of this heroic lady was pathetically represented by Mr. Brudenell. Apprehensive of treachery, the sentinel threatened to fire into the boat if they attempted to stir until the appearance of day. Thus, through a dark and cold night, far advanced in a state that always requires peculiar tenderness to the sex, with a heart full of anxiety for her wounded husband, she was obliged to submit, and in this perilous situation, to reflect until the dawn of the morning, on her own wretched condition and the uncertainty of what reception she should meet from strangers in hostile array, flushed with victory and eager to complete the triumph of the preceding day.
When General Gates in the morning was made acquainted with the situation and request of Lady Ackland, she was immediately permitted to visit her husband, under a safe escort. The American commander himself treated her with the tenderness of a parent, and gave orders that every attention should e paid due to her rank, her sex, her character, and the delicacy of her person and circumstances. [See Note 3 at the end of this chapter]. He wrote General Burgoyne and assured him of her safety and accommodation, and informed him that this line of conduct would have been observed without a letter from the British commander, not only to this lady, but to others of his unfortunate friends, languishing under their wounds; that the American commanders needed not a request to excite their humanity to the unfortunate, who by the chances of war had been thrown on their compassion. In the same letter he reminded General Burgoyne "that the cruelties which marked the late effort for the retreat of his army were almost without a precedent among civilized nations; and that an endeavor to ruin, where they could not conquer, betrayed more the vindictive spirit of the monk, than the generosity of the soldier." [General Gates's letter to General Burgoyne, October 10, 1777.]
Notwithstanding the misfortunes and the losses of the preceding day, General Burgoyne did not yet totally despair of retrieving his affairs and his honor, by another general engagement. This he endeavored to effect on the eighth, and in this he was again disappointed. The utmost bravery was exhibited on both sides, but no decided action. Several days passed on in desultory skirmishes: spirit and intrepidity were not wanting on either side; while the one had everything to hope and inspirit them, the other, nothing left but a choice of insurmountable difficulties.
In this situation, the British commander judged the best expedient was a second effort to repass the Hudson and retreat to Fort Edward. To this every impediment was thrown in his way. A retreat was rendered impracticable by the number and vigilance of the Americans. The borders of the river were lined with troops; and detachments pushed forward to cut off all hope of retreat on every side. The condition of the British army grew hourly more desperate. Winter was approaching, their provisions spent, the troops exhausted by continual fatigue; and not the smallest prospect of relief appeared from any quarter.
In this deplorable situation, General Burgoyne summoned a grand council of war, in which, as he stood in need of every advice, not only the field officers, but the subalterns had a voice. It was unanimously judged most prudent, in the humiliated and hopeless condition to which they were reduced, to open a treaty of convention, and endeavor to obtain some honorable terms of surrender. General Gates was acknowledged by all, not only the valiant, but the humane and generous foe. They had no doubt he would mitigate their mortification, as far as the laws of war or of honor would permit, from the victor to the vanquished.
In consequence of this determination, the solemn negotiation took place on October 13. General Burgoyne intimated to the American commander that he wished to send a field officer to him, to confer on matters of the highest moment and requested to know when he might be received. General Gates really possessed that humanity which distinguishes the hero from the assassinator of the feelings of wounded honor. He seemed touched by the request, with that sympathy which ever resides in the bosom of generosity; and replied instantly, that an officer from General Burgoyne should be received at the advanced post of the army of the United States at ten o'clock the next morning.
Major Kingston was accordingly sent at the appointed time and was conducted to the headquarters of the American army. The purport of the message was that Lieutenant General Burgoyne, having twice fought General Gates, had determined on a third conflict; but well apprised of the superiority of numbers and the disposition of the American troops, he was convinced that either a battle or a retreat would be a scene of carnage on both sides. In this situation, he was impelled by humanity and though himself justified by established principles of states and of war to spare the lives of brave men upon honorable terms. Should General Gates be inclined to treat upon those ideas, General Burgoyne would propose a cessation of arms, during the time necessary to settle such preliminaries, as he could abide by in any extremity.
