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(Illustrations: Benson J. Lossing)


The eyes of a woman:
Part VIII

The battles through the eyes of the Baroness

by Emily L. Marcason

It was out two in the afternoon when the Baroness heard cannons and muskets firing and confusion began to sweep over the British camp. She gathered up her daughters and went to a house nearby to seek shelter, from the recommendation of her husband. Once inside the house, the cannonballs began to fly and one landed on the dwelling. Inside the house were other women and wounded soldiers. The whole evening the Baroness retreated to the basement, terrified at the silence of the night.1

The Baroness was a strong woman despite her fear and she began taking charge of the house. She directed the wounded be placed in one section of the basement, and the women in another. The Baroness testified that roughly eight cannonballs ripped through the house and the balls could be heard rolling about above their heads. One wounded soldier was on a table in the cellar when one such ball hit the house, ripping off one of his legs.2

 

"I was more dead than alive, not so much on account of our own danger as for the danger that hung over my husband, who kept inquiring how we were and sending me word that he was all right." 3

The Baroness busied herself by nursing the wounded soldiers, despite her husband's request for her to join the Americans to put her out of danger. The Baroness balked at his request, saying that she could not be polite to people with whom her husband would be fighting.4
Her husband finally gave in and allowed her to continue following the troops.


By the third day living in the house, the group needed water badly. The Baroness confirmed that a one soldier's wife was brave enough to venture out of the house and go to the river to fetch water. She was never harmed despite the battle raging around her. Later, some American soldiers told the Baroness that the woman was not endangered out of respect of her sex. 5

By the third day of battle men were filtering into the house that were not injured but who were cowards. The Baroness proclaimed that when all the occupants in the cellar of the house were taken prisoner, all were able to march, except for the wounded. The women, children and wounded stayed in the cellar for a total of six days.6 The Baroness remembered there being a talk of capitulation, and the delay cut off the opportunity for a British retreat. It did give the exhausted troops some time to relax.

Finally, General Burgoyne sent for all of his generals for a war council meeting, at which time he suggested that the capitulation made by the enemy be broken. However, it was finally decided that the capitulation would be neither "practicable nor advisable, and that was a lucky decision for us, because the Americans told us later that, had we broken the capitulation, we would all have been massacred." 7 Performing a massacre would have been an easy task for the Americans since during the British delay almost 20,000 troops were gathered compared to the British 5,000.8

 

It was Oct. 17 when the capitulation went into effect. The British generals went to the American Commanding General, General Gates, and laid down their weapons. By doing this, they were also surrendering themselves as prisoners of war.9

By the time Burgoyne's army was captured, the soldier's wives had endured extreme hardships that were easily visible. These women had been unable to repair or replace clothing during the final weeks of battle near Saratoga. There appearance was unimaginable. A militia private, Daniel Granger, described the scene immediately after the surrender:

"These troops had some women who wore short petticoats, barefooted & bare legged, with huge packs on their backs. Some were carrying a child & leading an other or two. They were silent, civil and looked quite subdued." 10


The Baroness and her daughters spent a few days with General Schuyler and his family at their home. Photo by Jim Millard
Copyright © 2004 America's Historic Lakes

General Riedesel sent for his wife and children to join him.11 The Baroness and her children arrived at the American camp and her fears of the enemy quickly melted away with their politeness. Soon after her arrival, she was on her way to Albany with her children to be guests of General Schuyler's family. The next day, Oct. 18, the Baroness arrived in Albany, the place the British troops had longed to be for so long. However, the Baroness was not arriving in Albany victors as she had once thought they would. She and her daughters stayed with the kind general and his family for three days. 12

The days that followed for the Baroness and her family were tedious. She and her husband, still be prisoners, were constantly monitored by American guards. One night in particular, the guards were being very loud outside the couple's door. When the General requested silence, the men proceeded to become louder. When the Baroness finally asked for silence, the men ceased all noise. "Here is proof that this nation also has respect for our sex." 13



-Part IX-
Saluting the Women


Sources/Notes:

1 Marvin Brown, "Baroness von Riedesel and the American Revolution: Journal and Correspondence of a tour of duty 1776-1783" (University of North Carolina Press: Published by Kingsport Press, Tennessee 1965) 58.

2 lbid., 58.

3 lbid., 59.

4 lbid., 60.

5 lbid., 61.

6 lbid., 61.

7 lbid., 63.

8 lbid., 63.

9 lbid., 63.

10 The Brigade Dispatch, "Notes on German Army Women" (The Brigade of the American Revolution, USA, 2000) 20.

11 Marvin Brown, "Baroness von Riedesel and the American Revolution: Journal and Correspondence of a tour of duty 1776-1783" (University of North Carolina Press: Published by Kingsport Press, Tennessee 1965) 63.

12 lbid., 65.

13 lbid., 66.

Illustrations by Benson J. Lossing and Felix Darley: Benson J. Lossing. "THE PICTORIAL FIELD-BOOK OF THE WAR OF 1812; OR, ILLUSTRATIONS, BY PEN AND PENCIL, OF THE HISTORY, BIOGRAPHY, SCENERY, RELICS, AND TRADITIONS OF THE LAST WAR FOR AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE." 1869. Courtesy of the Floyd Harwood Collection.

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