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Baroness On The Battlefield
Not all the Hessians taken prisoner at Saratoga were soldiers, nor were all of them men. There was also, with her three small daughers,
December 1964 | Volume 16, Issue 1
The troops had been expected sooner, and therefore a number of cattle and pigs had been killed, and as salt was very scarce, holes had been dug in the ground, and the meat, cut in quarters and sprinkled with ashes —which is said to be just as good a preservative as saltwas buried therein. However, as the sun is often very warm there even in January, the top layers of meat were spoiled. The meat was brought to us in wheelbarrows. Sometimes we had to throw all of it away, but sometimes it could be washed off, salted, and then smoked. The first day, when I hardly had enough to eat for ourselves, I was alarmed to see eight of our officers approaching shortly before dinner. There was nothing to do but to share with them what little we had. The troops were in Charlottesville, two hours away. One had to go through a beautiful forest to get to them. At first they were very uncomfortable there. They had log cabins, but these were not plastered, and they lacked doors and windows, so they suffered terribly from the cold. They worked very hard to build better houses for themselves, and in a short time the place became a pretty town. Each of the barracks had a garden in the back and a nice little fenced-in yard for poultry. When the old supply of provisions had been eaten up, they received another lot of fresh meat and flour enough to make bread; moreover, Indian meal served for making pancakes and dumplings. The only thing they lacked was money . . . and it was hard to get anything on credit, which particularly troubled the private soldiers. …
We had a large house built with a big room in the center and two smaller rooms on each side, which cost my husband a hundred guineas. It was very pretty. A number of Negroes brought us everything they had in the way of poultry and vegetables. Every week General Phillips and we ourselves took turns in slaughtering an ox and two pigs. In a word, we had everything we needed. But in the summer we suffered terribly from, the heat and lived in constant fear of rattlesnakes. …
We had no chairs at all, only tree stumps on which to sit, and these were also used for tables by laying boards across them. We lived in this manner quite content for three or four months. Only my husband was always sad, and, what was more, he could not stand the heat at all, which went as high as 103 degrees and was most oppressive. We tried our best to cheer him up. When the vegetables in our garden began to come up he got a lot of pleasure from the garden work. However, as he would not wear a hat for this work, he suffered a great deal from headaches, and the heat bothered him. Thus he suffered a sunstroke, which was the beginning of my greatest grief. …
The doctor prescribed a cure at a spa in Virginia called Frederick’s Springs, so we went there. It was my opinion, however, that this cure made him worse rather than better, because he always moistened his head before taking the baths, and afterward, in spite of every effort to dry it, his hair always stayed damp. His melancholy mood continued, and the thought of our captivity worried him more than ever. He could not sleep at night. I would try to soothe him by reading aloud to him in a drowsy manner, and this would finally put him to sleep. His hands and feet were always blue, and cold as ice. Whenever I thought I might venture to lie down, his anguish would immediately awaken [us] again. Everything annoyed him. One day a Virginian came into the room, saying that he was curious to see a German woman, and looked me over from head to foot. I was very much amused about this, but when I took the man to see my husband, he became so excited over the thought that his position made him subject to the whims of other people that the tears came to his eyes. I was filled with regret over this thoughtlessness. …
The Virginians are mostly indolent, which is ascribed to their hot climate, but with the slightest inducement they are ready in an instant to dance; and if a reel (an English or Scottish folk-dance) is played the men immediately catch hold of the women, who then spring up as though possessed. But as soon as they are led back to their chairs, they sit there like blockheads again. What we had heard about the morals of the people in this part of the country does not make a favorable picture. For instance, we were told that two girls had been made pregnant by their own father, and that while this created a lot of gossip, it had remained unpunished. Another man, who found his daughter-inlaw more attractive than his own wife, made his son an offer to exchange wives, to which the son agreed on the condition that, in addition to getting his own mother for his wife, he also be given two cows and two horses, which was done, and nothing further was said about the affair.
The plantation-owners in Virginia have numerous Negro slaves and do not treat them well. Many of them let the slaves walk about stark naked until they are between fifteen and sixteen years old, and the clothes which they give them afterward are not worth wearing. The slaves are in the charge of an overseer who leads them out into the fields at daybreak, where they have to work like cattle or suffer a beating; and when they come home completely tired out and sunburnt they are given some Indian meal called hominy, which they make into baked stuff. … There are, of course, good masters too. One can recognize them immediately, because their slaves are well dressed and housed. These Negroes are very good servants, very faithful to their master, and very much attached to him. It is not surprising that the brutal type of masters have ill-disposed slaves.