Archive for the ‘Saratoga’ Category

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

Camp Followers

During the Revolution, it was common for numbers of women—“camp followers” was the rather pejorative name given to them—to travel with armies of fighting men. While some dispensed sexual favors, for the most part, these women were soldiers’ wives, often with children, who cooked and washed clothes for the men and nursed the ill and wounded. The American and British armies had camp followers, as did the hired troops. For those officially “attached,” rations were provided in recognition of the useful services they performed.

At various times there were between 1,000 and 2,000 women (and children) with Burgoyne’s forces. After Burgoyne’s defeat at Saratoga his troops were marched to Boston. In November 1777, Hannah Winthrop described their entrance into town.

Last thursday, which was a very stormy day, a large number of British Troops came softly thro the Town via Watertown to Prospect hill, on Friday we heard the Hessians were to make a Procession in the same rout; we thot we should have nothing to do with them, but View them as they Passt. To be sure, the sight was truly astonishing, I never had the least Idea that the Creation produced such a sordid set of creatures in human Figure—poor, dirty, emaciated men, great numbers of women, who seemd to be the beasts of burthen, having a bushel basket on their back, by which they were bent double, the contents seemd to be Pots & kettles, various sorts of Furniture, children peeping thro the gridirons & other utensils, Some very young Infants who were born on the road; the women with bare feet, cloathd in dirty raggs such Effluvia filld the air while they were passing, had they not been smoaking all the time, I should have been apprehensive of being contaminated by them.

This excerpt is from In the Words of Women, Chapter 3, pages 87-88; illustration by John R. Wright.

stolen by the Tories

In 1847, Asa Fitch, a country doctor and a noted etymologist, began to ask his elderly patients questions about their experiences during the American Revolution when they were young. He carefully recorded their answers and, although they may be the imperfect recollections of people advanced in years, they reflect the uncertainties and trials their families faced. Tryphena Martin Angell of Salem recounted her family’s experience fleeing from the advancing army of General Burgoyne.

In the war Father was away from home when the families evacuated the town. … It was said [that General Burgoyne] had a hundred thousand soldiers with him—British, Hessians, and Indians—and was coming down through this place and would kill every enemy of the King.

Daniel Livingston … helped us to get away. Some of our things were buried, others sunk in the well, and the rest were put into the ox-cart. … Mother rode on the old mare and I was tied on behind her or had to hold on to her. …

On the road somewhere towards Hoosick was a large slough hole [swamp] or brook across which poles were laid to keep the horses, et cetera, from miring in it. The foot of the horse we rode got caught between these poles so that she fell pitching Mother and me off into the mud. We were not hurt but badly frightened and sadly besmeared with muck and mud. A few days after our arrival at Brown’s my brother Moses was born. We came back before cold weather. … part of our things were buried in time of the retreat before Burgoyne: pots and kettles, a large brass kettle, pewter platters and other dishes, the iron trammel [a chain and hook for raising and lowering a kettle] that hung in the chimney. When we got back we found all these things had been stolen by the Tories. We never got any trace as to who it was that had taken them.

This excerpt is from In the Words of Women, Chapter 3, pages 77-78. The illustration is of an iron trammel mentioned in the text.

posted June 14th, 2012 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Patriots,Saratoga,Tories

“the Horrible wickedness of the Man”

Abigail Adams, in a letter to her husband from Braintree, Massachusetts, July 25, 1775, described British General “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne, who was stationed in Boston at the time. Abigail took a dim view of him. He would later lead an invasion force from Canada, pushing south toward Albany, New York, by way of Lake Champlain, Lake George, and the upper Hudson. His attempt to divide the colonies failed when he was defeated at Saratoga in 1777.


General Burgoyne lives in mr. Samll. Quincys House. a Lady who lived opposite Says she Saw raw meat cut & hacked upon her Mahogona Tables, & her Superb Damask curtain & cushings exposed to the rain as if they were of no value. How much better do the Tories fare than the Whigs? … A Late letter from London … has left me no room to think that he is possessd either of Generosity virtue or Humanity. His character runs thus—as to Burgoyne I am not Master of Language Sufficient to give you a true Idea of the Horrible wickedness of the Man, His designs are dark His Dissimulation of the Deepest die, for not content with Deceiving Mankind he practices deceit on God himself, by Assuming the Appearance … of great attention to Religious Worship when every action of his life is totally abhorant to all Ideas of true Religion Virtue or common Honesty. An Abandoned Infamous Gambler of broken fortune … wholly bent on Blood tyrany and Spoil.

This excerpt is from In the Words of Women, Chapter 3, page 72.

posted May 17th, 2012 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail,British soldiers,Burgoyne, Gerneral John,Saratoga

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