Baroness On The Battlefield

PrintPrintEmailEmail

While in England I had become acquainted with a Captain Fenton of Boston, whose services the Americans had wanted when the war broke out, but who, being faithful to his King, had refused to obey. Hereupon the women among the embittered mob grabbed his wife, a most respectable lady, and his pretty fifteenyear-old daughter, and disregarding their goodness, beauty, and embarrassment, undressed them to the skin, tarred and feathered them, and paraded them through the city. What may one not expect from people of this sort, animated by the most bitter hate! . . .

Whenever the Americans want to gather their troops together, they set up lighted torches on every hilltop, at which signal everyone hastens to assemble. One day we witnessed General Howe’s attempt to land in Bos- ton in order to release the captured troops. As usual, the enemy had learned of this plan well in advance, set up their burning tar barrels as signals, and for three or four days we saw a mob most hastily assembled without shoes and stockings and with guns on their backs. In a short time so many had gathered that it would have been too difficult to make a landing.

We lived in Cambridge quite happily and would have liked to stay there as long as our troops were held prisoners, but as the winter drew near, we got orders to go to Virginia. I had to conceive some means now for bringing the flags of our German regiments into safety. We had told the Americans in Saratoga that they had been burned, which annoyed them very much at first, but they said nothing more about it. In fact, only the staves had been burned, and the flags themselves had been hidden. My husband entrusted me with this secret and assigned me the task of keeping the flags concealed. I got a trustworthy tailor, locked myself up in a room with him, and together we made a mattress, in which we sewed up all the flags. …

It was during the month of November, 1778, that we received orders to go to Virginia. Fortunately my husband found a pretty English carriage, which he bought for me so that we were able to travel more comfortably than before. …

I always had provisions with me, but in another wagon. As this other conveyance could not be driven as quickly as ours, we were often without any food. One time when we were passing through a town called Hartford, where we intended resting for one day, which we did every fourth day, we met General Lafayette, and my husband invited him to dinner, because he had been unable to find a place to eat. I was terribly embarrassed, because I knew that the General liked a good dinner. By using up all the provisions we possessed, I finally succeeded in having a pretty good dinner made after all. He was so polite and pleasant that we all liked him very much. He had a number of Americans in his party, who almost jumped out of their skins because we always talked French. It may be that they were afraid that, being on such friendly terms with him, we might win him over to our side, or that he might tell us things which they did not want us to know. He talked much of England and how the King had been so kind as to have him shown everything. I could not forbear asking him how he could have had the heart to accept so much kindness from the King just as he was about to leave for the purpose of fighting against him. He seemed rather embarrassed by my remark and said, “It is true that this thought also passed through my own mind one day when the King offered to let me see his fleet. I said that I hoped to see it some other time and then quietly retired in order to be relieved of the embarrassment of having to refuse his offer again.” Others, however, accused the General of being in England as a spy, whence he departed directly for America. …

Our destination was called Colle, in Virginia. … We arrived there the middle of February, 1779, having gone from Boston through the provinces of Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, travelling 678 English miles, in about twelve weeks. The house where we lived and the whole property belonged to an Italian, who let us live there during his absence, since he intended to be absent for a while. We looked forward longingly to his and his wife’s and daughter’s departure because the house was small, and, moreover, the scarcity of provisions annoyed them. Under the circumstances, the man preserved a kind of guardianship over us. For instance, on the first day, when he had had a ram killed, he gave us only the head, the neck, and the giblets, even though I pointed out to him that it would have to do for more than twenty people. He assured me it would make very good soup, and gave us two heads of cabbage and a partly spoiled ham, and thus we had to content ourselves.