Archive for the ‘Saratoga’ Category

“The Doctor proposes to Inoculate our little Fellow”

SUSAN LIVINGSTON (1748-1840) was the oldest daughter of William Livingston and Susannah French. (The couple had thirteen children.) Her father was the governor of New Jersey, a member of the Continental Congresses, and a brigadier general in the New Jersey militia. Susan, her younger sisters, Sarah and Catharine (Kitty), known as “the three graces,” were very popular. Sarah became the wife of John Jay in 1774. The Livingstons often had the care of Peter Augustus, the couple’s son, during the war. Susan wrote her sister Sarah on November 1, 1777 in care of John Jay who was in Kent, Connecticut at the time. The letter contains details of the military activity in the area and around Philadelphia as well as family news. (The Livingston home, Liberty Hall in Elizabethtown, was looted and damaged during the Revolution by both sides.)

Dearly beloved Sarah
I am in expectation of the arrival of the Post every moment, he usually comes in on Friday Evening, and returns next Morning as he goes no further than Morris Town. . . . I do not know where to direct to you; we are afraid Mr. Jay has lost all his Clothes that were at Kingston. Mama says if your warm Petticoat is lost, she can spare you one, rather than you should suffer for want of it.

Papa has been home since Sunday Evening, the Accounts he brought are old now, and not worth writing, on the 23d Inst. 5 or 6 Men of War, warped through an opening they had made in the lower Cheveaux de Frieze*, and came up to attack our Fort and Ships and Gallies but they found the Navigation so difficult, that they set Fire to the Augusta of 64 and the Apollo of 32 Guns, and the rest made the best of their way back again. A few days before 2500 of the Enemy (most of them Hessians) under the command of Count Donolp. attacked Fort Mercer or Red Bank, and were soon obliged to retreat in a most shameful and confused manner, leaving behind them killed and wounded 1500. The Count is a Prisoner—they also left 12 pieces of Artillery.

The 22nd our Troops attempted a stroke upon a detachment of six Regiments lying at Grays Ferry [near Philadelphia] where they had thrown a Bridge over the River. They marched all night and reached the Ground about Sunrise, but the Birds were flown, they had suddenly the preceding night deserted the Post, left all their works unfinished and broke up the Bridge. To day Sen’night there was a very warm Engagement, but reports respecting it are so vague, and contradictory, I cannot pretend to give you any account of it.

The Articles of Capitulation that appeared in Loudons last Paper are not relished this way, neither by Whigs, nor Tories, the latter say if Mr. Burgoyne was in a Situation to obtain such Terms he ought to have fought, the Former say if Burgoyne was obliged to surrender at all, Gates might have brought him to what Terms he pleased, so that it looks as if the two Generals wished to avoid fighting. The troops will go home and Garrison the Forts abroad, and let those Garrisons come to America—so it will be only an exchange of Men.

The Doctor proposes to Inoculate our little Fellow next week. He is now a fit subject for it, his blood is well purified, he has pretended to inoculate him often, so he will not be afraid of it. You know old Woodruff, that carts for us, his Son that lived next door to Dr. Darby, died a few days ago of the Small pox the natural way, and now his Widow and Child have it, the old Man has never had it, he stayed in the same House with his Son till a day or two before he expired, they are not entitled to much pity, for they say the Avarice of the old Man prevented their being inoculated. The Child will perish with it, it is thought.

. . . . Our house is a Barrack there was a whole Artillery Company in it, so I expect every thing will be destroyed.

We have not heard from B[rockhol]st [her brother]** since the last action to the Northward. (I have no doubt but his Letters have miscarried) but Mama has allmost persuaded herself he is among the Slain, and if there was any mourning to be purchased, I do not know but she would exhibit a dismal Spectacle of bombazeen and crepe. . . .

We had the Taylor here (that you engaged) these three weeks, which has kept Kitty tightly employed. She is his Journey-woman. Mr. Jay’s green suit is turned. Papa has brought home a Cargo of broken things, so that we have not eat the bread of Idleness since you left us. . . .

I think this scrawl as it is . . . entitles me to a few Lines from your fair hand. This I submit to you and whether you write or not, I am yours most Affectionately.

* An object of timber and spikes placed in a river to rip the hulls of vessels attempting to pass
** Brockholst was a lieutenant colonel and an aide-de-camp to General St. Clair in 1776 and 1777.

Susan makes reference to the battle of Saratoga which the Americans under General Horatio Gates won over the British and Hessian forces under General John Burgoyne. The Articles of Capitulation were very generous allowing what was called the Convention Army to to return to Britain on the condition that they not serve again in America. Both Gates and Burgoyne were criticized as Susan notes. Can you imagine a man, especially a buttoned-up one like John Jay, wearing a green suit!!

