Baroness On The Battlefield


All this time my husband, like the rest of the army, had to stay in camp. I followed at about an hour’s distance and visited my husband in camp every morning. Sometimes I had dinner with him in camp, but mostly he came to my place for dinner. The army made brief attacks every day, but none of them amounted to much. My poor husband, however, was unable to go to bed, or even undress a single night. As the weather was beginning to grow cool, Colonel Williams of the artillery, observing that our mutual visits were very fatiguing, offered to have a house with a chimney built for me for five to six guineas, where I could make my home. I accepted his offer, and the house, which was about twenty feet square and had a good fireplace, was begun. These houses are called log cabins. They are made by fitting together thick logs all of about the same size, which makes a sturdy building, and one that is quite warm, particularly when the roof is covered with clay. The house was ready for me to move into the next day, and I was all the more happy, because the nights were getting damp and cold, and my husband could have lived there with me, as the house was near his camp; but suddenly on October 7 my husband, with his whole staff, had to break camp. This moment was the beginning of our unhappiness! I was just taking breakfast with my husband when I noticed that something was going on. General [Simon] Fraser and, I think, General Burgoyne and General Phillips [Major General William Phillips, Burgoyne’s second in command] also were to have had dinner that same day with me. I noticed a great deal of commotion among the soldiers. My husband told me that they were to go out on a reconnaissance, of which I thought nothing, as this often happened. On my way back to the house I met a number of savages [Indians serving under General von Riedesel] in war dress, carrying guns. When I asked them whither they were bound, they replied, “War! War!"—which meant that they were going into battle. I was completely overwhelmed and had hardly returned to the house when I heard firing, which grew heavier and heavier until the noise was frightful. It was a terrible bombardment, and I was more dead than alive!

Toward three o’clock in the afternoon, instead of my dinner guests arriving as expected, poor General Fraser, who was to have been one of them, was brought to me on a stretcher, mortally wounded. The table, which had already been set for dinner, was removed and a bed for the General was put in its place. I sat in a corner of the room, shivering and trembling. The noise of the firing grew constantly louder. The thought that perhaps my husband would also be brought home wounded was terrifying and worried me incessantly. The General said to the doctor, “Don’t conceal anything from me! Must I die?” The bullet had gone through his abdomen precisely as in Major Harnage’s case; unfortunately the General had eaten a heavy breakfast, so that the intestines were expanded, and, as the doctor explained, the bullet had gone through them, not between them, as in Major Harnage’s case. I heard him often exclaim, between moans, “Oh, fatal ambition! Poor General Burgoyne! Poor Mrs. Fraser.” Prayers were said, then he asked that General Burgoyne have him buried the next day at six o’clock in the evening, on a hill, which was a sort of redoubt. I no longer knew where to go; the whole hall and the other rooms were full of sick men, suffering from camp sickness. Finally toward evening I saw my husband coming; then I forgot all my sorrow and had no other thought but to thank God for sparing him! He ate in great haste with me and his aides behind the house. We had been told that we had gained an advantage over the enemy, but the sad, disheartened faces I saw indicated quite the contrary, and before his departure again my husband took me aside and told me that things were going badly and that I must be ready to leave at any moment, but not to let anyone notice this. On the pretext, therefore, of wanting to move into my new house I had all my things packed. … Then I went back to my children, whom I had put to bed. I, myself, could not sleep, as I had General Fraser and all the other gentlemen in my room, and I was constantly afraid that my children might wake up and cry, thus disturbing the poor dying man, who kept apologizing to me for causing me so much trouble. Toward three o’clock in the morning I was told that the end was near. I had asked to be told of the approach of this moment; I wrapped the children in blankets and went into the hall with them. At eight o’clock in the morning he died. His body was washed, wrapped in a sheet, and put back into the bed. Then we returned to the room and had to see this sad sight throughout the day. Moreover, wounded officers of our acquaintance kept arriving, and the bombardment was renewed again and again. There was talk of making a retreat, but no steps were taken in this direction. Toward four o’clock in the afternoon I saw flames rising from the new house which had been built for me, so I knew that the enemy was not far away.