PICTORIAL FIELD BOOK OF THE REVOLUTION.
BY BENSON J. LOSSING
A Lady of the Revolution. – Sufferings of herself and Family. – Her Husband’s Pension allowed her. – Remains of the Fortifications of Burgoyne’s Camp. – The Reidesel House. – Narrative of the Baroness Reidesel. – Companions in Misery of the Baroness Reidesel. – Wounded Soldiers. – Kindness of General Schuyler. – Arrival of the British Officers and Women at Albany. – Courtesy of General Schuyler and Family. – British Officers at Schuyler’s House. – Execution-place of Lovelace. – Active and Passive Tories. – Rendezvous of Lovelace. – Capture and Death of Lovelace. – Daring Adventure of an American Soldier. – Departure from Schuylerville. – Visit to the Site of old Fort Edward. – Tragedy of "Bloody Run." – Daring Feat by Putnam. – Fort Miller Fording-place. – Canal Voyage to Fort Edward. – Scene on Board. – Fort Edward. – National Debt of England. – Daring Feat of Putnam at Fort Edward. – Jane M‘Crea Tree. – Sir William Johnson and his Title. – Fortifications. – The Fort Edward Romance. – Mrs. M‘Neil and her Grand-daughter. – Narrative of the latter. – Residence of Jane M‘Crea at Fort Edward. – Her Betrothal. – Abduction of Mrs. M‘Neil and Jane. – Flight of the Indians toward Sandy Hill. – Treatment of Mrs. M‘Neil. – Indian Account of the Death of Jane. – The Spring. – Massacre of the Allen Family. – Gates’s Letter – Inquiry respecting the Death of Miss M‘Crea. – Desertion of Lieutenant Jones. – Effect of Miss M‘Crea’s Death on Lieutenant Jones. – Attack of Indians upon American Troops. – Reinterment of Miss M‘Crea. – Young Girl struck by Lightning. – Village Burial-ground. – Colonel Cochran and his Adventures. – Rogers’s Island. – Relics found on Rogers’s Island. – A remarkable Skull. – Silver Coin found at Fort Edward.
"The sun has drunk
It was early in the morning of such a day as the poet refers to that we commenced a ride and a ramble over the historic grounds of Saratoga near Schuylerville, accompanied by the friendly guide whose proffered services I have already mentioned. We first rode to the residence of Mrs. J---n, one of the almost centenarian representatives of the generation cotemporary with our Revolution, now so few and hoary. She was in her ninety-second year of life, yet her mental faculties were quite vigorous, and she related her sad experience of the trials of that war with a memory remarkably tenacious and correct. Her sight and hearing were defective, and her skin wrinkled; but in her soft blue eye, regular features, and delicate form were lingering many traces of the beauty of her early womanhood. She was a young lady of twenty years when Independence was declared, and was living with her parents at Do-ve-gat (Coveville) when Burgoyne came down the valley. She was then betrothed, but her lover had shouldered his musket, and was in Schuyler’s camp.
While Burgoyne was pressing onward toward Fort Edward from Skenesborough, the people of the valley below, who were attached to the patriot cause, fled hastily to Albany. Mrs. J---n and her parents were among the fugitives. So fearful were they of the Indian scouts sent forward, and of the resident Tories, not a whit less savage, who were emboldened by the proximity of the invader, that for several nights previous to their flight they slept in a swamp, apprehending that their dwelling would be burned over their heads or that murder would break in upon their repose. And when they returned home, after the surrender of Burgoyne, all was desolation. Tears filled her eyes when she spoke of that sad return. "We had but little to come home to," she said. "Our crops and our cattle, our sheep, hogs, and horses, were all gone, yet we knelt down in our desolate room and thanked God sincerely that our house and barns were not destroyed." She wedded her soldier soon afterward, and during the long widowhood of her evening of life his pension has been secured to her, and a few years ago it was increased in amount. She referred to it, and with quivering lip – quivering with the emotions of her full heart – said, "The government has been very kind to me in my poverty and old age." She was personally acquainted with General Schuyler, and spoke feelingly of the noble-heartedness of himself and lady in all the relations of life. While pressing her hand in bidding her farewell, the though occurred that we represented the linking of the living, vigorous, active present, and the half-buried, decaying past; and that between her early womanhood and now all the grandeur and glory of our Republic had dawned and brightened into perfect day.
From Mrs. J---n’s we rode to the residence of her brother, the house wherein the Baroness Reidesel, with her children and female companions, was sheltered just before the surrender of Burgoyne. It is about a mile above Schuylerville, and nearly opposite the mouth of the Batten Kill. On our way we paused to view the remains of the fortifications of Burgoyne’s camp, upon the heights a little west of the village. Prominent traces of the mounds and ditches are there visible in the woods. A little northwest of the village the lines of defenses thrown up by the Germans and Hessians of Hanau may be distinctly seen (Seemap, page 77.)
THE REIDESEL HOUSE, SARATOGA.
This house made memorable by the presence and the pen of the wife of the Brunswick general is well preserved. At the time of the Revolution it was owned by Peter Lansing, a relative of the chancellor of that name, and now[1848.] belongs to Mr. Samuel Marshall, who has the good taste to keep up its original character. It is upon the high bank west of the road from Schuylerville to Fort Miller, pleasantly shaded in front by locusts, and fairly embowered in shrubbery and fruit trees.
We will listen to the story of the sufferings of some of the women of Burgoyne’s camp in that house, as told by the baroness herself: "About two o’clock in the afternoon we again heard a firing of cannon and small arms; instantly all was in motion. My husband told me to go to a house not far off. I immediately seated myself in my caleche, with my children, and drove off; but scarcely had we reached it before I discovered five or six armed men on the other side of the Hudson. Instinctively I threw my children down in the caleche, and then concealed myself with them. At this moment the fellows fired, and wounded an already wounded English soldier, who was behind me. Poor fellow! I pitied him exceedingly, but at this moment had no power to relieve him.
CELLAR OF THE REIDESEL HOUSE.