Source: John Jay: The Making of a Revolutionary, 1745-1780, edited by Richard. B Morris (New York: Harper & Row, 1975), 445-47.

posted October 28th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Burgoyne, Gerneral John,Clothes,Gates, General Horatio,Hessians,Inoculation,Jay, John,Jay, Peter Augustus,Jay, Sarah Livingston,Livingston, Brockholst,Livingston, Catharine "Kitty",New Jersey,Philadelphia,Saratoga,Smallpox,Symmes, Susan Livingston

“such a great quantity of snow fell”

Outside the window next to my computer I see that snow is falling, along with the temperatures, yet again. Fie on the polar vortex. Yet it puts me in mind of Valley Forge and the suffering of the Americans there in the cold winter of 1777-78. And of other examples of severe winter weather described by women, some in our book and others I have since come upon. It seems appropriate to present a few.

In 1777, Frederika von Riedesel, with their three children, had joined her husband in Canada where he commanded the German mercenaries hired by the British. General von Riedesel pushed south into New York with British General John Burgoyne and his troops in an attempt to cut off New England from the other colonies. Frederika, who was with him, witnessed the decisive defeat of their combined forces by the Americans at Saratoga on October 17, 1777. The British and Hessian troops were marched to Boston, where the Von Riedesels were put up in a house in Cambridge. In the following year as winter approached, Congress decided to move the prisoners to Virginia where their maintenance would be less costly. The Baroness and her children traveled by carriage while her husband made the journey with his troops. Frederika described what the family had to contend with.

Before we passed the so-called Blue mountains, we were forced to make a still further halt of eight days, that our troops might have time to collect together again. In the mean time such a great quantity of snow fell, that four of our servants were obliged to go before my wagon on horseback, in order to make a path for it. We passed through a picturesque portion of the country, which, however, by reason of its wilderness, inspired us with terror. Often we were in danger of our lives while going along these break-neck roads; and more than all this we suffered from cold, and what was still worse, from a lack of provisions. When we arrived in Virginia, and were only a day’s journey from the place of our destination, we had actually nothing more remaining but our tea, and none of us could obtain any thing but bread and butter. A countryman, whom we met on the way, gave me only a hand full of acrid fruits. At noon we came to a dwelling where I begged for something to eat. They refused me with hard words, saying that there was nothing for dogs of Royalists. Seeing some Turkish [Indian] meal lying around, I begged for a couple of hands full, that I might mix it with water, and make bread. The woman answered me “No, that is for our negroes, who work for us, but you have wished to kill us.”

. . . The place of our destination was Colle in Virginia, where my husband, who had gone ahead with our troops, awaited us with impatient longing. We arrived here about the middle of February, 1779, having, on our journey, passed through the provinces of Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland, and having traveled in twelve weeks, six hundred and seventy-eight English miles. . . .

The passages from the Baroness’s journal appear on pages 268-69 of In the Words of Women.

posted January 30th, 2014 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: British soldiers,Camp followers,Canada,Hessians,New York,Prisoners,Saratoga,Travel,Weather

“We … had this sad sight before us the whole day”

Mercenaries from the small states of what is now Germany were hired by the British to supplement their forces. They too had camp followers. Madame Fredericka von Riedesel, with their three children, joined her husband who was a general in Burgoyne’s army. With her were also a maid, a cook, and an old servant of the family. As fighting intensified prior to the British surrender at Saratoga, she witnessed firsthand the casualties of war. In her journal she described what happened on October 7, 1777.

I had just sat down with my husband at his quarters to breakfast. General Fraser, and … Generals Burgoyne and Phillips … were to have dined with me on that same day. …

About three o’clock in the afternoon, in place of the guests who were to have dined with me, they brought in to me, upon a litter, poor General Fraser … mortally wounded. Our dining table, which was already spread, was taken away, and in its place they fixed up a bed for the general. I sat in the corner of the room trembling and quaking. The noises grew constantly louder. … The general said to the surgeon, “Do not conceal any thing from me. “Must I die?” The ball had gone through his bowels … Unfortunately … the general had eaten a hearty breakfast, by reason of which the intestines were distended, and the ball … had not gone … between the intestines, but through them. I heard him often, amidst his groans, exclaim,”O, fatal ambition! Poor General Burgoyne! My poor wife!” Prayers were read to him. He then sent a message to General Burgoyne, begging that he would have him buried the following day at six o”clock in the evening on the top of a hill, which was a sort of redoubt. …

Early in the morning … he expired. After they had washed the corpse, they wrapped it in a sheet, and laid it on a bedstead. We then came into the room, and had this sad sight before us the whole day. … We learned that General Burgoyne intended to fulfill the last wish of General Fraser. … Precisely at six o’clock the corpse was brought out, and we saw the entire body of generals with their retinues on the hill assisting at the obsequies. The English chaplain, Mr. Brudenel, performed the funeral services. The canonballs flew continually around and over the party.
The American general Gates, afterward said, that if he had known that it was a burial he would not have allowed any firing in that direction. … The order had gone forth that the army should break up after the burial, and the horses were already harnessed to our calaches. … we drove off at eight o’clock in the evening.

