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The March:
Part IV
Preparing for battle

by Emily L. Marcason

General Riedesel was worried. He had always felt like a second-class citizen since his troops joined the British army, making him feel like an outsider.1 It was as if doom could be smelled in the air. From Burgoyne’s initial proposal presented on October 4 at a council of war, the General was against the idea of moving the majority of the army to Albany. 2

“The baron objected, saying it would take several days for the troops, impeded by cannon, to march on unfamiliar roads through the forest tangle, while all their provisions and the bridges that held promise of escape might be taken if the rebels learned what was going on and overran those eight hundred men.” 3

General Riedesel believed the army should retreat to Batten Kill and then to Ticonderoga and eventually to Canada for the winter.4 Burgoyne’s reputation was too much at stake to retreat.

Burgoyne decided not to retreat for the winter but to move on to Albany. The Americans, perhaps by as many as four to one, out numbered the British and yet Burgoyne still sent his best troops in the army on what the General thought to be a “reckless mission.” 5 Through the woods horses could be heard galloping and muffled drums softly beating, as the British continued its obvious mission through the woods.

“We traveled only a short distance each day and were verysorely tried, but nevertheless we were happy to be allowed to follow at all,” the Baroness wrote in her journal.

Photo by Jim Millard. Copyright © 2004 America's Historic Lakes
A view from Freeman Farm Overlook. Photo by Jim Millard
Copyright © 2004 America's Historic Lakes

She continued that the British soldiers and officers seemed in high spirits. Yet, according to the Baroness, one of the British army’s downfalls may have been that the battle plans were not kept secret. 7 Therefore, the ready Americans met every move the British army made. Saratoga seemingly proved to be no different.

On September 19, 1777, the Baroness recalled in her journal the first battle of Saratoga, which took place at Freeman’s Farm. She proclaimed in her journal that she was witness to the entire battle and was filled with anguish knowing that her husband was in harm’s way. She noted that the battle resulted in favor of the British but not without the loss of soldiers.

Three injured men were brought to the house where she was staying to receive medical care. The Baroness noted that one of the men, a major by the name of Harnage, was an acquaintance since he and his wife shared the room next to the Baroness. She became more intrigued with the young English officer on the side of her bedroom wall moaning pathetically.

This is an illustration of the Riedesel home in Saratoga.
(Illustrations: Benson J. Lossing)

After some investigation, she learned a young officer named Young was slowly dying from his wounds. He had lost a great deal of blood, and the surgeons had wanted to amputate his leg but nothing stopped the gangrene that had set in. The Baroness visited the young man daily and she wrote in her journal that since the walls were so thin, she could hear his moans until the very end.8 It seemed that the death the Baroness witnessed during this battle was a significant foreshadowing for the death she would yet encounter.

After the battle at Freeman’s Farm the British army was on the move again. This time, the Baroness wrote in her journal that she was allowed to follow in midst of the soldiers rather than separately.

The woods were beautiful she wrote, “but completely deserted, as all the people had fled before and had gone to strengthen the American army under General Gates.9 The Baroness knew that the American troops bulking up their military was a disadvantage for the British forces. “Every inhabitant is a born soldier and a good marksman, in addition, the thought of fighting for their country and for freedom made them braver than ever,” the Baroness wrote.10

-Part V-
The Fallen Soldiers


1 Richard Ketchum, “Saratoga: Turning point of America’s Revolutionary War” (Owl Book: Published by Henry Holt and Company, New York 1997) 391.

2 lbid., 388.

3 lbid., 388.

4 lbid., 388.

5 lbid., 391.

7 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) 47.

8 lbid., 48.

9 lbid., 49.

lbid., 49.

10 lbid., 50.


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