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"The outlines of the plan seem to be on a proper foundation. The rank and file of the army now in Canada (including the 11th Regiment of British, M'Clean's corps, the Brunswicks and Hanover), amount to 10,527; add the eleven additional companies and four hundred Hanover Chasseurs, the total will be 11,443.
"As sickness and other contingencies must be expected, I should think not above 7,000 effectives can be spared over Lake Champlain; for it would be highly imprudent to run any risk in Canada.
"The fixing the stations of those left in the province may not be quite right, though the plan proposed may be recommended. Indians must be employed, and this measure must be avowedly directed, and Carleton must be in the strongest manner directed that the Apollo shall be ready by that day, to receive Burgoyne.
"The magazines must be formed with the greatest expedition, at Crown Point.
"If possible, possession must be taken of Lake George, and nothing but an absolute impossibility of succeeding in this, can be an excuse for proceeding by South Bay and Skeenborough.
"As Sir W. Howe does not think of acting from Rhode island into the Massachusets, the force from Canada must join him in Albany.
"The diversion on the Mohawk River ought at least to be strengthened by the addition of the four hundred Hanover Chasseurs.
"The Ordnance ought to furnish a complete proportion of intrenching tools.
"The provisions ought to be calculated for a third more than the effective soldiery, and the General ordered to avoid delivering these when the army can be subsisted by the country. Burgoyne certainly greatly undervalues the German recruits.
"The idea of carrying the army by sea to Sir W. Howe, would certainly require the leaving a much larger part of it in Canada, as in that case the rebel army would divide that province from the immense one under Sir W. Howe. I greatly dislike this last idea."]
Burgoyne had gained celebrity by some bold and dashing exploits in Portugal during the last war; he was personally as brave an officer as ever headed British troops; he had considerable skill as a tactician; and his general intellectual abilities and acquirements were of a high order. He had several very able and experienced officers under him, among whom were Major-General Phillips and Brigadier-General Fraser. His regular troops amounted, exclusively of the corps of artillery, to about seven thousand two hundred men, rank and file. Nearly half of these were Germans. He had also an auxiliary force of from two to three thousand Canadians. He summoned the warriors of several tribes of the Red Indians near the western lakes to join his army. Much eloquence was poured forth, both in America and in England, in denouncing the use of these savage auxiliaries. Yet Burgoyne seems to have done no more than Montcalm, Wolfe, and other French, American, and English generals had done before him. But, in truth, the lawless ferocity of the Indians, their unskilfulness in regular action, and the utter impossibility of bringing them under any discipline, made their services of little or no value in times of difficulty: while the indignation which their outrages inspired, went far to rouse the whole population of the invaded districts into active hostilities against Burgoyne's force.
Burgoyne assembled his troops and confederates near the river Bouquet, on the west side of Lake Champlain. He then, on the 21st of June, 1777, gave his Red Allies a war-feast, and harangued them on the necessity of abstaining from their usual cruel practices against unarmed people and prisoners. At the same time he published a pompous manifesto to the Americans, in which he threatened the refractory with all the horrors of war, Indian as well as European. The army proceeded by water to Crown Point, a fortification which the Americans held at the northern extremity of the inlet by which the water from Lake George is conveyed to Lake Champlain. He landed here without opposition; but the reduction of Ticonderoga, a fortification about twelve miles to the south of Crown Point, was a more serious matter, and was supposed to be the critical part of the expedition. Ticonderoga commanded the passage along the lakes, and was considered to be the key to the route which Burgoyne wished to follow. The English had been repulsed in an attack on it in the war with the French in 1768 with severe loss. But Burgoyne now invested it with great skill; and the American general, St. Clair, who had only an ill-equipped army of about three thousand men, evacuated it on the 5th of July. It seems evident that a different course would have caused the destruction or capture of his whole army; which, weak as it was, was the chief force then in the field for the protection of the New England states. When censured by some of his countrymen for abandoning Ticonderoga, St. Clair truly replied, "that he had lost a post, but saved a province." Burgoyne's troops pursued the retiring Americans, gained several advantages over them, and took a large part of their artillery and military stores.
The loss of the British in these engagements was trifling. The army moved southward along Lake George to Skenesborough; and thence slowly, and with great difficulty, across a broken country, full of creeks and marshes, and clogged by the enemy with felled trees and other obstacles, to Fort Edward, on the Hudson river, the American troops continuing to retire before them.