"A terrible cannonade was commenced by the enemy against the house in which I sought to obtain shelter for myself and children, under the mistaken idea that all the generals were in it. Alas! it contained none but wounded and women. We were at last obliged to resort to the cellar for refuge, and in one corner of this I remained the whole day, my children sleeping on the earth with their heads in my lap; and in the same situation I passed a sleepless night.1 Eleven cannon-balls passed through the house, and we could distinctly hear them roll away. One poor soldier, who was lying on a table for the purpose of having his leg amputated, was struck by a shot, which carried away his other; his comrades had left him, and when we went to his assistance we found him in a corner of the room, into which he had crept, more dead than alive, scarcely breathing. 2 My reflections on the danger to which my husband was exposed now agonized me exceedingly, and the thoughts of my children, and the necessity of struggling for their preservation, alone sustained me.
"The ladies of the army who were with me were Mrs. Harnage, a Mrs. Kennels the widow of a lieutenant who was killed, and the lady of the commissary. Major Harnage, his wife, and Mrs. Kennels made a little room in a corner with curtains to it, and wished to do the same for me, but I preferred being near the door, in case of fire. Not far off my women slept, and opposite to us three English officers, who, though wounded, were determined not to be left behind; one of them was Captain Green, an aid-de-camp to Major-general Phillips, a very valuable officer and most agreeable man. They each made me a most sacred promise not to leave me behind, and, in case of sudden retreat, that they would each of them take one of my children on his horse; and for myself one of my husband’s was in constant readiness. . . . . . . . . The want of water distressed us much; at length we found a soldier’s wife who had courage enough to fetch us some from the river, an office nobody else would undertake, as the Americans shot at every person who approached it; but, out of respect for her sex, they never molested her.
"I now occupied myself through the day in attending the wounded; I made them tea and coffee, and often shared my dinner with them, for which they offered me a thousand expressions of gratitude. One day a Canadian officer came to our cellar, who had scarcely the power of holding himself upright, and we concluded he was dying for want of nourishment; I was happy in offering him my dinner, which strengthened him, and procured me his friendship. I now undertook the care of Major Bloomfield, another aid-de-camp of General Phillips; he had received a musket-ball through both cheeks, which in its course had knocked out several of his teeth and cut his tongue; he could hold nothing in his mouth, the matter which ran from his wound almost choked him, and he was not able to take any nourishment except a little soup or something liquid. We had some Rhenish wine, and, in the hope that the acidity of it would cleanse his wound, I gave him a bottle of it. He took a little now and then, and with such effect that his cure soon followed; thus I added another to my stock of friends, and derived a satisfaction which, in the midst of sufferings, served to tranquilize me and diminish their acuteness.
"One day General Phillips accompanied my husband, at the risk of their lives, on a visit to us. The general, after having beheld our situation, said to him, ‘I would not for ten thousand guineas come again to this place; my heart is almost broken.’
"In this horrid situation we remained six days; a cessation of hostilities was now spoken of, and eventually took place."
The baroness, in the simple language of her narrative, thus bears testimony to the generous character of the American officers, and to the true nobility of character of General Schuyler in particular: "My husband sent a message to me to come over to him with my children. I seated myself once more in my dear caleche, and then rode through the American camp. As I passed on I observed, and this was a great consolation to me, that no one eyed me with looks of resentment, but they all greeted us, and even showed compassion in the countenances at the sight of a woman with small children. I was, I confess, afraid to go over to the enemy, as it was quite a new situation to me. When I drew near the tents a handsome man approached and met me, took my children from the caleche, and hugged and kissed them, which affected me almost to tears. ‘You tremble,’ said he, addressing himself to me; ‘be not afraid.’ ‘No,’ I answered, ‘you seem so kind and tender to my children, it inspires me with courage.’ He now led me to the tent of General Gates, where I found Generals Burgoyne and Phillips, who were on a friendly footing with the former. Burgoyne said to me, ‘Never mind; your sorrows have now an end.’ I answered him that I should be reprehensible to have any cares, as he had none; and I was pleased to see him on such friendly footing with General Gates. All the generals remained to dine with General Gates.
"The same gentleman who received me so kindly now came and said to me, ‘You will be very much embarrassed to eat with all these gentlemen; come with your children to my tent, where I will prepare for you a frugal dinner, and give it with a free will.’ I said, ‘You are certainly a husband and a father, you have shown me so much kindness.’ I now found that he was GENERAL SCHUYLER. He treated me with excellent smoked tongue, beef-steaks, potatoes, and good bread and butter! Never could I have wished to eat a better dinner; I was content; I saw all around me were so likewise; and, what was better than all, my husband was out of danger.
GENERAL SCHUYLER AND BARONESS REIDESEL.
"When we had dined he told me his residence was at Albany, and that General Burgoyne intended to honor him as his guest, and invited myself and children to do likewise. I asked my husband how I should act; he told me to accept the invitation. As it was two days’ journey there, he advised me to go to a place which was about three hours’ ride distant.
"Some days after this we arrived at Albany, where we so often wished ourselves; but we did not enter it as we expected we should – victors!3 We were received by the good General Schuyler, his wife, and daughters, not as enemies, but kind friends; and they treated us with the most marked attention and politeness, as they did General Burgoyne, who had caused General Schuyler’s beautifully finished house to be burned. In fact, they behaved like persons of exalted minds, who determined to bury all recollections of their own injuries in the contemplation of our misfortunes. General Burgoyne was struck with General Schuyler’s generosity, and said to him, ‘You show me great kindness, though I have done you much injury.’ ‘That was the fate of war,’ replied the brave man; ‘let us say no more about it.’ "
General Schuyler was detained at Saratoga when Burgoyne and suite started for Albany. He wrote to his wife to give the English general the very best reception in her power. "The British commander was well received," says the Marquis de Chastellux,4 in his Travels in America, "by Mrs. Schuyler, and lodged in the best apartment in the house. An excellent supper was served him in the evening, the honors of which were done with so much grace that he was affected even to tears, and said, with a deep sigh, ‘Indeed, this is doing too much for the man who has ravaged their lands and burned their dwellings.’ The next morning he was reminded of his misfortunes by an incident that would have amused any one else. His bed was prepared in a large room; but as he had a numerous suite, or family, several mattresses were spread on the floor for some officers to sleep near him. Schuyler’s second son, a little fellow about seven years old, very arch and forward, but very amiable, was running all the morning about the house. Opening the door of the saloon, he burst out a laughing seeing all the English collected, and shut it after him, exclaiming, ‘You are all my prisoners!’ This innocent cruelty rendered them more melancholy than before.