A convention was immediately opened. A discussion of some articles proposed by the American commander, which appeared to the British officers inadmissible, occasioned a delay of two or three days. These being accommodated, a treaty of surrender was signed October 17, 1777. The substance of the treaty was: That the troops under the command of General Burgoyne, should march out of their camp with the honors of war, and the artillery of the entrenchment, to the verge of a certain river, where the arms and the artillery should be piled at the command of one of their own officers; That a free passage should be provided for the army to return to England, on condition that they should not serve again in America, during the present contest; that transports should enter the port of Boston for their reception, whenever General How should think proper to request it; and that they should be quartered near Boston, that no delay might take place, when an order for embarkation arrived; That the Canadians of every description should be permitted to return immediately, on the sole condition of their not again arming against the United States; That the army under General Burgoyne should march to the Massachusetts by the nearest route; they should be supplied with provisions, both on their route and in quarters, at the same rate of rations, by order of General Gates, as that of his own army; That the officers should wear their side arms and be lodged according to their rank; nor at any time be prevented assembling their own troops, according to the usual military regulations; That passports should be granted to such officers as General Burgoyne should appoint, immediately to carry dispatches to Sir William Howe, to General Carleton, and to England by way of New York; and that General Gates should engage on the public faith, that one of the dispatches should be opened.
After the second article was stipulated that if a cartel should take place by which the army under General Burgoyne or any part of it might be exchanged, the second article should be void, as far as such exchange should be made. These and several other circumstances of less moment agreed to, the convention was signed with much solemnity.
After the negotiation was finished and completed by the mutual signature of the officers, General Gates conducted not only as an officer of bravery, punctuality, and a nice sense of military honor, but with the fine feelings of humanity, and the delicacy of a gentleman. He carried these ideas so far as to restrain the curiosity and pride of his own army, by keeping them within their lines while the British were piling their arms. He did not suffer a man among them to be near witness to the humiliating sight, of a haughty and once powerful foe, disarming and divesting themselves of the insignia of military distinction and laying them at the feet of the conqueror.
Thus, to the consternation of Britain, to the universal joy of America, and to the gratification of all capable of feeling that dignity of sentiment that leads the mind to rejoice in the prospect of liberty to their fellow men, was the northern expedition finished. A reverse of fortune was now beheld that had not fallen under the calculation of either party.
It is more easy to conjecture than agreeable to describe the chagrin of a proud, assuming foe, who had imperiously threatened to penetrate and lay waste cities and provinces, thus humbled by the arms of a people they had affected to hold in the utmost contempt, and their laurels thus faded beneath the sword of the victorious Americans.
It was a tale without example in British annals, that so many thousands [5752 men surrendered, exclusive of Canadians. 2933 had been previously slain.] of their best troops, in conjunction with a large body of German auxiliaries, commanded by generals and field officers of the first character, accompanied by many young gentlemen of noble family and military talents, should be thus reduced, mortified, and led captive, through a long extent of country, where they had flattered themselves they should parade in triumph. They were obliged before they reached their destined quarters, to traverse the pleasant grounds, pass through many flourishing towns, and growing settlements, where they had expected to plant the standard of royalty, in all the cruel insolence of victory, to the utter extermination of every republican principle.
The British army, with General Burgoyne at their head, was escorted from the plains of Saratoga to their quarters at Cambridge, about 300 miles, by two or three American field officers, and a handful of soldiers as a guard. The march was solemn, sullen, and silent; but they were everywhere treated with such humanity, and even delicacy, that themselves acknowledged, the civil deportment of the inhabitants of the country was without a parallel. They thought it remarkable that not an insult was offered, nor an opprobrious reflection cast that could enhance the misery of the unfortunate, or wound the feelings of degraded honor.