Burgoyne reached the left bank of the Hudson river on the 30th of July. Hitherto he had overcome every difficulty which the enemy and the nature of the country had placed in his way. His army was in excellent order and in the highest spirits; and the peril of the expedition seemed over, when they were once on the bank of the river which was to be the channel of communication between them and the British army in the south. But their feelings, and those of the English nation in general when their successes were announced, may best be learned from a contemporary writer. Burke, in the "Annual Register" for 1777, describes them thus:--
"Such was the rapid torrent of success, which swept everything away before the northern army in its onset. It is not to be wondered at, if both officers and private men were highly elated with their good fortune, and deemed that and their prowess to be irresistible; if they regarded their enemy with the greatest contempt; considered their own toils to be nearly at an end; Albany to be already in their hands; and the reduction of the northern provinces to be rather a matter of some time, than an arduous task full of difficulty and danger.
"At home, the joy and exultation was extreme; not only at court, but with all those who hoped or wished the unqualified subjugation, and unconditional submission of the colonies. The loss in reputation was greater to the Americans, and capable of more fatal consequences, than even that of ground, of posts, of artillery, or of men. All the contemptuous and most degrading charges which had been made by their enemies, of their wanting the resolution and abilities of men, even in their defence of whatever was dear to them, were now repeated and believed. Those who still regarded them as men, and who had not yet lost all affection to them as brethren, who also retained hopes that a happy reconciliation upon constitutional principles, without sacrificing the dignity or the just authority of government on the one side, or a dereliction of the rights of freemen on the other, was not even now impossible, notwithstanding their favourable dispositions in general, could not help feeling upon this occasion that the Americans sunk not a little in their estimation. It was not difficult to diffuse an opinion that the war in effect was over; and that any further resistance could serve only to render the terms of their submission the worse. Such were some of the immediate effects of the loss of those grand keys of North America, Ticonderoga and the lakes."
The astonishment and alarm which these events produced among the Americans were naturally great; but in the midst of their disasters none of the colonists showed any disposition to submit. The local governments of the New England States, as well as the Congress, acted with vigour and firmness in their efforts to repel the enemy. General Gates was sent to take command of the army at Saratoga; and Arnold, a favourite leader of the Americans, was despatched by Washington to act under him, with reinforcements of troops and guns from the main American army. Burgoyne's employment of the Indians now produced the worst possible effects. Though he laboured hard to check the atrocities which they were accustomed to commit, he could not prevent the occurrence of many barbarous outrages, repugnant both to the feelings of humanity and to the laws of civilized warfare. The American commanders took care that the reports of these excesses should be circulated far and wide, well knowing that they would make the stern New Englanders not droop, but rage. Such was their effect; and though, when each man looked upon his wife, his children, his sisters, or his aged parents, the thought of the merciless Indian "thirsting for the blood of man, woman, and child," of "the cannibal savage torturing, murdering, roasting, and eating the mangled victims of his barbarous battles," [Lord Chatham's speech on the employment of Indians in the war.] might raise terror in the bravest breasts; this very terror produced a directly contrary effect to causing submission to the royal army. It was seen that the few friends of the royal cause, as well as its enemies, were liable to be the victims of the indiscriminate rage of the savages;" [See in the "Annual Register" for 1777, p.117, the "Narrative of the Murder of Miss M'Crea, the daughter of an American loyalist."] and thus "the inhabitants of the open and frontier countries had no choice of acting: they had no means of security left, but by abandoning their habitations and taking up arms. Every man saw the necessity of becoming a temporary soldier, not only for his own security, but for the protection and defence of those connexions which are dearer than life itself. Thus an army was poured forth by the woods, mountains, and marshes, which in this part were thickly sown with plantations and villages. The Americans recalled their courage; and when their regular army seemed to be entirely wasted, the spirit of the country produced a much greater and more formidable force." [Burke.]