We next visited the headquarters of General Gates, south of the Fish Creek,delineated on page 75. On our way we passed the spot, a few rods south of the creek, where Lovelace, a prominent Tory, was hung. It is upon the high bluff seen on the right of the road in the annexed sketch, which was taken from the lawn in front of the rebuilt mansion of General Schuyler.
PLACE WHERE LOVELACE WAS EXECUTED.
Lovelace was a fair type of his class, the bitterest and most implacable foes of the republicans. There were many Tories who were so from principle, and refused to take sides against the parent country from honest convictions of the wrongfulness of such a course. They looked upon the Whigs as rebels against their sovereign; condemned the war as unnatural, and regarded the final result as surely disastrous to those who had lifted up the arm of opposition. Their opinions were courteously but firmly expressed; they took every opportunity to dissuade their friends and neighbors from participation in the rebellion; and by all their words and acts discouraged the insurgent movement. But they shouldered no musket, girded on no sword, piloted no secret expedition against the republicans. They were passive, noble-minded men, and deserve our respect for their consistency and our commiseration for their sufferings at the hands of those who made no distinction between the man of honest opinions and the marauder with no opinions at all.
There was another class of Tories, governed by the footpad’s axiom, that "might makes right." They were Whigs when royal power was weak, and Tories when royal power was strong. Their god was mammon, and they offered up human sacrifices in abundance upon its altars. Cupidity and its concomitant vices governed all their acts, and the bonds of consanguinity and affection were too weak to restrain their fostered barbarism. Those born in the same neighborhood; educated (if at all) in the same school; admonished, it may be, by the same pastor, seemed to have their hearts suddenly closed to every feeling of friendship or of love, and became as relentless robbers and murderers of neighbors and friends as the savages of the wilderness. Of this class was Thomas Lovelace, who, for a time, became a terror to his old neighbors and friends in Saratoga, his native district.
At the commencement of the war Lovelace went to Canada, and there confederated with five other persons from his own county to come down into Saratoga and abduct, plunder, or betray their former neighbors. He was brave, expert, and cautious. His quarters were in a large swamp about five miles from the residence of Colonel Van Vechten at Do-ve-gat, but his place of rendezvous was cunningly concealed. Robberies were frequent, and several inhabitants were carried off. General Schuyler’s house was robbed, and an attempt was made by Lovelace and his companions to carry off Colonel Van Vechten; but the active vigilance of General Stark, then in command of the barracks north of the Fish Creek,5 in furnishing the colonel with a guard, frustrated the marauder’s plans. Intimations of his intentions and of his place of concealment were given to Captain Dunham, who commanded a company of militia in the neighborhood, and he at once summoned his lieutenant, ensign, orderly, and one private to his house. 6 At dark they proceeded to the "Big Swamp," three miles distant, where two Tory families resided. They separated to reconnoiter, but two of them, Green and Guiles, got lost. The other three kept together, and at dawn discovered Lovelace and his party in a hut covered over with boughs, just drawing on their stockings. The three Americans crawled cautiously forward till near the hut, when they sprang upon a log with a shout, leveled their muskets, and Dunham exclaimed, "Surrender, or you are all dead men!" There was no time for parley, and, believing that the Americans were upon them in force, they came out one by one without arms, and were marched by their captors to General Stark at the barracks. They were tried by a court-martial as spies, traitors, and robbers, and Lovelace, who was considered too dangerous to be allowed to escape, was sentenced to be hung. He complained of injustice, and claimed the leniency due to a prisoner of war; but his plea was disallowed, and three days afterward he was hung upon the brow of the hill at the place delineated, during a tremendous storm of rain and wind, accompanied by vivid lightning and clashing thunder-peals. These facts were communicated to me by the son of Colonel Van Vechten, who accompanied me to the spot, and who was well acquainted with all the captors of Lovelace and his accomplices.
The place where Gates and Burgoyne had their first interview (delineated on page 81) is about half way between the Fish Creek and Gates’s headquarters. After visiting these localities, we returned to the village, and spent an hour upon the ground where the British army laid down their arms. This locality I have already noted, and will not detain the reader longer than to mention the fact that the plain whereon this event took place formed a part of the extensive meadows of General Schuyler, and to relate a characteristic adventure which occurred there.
While the British camp was on the north side of the Fish Creek, a number of the officers’ horses were let loose in the meadows to feed. An expert swimmer among the Americans who swarmed upon the hills east of the Hudson, obtained permission to go across and capture one of the horses. He swam the river, seized and mounted a fine bay gelding, and in a few moments was recrossing the stream unharmed, amid a volley of bullets from a party of British soldiers. Shouts greeted him as he returned; and, when rested, he asked permission to go for another, telling the captain that he ought to have a horse to ride as well as a private. Again the adventurous soldier was among the herd, and, unscathed, returned with an exceedingly good match for the first, and presented it to his commander.7
Bidding our kind friend and guide adieu, we left Schuylerville toward evening, in a private carriage, for Fort Miller, six miles further up the Hudson. The same beautiful and diversified scenery, the same prevailing quiet that charmed us all the way from Waterford, still surrounded us; and the river and the narrow alluvial plain through which it flows, bounded on either side by high undulations or abrupt pyramidal hills, which cast lengthened shadows in the evening sun across the meadows, presented a beautiful picture of luxurious repose. We crossed the Hudson upon a long bridge built on strong abutments, two miles and a half above Schuylerville, at the place where Burgoyne and his army crossed on the 12th of September, 1777. The river is here quite broad and shallow, and broken by frequent rifts and rapids.
We arrived at Fort Miller village, on the east bank of the river, between five and six o’clock; and while awaiting supper, preparatory to an evening canal voyage to Fort Edward, nine miles above, I engaged a water-man to row me across to the western bank, to view the site of the old fort. He was a very obliging man, and well acquainted with the localities in the neighborhood, but was rather deficient in historical knowledge. His attempts to relate the events connected with the old fort and its vicinity were amusing; for Putnam’s ambush on Lake Champlain, and the defeat of Pyles by Lee, in North Carolina, with a slight tincture of correct narrative, were blended together as parts of an event which occurred at Fort Miller.