As soon as General Gates had finished the campaign of Saratoga, which terminated with so much eclat to himself, and so much glory to the arms of his country, he wrote a spirited letter to General Vaughan, who had been for some months ravaging, plundering, and burning, with unparalleled barbarity, the settlements on the North River. He informed him that "notwithstanding he had reduced the fine village of Kingston to ashes, and its inhabitants to ruin; that though he still continued to ravage and burn all before him, on both sides of the river; these instances of unexampled cruelty but established the glorious act of independence, on the broad basis of the general resentment of the people." He added, "and is it thus, sir, your king's generals think to make converts to the royal cause? It is no less surprising than true, the measures they adopt to serve their master have the quite contrary effect. Abler generals, and much more experienced officers than you can pretend to be are by fortune of war now in my hands. This fortune may one day be yours; when it may not be in the power of anything human to save you from the just resentment of an injured people." [General Gates's letter, published in the British Remembrancer.]
After this letter, General Gates stayed only to make the necessary arrangements, and immediately moved on to the relief of the sufferers in that quarter. On the approach of the renowned conqueror of Burgoyne, the marauding parties under General Vaughan, Wallace, and Governor Tryon, all retied to New York, there to give an account to administration of their barbarous exploits against the defenseless villages.
General Clinton with 3000 troops, in conjunction with Commodore Hotham, had entered the Hudson in the beginning of October. At a great expense of men on both sides, they took possession of Stoney Point, Verplanks, and the forts Montgomery and Clinton.
The posts on the Hudson were defended by officers of dexterity and skill. Governor Clinton of New York, a gentleman distinguished for his patriotism, military talents, and unshaken firmness in the cause of his country, commanded the Forts Clinton and Montgomery. General Putnam, an experienced and meritorious officer, as stationed lower down the river. But thought he works were strong, and defended with courage and ability by the American officers, they were overpowered by the number of the enemy, and obliged to retreat with precipitation. After the storming of the Forts Clinton and Montgomery, many of the soldiers, and some officers were made prisoners. The retreat of those who escaped was effected with difficulty. Governor Clinton himself had time only to escape by crossing the river in a boat.
The Count Grabouski, a Polish nobleman, a volunteer in the British army, fell in the storm of other forts, as did Major Sill, and several other officers of much military merit. General Clinton had laid waste the borders, dismantled the forts, burnt most of the houses, and spread terror and devastation on both sides of the Hudson. General Vaughan was left to finish the business. In one of his letters transmitted to England by Lord Viscount Howe, he boasts that "he had not left one house in the flourishing and industrious town of Esopus"; and offers no other reason for reducing it to ashes but that "the inhabitants had the temerity to fire from their houses on his advance" to rob them of liberty, property, and life. This is a mode of making war that the politeness and civilization of modern Europe has generally agreed to criminate, though still practiced by many inhuman conquerors; but it was revived and adopted in the American system, with all the ferocity that stimulated the ancient barbarians to sink in conflagration the Italian cities.
These instances of severity were not singular. The same mad fury was exercised in almost every place where the strength and power of Britain obtained the advantage. This became the source of perpetual jealousies and destroyed all confidence between Britons and Americans, even in the faith of treaties. Thus some intimations from General Burgoyne while at Cambridge that the terms of convention were not fully complied with on the part of America, and some equivocal conduct with regard to the embarkation of the troops raised a suspicion that the British officers intended to evade their engagement and transport the captured army to New York, instead of conveying them directly to England, as stipulated.
This was grounded on a proposal that the convention troops should march to Newport and there embark. This occasioned a resolve of Congress "that the troops should remain in their quarters at Cambridge until an explicit ratification of the Convention of Saratoga should be properly notified to Congress by the Court of Great Britain." This was heavily complained of by General Burgoyne and his officers, who said that this step was sinking the dignity, and a breach of faith in that respected body. Political casuistry frequently palliates the deviations from rectitude in public bodies. Sound policy might justify the measure, but it is yet doubtful whether there was sufficient reason to believe that Burgoyne meant to break his engagements and throw his troops into New York, to be immediately again employed against the United States.