While resolute recruits, accustomed to the use of fire-arms, and all partially trained by service in the provincial militias, were thus flocking to the standard of Gates and Arnold at Saratoga; and while Burgoyne was engaged at Port Edward in providing the means for the further advance of his army through the intricate and hostile country that still lay before him, two events occurred, in each of which the British sustained loss, and the Americans obtained advantage, the moral effects of which were even more important than the immediate result of the encounters. When Burgoyne left Canada, General St. Leger was detached from that province with a mixed force of about one thousand men, and some light field-pieces, across Lake Ontario against Fort Stanwix, which the Americans held. After capturing this, he was to march along the Mohawk river to its confluence with the Hudson, between Saratoga and Albany, where his force and that of Burgoyne were to unite. But, after some successes, St. Leger was obliged to retreat, and to abandon his tents and large quantities of stores to the garrison. At the very time that General Burgoyne heard of this disaster, he experienced one still more severe in the defeat of Colonel Baum with a large detachment of German troops at Benington, whither Burgoyne had sent them for the purpose of capturing some magazines of provisions, of which the British army stood greatly in need. The Americans, augmented by continual accessions of strength, succeeded, after many attacks, in breaking this corps, which fled into the woods, and left its commander mortally wounded on the field: they then marched against a force of five hundred grenadiers and light infantry, which was advancing to Colonel Baum's assistance under Lieutenant-Colonel Breyman; who, after a gallant resistance, was obliged to retreat on the main army. The British loss in these two actions exceeded six hundred men: and a party of American loyalists, on their way to join the army, having attached themselves to Colonel Baum's corps, were destroyed with it.
Notwithstanding these reverses, which added greatly to the spirit and numbers of the American forces, Burgoyne determined to advance. It was impossible any longer to keep up his communications with Canada by way of the lakes, so as to supply his army on his southward march; but having by unremitting exertions collected provisions for thirty days, he crossed the Hudson by means of a bridge of rafts, and, marching a short distance along its western bank, he encamped on the 14th of September on the heights of Saratoga, about sixteen miles from Albany. The Americans had fallen back from Saratoga, and were now strongly posted near Stillwater, about half way between Saratoga and Albany, and showed a determination to recede no farther.
Meanwhile Lord Howe, with the bulk of the British army that had lain at New York, had sailed away to the Delaware, and there commenced a campaign against Washington, in which the English general took Philadelphia, and gained other showy, but unprofitable successes, But Sir Henry Clinton, a brave and skilful officer, was left with a considerable force at New York; and he undertook the task of moving up the Hudson to co-operate with Burgoyne. Clinton was obliged for this purpose to wait for reinforcements which had been promised from England, and these did not arrive till September. As soon as he received them, Clinton embarked about 3,000 of his men on a flotilla, convoyed by some ships of war under Commander Hotham, and proceeded to force his may up the river, but it was long before he was able to open any communication with Burgoyne.
The country between Burgoyne's position at Saratoga and that of the Americans at Stillwater was rugged, and seamed with creeks and water-courses; but after great labour in making bridges and temporary causeways, the British army moved forward. About four miles from Saratoga, on the afternoon of the 19th of September, a sharp encounter took place between part of the English right wing, under Burgoyne himself, and a strong body of the enemy, under Gates and Arnold. The conflict lasted till sunset. The British remained masters of the field; but the loss on each side was nearly equal (from five hundred to six hundred men); and the spirits of the Americans were greatly raised by having withstood the best regular troops of the English army. Burgoyne now halted again, and strengthened his position by field-works and redoubts; and the Americans also improved their defences. The two armies remained nearly within cannon-shot of each other for a considerable time, during which Burgoyne was anxiously looking for intelligence of the promised expedition from New York, which, according to the original plan, ought by this time to have been approaching Albany from the south. At last, a messenger from Clinton made his way, with great difficulty, to Burgoyne's camp, and brought the information that Clinton was on his way up the Hudson to attack the American forts which barred the passage up that river to Albany. Burgoyne, in reply, on the 30th of September, urged Clinton to attack the forts as speedily as possible, stating that the effect of such an attack, or even the semblance of it, would be to move the American army from its position before his own troops. By another messenger, who reached Clinton on the 5th of October, Burgoyne informed his brother general that he had lost his communications with Canada, but had provisions which would last him till the 20th. Burgoyne described himself as strongly posted, and stated that though the Americans in front of him were strongly posted also, he made no doubt of being able to force them, and making his way to Albany; but that he doubted whether he could subsist there, as the country was drained of provisions. He wished Clinton to meet him there, and to keep open a communication with New York. [See the letters of General Clinton to General Harvey, published by Lord Albemarle in his "Memoirs of the Marquis of Rockingham," vol. ii.
Burgoyne had over-estimated his resources, and in the very beginning of October found difficulty and distress pressing him hard.