We crossed the Hudson just above the rapids. A dam for milling purposes spans the stream, causing a sluggish current and deeper water for more than two miles above. Here was the scene of one of Putnam’s daring exploits. While a major in the English provincial army, nearly twenty years before the Revolution, he was lying in a bateau on the east side of the river, and was suddenly surprised by a party of Indians. He could not cross the river swiftly enough to escape the balls of their rifles, and there was no alternative but to go down the foaming rapids. In an instant his purpose was fixed, and, to the astonishment of the savages, he steered directly down the current, amid whirling eddies and over shelving rocks. In a few moments his vessel cleared the rush of waters, and was gliding upon the smooth current below, far out of reach of the weapons of the Indians. It was a feat they never dared attempt, and superstition convinced them that he was so favored by the Great Spirit that it would be an affront to Manitou to attempt to kill him with powder and ball. Other Indians of the tribe, however, soon afterward gave practical evidence of their unbelief in such interposition.
There is not a vestige of Fort Miller left, and maize, and potatoes, and pumpkin vines were flourishing where the rival forces of Sir William Johnson and Baron Dieskau alternately paraded. At the foot of the hill, a few rods below where the fort stood, is a part of the trench and bank of a redoubt, and this is all that remains even of the outworks of the fortification.
An eighth of a mile westward is Bloody Run, a stream which comes leaping in sparkling cascades from the hills, and affords fine trout fishing. It derives its name from the fact that, while the English had possession of the fort in 1759, a party of soldiers from the garrison went out to fish at the place represented in the picture. The hills, now cultivated, were then covered with dense forests, and afforded the Indians excellent ambush. A troop of savages, lying near, sprang silently from their covert upon the fishers, and bore off nine reeking scalps before those who escaped could reach the fort and give the alarm.
FORT MILLER FORDING-PLACE.8
This clear mountain stream enters the Hudson a little above Fort Miller, where the river makes a sudden curve, and where, before the erection of the dam at the rapids, it was quite shallow, and usually fordable. This was the crossing-place for the armies; and there are still to be seen some of the logs and stones upon the shore which formed a part of the old "King’s Road" leading to the fording-place. They are now submerged, the river having been made deeper by the dam; but when the water is limpid they can be plainly seen. It was twilight before we reached the village on the eastern shore. We supped and repaired to the packet office, where we waited until nine o’clock in the evening before the shrill notes of a tin horn brayed out the annunciation of a packet near. Its deck was covered with passengers, for the interesting ceremony of converting the dining-room into a dormitory, or swinging the hammocks or berths and selecting their occupants, had commenced, and all were driven out, much to their own comfort, but, strange to say, to the dissatisfaction of many who lazily preferred a sweltering lounge in the cabin to the delights of fresh air and the bright starlight. Having no interest in the scramble for beds, we enjoyed the evening breeze and the excitement of the tiny tumult. My companion, fearing the exhalations upon the night air, did indeed finally seek shelter in one end of the cabin, but was driven, with two other young ladies, into the captain’s state-room, to allow the "hands" to have full play in making the beds. Imprisoned against their will, the ladies made prompt restitution to themselves by drawing the cork of a bottle of sarsaparilla and sipping its contents, greatly to the consternation of a meek old dame, the mother of one of the girls, who was sure it was "bed-bug pizen, or something a pesky sight worse." We landed at Fort Edward at midnight, and took lodgings at a small but tidily-kept tavern close by the canal.
EXPLANATION: a a a a a a, six cannons; A, the barracks; B, the store-house; C, the hospital; D, the magazine; E, a flanker; F, a bridge across Fort Edward creek; and G, a balm of Gilead tree which then overshadowed the massive water-gate.
Fort Edward was a military post of considerable importance during the French and Indian wars and the Revolution.10 The locality, previous to the erection of the fortress, was called the first carrying-place, being the first and nearest point on the Hudson where the troops, stores, &c., were landed while passing to or from the south end of Lake Champlain, a distance of about twenty-five miles. The fort was built in 1755, when six thousand troops were collected there, under General Lyman, waiting the arrival of General Johnson, the commander-in-chief of an expedition against Ticonderoga and Crown Point. It was at first called Fort Lyman, in honor of the general who superintended its erection. It was built of logs and earth, sixteen feet high and twenty-two feet thick, and stood at the junction of Fort Edward Creek and the Hudson River. From the creek, around the fort to the river, was a deep fosse or ditch, designated in the engraving by the dark dotted part outside of the black lines.
There are still very prominent traces of the banks and fosse of the fort,10a but the growing village will soon spread over and obliterate them forever. Already a garden was within the lines; and soon the old parade-ground, wherein Sir William Johnson strutted in the haughty pride of a victor by accident, 11 was desecrated by beds of beets, parsley, radishes, and onions.
Fort Edward was the theater of another daring achievement by Putnam. In the winter of 1756 the barracks, then near the northwestern bastion, took fire. The magazine was only twelve feet distant, and contained three hundred barrels of gunpowder. Attempts were made to batter the barracks to the ground with heavy cannons, but without success. Putnam, who was stationed upon Rogers’s Island, in the Hudson, opposite the fort, hurried thither, and, taking his station on the roof of the barracks, ordered a line of soldiers to hand him water. But, despite his efforts, the flames raged and approached nearer and nearer to the magazine. The commandant, Colonel Haviland, seeing his danger, ordered him down; but the brave major did not leave his perilous post until the fabric began to totter. He then leaped to the ground, placed himself between the falling building and the magazine, and poured on water with all his might. The external planks of the magazine were consumed, and there was only a thin partition between the flames and the powder. But Putnam succeeded in subduing the flames and saving the ammunition. His hands and face were dreadfully burned, his whole body was more or less blistered, and it was several weeks before he recovered from the effects of his daring conflict with the fire.12
The first place of historic interest that we visited at Fort Edward was the venerable and blasted pine tree near which, tradition asserts, the unfortunate Jane M‘Crea lost her life while General Burgoyne had his encampment near Sandy Hill. It stands upon the west side of the road leading from Fort Edward to Sandy Hill, and about half a mile from the canal-lock in the former village. The tree had exhibited unaccountable signs of decadence for several years, and when we visited it, it was sapless and bare. Its top was torn off by a November gale, and almost every breeze diminishes its size by scattering its decayed twigs. The trunk is about five feet in diameter, and upon the bark is engraved, in bold letters, JANE M‘CREA, 1777. The names of many ambitious visitors are intaglioed upon it, and reminded me of the line "Run, run, Orlando, carve on every tree." I carefully sketched all its branches, and the engraving is a faithful portraiture of the interesting relic, as viewed from the opposite side of the road. In a few years this tree, around which history and romance have clustered so many associations, will crumble and pass away forever.