New causes arose to enhance the difficulties of their exchange or their return to their native country. Thus this idle and dissipated army lay too long in the neighborhood of Boston for the advantage of either side. While there in durance, they disseminated their manners; they corrupted the students of Harvard College, and the youth of the capital and its environs, who were allured to enter into their gambling parties, and other scenes of licentiousness. They became acquainted with the designs, the resources, and the weaknesses of America; and there were many among them, whose talents and capacity rendered them capable of making the most mischievous use of their knowledge. After long altercations between General Phillips and General Heath, who commanded in that quarter, relative to the disorders that took place among the soldiery of both parties, and mutual charges of breaches of the articles o convention, Congress directed that the British troops should march to Charlotteville in Virginia. They accordingly left Cambridge on November 10, 1778.
General Burgoyne had early requested leave to repair to England on parole, pleading the broken state of his health, the deranged situation of his private affairs, and the hazard of character, if not present to defend himself on the tidings of his defeat. He was permitted by Congress to depart, and arrived in England in May, 1778. But he met a very ungracious reception both from the people, the ministry, and his king. Notwithstanding his abilities to serve, and his fidelity to his master, he was refused an audience by Majesty, a court of inquisition , or a court martial, and for some time a hearing in the House of Commons.
He had left England in the sanguine expectation of carrying conquest before him, wherever he appeared, and of subduing the Americans and restoring tranquility to the revolted colonies. He had returned on parole by the favor of that authority he had ever despised, and left his army in the hands of his enemies. The debates in Parliament on the occasion were warm and interesting. Some law officers of the Crown insisted that as a prisoner he was bound by his first engagements. They said to talk of a trial without the power to punish was a farce. It was urged "that as a prisoner, he was not capable of acting in his personal capacity; and that under his present obligations, he was totally incapacitated for the exercise of any civil office, in competent to any civil function, and incapable of bearing arms in his country." [Parliamentary debates.]
Thus was the haughty Burgoyne affronted and mortified, after long and faithful services to his king and country. He was ordered immediately to repair to America as a prisoner, according to his engagements; but as the ill state of his health prevented his compliance, he was persecuted until he resigned all his employments under the crown.
After some time had elapsed, General Burgoyne was permitted the opportunity of speaking for himself in the House of Commons, where he defended his own reputation ad cause with ability and spirit. In the course of his argument, he cast many severe censures on the ministry; and did not scruple to pronounce them totally incapable of supporting the weight of public affairs, in the present dangerous and critical emergency, into which they had brought the nation. Nor was he without many powerful advocates, who both ridiculed and reprobated the severity with which he was treated. Strong intimations had been suggested, both within and without doors, that it might be thought expedient that the General should be sacrificed to save the reputation of the minister. Several expressions of his previous to his capture intimated his own apprehensions. In a letter to the Secretary of State, he said, "my confidence is still placed in the justice of the King and his Council, to support the general they had thought proper to appoint to as arduous an undertaking and under as positive directions as a cabinet ever signed." In the same letter, he gave his opinion of the number and discipline of the American troops and the many difficulties he had to encounter without the liberty of acting at discretion.
General Burgoyne observed himself, with regard to American bravery, when speaking of the action of September 19, "few actions have been characterized by more obstinacy in attack or defense. The British bayonet was repeatedly tried ineffectually. 1100 British soldiers, foiled in these trials, bore incessant fire from a succession of fresh troops, in superior numbers, for above four hours; and after a loss of above a third of their numbers, (and in one of the regiments about two-thirds) forced the enemy at last. Of a detachment of a captain and 48 artillery-men, the captain and 36 men were killed or wounded. These facts are marked by a concurrence of evidence that no man can dispute. The tribute of praise due to such troops will not be wanting in this generous nation; and it will certainly be accompanied with a just portion of shame to those who have dared to depreciate or fully valor so conspicuous; who have their ears open only to the prejudice of American cowardice, and having been always loud upon that courtly topic, stifle the glory of their countrymen to maintain a base consistency." He also adds with regard to the action of October 7, "if there can be any persons who, after considering the circumstances of this day, continue to doubt that the Americans possess the quality and faculty of fighting, (call it by whatever name they please) they are of a prejudice that it would be very absurd longer to contend with." But no hazard or fatigue, bravery or misfortune was thought a sufficient apology for the loss of his army.