The Indians and Canadians began to desert him; while, on the other hand, Gates's army was continually reinforced by fresh bodies of the militia. An expeditionary force was detached by the Americans, which made a bold, though unsuccessful, attempt to retake Ticonderoga. And finding the number and spirit of the enemy to increase daily, and his own stores of provision to diminish, Burgoyne determined on attacking the Americans in front of him, and by dislodging them from their position, to gain the means of moving upon Albany, or at least of relieving his troops from the straitened position in which they were cooped up.
Burgoyne's force was now reduced to less than 6,000 men. The right of his camp was on some high ground a little to the west of the river; thence his entrenchments extended along the lower ground to the bank of the Hudson, the line of their front being nearly at a right angle with the course of the stream. The lines were fortified with redoubts and field-works, and on a height on the bank of the extreme right a strong redoubt was reared, and entrenchments, in a horse-shoe form, thrown up. The Hessians, under Colonel Breyman, were stationed here, forming a flank defence to Burgoyne's main army. The numerical force of the Americans was now greater than the British even in regular troops, and the numbers of the militia and volunteers which had joined Gates and Arnold were greater still.
General Lincoln with 2,000 New England troops, had reached the American camp on the 29th of September. Gates gave him the command of the right wing, and took in person the command of the left wing, which was composed of two brigades under Generals Poor and Leonard, of Colonel Morgan's rifle corps, and part of the fresh New England Militia. The whole of the American lines had been ably fortified under the direction of the celebrated Polish general, Kosciusko, who was now serving as a volunteer in Gates's army. The right of the American position, that is to say, the part of it nearest to the river, was too strong to be assailed with any prospect of success: and Burgoyne therefore determined to endeavour to force their left. For this purpose he formed a column of 1,500 regular troops, with two twelve-pounders, two howitzers and six six-pounders. He headed this in person, having Generals Phillips, Reidesel, and Fraser under him. The enemy's force immediately in front of his lines was so strong that he dared not weaken the troops who guarded them, by detaching any more to strengthen his column of attack.
It was on the 7th of October that Burgoyne led his column forward; and on the preceding day, the 6th, Clinton had successfully executed a brilliant enterprise against the two American forts which barred his progress up the Hudson. He had captured them both, with severe loss to the American forces opposed to him; he had destroyed the fleet which the Americans had been forming on the Hudson, under the protection of their forts; and the upward river was laid open to his squadron. He had also, with admirable skill and industry, collected in small vessels, such as could float within a few miles of Albany, provisions sufficient to supply Burgoyne's Army for six months. [See Clinton's letters in Lord Albemarle, p. 337.] He was now only a hundred and fifty-six miles distant from Burgoyne; and a detachment of 1,700 men actually advanced within forty miles of Albany. Unfortunately Burgoyne and Clinton were each ignorant of the other's movements; but if Burgoyne had won his battle on the 7th, he must on advancing have soon learned the tidings of Clinton's success, and Clinton would have heard of his. A junction would soon have been made of the two victorious armies, and the great objects of the campaign might yet have been accomplished. All depended on the fortune of the column with which Burgoyne, on the eventful 7th of October, 1777, advanced against the American position. There were brave men, both English and German, in its ranks; and in particular it comprised one of the best bodies of grenadiers in the British service. [I am indebted for many of the details of the battle, to Mr Lossing's "Field-book of the Revolution."]
Burgoyne pushed forward some bodies of irregular troops to distract the enemy's attention; and led his column to within three-quarters of a mile from the left of Gates's camp, and then deployed his men into line. The grenadiers under Major Ackland, and the artillery under Major Williams, were drawn up on the left; a corps of Germans under General Reidesel, and some British troops under General Phillips, were in the centre; and the English light infantry, and the 24th regiment under Lord Balcarres and General Fraser, were on the right. But Gates did not wait to be attacked; and directly the British line was formed and began to advance, the American general, with admirable skill, caused General Poor's brigade of New York and New Hampshire troops, and part of General Leonard's brigade, to make a sudden and vehement rush against its left, and at the same time sent Colonel Morgan, with his rifle corps and other troops, amounting to 1,500, to turn the right of the English. The grenadiers under Ackland sustained the charge of superior numbers nobly. But Gates sent more Americans forward, and in a few minutes the action became general along the centre, so as to prevent the Germans from detaching any help to the grenadiers. Morgan, with his riflemen, was now pressing Lord Balcarres and General Fraser hard, and fresh masses of the enemy were observed advancing from their extreme left, with the evident intention of forcing the British right, and cutting off its retreat. The English light infantry and the 24th now fell back, and formed an oblique second line, which enabled them to baffle this manoeuvre, and also to succour their comrades in the left wing, the gallant grenadiers, who were overpowered by superior numbers, and, but for this aid, must have been cut to pieces.