THE JANE M‘CREA TREE, FORT EDWARD.
The sad story of the unfortunate girl is so interwoven in our history that it has become a component part; but it is told with so many variations, in essential and non-essential particulars, that much of the narratives we have is evidently pure fiction; a simple tale of Indian abduction, resulting in death, having its counterpart in a hundred like occurrences, has been garnished with all the high coloring of a romantic love story. It seems a pity to spoil the romance of the matter, but truth always makes sad havoc with the frost-work of the imagination, and sternly demands the homage of the historian’s pen.
All accounts agree that Miss M‘Crea was staying at the house of a Mrs. M‘Neil, near the fort, at the time of the tragedy. A grand-daughter of Mrs. M‘Neil (Mrs. F---n) is now[1848.] living at Fort Edward, and from her I received a minute account of the whole transaction, as she had heard it a "thousand times" from her grandmother. She is a woman of remarkable intelligence, about sixty years old. When I was at Fort Edward she was on a visit with her sister at Glenn’s Falls. It had been my intention to go direct to Whitehall, on Lake Champlain, by way of Fort Ann, but the traditionary accounts in the neighborhood of the event in question were so contradictory of the books, and I received such assurances that perfect reliance might be placed upon the statements of Mrs. F---n, that, anxious to ascertain the truth of the matter, if possible, we went to Lake Champlain by way of Glenn’s Falls and Lake George. After considerable search at the falls, I found Mrs. F---n, and the following is her relation of the tragedy at Fort Edward.
Jane M‘Crea was the daughter of a Scotch Presbyterian clergyman of Jersey City, opposite New York; and while Mrs. M‘Neil (then the wife of a former husband named Campbell) was a resident of New York City, an acquaintance and intimacy had grown up between Jenny and her daughter. After the death of Campbell (which occurred at sea) Mrs. Campbell married M‘Neil. He, too, was lost at sea, and she removed with her family to an estate owned by him at Fort Edward. Mr. M‘Crea, who was a widower, died, and Jane went to live with her brother near Fort Edward, where the intimacy of former years with Mrs. M‘Neil and her daughter was renewed, and Jane spent much of her time at Mrs. M‘Neil’s house. Near her brother’s lived a family named Jones, consisting of a widow and six sons, and between Jenny and David Jones, a gay young man, a feeling of friendship budded and ripened into reciprocal love. When the war broke out the Joneses took the royal side of the question, and David and his brother Jonathan went to Canada in the autumn of 1776. They raised a company of about sixty men, under the pretext of re-enforcing the American garrison at Ticonderoga, but they went further down the lake and joined the British garrison at Crown Point. When Burgoyne collected his forces at St. John’s, at the foot of Lake Champlain[June 1, 1777.], David and Jonathan Jones were among them. Jonathan was made captain and David a lieutenant in the division under General Fraser, and at the time in question they were with the British army near Sandy Hill. Thus far all accounts nearly agree.
A RIVER BATEAU.
The brother of Jenny was a Whig, and prepared to move to Albany; but Mrs. M‘Neil, who was a cousin of General Fraser (killed at Stillwater), was a stanch loyalist, and intended to remain at Fort Edward. When the British were near, Jenny was at Mrs. M‘Neil’s, and lingered there even after repeated solicitations from her brother to return to his house, five miles further down the river, to be ready to flee when necessity should compel. A faint hope that she might meet her lover doubtless was the secret of her tarrying. At last her brother sent a peremptory order for her to join him, and she promised to go down in a large bateau13 which was expected to leave with several families on the following day.
Early the next morning[July 27, 1777.] a black servant boy belonging to Mrs. M‘Neil espied some Indians stealthily approaching the house, and, giving the alarm to the inmates, he fled to the fort, about eighty rods distant. Mrs. M‘Neil’s daughter, the young friend of Jenny, and mother of my informant, was with some friends in Argyle, and the family consisted of only the widow and Jenny, two small children, and a black female servant. As usual at that time, the kitchen stood a few feet from the house; and when the alarm was given the black woman snatched up the children, fled to the kitchen, and retreated through a trap-door into the cellar. 14 Mrs. M‘Neil and Jenny followed, but the former being aged and very corpulent, and the latter young and agile, Jenny reached the trap-door first. Before Mrs. M‘Neil could fully descend, the Indians were in the house, and a powerful savage seized her by the hair and dragged her up. Another went into the cellar and brought out Jenny, but the black face of the negro woman was not seen in the dark, and she and the children remained unharmed.
With the two women the savages started off, on the road toward Sandy Hill, for Burgoyne’s camp; and when they came to the foot of the ascent on which the pine tree stands, where the road forked, they caught two horses that were grazing, and attempted to place their prisoners upon them. Now Mrs. M‘Neil was too heavy to be lifted on the horse easily, and as she signified by signs that she could not ride, two stout Indians took her by the arms and hurried her up the road over the hill, while the others, with Jenny on the horse, went along the road running west of the tree.
The negro boy who ran to the fort gave the alarm, and a small detachment was immediately sent out to effect a rescue. They fired several volleys at the Indians, but the savages escaped unharmed. Mrs. M‘Neil said that the Indians, who were hurrying her up the hill, seemed to watch the flash of the guns, and several times they threw her upon her face, at the same time falling down themselves, and she distinctly heard the balls whistle above them. When they got above the second hill from the village the firing ceased; they then stopped, stripped her of all her garments except her chemise, and in that plight led her into the British camp. There she met her kinsman, General Fraser, and reproached him bitterly for sending his "scoundrel Indians" after her. He denied all knowledge of her being away from the city of New York, and took every pains to make her comfortable. She was so large that not a woman in camp had a gown big enough for her, so Fraser lent her his camp-coat for a garment, and a pocket-handkerchief as a substitute for her stolen cap.
