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story of Jane McCrea
prior to Britain moving its forces to New York, the odds seemed
to favor the British forces and the colonists were starting to
feel apathetic. A spark was needed to encourage the Americans
to press on in this region and that spark came from a woman by
the name of Jane McCrea and one of Burgoyne’s Indians named
Wyandot Panther. 1
There have been several
stories told about Jane McCrea. She was 23-years-old, tall and
beautiful, with long flowing hair, which as all the stories
go, reached the ground. Jane was ironically a Tory despite her
brother, John, fighting with the Americans with General Schuyler.
She was also engaged to David Jones of Fort Edwards, who marched
with Burgoyne’s army.
This Lossing drawing depicts the grave
of Jane McCrea.
(Illustrations: Benson J. Lossing)
The tale has Jane going on July 27 to the house of Mrs. McNeil,
a widow who was the cousin to Brigadier-General Simon Frasier,
to meet her fiancé. It was that morning, two days prior
to British forces surrounding Fort Edward, that a party of Ottowan
Indians surprised an American picket. The Indians killed the commander
and took several prisoners.2 It is at this point that the stories
begin to take multiple versions.
traditional story of Jane McCrea then proclaims that the young
woman was soon after killed when two of her captors began to
argue over who could claim her as his prize. Wyandot then scalped
the girl and smashed her skull and stripped her naked. Wyandot
brought her scalp with him to the British camp where David Jones
recognized it immediately.3 Wyandot later stated that the girl
had been shot by American picketers. Burgoyne didn’t accept
this explanation and went to the Indian camp to inquire about
the murders. Burgoyne also declared that the murders would be
killed. In the end, Burgoyne granted clemency to the Indian
murders. As a result of these actions, Burgoyne lost the services
of the Indians and David Jones. 4
Jane McCrea was taken prisoner
from a house that could have been similar in style to the
Photo by Jim Millard
Copyright © 2004 America's Historic Lakes
later, Jones said he was disgusted by the actions of Burgoyne
for not bringing to justice the men who killed his lover,
and for refusing to grant Jones and his brother discharges.
They both ended up deserting. 5
The news of
the death of Jane McCrea spread throughout the colonies
and soon Americans were pulling together for the woman
they nicknamed “Yankee Joan of Arc.” America
seemed to disregard the girl’s political affiliation
and regarded her as just an American.
1 Rupert Furneaux, “The Battle of Saratoga”
(Stein and Day Publishers, New York 1971) 97.
2 lbid., 97.
3 lbid., 98.
4 lbid., 99.
5 lbid., 99.
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
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