Robert Tomes.

Battles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) online

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tinued busy with their fortifica
tions, and the adjoining forest resounded
from mornino- till nio;ht with the strokes

O o

of the axe. Burgoyne was waiting anx
iously for further news from Sir Henry
Clinton. It was now the 7th of October,
and he had received no intelligence since
the arrival of the spy in his camp on the
night of the 20th of September. He knew
nothing of Clinton s success on the North
river of his capture of the forts Mont
gomery and Clinton ; of the advance of
the British fleet up the Hudson ; and of
the unopposed march of General Vaughan,
who was hastening to Albany, to bring
hope to Burgoyne of a junction, and of
a triumphant result to his eventful cam

The necessities, however, of the British
commander, made him impatient; and,
receiving no intelligence from Sir Henry
Clinton, he could wait no longer. His
provisions were so rapidly diminishing,
that he had been already obliged to re
duce the rations of each soldier ; and now

that he prepared to give battle, his wants
were so urgent, that he was about stri
king a blow more from necessity than
from policy.

General Gates, on the other hand, with
his daily increasing strength, and the con
stantly diminishing resources of his an
tagonist, was not disposed to hurry into
action, and put to the hazard of a battle
the certainties of a position which were
proving so fatal to his adversary. The
impatient Arnold, in the meanwhile, was
striving by his importunate communica
tions to provoke him to engage the ene
my : "I think it my duty," he wrote to
Gates, " (which nothing shall deter me
from doing) to acquaint you the army
.ire clamorous for action." The general-
in-chief, however, wisely gave no heed to
Arnold s advice, which was intrusively
urged more to irritate than to guide. He
prudently waited until Burgoyne should
make the first move. He did not wait

On the afternoon of the 7th of October,
the advanced guard of the American cen
tre suddenly beat to arms. The alarm
at once ran throughout the line, and the
troops hurried to their posts. General
Gates, who was at his headquarters, ea-



[1 ART 11.

srerlv caught at the sound of the drums,

o */ O

and immediately sent off Adjutant-Gen
eral Wilkinson to seek out the cause.
Wilkinson., mounting his horse, galloped
to the guard which had first struck up
the alarm, but could learn nothing more
than that some person had reported that
the British were advancing against the
American left. He then rode forward for
some distance in front, and as he reached
the rising ground he saw several columns
of the enemy moving into a field of stand
ing wheat to the left, about half a mile
from the line of the American encamp
ment. After getting into the field, the

O {~f

British troops formed a double line, and
the soldiers sat down, with their muskets
between their knees, while the foragers
began to cut the wheat. Some of their
officers in the meantime had mounted a
hut, and with their glasses were striving
to reconnoitre the American left, which
was almost hid from their view by the
intervening forests.

Wilkinson now galloped back to head
quarters, and reported to Gates what he
had seen.

" What do they seem to be doing ?"
asked the general.

" They are foraging, and endeavoring
to reconnoitre your left; and I think, sir,
they oiler you battle."

" What is the nature of the ground, and
what your opinion ?" rejoined Gates.

Their front is open, and their flanks
rest on woods, under cover of which they
may be attacked ; their right is skilled
by a lofty height," answered Wilkinson.
I would indulge them," he added.

" Well, then, order on Morgan to begin

the game," was the reply ; when Wilkin
son immediately galloped off to do as he
was bidden.

The British commander, having left
Generals Hamilton and Specht to guard
his line on the plain, and General Gall
the fortifications on the flats bordering
the Hudson river, had advanced with fif
teen hundred men, under the several com
mands of Generals Fraser, Phillips, and
De Reidesel, and ten pieces of artillery,
to the right of his encampment, and about
half a mile beyond the American left.
Burgoyne was now stationed where Wil
kinson had observed him, in the wheat-
field. The foragers having supplied them
selves, and Burgoyne having sent forward
a party of Canadians and Indians, began
to deploy his troops into line. In his
centre were placed some British and Ger
man regiments, under Phillips and De
Reidesel; on his left the grenadiers and
artillery, under Majors Ackland and Wil
liams, bordering a w r ood and a small ra
vine, through which flowed a rivulet; on
his extreme right was Lord Balcarras,
with the English light-infantry, and five
hundred men in advance led by General
Fraser, the latter being covered by the
well-wooded heights on the west of the
carnp, and by a " worm-fence."