Very soon after Mrs. M‘Neil was taken into the British camp, two parties of Indians arrived with scalps. She at once recognized the long glossy hair of Jenny,16 and, though shuddering with horror, boldly charged the savages with murder, which they stoutly denied. They averred that, while hurrying her along the road on horseback, near the spring west of the pine tree, a bullet from one of the American guns, intended for them, mortally wounded the poor girl, and she fell from the horse. Sure of losing a prisoner by death, they took her scalp as the next best thing for them to do, and that they bore in triumph to the camp, to obtain the promised reward for such trophies. Mrs. M‘Neil always believed the story of the Indians to be true, for she knew that they were fired upon by the detachment from the fort, and it was far more to their interest to carry a prisoner than a scalp to the British commander, the price for the former being much greater. In fact, the Indians were so restricted by Burgoyne’s humane instructions respecting the taking of scalps, that their chief solicitude was to bring a prisoner alive and unharmed into the camp. 17 And the probability that Miss M‘Crea was killed as they alleged is strengthened by the fact that they took the corpulent Mrs. M‘Neil, with much fatigue and difficulty, uninjured to the British lines, while Miss M‘Crea, quite light and already on horseback, might have been carried off with far greater ease.
It was known in camp that Lieutenant Jones was betrothed to Jenny, and the story got abroad that he had sent the Indians for her, that they quarreled on the way respecting the reward he had offered, and murdered her to settle the dispute. Receiving high touches of coloring as it went from one narrator to another, the sad story became a tale of darkest horror, and produced a deep and wide-spread indignation. This was heightened by a published letter from Gates to Burgoyne[September 2, 1777.], charging him with allowing the Indians to butcher with impunity defenseless women and children. "Upward of one hundred men, women, and children," said Gates, "have perished by the hand of the ruffians, to whom, it is asserted, you have paid the price of blood." Burgoyne flatly denied this assertion, and declared that the case of Jane M‘Crea was the only act of Indian cruelty of which he was informed. His information must have been exceedingly limited, for on the same day when Jenny lost her life a party of savages murdered the whole family of John Allen, of Argyle, consisting of himself, his wife, three children, a sister-in-law, and three negroes. The daughter of Mrs. M‘Neil, already mentioned, was then at the house of Mr. Allen’s father-in-law, Mr. Gilmer, who, as well as Mr. Allen, was a Tory. Both were afraid of the savages, nevertheless, and were preparing to flee to Albany. On the morning of the massacre a younger daughter of Mr. Gilmer went to assist Mrs. Allen in preparing to move. Not returning when expected, her father sent a negro boy down for her. He soon returned, screaming, "They are all dead – father, mother, young missus, and all!" It was too true. That morning, while the family were at breakfast, the Indians burst in upon them and slaughtered every one. Mr. Gilmer and his family left in great haste for Fort Edward, but proceeded very cautiously for fear of the savages. When near the fort, and creeping warily along a ravine, they discovered a portion of the very party who had plundered Mrs. M‘Neil’s house in the morning. They had emptied the straw from the beds and filled the ticks with stolen articles. Mrs. M‘Neil’s daughter, who accompanied the fugitive family, saw her mother’s looking-glass tied upon the back of one of the savages. They succeeded in reaching the fort in safety.
Burgoyne must have forgotten this event and the alarm among the loyalists because of the murder of a Tory and his family; forgotten how they flocked to his camp for protection, and Fraser’s remark to the frightened loyalists, "It is a conquered country, and we must wink at these things;" and how his own positive orders to the Indians, not to molest those having protection, caused many of them to leave him and return to their hunting-grounds on the St. Lawrence. It was all dark and dreadful, and Burgoyne was willing to retreat behind a false assertion, to escape the perils which were sure to grow out of an admission of half the truth of Gates’s letter. That letter, as Sparks justly remarks, was more ornate than forcible, and abounded more in bad taste than simplicity and pathos; yet is was suited to the feelings of the moment, and produced a lively impression in every part of America. Burke, in the exercise of all his glowing eloquence, used the story with powerful effect in the British House of Commons, and made the dreadful tale familiar throughout Europe.
Burgoyne, who was at Fort Ann, instituted an inquiry into the matter. He summoned the Indians to council, and demanded the surrender of the man who tore off the scalp, to be punished as a murderer. Lieutenant Jones denied all knowledge of the matter, and utterly disclaimed any such participation as the sending of a letter to Jenny, or of an Indian escort to bring her to camp. He had no motive for doing so, for the American army was then retreating; a small guard only was at Fort Edward, and in a day or two the British would have full possession of that fort, when could have a personal interview with her. Burgoyne, instigated by motives of policy rather than by judgment and inclination, pardoned the savage who scalped poor Jenny, fearing that a total defection of the Indians would be the result of his punishment.18
Lieutenant Jones, chilled with horror and broken in spirit by the event, tendered a resignation of his commission, but it was refused. He purchased the scalp of his Jenny, and with this cherished memento deserted, with his brother, before the army reached Saratoga, and retired to Canada. Various accounts have been given respecting the subsequent fate of Lieutenant Jones. Some assert that, perfectly desperate and careless of life, he rushed into the thickest of the battle on Bemis’s Heights, and was slain; while others allege that he died within three years afterward, heart-broken and insane. But neither assertion is true. While searching for Mrs. F---n among her friends at Glenn’s Falls, I called at the house of Judge R---s, whose lady is related by marriage to the family of Jones. Her aunt married a brother of Lieutenant Jones, and she often heard this lady speak of him. He lived in Canada to be an old man, and died but a few years ago. The death of Jenny was a heavy blow to him, and he never recovered from it. In youth he was gay and exceedingly garrulous, but after that terrible event he was melancholy and taciturn. He never married, and avoided society as much as business would permit. Toward the close of July in every year, when the anniversary of the tragedy approached, he would shut himself in his room and refuse the sight of any one; and at all times his friends avoided any reference to the Revolution in his presence.
