“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, CATEGORIES: British soldiers, Camp followers, Death, Hessians, Saratoga


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