The contest now was fiercely maintained on both sides. The English cannon were repeatedly taken and retaken; but when the grenadiers near them were forced back by the weight of superior numbers, one of the guns was permanently captured by the Americans, and turned upon the English. Major Williams and Major Ackland were both made prisoners, and in this part of the field the advantage of the Americans was decided. The British centre still held its ground; but now it was that the American general Arnold appeared upon the scene, and did more for his countrymen than whole battalions could have effected. Arnold, when the decisive engagement of the 7th of October commenced, had been deprived of his command by Gates, in consequence of a quarrel between them about the action of the 19th of September. He had listened for a short time in the American camp to the thunder of the battle, in which he had no military right to take part, either as commander or as combatant. But his excited spirit could not long endure such a state of inaction. He called for his horse, a powerful brown charger, and springing on it, galloped furiously to where the fight seemed to be the thickest. Gates saw him, and sent an aide-de-camp to recall him; but Arnold spurred far in advance, and placed himself at the head of three regiments which had formerly been under him, and which welcomed their old commander with joyous cheers. He led them instantly upon the British centre; and then galloping along the American line, he issued orders for a renewed and a closer attack, which were obeyed with alacrity, Arnold himself setting the example of the most daring personal bravery, and charging more than once, sword in hand, into the English ranks. On the British side the officers did their duty nobly; but General Fraser was the most eminent of them all, restoring order wherever the line began to waver, and infusing fresh courage into his men by voice and example. Mounted on an iron-grey charger, and dressed in the full uniform of a general officer, he was conspicuous to foes as well as to friends. The American Colonel Morgan thought that the fate of the battle rested on this gallant man's life, and calling several of his best marksman round him, pointed Fraser out, and said: "That officer is General Fraser; I admire him, but he must die. Our victory depends on it. Take your stations in that clump of bushes, and do your duty." Within five minutes Fraser fell mortally wounded, and was carried to the British camp by two grenadiers. Just previously to his being struck by the fatal bullet, one rifle-ball had cut the crupper of his saddle and smother had passed through his horse's mane close behind the ears. His aide-de-camp had noticed this, and said: "It is evident that you are marked out for particular aim; would it not be prudent; for you to retire from this place?" Fraser replied: "My duty forbids me to fly from danger;" and the next moment he fell. [Lossing.]
Burgoyne's whole force was now compelled to retreat towards their camp; the left and centre were in complete disorder, but the light infantry and the 24th checked the fury of the assailants, and the remains of the column with great difficulty effected their return to their camp; leaving six of their cannons in the possession of the enemy, and great numbers of killed and wounded on the field; and especially a large proportion of the artillerymen, who had stood to their guns until shot down or bayoneted beside them by the advancing Americans.
Burgoyne's column had been defeated, but the action was not yet over. The English had scarcely entered the camp, when the Americans, pursuing their success, assaulted it in several places with remarkable impetuosity, rushing in upon the intrenchments and redoubts through a severe fire of grape-shot and musketry. Arnold especially, who on this day appeared maddened with the thirst of combat and carnage, urged on the attack against a part of the intrenchments which was occupied by the light infantry under Lord Balcarres. [Botta's American War, book viii.] But the English received him with vigour and spirit. The struggle here was obstinate and sanguinary. At length, as it grew towards evening, Arnold, having forced all obstacles, entered the works with some of the most fearless of his followers. But in this critical moment of glory and danger, he received a painful wound in the same leg which had already been injured at the assault on Quebec. To his bitter regret he was obliged to be carried back. His party still continued the attack, but the English also continued their obstinate resistance, and at last night fell, and the assailants withdrew from this quarter of the British intrenchments. But, in another part the attack had been more successful. A body of the Americans, under Colonel Brooke, forced their way in through a part of the horse-shoe intrenchments on the extreme right, which was defended by the Hessian reserve under Colonel Breyman. The Germans resisted well, and Breyman died in defence of his post; but the Americans made good the ground which they had won, and captured baggage, tents, artillery, and a store of ammunition, which they were greatly in need of. They had by establishing themselves on this point, acquired the means of completely turning the right flank of the British, and gaining their rear. To prevent this calamity, Burgoyne effected during the night an entire change of position. With great skill he removed his whole army to some heights near the river, a little northward of the former camp, and he there drew up his men, expecting to be attacked on the following day. But Gates was resolved not to risk the certain triumph which his success had already secured for him. He harassed the English with skirmishes, but attempted no regular attack. Meanwhile he detached bodies of troops on both sides of the Hudson to prevent the British from recrossing that river, and to bar their retreat. When night fell, it became absolutely necessary for Burgoyne to retire again, and, accordingly, the troops were marched through a stormy and rainy night towards Saratoga, abandoning their sick and wounded, and the greater part of their baggage to the enemy.