The northern expedition had been a favorite object with the British administration. They were sanguine enough to suppose, and the nation was led to believe, that success in that quarter would reduce the turbulent spirits of Americans so low as to prevent further energy of opposition, and bring the whole country to a due sense of subordination, and unconditional submission to the authority of Parliament. The low ebb of American affairs at the southward, previous to the success of General Gates, gave some reasonable grounds for such an expectation. It is not strange that a disappointment in this favorite object, which was calculated, if successful, to redound much to the glory of the British arms, should be equally mortifying to the pride of the ministry, and the high-spirited people of England, or that it threw the Parliament and the nation into a ferment, that did not easily subside. Many gentlemen of distinguished talents, did honor to the feelings of the heart, and the sagacity of their understanding, while it was a subject of parliamentary debate, by their humane, sensible, and judicious speeches, interspersed with pointed wit, and brilliancy of sentiment.
The conquest and capture of General Burgoyne and the British army under his command was undoubtedly the most fortunate circumstance for the United States that had yet taken place. It was the most capital and eventful military transaction from the commencement to the close of the American war. The termination of this expedition opened new views to the philosopher, the politician, and the hero, both at home and abroad. It disseminated a spirit and produced effects throughout America, which had been neither anticipated nor calculated until her sons paraded in the style of the conqueror before the humiliated bands of veteran British and German prisoners.
So many thousands of brave men and distinguished officers led captive through the wilderness, the plains, and the cities of the United States was a spectacle never before beheld by the inhabitants; and the impression it made on their minds was in proportion to the novelty of the scene and the magnitude of its consequences. It was viewed as a prelude to events of the highest moment, both to the arms and to the future negotiations of the United States. British battalions were no longer deemed invulnerable, even by the most timid and uninformed sons of America. That formidable power which had spread dismay through the colonies, they now beheld as the object of curiosity, and her armies were viewed more in the light of compassion than of terror.
Nor were the troops o the United States longer considered as a mere undisciplined rabble, either by the Parliament or the people of England. Their armies began to appear formidable; and conciliation was pressed from very respectable characters. From the moment of their recent victory, the United States were beheld in a still more honorable light by the other European powers. Most of them had yet stood undecided and wavering; none of them seemed determined on which side to declare or whether to look coolly on, as uninterested spectators, until Great Britain had sufficiently chastised her rebellious children. It is true some loans of money had been obtained from France previous to this period, and the sale of prizes had been permitted in the Gallic ports; but this appeared to be more in consequence of the benevolence and the enthusiasm of the people, than the result of any governmental system to aid America effectually, in her struggle for freedom and independence.
The consequences of the brilliant success of General Gates, the influence of this event on the opinion of foreign nations, its operation on the councils of Britain, its effects on the policy of several European courts, and its important consequences throughout America, will be related concisely in the subsequent part of these annals.
But it is proper before we conclude the present chapter to detail a few other circumstances relative to General Burgoyne. After some time had elapsed and the agitation of parties so far cooled as to permit him the public defense of his character, he gave an affecting epitome of his feelings, his difficulties and embarrassments in the northern expedition. He observed, "the remembrance of what I personally underwent cannot easily be suppressed; and I am sure I shall not outgo the indulgence of the candid, if in delineating situations so affecting, I add feelings to justification. The defense of military conduct is an interesting point of professional honor; but to vindicate the heart, is a duty to God and to society at large.
"Few conjunctures in the campaign I have been describing, few perhaps upon military record, can be found so distinguished by exigencies or productive of such critical and anxious calls upon public character and private affection as that which now took place.
"In the first place, the position of the army was untenable; and yet an immediate retreat was impossible, not only from the fatigue of the troops, but from the necessity of delivering fresh ammunition and provisions.