The Canadians and Indians, being now
pushed forward, commenced an irregular
attack upon the advanced pickets on the
American left. They succeeded in dri
ving the guards before them close to the
American redoubt called " Fort Neilson,"
which had been raised by Gates to pro
tect his left toward the hills. Colonel
Morgan, however, having received orders




tomarch.was leading his riflemen through

O o

the woods, in order to gain the heights
to the right of the enemy, when he came
upon the Indian and Canadian party, and
soon forced it back to the British lines.

Morgan now continued his circuitous
route through the woods, and was hast
ening to begin his attack; while General
Gates, as had been agreed upon, was wait
ing for him to come up with the enemy s
right before he himself should send out a
force against their left, Sufficient time
had elapsed for Morgan to make his cir
cuit, and Gates now accordingly ordered
General Poor s brigade of New- York and
New-Hampshire troops to move against
Burgoy ne s left flank and front.

The two attacks were made simultane
ously. Morgan had reached the heights
in the very nick of time, and from the
cover of the woods poured down upon
the enemy below a torrent of fire. The
English light-infantry, under General Fra
ser, taken on their flank, were manoeuvring
to change their front in order to meet
the shock, when at this moment Major
Dearborn (who was Morgan s second in
command) pushed his corps rapidly for
ward. After delivering a close and mur
derous fire, the men leaped the "worm-
fence," and, charging with a loud shout,
forced the British to retire.

The young earl of Balcarras, however,
coming up to the aid of Fraser, the men
were rallied, and renewed the struggle.
General Fraser, in the full uniform of a
British field-officer, and mounted upon a
fine gray horse, was soon a marked object
to the American riflemen. One rifle-ball
had already cut in two the crupper, and

another had passed through the mane of
his charger; when his aid-de-camp, observ
ing his danger, rode up to his side, and
begged that, as the marksmen were cer
tainly singling him out, he would take a
less exposed position. " My duty forbids
me to fly from danger," firmly answered
the brave Fraser ; and he fell almost as
he spoke.

Morgan, having called two or three of
his best marksmen to his side, and, point
ing to the doomed Briton, had said : " Do
yon see that gallant officer ? That is Gen
eral Fraser. I respect and honor him ;
but it is necessary he should die !" He
fell, as we have seen, mortally wounded,
and was carried off the field. Fraser s
loss was deeply felt by the British troops ;
but Lord Balcarras spiritedly urged them
on to revenge his death, and they strug
gled manfully to hold their ground.

In the meantime, General Poor s bri
gade advanced steadily and silently, for
each soldier had been ordered not to fire
a shot until the first discharge from the
enemy. The British grenadiers and ar
tillery are drawn up on a rising ground
to the left of Burgoyne, and grim as the
solemn pines which cover them, stand
with poised musket and loaded cannon,
ready to begin their work of death upon
the approaching columns. The Ameri
cans reach the slope, and are rapidly but
deliberately marching up, when the ene
my open their fire. The Americans now
pour back a volley in return, and, with
out faltering, push right on, with a loud
hurrah. They rush up the hill, driving
the grenadiers before them, and strug
gling hand \ hand with the artillerymen



for the possession of the cannon. The
enemy rally and come back again to the
attack, and the conflict is renewed with
greater fierceness than ever: when final-


ly the Americans gain possession of the
ground, and the British are driven within
their encampment.

The spectacle which presented itself
on this part of the field of battle at that
moment was a mingled one of tragic hor
ror and wild excitement. Upon the earth,
within the space of ten or fifteen yards,
were stretched eighteen grenadiers in the
agonies of death. Three British officers,
two of them mortally wounded and bleed
ing profusely,lay with their heads propped
up against some stumps of trees. Colonel
Cilley, of New Hampshire, straddling a
brass twelve-pounder, loudly exulted in
its capture ; while a surgeon, who was
dressing a wound, raised his bloody hands,
exclaiming, "I have dipped my hands in
British blood !"

Such was the scene, as he tells us, wit
nessed by General Wilkinson, when he
came up with Ten Broeck s brigade of
militia, which he had been sent for to
reinforce General Poor s division, and aid
in the pursuit of the retreating enemy.