Before the rear-guard quitted the camp, the last sad honours were paid to the brave General Fraser, who expired on the day after the action.
He had, almost with his last breath, expressed a wish to be buried in the redoubt which had formed the part of the British lines where he had been stationed, but which had now been abandoned by the English, and was within full range of the cannon which the advancing Americans were rapidly placing in position to bear upon Burgoyne's force. Burgoyne resolved, nevertheless, to comply with the dying wish of his comrade; and the interment took place under circumstances the most affecting that have ever marked a soldier's funeral. Still more interesting is the narrative of Lady Ackland's passage from the British to the American camp, after the battle, to share the captivity and alleviate the sufferings of her husband who had been severely wounded, and left in the enemy's power. The American historian, Lossing, has described both these touching episodes of the campaign, in a spirit that does honour to the writer as well as to his subject. After narrating the death of General Fraser on the 8th of October, he says that "It was just at sunset, on that calm October evening, that the corpse of General Fraser was carried up the hill to the place of burial within the 'great redoubt.' It was attended only by the military members of his family and Mr. Brudenell, the chaplain; yet the eyes of hundreds of both armies followed the solemn procession, while the Americans, ignorant of its true character, kept up a constant cannonade upon the redoubt. The chaplain, unawed by the danger to which he was exposed, as the cannon-balls that struck the hill threw the loose soil over him, pronounced the impressive funeral service of the Church of England with an unfaltering voice. The growing darkness added solemnity to the scene. Suddenly the irregular firing ceased, and the solemn voice of a single cannon, at measured intervals, boomed along the valley, and awakened the responses of the hills. It was a minute gun fired by the Americans in honour of the gallant dead. The moment the information was given that the gathering at the redoubt was a funeral company, fulfilling, at imminent peril, the last-breathed wishes of the noble Fraser, orders were issued to withhold the cannonade with balls, and to render military homage to the fallen brave.
"The case of Major Ackland and his heroic wife presents kindred features. He belonged to the grenadiers, and was an accomplished soldier. His wife accompanied him to Canada in 1776; and during the whole campaign of that year, and until his return to England after the surrender of Burgoyne, in the autumn of 1777, endured all the hardships, dangers, and privations of an active campaign in an enemy's country. At Chambly, on the Sorel, she attended him in illness, in a miserable hut; and when he was wounded in the battle of Hubbardton, Vermont she hastened to him at Henesborough from Montreal, where she had been persuaded to remain, and resolved to follow the army hereafter. Just before crossing the Hudson, she and her husband had had a narrow escape from losing their lives in consequence of their tent accidentally taking fire.
"During the terrible engagement of the 7th October, she heard all the tumult and dreadful thunder of the battle in which her husband was engaged; and when, on the morning of the 8th, the British fell back in confusion to their new position, she, with the other women, was obliged to take refuge among the dead and dying; for the tents were all struck, and hardly a shed was left standing. Her husband was wounded, and a prisoner in the American camp. That gallant officer was shot through both legs. When Poor and Learned's troops assaulted the grenadiers and artillery on the British left, on the afternoon of the 7th, Wilkinson, Gates's adjutant-general, while pursuing the flying enemy when they abandoned their battery, heard a feeble voice exclaim 'Protect me, sir, against that boy.' He turned and saw a lad with a musket taking deliberate aim at a wounded British officer, lying in a corner of a low fence. Wilkinson ordered the boy to desist, and discovered the wounded man to be Major Ackland. He had him conveyed to the quarters of General Poor (now the residence of Mr. Neilson) on the heights, where every attention was paid to his wants.