At the time of this tragical event the American army under General Schuyler was encamped at Moses’s Creek, five miles below Fort Edward. One of its two divisions was placed under the command of Arnold, who had just reached the army[July 23, 1777.]. His division included the rear-guard at the fort. A picket-guard of one hundred men, under Lieutenant Van Vechten, was stationed on the hill a little north of the pine tree; and at the moment when the house of Mrs. M‘Neil was attacked and plundered, and herself and Jenny were carried off, other parties of Indians, belonging to the same expedition, came rushing through the woods from different points, and fell upon the Americans. Lieutenant Van Vechten and several others were killed and their scalps borne off. Their bodies, with that of Jenny, were found by the party that went out from the fort in pursuit. She and the officer were lying near together, close by the spring already mentioned, and only a few feet from the pine tree. They were stripped of clothing, for plunder was the chief incentive of the savages to war. They were borne immediately to the fort, which the Americans at once evacuated, and Jane did indeed go down the river in the bateau in which she had intended to embark, but not glowing with life and beauty, as was expected by her fond brother. With the deepest of grief, he took charge of her mutilated corse, which was buried at the same time and place with that of the lieutenant, on the west bank of the Hudson, near the mouth of a small creek about three miles below Fort Edward.
Mrs. M‘Neil lived many years, and was buried in the small village cemetery, very near the ruins of the fort. In the summer of 1826 the remains of Jenny were taken up and deposited in the same grave with her. They were followed by a long train of young men and maidens, and the funeral ceremonies were conducted by the eloquent but unfortunate Hooper Cummings, of Albany, at that time a brilliant light in the American pulpit, but destined, like a glowing meteor, to go suddenly down into darkness and gloom. Many who were then young have a vivid recollection of the pathetic discourse of that gifted man, who on that occasion "made all Fort Edward weep," as he delineated anew the sorrowful picture of the immolation of youth and innocence upon the horrid alter of war.
GRAVE OF JANE M‘CREA.
A plain white marble slab, about three feet high, with the simple inscription Jane M‘Crea, marks the spot of her interment. Near by, as seen in the picture, is an antique brown stone slab, erected to the memory of Duncan Campbell, a relative of Mrs. M‘Neil’s first husband, who was mortally wounded at Ticonderoga in 1758.19 Several others of the same name lie near, members of the family of Donald Campbell, a brave Scotchman who was with Montgomery at the storming of Quebec in 1775.
We lingered long in the cool shade at the spring before departing for the village burial-ground where the remains of Jenny rest. As we emerged from the woods we saw two or three persons with a horse and wagon, slowly ascending the hill from the village. In the wagon, upon a mattress, was a young girl who had been struck by lighting, two days before, while drawing water from a well.20 Although alive, her senses were all paralyzed by the shock, and her sorrowing father was carrying her home, perhaps to die. With brief words of consoling hope, we stepped up and looked upon the stricken one. Her breathing was soft and slow – a hectic glow was upon each cheek; but all else of her fair young face was pale as alabaster except her lips. It was grievous, even to a stranger, to look upon a young life so suddenly prostrated, and we turned sadly away to go to the grave of another, who in the bloom of young womanhood was also smitten to the earth, not by the lightning from Heaven, but by the arm of warring man.
The village burial-ground is near the site of the fort, and was thickly strewn with wild flowers. We gathered a bouquet from the grave of Jenny, and preserved it for the eye of the curious in an impromptu herbarium made of a city newspaper. A few feet from her "narrow house" is the grave of Colonel Robert Cochran,whom I have already mentioned as commanding a detachment of militia at Fort Edward at the time of Burgoyne’s surrender. He was a brave officer, and was warmly attached to the American cause. In 1778 he was sent to Canada as a spy. His errand being suspected, a large bounty was offered for his head. He was obliged to conceal himself, and while doing so at one time in a brush-heap, he was taken dangerously ill. Hunger and disease made him venture to a log cabin in sight. As he approached he heard three men and a woman conversing on the subject of the reward for his head, and discovered that they were actually forming plans for his capture. The men soon left the cabin in pursuit of him, and he immediately crept into the presence of the woman, who was the wife of one of the men, frankly told her his name, and asked her protection. That she kindly promised him, and gave him some nourishing food and a bed to rest upon. The men returned in the course of a few hours, and she concealed Cochran in a cupboard, where he overhead expressions of their confident anticipations that before another sun they would have the rebel spy, and claim the reward. They refreshed themselves, and set off again in search of him. The kind woman directed him to a place of concealment, some distance from her cabin, where she fed and nourished him until he was able to travel, and then he escaped beyond the British lines. Several years afterward, when the war had closed, the colonel lived at Ticonderoga, and there he accidently met his deliverer, and rewarded her handsomely for her generous fidelity in the cause of suffering humanity. Colonel Cochran died in 1812, at Sandy Hill, and was buried at Fort Edward.
MOUTH OF FORT EDWARD CREEK.21
It was hot noon when I left the village cemetery, and took shelter under the shadow of the venerable balm of Gilead tree at the place of the water-gate of the fort. A few rods below is the mouth of Fort Edward Creek, on the south of which the British army were encamped when Burgoyne tarried there to send an expedition to Bennington, and, after that disastrous affair, to recruit and discipline his forces. Dividing the waters of the Hudson in front of the fort is Rogers’s Island, a beautiful and romantic spot, which was used as a camp-ground by the English and French alternately during the French and Indian war. Almost every year the plow turns up some curious relics of the past upon the island, such as bayonets, tomahawks, buttons, bullets, cannon-balls, coin, arrow-heads, &c.
Dr. Norton, of Fort Edward, gave me a skull that had been exhumed there, which is remarkable for its excessive thickness; not so thick, however, as to resist the force of a musket-ball which penetrated it, and doubtless deprived its owner of life. It is three eighths of an inch thick where the bullet entered in front, and, notwithstanding its long inhumation, the sutures are perfect. Its form is that of the negro, and it probably belonged to the servant of some officer stationed there.
TWO SIDES OF A CROSS-PISTAREEN.
