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Photo by Jim Millard


A needed spark:
Part III
The story of Jane McCrea

by Emily L. Marcason

Even 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.

The 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

Photo by Jim Millard. Copyright © 2004 America's Historic Lakes
Jane McCrea was taken prisoner from a house that could have been similar in style to the one above. Photo by Jim Millard
Copyright © 2004 America's Historic Lakes

Years 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.


Sources/Notes:

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 Collection.

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