"When the intelligence that he was wounded and a prisoner reached his wife, she was greatly distressed, and, by the advice of her friend, Baron Reidesel, resolved to visit the American camp, and implore the favour of a personal attendance upon her husband. On the 9th she sent a message to Burgoyne by Lord Petersham, his aide-de-camp, asking permission to depart. 'Though I was ready to believe,' says Burgoyne, 'that patience and fortitude, in a supreme degree, were to be found, as well as every other virtue, under the most tender forms, I was astonished at this proposal. After so long an agitation of spirits, exhausted not only for want of rest, but absolutely want of food, drenched in rain for twelve hours together, that a woman should be capable of such an undertaking as delivering herself to an enemy, probably in the night, and uncertain of what hands she might fall into, appeared an effort above human nature. The assistance I was able to give was small indeed. I had not even a cup of wine to offer her. All I could furnish her with was an open boat, and a few lines, written upon dirty wet paper, to General Gates, recommending her to his protection.' The following is a copy of the note sent by Burgoyne to General Gates:--'Sir,--Lady Harriet Ackland, a lady of the first distinction of family, rank, and personal virtues, is under such concern on account of Major Ackland, her husband, wounded and a prisoner in your hands, that I cannot refuse her request to commit her to your protection. Whatever general impropriety there may be in persons of my situation and yours to solicit favours, I cannot see the uncommon perseverance in every female grace, and the exaltation of character of this lady, and her very hard fortune, without testifying that your attentions to her will lay me under obligations. I am, sir, your obedient servant, J. Burgoyne.' She set out in an open boat upon the Hudson, accompanied by Mr. Brudenell, the chaplain, Sarah Pollard, her waiting maid, and her husband's valet, who had been severely wounded while searching for his master upon the battle- field. It was about sunset when they started, and a violent storm of rain and wind, which had been increasing since the morning, rendered the voyage tedious and perilous in the extreme. It was long after dark when they reached the American out-posts; the sentinel heard their oars, and hailed them, Lady Harriet returned the answer herself. The clear, silvery tones of a woman's voice amid the darkness, filled the soldier on duty with superstitious fear, and he called a comrade to accompany him to the river bank. The errand of the voyagers was made known, but the faithful guard, apprehensive of treachery, would not allow them to laud until they sent for Major Dearborn. They were invited by that officer to his quarters, where every attention was paid to them, and Lady Harriet was comforted by the joyful tidings that her husband was safe. In the morning she experienced parental tenderness from General Gates who sent her to her husband, at Poor's quarters, under a suitable escort. There she remained until he was removed to Albany."
Burgoyne now took up his last position on the heights near Saratoga; and hemmed in by the enemy, who refused any encounter, and baffled in all his attempts at finding a path of escape, he there lingered until famine compelled him to capitulate. The fortitude of the British army during this melancholy period has been justly eulogised by many native historians, but I prefer quoting the testimony of a foreign writer, as free from all possibility of partiality. Botta says: [Botta, book viii.]
"It exceeds the power of words to describe the pitiable condition to which the British army was now reduced. The troops were worn down by a series of toil, privation, sickness, and desperate fighting. They were abandoned by the Indians and Canadians; and the effective force of the whole army was now diminished by repeated and heavy losses, which had principally fallen on the best soldiers and the most distinguished officers, from ten thousand combatants to less than one-half that number. Of this remnant little more than three thousand were English.
"In these circumstances, and thus weakened, they were invested by an army of four times their own number, whose position extended three parts of a circle round them; who refused to fight them, as knowing their weakness, and who, from the nature of the ground, could not be attacked in any part. In this helpless condition, obliged to be constantly under arms, while the enemy's cannon played on every part of their camp, and even the American rifle- balls whistled in many parts of the lines, the troops of Burgoyne retained their customary firmness, and, while sinking under a hard necessity, they showed themselves worthy of a better fate. They could not be reproached with an action or a word, which betrayed a want of temper or of fortitude."
At length the 13th of October arrived, and as no prospect of assistance appeared, and the provisions were nearly exhausted, Burgoyne, by the unanimous advice of a council of war, sent a messenger to the American camp to treat of a convention.
