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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
One of the worst things we had to bear was the odor which came from the wounds when they began to fester. At one time I was nursing a Major Bloomfield, aide to General Phillips, who had a bullet shot through both cheeks, smashing his teeth and grazing his tongue. He could not keep anything in his mouth; the pus almost choked him, and he could not take any nourishment at all except a little bouillon or other liquid. We had some Rhine wine. I gave him a bottle, hoping that the acid would cleanse his wounds. He took a little of it in his mouth, and this alone had such a fortunate effect that his wounds healed entirely, and I gained another friend.
On one of these unhappy days General Phillips wanted to visit me and accompanied my husband, who came to me once or twice every day at the risk of his life. He saw our plight and heard me beg my husband not to leave me behind in case of a hasty retreat. He took my part when he saw how I hated the thought of being left with the Americans. When he left me he said to my husband, “No! I would not come here again for ten thousand guineas, for my heart is absolutely broken.”
On the other hand, not all the men who were with us deserved pity. Some of them were cowards who had no reason whatever for staying in the cellar, and who later when we were taken prisoners, were well able to stand up in line and inarch. We were in this dreadful position six days. Finally there was talk of capitulation, as by delaying too long our retreat was now cut off. A cessation of hostilities took place, and my husband, who was completely exhausted, could sleep in a bed in the house for the first time in a long while. In order that he would be absolutely undisturbed I had a good bed made for him in a small room and slept with my children and the maids in a large hall close by. At about nine o’clock in the morning someone came and wanted to speak to my husband. With the greatest reluctance I found it necessary to wake him. I noticed that he was not pleased about the message he received and that he immediately sent the man to headquarters and lay down again, much annoyed. Shortly afterward General Burgoyne sent for all the other generals and staff officers to attend a council of war early in the morning, during which he suggested, on the basis of a false report, that the capitulation which had already been made to the enemy be broken. However, it was finally decided that this would be neither practicable nor advisable, and that was a lucky decision for us, because the Americans told us later that, had we broken the capitulation, we would all have been massacred, which would have been an easy matter, because there were only four to five thousand of us, and we had given them time to get more than twenty thousand of their men together.
On October 16 my husband had to go back to duty, and I had to return to my cellar. That day the officers, who until then had received only salted meat, which was very bad for the wounded, were given a lot of fresh meat. The good woman who always got the water for us cooked a tasty soup with it. I had lost all appetite and had eaten nothing the whole time except a crust of bread dipped in wine. The wounded officers, my companions in misfortune, cut off the best piece of beef and presented it to me with a plate of soup. I told them it was impossible for me to eat anything. Seeing, however, how much in need of nourishment I was, they declared that they would not eat a bite themselves until I had given them the pleasure of joining them. I could no longer resist their friendly pleading, whereupon they assured me that it made them most happy to be able to share with me the first good food they had received.
On October 17 the capitulation went into effect. The generals went to the American commanding general, General Gates, and the troops laid down their arms and surrendered themselves as prisoners of war. The good woman who had fetched water for us at the risk of her life now got her reward. Everyone threw a handful of money into her apron, and she received altogether more than twenty guineas. In moments like this the heart seems to overflow in gratitude.