"The losses in the action were uncommonly severe. Sir Francis Clarke, my aide decamp, had originally recommended himself to my attention by his talents and diligence. As service and intimacy opened his character more, he became endeared to me by every quality that can create esteem. I lost in him a useful assistant, an amiable companion, an attached friend. The state was deprived by his death of one of the fairest promises of an able general.
"The fate of Colonel Ackland, taken prisoner and then supposed to be mortally wounded, was a second source of anxiety. General Frazier was expiring.
"In the course of the action, a shot had passed through my hat, and another had torn my waistcoat. I should be sorry to be thought at any time, insensible to the protecting hand of Providence; but I ever more particularly considered (and I hope not superstitiously) a soldier's hair-breadth escapes as incentives to duty, a marked renewal of the trust of being, for the due purposes of a public station; and under that reflection, to lose our fortitude by giving way to our affections, to be diverted by any possible self-emotion, from meeting a present exigency with our best faculties, were at once dishonor and impiety." [Burgoyne's defense.]
Perhaps no general officer ever experienced a greater variety of untoward circumstances, than General Burgoyne before the Convention, and the surrender of his army to the victorious Americans. It requires a lively imagination to comprehend a full view of the difficulty of marching an army, composed of heterogeneous materials from Quebec to Saratoga, to traverse a forlorn wilderness, pathless thickets and swamps, extensive sheets of water, and navigable lakes defended by a resolute enemy, covered by strong works, that cost the waste of many of his troops to overcome.
It is true his German allies were brave and the usual value of British troops needs no encomium; but the Canadians and the loyalists could not be depended on, and the hordes of savages that joined his train were more the objects of terror than assistance, even to the masters under whom they had enlisted. They pillaged, plundered, threatened, and occasionally murdered their friends, and when the case grew desperate, retreated in tribes to take shelter in their distant forests.
Of the loyalists, General Burgoyne thus observes, "Many of them had taken refuge in Canada the preceding winter, and others had joined us as we advanced. The various interests which influenced their actions, rendered all arrangement of them impracticable. One man's views went to the profit he was to enjoy when his corps should be complete; another, to the protection of the district in which he resided; a third was wholly intent on revenge against his personal enemies; and all of them were repugnant even to an idea of subordination. Hence, the settlement who should act as a private man, and who as an officer, or in whose corps either should be, was seldom satisfactorily made among themselves; and as surely as it failed, succeeded a reference to the commander in chief, which could not be put by, or delegated to another hand, without dissatisfaction, increase of confusion, and generally a loss of such services as they were really fit for; viz. searching for cattle, ascertaining the practicability of routes, clearing roads, and building detachments or columns on the march." He farther observed that "the interests and passions of the revolted 'Americans concenter in the cause of the Congress and those of the loyalists break and subdivide into various pursuits, with which the cause of the King has little or nothing to do."
From these and other circumstances above detailed, even prejudice itself ought to allow a due share of praise to General Burgoyne for maintaining his resolution and perseverance so long, rather than to wound his character by censure, either as a soldier, a man of honor and humanity, or a faithful servant to his king.
But talents, valor, or virtue, are seldom a security against the vindictive spirit of party, or the resentment that results from the failure of favorite political projects. Thus, ;though the military abilities of General Burgoyne had been conspicuous and his services acknowledged by his country, yet from the mortification of the Monarch, the court, and the people of England, on the disgrace of their arms at Saratoga, he was not only suffered, but obliged to retire.
Thought he marked resentment of administration was long kept up against this unfortunate officer, he did not spend all the remainder of his days in private and literary pursuits. It is true he never again acted in a military capacity; but time relieved the present oppression when he again took his seat in Parliament and with manly eloquence not only defended the rights and liberties of his native isle against the arbitrary systems in vogue, but asserted the justice and propriety of American opposition. This he did with becoming dignity and an impartiality which he never might have felt, but from the failure of this northern expedition. The reputation the American arms acquired by this defeat, not only humbled the proud tone of many British officers besides General Burgoyne, but did much to hasten the alliance with France, and brought forward events that accelerated the independence of America.