As he rode on, Wilkinson saw another
and sadder spectacle still. " Turning my
eyes," says he, " it was my fortune to ar
rest the purpose of a lad, thirteen or four
teen years old, in the act of taking aim
at a wounded officer who lay in the angle
of a worm-fence. Inquiring his rank, he
answered, I had the honor to command
the grenadiers. Of course, I knew him to
be Major Ackland, who had been brought
from the field to this place on the back

of a Captain Shimpton of his own corp/,
under a heavy fire, and was here depos
ited to save the lives of both. I dismount
ed, took him by the hand, and expressed
the hope that he was not badly wounded.
Not badly, he replied, but very incon
veniently; I am shot through both legs.
Will you, sir, have the goodness to have
me conveyed to your camp ? " Wilkin
son, having; ordered his servant to alight

/ o * >

from his horse, they lifted Ackland into
the saddle, and sent him to the American

When the fresh reinforcement of three
thousand New-York militia, under Ten
Broeck, together with Learned s brigade,
came up, the action became general. Mor
gan was slowly but surely forcing the
enemy s right before him ; their left had
given way before Poor s brigade ; but
the British grenadiers were disputing ev
ery inch of ground as they retired : and
now the reserved troops sent forward by
General Gates were hotly engaged with
Burgoyne s centre, principally composed
of Hessians, and led by the commander-
in-chief himself.

General Arnold, who had remained in
the camp, as he declared he would, was
without command. When the battle be
gan, however, his impetuous nature fret
ted greatly against the constraint of his
position. On the first beat to arms, he
mounted his black horse, and rode about
the camp, talking loudly and fiercely of
his wrongs, and, brandishing his sword,
threatened vengeance against those who
had dared to revile and injure him. Such
was his state of excitement, that it was
believed that, in his attempt to drown his


troubles in wine, he had drunk so freely
as to lose all sell-control. Dashing about
thus, in wild agitation, he no sooner saw
that the engagement with the enemy had
become general, than he spurred his horse
furiously into the midst of the fight, where
General Learned s brigade on the left
which had belonged to Arnold s own di
vision was bravely struggling with the
Hessians, who formed the British centre.
Here Arnold assumed the command, and,
riding in front along the line, he led the
American troops forward again and again,
and broke the ranks of the Germans at
every charge. But, gallantly as his men
pushed on, nothing seemed to satisfy the
mad fury of their commander, W 7 ho con
tinued to dash about wildly, spurring his
charger to the height of his speed, and,
flourishing his sword, fiercely to call upon
his troops to come on. In his mad ex
citement, he became so beside himself,
that he struck one of the officers upon
the head and severely wounded him, with
out being conscious (as he afterward de
clared) of the act. On the impulse of the
moment, the officer raised his fusee to
shoot Arnold, but, suddenly checking him
self, he began to remonstrate ; when the
general was off again, digging the spurs
into his horse, and riding to another part
of the field, like a madman.

General Gates being told of the erratic
movements of Arnold, sent Major Arm
strong after him, with orders. Arnold,
however, as soon as he caught a glimpse
of him, and probably aware of his object,
only quickened the speed of his horse,
and led the major such a break-neck chase

hither and thither, that he was fain to
give up the pursuit. He was now on the
American right, and again in a moment
to the extreme left, having dashed along
the whole length of the line, between the
fires of the two armies, without receiving
a wound or even the graze of a shot.

Morgan and Dearborn, on the Ameri
can left, had succeeded in driving Lord
Balcarras and his light-infantry within
their intrenchments. Arnold dashed up,
and, calling upon a company of riflemen
in advance to follow him, strove to force
his way into the enemy s camp. Finding
his efforts foiled here by the gallant re
sistance of Balcarras, he turned his horse
and galloped to his left, where Lieuten
ant Colonel Brooks was storming the ex
treme right of the British fortifications,
held by a reserve of Hessians, under Lieu
tenant-Colonel Breyman. In spite vabat-
tis and redoubts, the Germans are obliged
to give way, having first lost their spir
ited commander; and Arnold is among
the first to dash with his horse through
a sally-port right in the midst of the en
emy, who fire a last volley as they retire,
killing Arnold s black charger, and stretch
ing his rider upon the ground with a shot
in the same knee which was w T ounded at

By this success of the Americans on
the extreme right, the whole British en
campment was laid open ; but, as night
was rapidly coining on, and the troops
were fatigued by hard fighting, General
Gates did not further push his advantage,
but remained satisfied with the glorious
victory of the day.


