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
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.”
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
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.6
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.
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.
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
This is an illustration of the
Riedesel home in
(Illustrations: Benson J. Lossing)
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.
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
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.
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.
10 lbid., 50.
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