General Burgoyne's instructions to Lieutenant Colonel Baum.
"The object of your expedition is to try the affection of the country; to disconcert the councils of the enemy; to mount the Reidesel dragoons; to complete Petre's corps; and to obtain large supplies of cattle, horses, and carriages.
"The several corps, of which the enclosed is a list, are to be under your command.
"The troops must take no tents; and what little baggage is carried by the officers must be on their own battalion horses.
"You are to proceed from Batten Kill to Arlington, and take post there until the detachment of the provincials under the command of Captain Sherwood shall join you from the southward.
"You are then to proceed to Manchester, where you will again take post so as to secure the pass of the mountains on the road from Manchester to Rockingham; from thence you will detach the Indians an light troops to the northward, towards Otter Creek. On their return, and receiving intelligence that no enemy is upon the Connecticut River, you will proceed by the road over the mountains to Rockingham, where you will take post. This will be the most distant part of the expedition and must be proceeded upon with caution, as you will have the defiles of the mountains behind you, which might make a retreat difficult. You must therefore endeavor to be well informed of the force of the enemy's militia in the neighboring country; should you find it may with prudence be effected, you are to remain there, while the Indians and light troops are detached up the river; and you are afterwards to descend the river to Brattleborough; and from that place, by the quickest march, you are to return by the great road to Albany.
"During your whole progress, your detachments are to have orders to bring in to you all horses fit to mount the dragoons under your command or to serve as battalion horses for the troops, together with as many saddles and bridles as can be found. The number of horses requisite besides those necessary for mounting the regiment of dragoons ought to be 1300. If you can bring more, for the use of the army, it will be so much the better. Your parties are likewise to bring in wagons and other convenient carriages, with as many draught oxen as will be necessary to draw them. And all cattle fit for slaughter (milch cows excepted, which are to be left for the use of the inhabitants). Regular receipts in the form hereto subjoined, are to be given in all places, where any of the above articles are taken, to such persons as have remained in their habitations and otherwise complied with the terms of General Burgoyne's manifesto; but no receipt to be given to such as are known to be acting in the service of the rebels. As you will have with you persons perfectly acquainted with the country, it may perhaps be advisable to tax the several districts with the portions of the several articles and limit the hours for the delivery; and should you find it necessary to move before such delivery can be made, hostages of the most respectable people should be taken, to secure their following you the next day.
"All possible means are to be used to prevent plundering. As it is probable that Captain Sherwood, who is already detached to the southward, and will join you at Arlington, will drive a considerable quantity of cattle and horses to you, you will therefore send in these cattle to the army, with a proper detachment from Petre's corps, to cover them, in order to disencumber yourself; but you must always keep the regiment of dragoons compact. The dragoons themselves must ride, and take care of the horses of the regiment. Those horses that are destined for the use of the army must be tied in strings of ten each, in order that one man may lead ten horses. You will give the unarmed men in Petre's corps to conduct them and inhabitants whom you can trust.
"You must always keep your camps in good position, but at the same time where there is pasture; and you must have a chain of sentinels around your cattle when grazing.
"Colonel Skeene will be with you as much as possible, in order to distinguish the good subjects from the bad, to procure the best intelligence of the enemy, and choose those people who are to bring me the accounts of your progress and success.
"When you find it necessary to halt a day or two, you must always entrench the camp of the regiment of dragoons in order never to risk an attack or affront from the enemy.
"As you will return with the regiment of dragoons mounted, you must always have a detachment of Captain Frazier's or Petre's corps in front of the column, and the same in the rear, in order to prevent your falling into an ambuscade, when you march through the woods.
"You will use all possible means to make the country believe that the troops under your command are the advanced corps of the army, and that it is intended to pass to Connecticut on the road to Boston. You will likewise intimate that the main army from Albany is to be joined at Springfield by a corps of troops from Rhode Island.