[PART n.


Comparative Strength of the two Armies. The Killed and Wounded. The British retreat. A Trying Night. The
Baroness Ileidesel. Her Sad Experiences. Lady Harriet Ackland. A Wife mourning for her Lord. The Death
of General Fniser. His Burial. Honors to a Gidlant Enemy. A Dismal Night. The Journey of the Baroness
Ileidesel. Her Husband and Children. An Expected Attack. Saving the Valuables. The Baroness in Trouble.
General Gates takes Possession of the Abandoned Intrenchments. Lady Ackland. Woman s Devotion. Visit to
the American Camp. A tolerably Comfortable Night. A Happy Meeting. Continued Retreat of the British. Pur
suit by Gates. Headquarters in a Hovel. Alarm of the Enemy. Further Trials of the Baroness. A " Horrid


Oct. 7,

THE second battle near Bemis s
heights had lasted from noon until
night. General Gates had undoubtedly
much the superior force, although the

numbers on both sides actually

engaged in the fight were near
ly equal. General Burgoyne s whole ar
my amounted to less than six thousand ;
that of Gates to two or three thousand
more than that number. The loss of the
former in killed, wounded, and prisoners,
was about seven hundred, among whom
were a number of officers of high rank, in
cluding General Fraser, Lieutenant-Colo
nel Breyman, Sir Francis Clarke, an aid
of Burgoyne, and others. Burgoyne him
self was greatly exposed ; his hat was
shot through, and his waistcoat torn by
a ball. The Americans lost but one hun
dred and fifty in killed and wounded ;
General Arnold was the only commis
sioned officer who even received a con
tusion, and he was without a command.
Burgoyne, finding his position

untenable, broke up his camp
and moved his whole army in the midst
of the night after the battle, to some
heights near the river Hudson, and about

Oct. 7,

a mile to the northward of his former en
campment. The trials and incidents of
that night have been recorded in affect
ing words by the baroness Reidesel, who
entered in her narrative the events of the
whole day as well as of the night. "Se
vere trials," she writes, " awaited us ; and
on the 7th of October our misfortunes
began. I was at breakfast with my hus
band, and heard that something was in
tended. On the same day I expected
Generals Burgoyne, Phillips, and Fraser,
to dine with us. I saw a great move
ment among the troops : my husband told
me it was merely a reconnoissance, which
gave me no concern, as it often happened.
I walked out of the house and met sev
eral Indians, in their war-dresses, with
guns in their hands. When I asked them
where they were going, they cried out.
War! ivar / (meaning that they were
going to battle). This filled me with ap
prehension, and I had scarcely got home
before I heard reports of cannon and mus
ketry, which grew louder by degrees, till
at last the noise became excessive.

"About four o clock in the afternoon,
instead of the guests whom I expected,



General Eraser was brought on a litter,
mortally wounded. The table, which was
already set, was instantly removed, and
a bed placed in its stead for the wounded
general. I sat trembling in a corner ; the
noise grew louder and the alarm increased.
The thought that my husband might per
haps be brought in, wounded in the same
manner, was terrible to me, and distressed
me exceedingly. General Fraser said to
the surgeon : Tell me if my wound is
mortal ; do not flatter me. The ball had
passed through his body, and unhappily
lor the general he had eaten a very hearty
breakfast, by which the stomach was dis
tended ; and the ball, as the surgeon said,
had passed through it. I heard him often
exclaim, with a sigh : fatal ambition !
Poor General Burgoyne ! my poor
wife ! He was asked if he had any re
quest to make, to which he replied that,
if General Burgoyne would permit it,
he should like to be buried at six o clock
in the evening, on the top of a mountain,
in a redoubt which had been built there.
" 1 did not know which way to turn ;
all the other rooms were full of sick. Tow
ard evening I saw my husband coming;
then I forgot all my sorrows, and thanked
God that he was spared to me. He ate
in great haste, with me and his aid-de
camp, behind the house. We had been
told that we had the advantage of the
enemy, but the sorrowful faces I beheld
told a different tale ; and before my hus
band went away, he took me on one side,
and said everything was going very bad ;
that I must keep myself in readiness to
leave the place, but not to mention it to

any one. I made the pretence that I

would move the next morning into my
new house, and had everything packed
up ready.

