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Gentleman Johnny’s Wandering Army
Defeated at Saratoga, Burgoyne’s troops faced nearly five years of enforced exile in a hostile countryside
December 1972 | Volume 24, Issue 1
Anburey himself claimed to have resisted the temptation to enjoy “that indelicate custom’ which the Americans called bundling. Stopping for the night in a small house, he noticed that there were only two available beds. Having paid his money in advance, he asked which he was to sleep in. “Mr. Ensign,” replied the lady of the house, “our Jonathan and I will sleep in this, and our Jemima and you shall sleep in that.” Jemima was “a very pretty, black-eyed girl of about sixteen or seventeen.” Mr. Anburey spluttered his astonishment and declared he was ready to sit up all night. “Oh la! Mr. Ensign, you won’t be the first man our Jemima has bundled with, will it, Jemima?” said Jonathan.
“No, Father, by many,” said Jemima, “but it will be with the first Britainer.”
True to his gentleman’s code, Anburey declined Jemima’s “smiling invitation” and slept on the floor.
The Germans were far more impressed with the evidence of American affluence they saw along their line of march. They were awed, as one officer wrote, by the “incredible stores of grain” in New York barns. At Kinderhook they noted that the Dutch farmers breakfasted on milk, tea, roast meat, baked apples, and all kinds of rich butter cakes. The Germans, who devoutly believed that women should think only about Kirche, Küche, Kinder (church, kitchen, children), were perplexed by the “evident mastery” that American women possessed over their men. “The man must fish up the last penny he has in his pocket in order to keep his wife and daughters in finery,” one letter writer solemnly declared.
The Germans were far more outraged than their British compatriots by the profiteering approach the Americans took in selling them the necessities of life. The Dutchmen of Kinderhook were pronounced “as fond of money as a Jew.” In Massachusetts the Germans were angry at people coming “from different points with tons of this paper money which they desire to exchange.” Everything one bought was “five and six times dearer than formerly.”
On one thing both Germans and British agreed. The weather was abominable. In the middle of the British march through the Berkshires, a snowstorm struck. “After this, it is impossible to describe the confusion that ensued,” Anburey wrote. “Carts breaking down, others sticking fast, some oversetting, horses tumbling with their loads of baggage, men cursing, women shrieking, and children squalling.” That day Anburey was in charge of the baggage guard, with which the women and children travelled. He came upon a soldier’s wife giving birth to a baby, sheltered from the storm by nothing but “a bit of an old oilcloth.” Although the woman was “small, and of a very delicate constitution,” both mother and child survived.
The Germans, on the twenty-eighth of October, near Great Barrington, Massachusetts, met “alternately hail, rain, and snow. The wind was so piercing, that, no matter how warmly we wrapped ourselves in our cloaks, it penetrated to the very marrow. In addition, our wet clothes froze as stiff as iron. … The oldest soldiers admitted that they had never before experienced such a march.” Although the locals sometimes were willing to rent rooms to officers for hard money paid in advance, the enlisted men had to shiver in unheated barns. On occasion the Americans, who seemed to resent the Germans more than the English, refused the Brunswickers even these poor shelters. One bitter night, forced to camp in the woods, two German soldiers froze to death.
The commanding generals, meanwhile, were relaxing in the comfortable opulence of General Philip Schuyler’s Albany mansion. The aristocratic Schuyler did his best to entertain them as if they were invited guests, but his lively four-year-old son, Rensselaer, kept bursting into Burgoyne’s room in the morning, shouting, “Surrender! You are all my prisoners.”
While Burgoyne professed elaborate gratitude to Schuyler, he took advantage of an article of the Convention that permitted him to send dispatches—unopened and uncensored—to Sir William Howe, the British commander in chief in America. Proudly Burgoyne expatiated on the triumph he had snatched from the jaws of defeat. The Convention would “enable the Mother Country to send forth the force at home in proportion” to what she would receive from his men’s return. It was therefore imperative to “order transports and convoy to Boston without delay.” Burgoyne was even more anxious to get himself home. “I confide in your justice and friendship not to leave me unexchanged. My honor and in great measure my life depend upon my return to England.”
Far more genuinely grateful for Schuyler’s hospitality was the commander in chief of the German mercenaries, Baron Friedrich Adolphus von Riedesel. His reason was obvious. Captured with him were his lovely, dark-eyed wife, Frederika Charlotte Louise, and their three daughters, Augusta, six, Frederika, three, and Caroline, nineteen months. [See “Baroness on the Battlefield,” A MERICAN H ERITAGE , December, 1964.]
After several days the Riedesels abandoned Schuyler’s comforts and caught up with the slow-moving troops. Burgoyne followed a week later. Not until November 7 did the Convention Army arrive in Cambridge.