« PreviousContinue »
gallant soldier is thus described by the Italian historian Botta:
"Toward midnight the body of General Frazer was buried in the British camp. His brother officers assembled sadly round while the funeral service was read over the remains of their brave comrade, and his body was committed to the hostile earth. The ceremony, always mournful and solemn of itself, was rendered even terrible by the sense of recent losses, of present and future dangers, and of regret for the deceased. Meanwhile the blaze and roar of the American artillery amid the natural darkness and stillness of the night came on the senses with startling awe. The grave had been dug within range of the enemy's batteries, and while the service was proceeding, a cannonball struck the ground close to the coffin, and spattered earth over the face of the officiating chaplain.”
Burgoyne now took up his last position on the heights near Saratoga; and hemmed in by the enemy, who refused any encounter, and baffled in all his attempts at finding a path of escape, he there lingered until famine compelled him to capitulate. The fortitude of the British army during this melancholy period has been justly eulogized by many native historians, but I prefer quoting the testimony of a foreign writer, as free from all possibility of partiality. Botta says:
"It exceeds the power of words to describe the pitiable condition to which the British army was now reduced. The troops were worn down by a series of toil, privation, sickness, and desperate fighting. They were abandoned by the Indians and Canadians, and the effective force of the whole army was now diminished by repeated and heavy losses, which had principally fallen on the best soldiers and the most distinguished officers, from 10,000 combatants to less than one-half that number. Of this remnant little more than 3,000 were English.
“In these circumstances, and thus weakened, they were invested by an army of four times their own numbers whose position extended three parts of a circle round them, who refused to fight them, as knowing their weakness, and who, from the nature of the ground, could not be attacked in any part. In this helpless condition, obliged to be constantly under arms, while the enemy's cannon played on every part of their camp, and even the American rifle-balls whistled in many parts of the lines, the troops of Burgoyne retained their customary firmness, and, while sinking under a hard necessity, they showed themselves worthy of a better fate. They could not be reproached with an action or a word which betrayed a want of temper or of fortitude.”
At length the 13th of October arrived, and as no prospect of assistance appeared, and the provisions were nearly exhausted, Burgoyne, by the unanimous advice of a council of war, sent a messenger to the American camp to treat of a Convention.
a General Gates in the first instance demanded that the royal army should surrender prisoners of
He also proposed that the British should ground their arms. Burgoyne replied, “This article is inadmissible in every extremity; sooner than this army will consent to ground their arms in their encampment, they will rush on the enemy, determined to take no quarter.” After various messages, a convention for the surrender of the army was settled which provided that “the troops under General Burgoyne were to march out of their camp with the honors of war, and the artillery of the intrenchments, to the verge of the river, where the arms and artillery were to be left. The arms to be piled by word of command from their own officers. A free passage was to be granted to the army under Lieutenant-General Burgoyne to Great Britain, upon condition of not serving again in North America during the present contest.”
The Articles of Capitulation were settled on the 15th of October; and on that very evening a messenger arrived from Clinton with an account of his successes, and with the tidings that part of his force had penetrated as far as Esopus, within fifty miles of Burgoyne's camp. But it was too late. The public faith was pledged; and the army was indeed too debilitated by fatigue and hunger to resist an attack, if made; and Gates certainly would have made it, if the Convention had been broken off. Accordingly, on the 17th, the Convention of Saratoga was carried into effect. By this Convention 5,790 men surrendered themselves as prisoners. The sick and wounded left in the camp when the British retreated to Saratoga, together with the numbers of the British, German and Canadian troops who were killed, wounded or taken, and who had deserted in the preceding part of the expedition, were reckoned to be 4,689.
The British sick and wounded who had fallen into the hands of the Americans after the battle of the 7th were treated with exemplary humanity; and when the Convention was executed, General
Gates showed a notable delicacy of feeling, which deserves the highest degree of honor. Every circumstance was avoided which could give the appearance of triumph. The American troops remained within their lines until the British had piled their arms; and when this was done, the vanquished
officers and soldiers were received with friendly kindness by their victors, and their immediate wants were promptly supplied. Discussions and disputes afterward arose as to some of the terms of the Convention, and the American Congress refused for a long time to carry into effect the article which provided for the return of Burgoyne's men to Europe; but no blame was imputed to General Gates or his army, who showed themselves to be generous as they had proved themselves to be brave.
Gates, after the victory, immediately dispatched Colonel Wilkinson to carry the happy tidings to Congress. On being introduced into the hall, he said: “The whole British army has laid down its arms at Saratoga; our own, full of vigor and courage, expect your orders. It is for your wisdom to decide where the country may still have need for their service.” Honors and rewards were liberally voted by the Congress to their conquering general and his men; and it would be difficult (says the Italian historian) to describe the transports of joy which the news of this event excited among the Americans. They began to flatter themselves with a still more happy future. No one any longer felt any doubt about their achieving their independence. All hoped, and with good reason, that a success of this importance would at length determine France, and the other European powers that waited for her example, to declare themselves in favor of America. “There could no longer be any question respecting the future, since there was no longer the risk of espousing the cause of a people too feeble to defend themselves."
The truth of this was soon displayed in the conduct of France. When the news arrived at Paris of the capture of Ticonderoga, and of the victorious march of Burgoyne toward Albany, events which seemed decisive in favor of the English, instructions had been immediately dispatched to Nantz, and the other ports of the kingdom, that no American privateers should be suffered to enter them, except from indispensable necessity; as to repair their vessels, to obtain provisions, or to escape the perils of the sea. The American commissioners at