" Lady Harriet Ackland had a tent no
far from our house ; in this she slept, and
the rest of the day she was in the camp.
All of a sudden, a man came to tell her
that her husband was mortally wounded,
and taken prisoner. On hearing this, she
became very miserable. We comforted
her by telling her that the wound was
only slight, and at the same time advised
her to go over to her husband, to do which
she would certainly obtain permission,
and then she could attend him herself.
She was a charming woman, and very
fond of him. I spent much of the night
in comforting her, and then went again
to my children, whom I had put to bed.

" I could not go to sleep, as I had Gen
eral Fraser and all the other wounded
gentlemen in my room ; and I was sadly
afraid my children would awake, and by
their crying disturb the dying man in his
last moments, who often addressed me,
and apologized for the trouble he gave
me. About three o clock in the morn
ing I was told he could not hold out much
longer. I had desired to be informed of
the near approach of this sad crisis ; and
I then wrapped up my children in their
clothes, and went with them into the room
below. About eight o clock in the morn
ing he died.

. . . . " The corpse was brought out, and
we saw all the generals attend it to the
mountain ; the chaplain, Mr. Bru-
denell,performed the funeral ser
vice, rendered unusually solemn and aw
ful from its being accompanied by con-




slant peals from the enemy s artillery.
Many cannon-balls flew close by me, but
I had my eyes directed toward the mount-
ain,where my husband was standing, amid
the fire of the enemy, and of course I
could not think of my own danger."

General Burgoyne had not hesitated to
grant the dying request of his brave and
true-hearted friend, notwithstanding the
delay and inconvenience which it caused
to the retreat he contemplated. Burgoyne
has also left a touching description of the
scene of the burial of General Fraser, and
recorded his admiration and love for the
gallant soldier : "The incessant cannon
ade daring the ceremony ; the steady at
titude and unaltered voice with which the
chaplain officiated, though frequently cov
ered with dust which the shot threw up
on all sides of him ; the mute but expres
sive mixture of sensibility and indigna
tion upon every countenance ; these ob
jects will remain to the last of life upon
the mind of every man who was present.
The growing darkness added to the scene
ry, and the whole marked a character of
that juncture which would make one of
the finest subjects for the pencil of a mas
ter that the field ever exhibited. To the
canvas and to the faithful page of a more
important historian, gallant friend ! I con
sign thy memory. There may thy tal
ents, thy manly virtues, their progress
and their period, find due distinction; and
long may they survive long after the
frail record of my pen shall be forgotten!"

The firing from the American lines was
in consequence of ignorance of the object
of the gathering upon the height. When
it was discovered, the artillery no longer

Ocl, 8,

threw hostile shot,but discharged minute-
guns in honor of the memory of Fraser,
whose gallantry was acknowledged both
by friend and foe.

As soon as Burgoyne had paid the last
sad duties to his brave comrade, he began
his retreat, The fires in the old
camp were left burning,and some
tents standing ; and orders were given to
the troops to move in profound silence.
The night was stormy; the rain poured
in torrents, and it was with the greatest
difficulty that the weak and half-starved
horses could draw the baggage-wagons
over the broken roads in which the wheels
sank deep into the mire. Constant halts
took place, to give the wearied troops
moments of rest, and to bring up by the
river the lagging boats, laden with the
artillery and stores. The sad march con
tinued from time to time throughout that
dismal night.

Burgoyne had left his sick and wound
ed behind him, in the hospital in his late
camp, with a letter to Gates, commend
ing them to the protection " which I feel,
wrote the British commander, " I should
show to an enemy in the same case."
Some of the wounded officers, however,
in spite of their injuries, crept from their
beds, and determined; rather than stay
behind, to suffer all the tortures of a pain
ful journey. The officers wives who were
with the army were sent on in advance.
The baroness Reidesel s calami was made
ready for her, but she would not consent
to go before the troops. The baron, see
ing her thus exposed to danger by re
maining in the rear, ordered the children
and servants into the carriage, and inti-




mated to his wife to follow and depart
without delay. " I still prayed," says the
baroness, "to remain; but my husband,
knowing my weak side, said. Well, then,

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 72 of 126)