Narrative from In the Words of Women pages 82-83. Illustrations: View of the West Bank of the Hudson by Thomas Anbury, 1789 and Burial of General Fraser after John Graham.

posted November 19th, 2012 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: British soldiers,Camp followers,Death,Hessians,Saratoga

“they … saluted us with a cannon ball”

Thousands of women traveled with the armies during the Revolution: American, British, and Hessian. Called “camp followers,” they served as cooks, laundresses, seamstresses, and nurses. Some were wives—of officers or common soldiers. Others offered themselves as sexual partners, but most were women who hoped to obtain something to eat and earn a few pennies. In fact, in recognition of the useful services they provided many were “officially attached” and entitled to rations. With General John Burgoyne’s army moving south from Canada in 1777, there were between 1,000 and 2,000 women and children. Elizabeth Munro Fisher, wife of a Loyalist, described camp life near Saratoga.

We were deprived of all comforts of life, and did not dare to kindle fire for fear we should be observed from the other side of the river [where the Americans were], and they might fire on us, which they did several times. Being about the middle of October, we suffered cold and hunger; many a day I had nothing but a piece of raw salt pork, a biscuit, and a drink of water. … One day, wearied of living in this manner, I told some of the soldier’s wives if they would join me, I would find out a way to get some provisions cooked—seven of them joined me. I spoke to some of the soldiers that were invalid, and told them if they would make up a fire back in the wood, and get a large kettle hung on, we would fill it with provision, and cook it. … They consented to do it for a guinea; they went to work and built up a fire, hung on a kettle, and put water in it, then we women put in what we pleased; we soon filled it with a variety; it began to boil; we all kept our distance from the fire for fear of the cannon that were placed on the other side of the river on a high hill; they soon discovered our fire, and saluted us with a cannon ball; it struck and broke our kettle to pieces, and sent the provision in the air. We met with no hurt only losing our intended feast. …

posted November 15th, 2012 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Camp followers,Saratoga

Saratoga Springs

The mineral springs of Saratoga, New York, were first thought to have healing and restorative powers by the Indians. Their reputation spread by word of mouth, and in 1783 the first published article about the Springs appeared. The naturally carbonated water, green in color and at a stable 55 degrees, was presumed to cure various skin diseases as well as kidney and liver ailments. In 1791, Abigail Alsop of Hartford, Connecticut, traveled with a party of young men and women to the Springs, more out of curiosity than in need of treatment. She kept a journal on the trip that was later published. It is interesting that the party consisted of young men and women going off on their own. Abigail included many details about her companions and the journey, as well as a description of the Springs.

From Hartford, where I resided … our party of eight proceeded westward, and some idea of the fashions may be formed from the dress of one of the ladies, who wore a black beaver with a sugar-loaf crown eight or nine inches high, called a steeple crown, wound round with black and red tassels. … Habits having gone out of fashion, the dress was of London smoke broadcloth, buttoned down in front, and at the side with twenty-four gilt buttons. … Large waists and stays were in fashion, and the shoes were extremely sharp-toed and high-held, ornamented with large paste buckles on the instep. At the tavern where we spent the first night, we ladies were obliged to surround ourselves with a barrier of bean-leaves to keep off the bugs which infested the place; but this afforded only temporary benefit, as the vermin soon crept to the ceiling and fell upon us from above.

After stopping at Hudson, New York, Abigail’s party traveled on to Saratoga, “the efficacy of the water being much celebrated, as well as the curious round and hollow rock from which it flowed.”

The country we had to pass over, after leaving the Hudson (River), was very uninviting, and almost uninhabited. The road lay though a forest, and was formed of logs. … On reaching the Springs at Saratoga, we found but three habitations, and those but poor log-houses on the high bank of the meadow. … on the ridge near the Round Rock. This was the only Spring then visited. The log-cabins were almost full of strangers, among whom were several ladies and gentlemen from Albany. … We found the Round Rock at that time entire; the large tree, which two or three years after fell and cracked a fissure in it, being then standing near, and the water, which occasionally overflowed and increased the rock by its deposits, keeping the general level five or six inches below the top. The neighborhood of the Spring, like all the country we had seen for many miles, was a perfect forest. … We arrived on Saturday, and left there on Monday morning. …

The above passages appear in The Saratoga Reader: Writing About an American Village, 1749-1900, by Field Horne, Saratoga Springs: Kiskatom Publishing, 2004, pages 22-23. The illustration High Rock Spring, which appeared in the Columbian Magazine, March 1788, is on page 10 of Field Horne’s book.

posted July 9th, 2012 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Fashion,Health,Medicine,New York,Saratoga,Travel

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