"It is highly probable that the corps under Mr. Warner, now supposed to be at Manchester, will retreat before you; but should they, contrary to expectation, be able to collect in great force and post themselves advantageously, it is left to your discretion to attack them or not; always bearing in mend that your corps is too valuable to let any considerable loss be hazarded on this occasion.
"Should any corps be moved from Mr. Arnold's main army, in order to interrupt your retreat, you are to take as strong a post as the country will afford, and send the quickest intelligence to me; and you may depend on my making such movements as shall put the enemy between two fires, or otherwise effectually sustain you.
"It is imagine the progress of the whole of this expedition may be effected in about a fortnight; but every movement of it must depend on your success in obtaining such supplies of provisions as will enable you to subsist for your return in this army, in case you can get no more. And should not the army be able to reach Albany, before your expedition should be completed. I will find means to send you notice of it, and give your route another direction.
"All persons acting in committees or any officers under the direction of the Congress, either civil or military, to be made prisoners.
"I heartily wish you success; and have the honor to be, sir, your humble servant,
"John Burgoyne, Lieutenant General
"Headquarters, August 9, 1777."
It was several years after the confederation of the thirteen American states before Vermont was added to the union. The inhabitants kept up a long and severe altercation with the several governments, who claimed both territory and authority, until on the point of decision by the sword, both parties appealed to the General Congress. This was a business that divided and embarrassed and was not terminated until the agents of Britain interfered and offered advantageous terms to the Vermonters, if they would withdraw from the confederated states and become a province of Britain.
From their love of liberty and their attachment to their country, these offers were rejected, though they complained heavily of the delays and evasions of the Congress. Rough as their native mountains, strong and flinty as the rocks that surrounded them, they bid defiance to dangers; and equally despised the intrigues of Britain, the subterfuges of the claimants on their territory, and the suspension in which they were held for a time by Congress. They resisted obstinately the interferences and claims of the neighboring governments; their alienation from them, and their hatred to the state of New York, in particular, daily increased. And in spite of all opposition, they continued their claims and supported their rights to be considered a free, independent, and separate state, entitled to the same privilege as the thirteen old colonies.
Colonel Ethan Allen, one of their principal leaders; a man of courage and ferocity, of pride without dignity, a writer without learning, a man of consequence merely from a bold presumptive claim to a capacity for everything; without education, and possessed of little intrinsic merit;; wrote to Congress on this occasion and observed "that Vermont has an indubitable right to agree to terms of a cessation of hostilities with Great Britain, provided the United States persist in a rejection of her application for a union with them. But not disposed to yield to the overtures of the British government," he added, "I am as resolutely determined to defend the independence of Vermont, as Congress are that of the United States; and rather than fail, will retire with hardy Green Mountain Boys into the desolate caverns of the mountains and wage war with human nature at large."
After long suspension and many impediments, Congress thought proper, in order to prevent the effusion of blood among themselves, which this occasion threatened, to accede to the reasonable demands of these legitimate sons of freedom, who chose delegates from Congress, maintained their independence, and were a strong link in the confederated chain against the encroachments and the power of Britain." [A further description of the settlement and progress of the Hampshire Grants may be seen at large in a late accurate history of Vermont written by Doctor Samuel Williams. This work is replete with moral and philosophical observations, which are honorary to the very sensible writer, and at once entertain and improve the reader.
The afflictions of this extraordinary lad did not terminate in America. By the assiduity of the physicians and the tender care of a most affectionate wife, Major Ackland partially recovered from his wounds in a short time, and was permitted to repair to New York. It was not long before his health was sufficiently restored to embark for England; but his wounds incurable, and his mind depressed, he was led to habits of intemperance that soon put a period to his life.
The death of her husband and the domestic afflictions of the family of Lord Ilchester, the father of Lady Ackland, all combined to overpower the heroism of a mind superior to most of her sex, and involved this unfortunate lady in a deep and irretrievable melancholy.