The silver coin found in the vicinity of Fort Edward is called by the people "cob money." The derivation of this name I could not learn. I obtained two pieces of it, both of which are Spanish coins. The larger one is a cross-pistareen, of the value of sixteen cents; the other is a quarter fraction of the same coin. They are very irregular in form, and the devices and dates are quite imperfect. The two in my possession are dated respectively 1741, 1743. These Spanish small coins composed the bulk of specie circulation among the French in Canada at that time.
1 The cellar is about fifteen by thirty feet in size, and lighted and ventilated by two small windows only.
2 The place where this ball entered is seen under the window near the corner, and designated in the picture by a small black spot.
3 General Burgoyne boasted at Fort Edward that he should eat a Christmas dinner in Albany, surrounded by his victorious army.
4 A French officer, who served in the army in this country during a part of the Revolution.
5 The place where these barracks were located is just within the northern suburbs of Schuylerville.
6 Davis, Green, Guiles, and Burden.
7 Neilson, 223.
8 This view is taken from the site of the fort, looking northward. The fort was in the town of Northumberland. It was built of logs and earth, and was never a post of great importance.
BALM OF GILEAD AT FORD EDWARD.
9 That tree is still standing, a majestic relic of the past, amid the surrounding changes in nature and art. It is directly upon the high bank of the Hudson, and its branches, heavily foliated when I was there, spread very high and wide. At the union below its three trunks it measures more than twenty feet in circumference.
10 I refer particularly to the war between England and France, commonly called, in Europe, the Seven Years’ War. It was declared on the 9th of June, 1756, and ended with the treaty at Paris, concluded and signed February 10th, 1763. It extended to the colonies of the two nations in America, and was carried on with much vigor here until the victory of Wolfe at Quebec, in 1759, and the entire subjugation of Canada by the English. The French managed to enlist a large proportion of the Indian tribes in their favor, who were allied with them against the Britons. It is for that reason that the section of the Seven Years’ War in America was called by the colonists the "French and Indian War." I would here mention incidentally that that war cost Great Britain five hundred and sixty millions of dollars, and laid one of the largest foundation stones of that national debt under which she now groans. It was twenty millions in the reign of William and Mary, in 1697, and was then thought to be enormous; in 1840 it was about four thousand millions of dollars!
10a NOTE. – As I shall have frequent occasion to employ technical terms used in fortifications, I here give a diagram, which, with the explanation, will make those terms clear to the reader. The figure is a vertical section of a fortification. The mass of earth, a b c d e f g h, forms the rampart with its parapet; a b is the interior slope of the rampart; b c is the terre-plein of the rampart, on which the troops and cannon are placed; d e is the banquette, or step, on which the soldiers mount to fire over the parapet; e f g is the parapet; g h is the exterior slope of the parapet; h i is the revetment, or wall of masonry, supporting the rampart; h k, the exterior front covered with the revetment, is called the escarp; i k l is the ditch; l m is the counterscarp; m n is the covered way, having a banquette n o p; s r is the glacis. When there are two ditches, the works between the inner and the outer ditch are called ravelins, and all outside of the ditches, outworks. – See Brande’s Cyc., art. Fortification.
11 Sir William Johnson had command of the English forces in 1755, destined to act against Crown Point. He was not remarkable for courage or activity. He was attacked at the south end of Lake George by the French general, Deiskau, and was wounded at the outset. The command then devolved upon Major-general Lyman, of the Connecticut troops, who, by his skill and bravery, secured a victory over the French and Indians. General Johnson, however, had the honor and the reward thereof. In his mean jealousy he gave General Lyman no praise; and the British king (George II.) made him a baronet, and a present of twenty thousand dollars to give the title becoming dignity.
12 Peabody’s Life of Putnam, American Biography, vii., 131.
13 Bateaux were rudely constructed of logs and planks, broad and without a keel. They had small draught, and would carry large loads in quite shallow water. In still water and against currents they were propelled by long driving-poles. The ferry-scows or flats on the southern and western rivers are very much like the old bateaux. They were sometimes furnished with a mast for lakes and other deep water, and had cabins erected on them.
14 Traces of this cellar and of the foundation of the house are still visible in the garden of Dr. Norton, in Fort Edward village, who is a relative of the family by marriage.
15 This a view of a living spring, a few feet below the noted pine tree, the lower portion of which is seen near the top of the engraving. The spring is beside the old road, traces of which may be seen.
16 It was of extraordinary length and beauty, measuring a yard and a quarter. She was then about twenty years old, and a very lovely girl; not lovely in beauty of face, according to the common standard of beauty, but so lovely in disposition, so graceful in manners, and so intelligent in features, that she was a favorite of all who knew her.
17 "I must positively forbid bloodshed when you are not opposed in arms. Aged men, women, children and prisoners must be held sacred from the knife and hatchet, even in the time of actual conflict. You shall receive compensation for the prisoners you take, but you shall be called to account for scalps. In conformity and indulgence of your customs, which have affixed on an idea of honor to such badges of victory, you shall be allowed to take the scalps of the dead when killed by your fire and in fair opposition; but on no account, or pretense, or subtilty, or prevarication are they to be taken from the wounded, or even the dying; and still less pardonable, if possible, will it be held to kill men in that condition on purpose, and upon a supposition that this protection to the wounded would be thereby evaded." – Extract from the Speech of Burgoyne to the Indians assembled upon the Bouquet River, June 21, 1777.
18 Earl of Harrington’s Evidence in Burgoyne’s "State of the Expedition," p. 66.
19 The following is the inscription: HERE LYES THE BODY OF DUNCAN CAMPBELL, OF INVERSHAW, ESQR., MAJOR TO THE OLD HIGHLAND REGT., AGED 55 YEARS, WHO DIED THE 17TH JULY, 1758, OF THE WOUNDS HE RECEIVED IN THE ATTACK OF THE RETRENCHMENTS OF TICONDEROGA OR CARILLON THE 8TH JULY, 1758.
20 This mournful event occurred in the village, very near the same spot where, a year before, five men in a store were instantly killed by one thunder-bolt.
21 This sketch is taken from within the intrenchments of Fort Edward, near the magazine, looking southwest. On the left, just beyond the balm of Gilead tree, is seen the creek, and on the right, across the water, Rogers’s Island.
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