General Gates in the first instance demanded that the royal army should surrender prisoners of war. He also proposed that the British should ground their arms. Burgoyne replied, "This article is inadmissible in every extremity; sooner than this army will consent to ground their arms in their encampment, they will rush on the enemy, determined to take no quarter." After various messages, a convention for the surrender of the army was settled, which provided that "The troops under General Burgoyne were to march out of their camp with the honours of war, and the artillery of the intrenchments, to the verge of the river, where the arms and artillery were to be left. The arms to be piled by word of command from their own officers. A free passage was to be granted to the army under Lieutenant-General Burgoyne to Great Britain, upon condition of not serving again in North America during the present contest."
The articles of capitulation were settled on the 15th of October: and on that very evening a messenger arrived from Clinton with an account of his successes, and with the tidings that part of his force had penetrated as far as Esopus, within fifty miles of Burgoyne's camp. But it was too late. The public faith was pledged; and the army was, indeed, too debilitated by fatigue and hunger to resist an attack if made; and Gates certainly would have made it, if the convention had been broken off. Accordingly, on the 17th, the convention of Saratoga was carried into effect. By this convention 5,790 men surrendered themselves as prisoners. The sick and wounded left in the camp when the British retreated to Saratoga, together with the numbers of the British, German, and Canadian troops, who were killed, wounded, or taken, and who had deserted in the preceding part of the expedition, were reckoned to be 4,689.
The British sick and wounded who had fallen into the hands of the Americans after the battle of the 7th, were treated with exemplary humanity; and when the convention was executed, General Gates showed a noble delicacy of feeling which deserves the highest degree of honour. Every circumstance was avoided which could give the appearance of triumph. The American troops remained within their lines until the British had piled their arms; and when this was done, the vanquished officers and soldiers were received with friendly kindness by their victors, and their immediate wants were promptly and liberally supplied. Discussions and disputes afterwards arose as to some of the terms of the convention; and the American Congress refused for a long time to carry into effect the article which provided for the return of Burgoyne's men to Europe; but no blame was imputable to General Gates or his army, who showed themselves to be generous as they had proved themselves to be brave.
Gates after the victory, immediately despatched Colonel Wilkinson to carry the happy tidings to Congress. On being introduced into the hall, he said, "The whole British army has laid down its arms at Saratoga; our own, full of vigour and courage, expect your order. It is for your wisdom to decide where the country may still have need for their service." Honours and rewards were liberally voted by the Congress to their conquering general and his men; "and it would be difficult" (says the Italian historian) "to describe the transports of joy which the news of this event excited among the Americans. They began to flatter themselves with a still more happy future. No one any longer felt any doubt about their achieving their independence. All hoped, and with good reason, that a success of this importance would at length determine France, and the other European powers that waited for her example, to declare themselves in favour of America. THERE COULD NO LONGER BE ANY QUESTION RESPECTING THE FUTURE; SINCE THERE WAS NO LONGER THE RISK OF ESPOUSING THE CAUSE OF A PEOPLE TOO FEEBLE TO DEFEND THEMSELVES."
The truth of this was soon displayed in the conduct of France. When the news arrived at Paris of the capture of Ticonderoga, and of the victorious march of Burgoyne towards Albany, events which seemed decisive in favour of the English, instructions had been immediately despatched to Nantz, and the other ports of the kingdom, that no American privateers should be suffered to enter them, except from indispensable necessity, as to repair their vessels, to obtain provisions, or to escape the perils of the sea. The American commissioners at Paris, in their disgust and despair, had almost broken off all negotiations with the French government; and they even endeavoured to open communications with the British ministry. But the British government, elated with the first successes of Burgoyne, refused to listen to any overtures for accommodation. But when the news of Saratoga reached Paris, the whole scene was changed. Franklin and his brother commissioners found all their difficulties with the French government vanish. The time seemed to have arrived for the House of Bourbon to take a full revenge for all its humiliations and losses in previous wars. In December a treaty was arranged, and formally signed in the February following, by which France acknowledged the INDEPENDENT UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. This was, of course, tantamount to a declaration of war with England. Spain soon followed France; and before long Holland took the same course. Largely aided by French fleets and troops, the Americans vigorously maintained the war against the armies which England, in spite of her European foes, continued to send across the Atlantic. But the struggle was too unequal to be maintained by this country for many years: and when the treaties of 1783 restored peace to the world, the independence of the United States was reluctantly recognized by their ancient parent and recent enemy, England.
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