- Historic Sites
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
At last my husband sent a groom to me with the message that I should come to him with our children. I got into my beloved calash again, and while driving through the American camp I was comforted to notice that nobody glanced at us insultingly, that they all bowed to me, and some of them even looked with pity to see a woman with small children there. I confess that I was afraid to go to the enemy, as it was an entirely new experience for me. When I approached the tents a very handsome man came toward me, lifted the children out of the calash, hugged and kissed them, and then, with tears in his eyes, helped me out. “You are trembling,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” “No,” I answered, “I am not, for you look so kind and were so affectionate to my children that you have given me courage.” He led me to the tent of General Gates, where I found General Burgoyne and General Phillips, who were on very friendly terms with the former. Burgoyne said to me, “Have no fear, for your sufferings have now come to an end.” I replied that of course it would be wrong to be afraid any longer if our leader were not and after seeing him on such good terms with General Gates. All the generals stayed with General Gates for dinner. The same man who had welcomed me so kindly came up to me, saying, “It would embarrass you to take dinner with all these gentlemen; come to my tent with your children, and although I can only give you a frugal meal, it will be given gladly.” “Surely,” I replied, “you are a husband and father, because you are so good to me.” I learned then that he was the American General Schuyler. He treated me to delicious smoked tongue, beefsteaks, potatoes, and good bread and butter. No dinner had ever tasted better to me. I was content. I saw that all about me were likewise, and, most important of all, my husband was out of danger.
When we had finished eating, he offered to let me live in his house [the Schuyler family home] near Albany, and told me that General Burgoyne would also come there. I sent my husband a message, asking what I should do. He told me to accept the invitation, and as it was a two days’ journey and was already five o’clock in the afternoon, he suggested that I go on ahead and spend the night at a place about three hours from there. General Schuyler was kind enough to let a French officer take me there, a very polite man, the one in command of the troops who had reconnoitered the area and whom I have already mentioned. When he had brought us to the house where we were to spend the night, he returned to camp.
I found a French doctor at this house with a mortally wounded Brunswick officer, who had been put in his care and who died a few days later. The patient was full of praise for the doctor’s treatment, and perhaps he was a skilled surgeon, but otherwise he was a young fop. He was very pleased to hear that I could speak his language and began to say all sorts of sweet things and impertinences to me, among which, that he could not possibly believe that I was a general’s wife, because a woman of such high rank would never have joined her husband. I should, therefore, stay with him, as it would be better to stay with victors than with the defeated. I was furious over his boldness but did not dare to show how much contempt I felt for him, because I was without protection. When night came he offered to let me share his room with him. I replied, however, that I would sit up in the room of the wounded soldier, whereupon he made me a lot of silly compliments, when suddenly the door opened and my husband and his aide entered. “Here, sir, is my husband,” I said to him with a withering glance, whereupon he departed shamefacedly. Nevertheless, he was polite enough to give us his room.
The next day we arrived in Albany, where we had so often longed to be. But we did not come as victors, as we had thought. We were welcomed by good General Schuyler, his wife, and daughters not as enemies, but in the friendliest manner possible, and they were exceedingly kind to us as well as to General Burgoyne, although he had had their beautifully furnished houses set on fire, needlessly, it is said. Their behavior was that of people who can turn from their own loss to the misfortune of others. General Burgoyne, too, was very much touched by their magnanimity and said to General Schuyler, “You are so kind to me who caused you so much damage.” “Such is the fate of war,” the gallant man replied. “Let us not talk about it any more.” We stayed with them three days, and they assured us that they regretted seeing us go.
Our cook had stayed in town with my husband’s equipment. The second night after our arrival all our things were stolen, in spite of the American guard of ten to twenty men, who had been ordered to keep watch. We had nothing left except my own and the children’s bedding and the few household articles which I kept with me—and this in a country where nothing could be bought at any price, and at a time when we so badly needed many things; for my husband had to furnish board for all his aides, quartermasters, and others. Our friends, the English, of whom I speak truly as friends, because throughout our stay in America they have always treated us as such, each made us a present of some article. One gave a couple of spoons, another a few plates. It was all we had for a long time, because not until three years later in New York did we have the opportunity of replacing at great cost the things we had lost. Fortunately, I had kept my little conveyance containing my own things. As it was late in the fall, and the weather was getting raw, I had made for my calash a top of coarse linen painted with oil paint. Thus we drove to Boston—a tedious and difficult journey.