Baroness described the 1st Battle of Saratoga

baroness-riedesel

Baroness Frederika von Riedesel described the 1st Battle of Saratoga also known as the Battle of Freeman’s Farm.

On the 19th of September, there was an affair between the two armies, which, it is true, ended to our advantage; although we were, nevertheless, obliged to make a halt at a place called Freeman’s farm. I was an eye witness of the whole affair; and as I knew that my husband was in the midst of it, I was full of care and anguish, and shivered at every shot, for I could hear every thing. I saw a great number of wounded, and what was still more harrowing, they even brought three of them into the house where I was. One of these was Major Harnage, the husband of a lady of our company; another, a lieutenant, whose wife, also, was of our acquaintance; and the third, a young English officer of the name of Young. Major Harnage, with his wife, lived in a room next to mine. He had received a shot through the lower part of the bowels, from which he suffered exceedingly. A few days after our arrival, I heard plaintive moans in another room near me, and learned that they came from Young, the young English officer just mentioned, who was lying very low.

I was the more interested in him, since a family of that name had shown me much courtesy during my sojourn in England. I tendered him my services, and sent him provisions and refreshments. He expressed a great desire to see his benefactress, as he called me. I went to him, and found him lying on a little straw, for he had lost his camp equipage. He was a young man, probably eighteen or nineteen years old; and, actually, the own nephew of the Mr. Young, whom I had known, and the only son of his parents. It was only for this reason that he grieved; on account of his own sufferings he uttered no complaint. He had bled considerably, and they wished to take off his leg, but he could not bring his mind to it, and now mortification had set in. I sent him pillows and coverings, and my women servants a mattress. I redoubled my care of him, and visited him every day, for which I received from the sufferer a thousand blessings. Finally, they attempted the amputation of the limb, but it was too late, and he died a few days afterward. As he occupied an apartment close to mine, and the walls were very thin, I could hear his last groans through the partition of my room.

The diary or journal of the German Baroness von Riedesel offers a vivid picture of British General John Burgoyne and the British army’s march from Canada to surrender at Saratoga. It also details the Baroness’ subsequent journey through America.  Her journal is the famous narrative by a woman from the entire war (and one of the most famous from the Northern Campaign of 1777).

Because she was traveling with her husband, a Brunswick General in Burgoyne’s army, the Baroness was subject to his fate. After the British surrender at Saratoga, the Baroness, her husband, their three children and almost 6,000 captured British and Hessian soldiers were marched to Boston. There the Baroness and her family were detained in comfortable surroundings for more than a year.  During their stay in New York, the Baroness gave birth to a daughter, who was named America.

To learn wish to learn more about the Battles of Saratoga, you can visit the Saratoga National Historical Park in the towns of Saratoga and Stillwater.  The park website is at https://www.nps.gov/sara/

The Schuylerville Public Library and all the libraries in the region have a number of books on the Battles of Saratoga.  One of the more popular and well written books is Richard M Ketchum’s Saratoga: Turning Point of America’s Revolutionary War. (1997) New York: Henry Holt. ISBN 978-0-8050-6123-9. OCLC 41397623

Saratoga is known for being the turning point of the American Revolution.  In 1777 −− the second year of America’s War for Independence −− the British sought to quell the rebellion with a single decisive military campaign. The British plan depended on using an invading army to divide the colonies along a natural corridor of rivers and lakes stretching from Canada to New York City.

The Americans’ determined resistance at Saratoga, coupled with British strategic blunders, resulted in a stunning defeat and surrender for a British army. This timely victory reversed American military fortunes, boosted patriot morale, and gained them international recognition and support, including military assistance. That is why studying the Battles of Saratoga is integral to a good understanding of the American freedoms.

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