It is frequently a misfortune to have very brilliant men in charge of affairs. They expect too much of ordinary men. — Thucydides

Story of the Thirteen Colonies - Helene Guerber




Burgoyne's Surrender

The victory at Bennington not only saved the American cannon and supplies from the hands of the foe, but enabled Stark and the Green Mountain Boys to get between Burgoyne and Canada. They thus cut him off from all help from the north, whence he expected both food and ammunition for his men.

While Burgoyne was thus between Generals Schuyler and Stark, St. Leger, another British general, was coming along the Mohawk valley to join Burgoyne at Albany. On his way, however, he stopped to besiege Fort Stanwix, or Schuyler. Eight hundred volunteers set out to reinforce the garrison, but on the way thither, at Oriskany, they were surprised by the Indian chief Brant. Their leader, General Herkimer, mortally wounded in the very beginning of the engagement, bade his men place him under a tree, and then bravely said: "Now, go and fight. I will face the enemy." In spite of pain, he calmly lighted his pipe, and, while smoking, directed his troops with such vigor that before long the Indians were routed.

The garrison at Fort Stanwix, hearing shots in the forest, made a brave sortie, in which they captured five flags from St. Leger. These they hoisted above their fort, upside down, putting above them all a new flag made from pieces of a soldier's old shirt, a blue jacket, and a red flannel petticoat. Although fashioned from such queer materials, this flag bore thirteen alternate red and white stripes, and in a blue field in one corner was a wreath of thirteen white stars, the number of the United States. This was the new American flag suggested by Washington—whose coat of arms bore stars and stripes—and adopted by Congress in June, 1777.

But while the patriots thus fashioned a rude flag in the wilderness, and were the first to fight under this emblem, it was Mrs. Ross, of Philadelphia, who made the first American flag of this kind, in June, 1777.

When Schuyler heard of Herkimer's brave stand, and of the bold sortie from Fort Stanwix, he bade Arnold go and relieve the fort. Fearing that his force might not prove strong enough, Arnold made use of a trick. He told one of the prisoners, a half-witted lad, that he should be free if he would only do exactly as he was bidden. The lad agreed, and, clad in torn garments, ran to St. Leger's camp, loudly shouting, "The Americans are coming!" Of course the British and Indians crowded around him, and when the idiot was asked how many men were on the way, he answered by pointing mysteriously to the leaves on the trees overhead. This strange behavior made St. Leger believe that a large force was advancing, and created such a panic among his men that, in spite of all he could do, they beat a hasty retreat.

As St. Leger had gone back, and Howe had not come up the Hudson, Burgoyne was left entirely alone in the heart of the enemy's country. Schuyler was therefore on the point of winning a glorious victory, after all his hard work, when Congress suddenly bade him give up his command to General Gates. Although wounded to the quick by this order, Schuyler was too noble a man to show any anger. He gallantly said, "The country before everything," and asked permission of Gates to serve as an officer under him, since he could no longer command.

Burgoyne was surrounded, and seeing that he must fight, he advanced toward the American position on Bemis Heights, near which the first battle of Saratoga took place. But night came on before it was over, and for more than two weeks the armies stood face to face, watching each other closely, yet not daring to risk a new battle. Finally, seeing that he must fight, starve, or retreat, Burgoyne marched out again, to face the Americans in what is known as the battle of Stillwater.

Daniel Morgan and his sharpshooters, posted behind trees, carefully singled out the bravest men, and shot them with unerring aim, Indeed, such was their skill that it is said Morgan's riflemen could "toss up an apple and shoot all the seeds out of it as it fell."

Chief among the British officers on that day was General Fraser, who, when urged to take a less exposed position, simply replied: "My duty forbids me to fly from danger." Even while he was speaking thus, Morgan pointed him out to one of his best marksmen, saying: "That gallant officer is General Fraser. I admire and honor him; but he must die. Stand among those bushes, and do your duty." These orders were so promptly carried out that a moment later Fraser lay among the dead.

Arnold had been unjustly deprived of his command, but he could not keep out of the fray. Dashing to the front, he led the advance with his usual bravery, and forced his way into the British camp. But as he reached it he fell wounded in the same leg which had suffered at Quebec. His men tenderly bore him off the field of battle, where he had won a victory while General Gates was lingering in his tent.

During the battle, some women and children who were with the British army crouched in terror in the cellar of a neighboring house, listening to the shriek of the cannon balls overhead. The wounded in this building clamored for water, until, knowing the men would perish if they ventured out, a soldier's wife marched boldly down to the river. She did this several times, in full view of the Americans, who admired her courage and let her alone.

The battle had raged so fiercely that Burgoyne retreated to Saratoga, where he held a council of war to determine whether he should surrender. In the midst of his talk, an eighteen-pound cannon ball passed right over the table where he and his officers sat, so they quickly and wisely concluded that it was high time to give up (1777). The British soldiers, therefore, laid down their arms, and the Americans marched into their camp playing "Yankee Doodle," the tune they had adopted as a national air.

Burgoyne's surrender
BURGOYNE'S SURRENDER.


We are told that Burgoyne, on handing Gates his sword in token of surrender, proudly remarked: "The fortune of war, General Gates, has made me your prisoner"; to which Gates answered, as he gave it back: "I shall always be ready to bear testimony that it has not been through any fault of your Excellency." Later on, touched by the courtesy of Schuyler, whose house he had burned down, Burgoyne said: "You show me much kindness, though I have done you much injury." "That was the fate of war," said Schuyler, kindly; "let us say no more about it."



Contents

Front Matter

Our Country Long Ago
The Barbarous Indians
The Mounds
Where the Northmen Went
The Northmen in America
Queer Ideas
Prince Henry the Navigator
Youth of Columbus
Columbus and the Queen
"Land! Land!"
Columbus and the Savages
Home Again
Columbus Ill-treated
Death of Columbus
How America Got its Name
The Fountain of Youth
"The Father of Waters"
The French in Canada
French and Spanish Quarrels
The Sky City
Around the World
Nothing but Smoke
Smith's Adventures
The Jamestown Men
Smith Wounded
Pocahontas Visits England
Hudson and the Indians
The Mayflower
Plymouth Rock
The First Thanksgiving
Snake Skin and Bullets
The Beginning of Boston
Stories of Two Ministers
Williams and the Indians
The Quakers
The King-Killers
King Phillip's War
The Beginning of New York
Penn and the Indians
The Catholics in Maryland
The Old Dominion
Bacon's Rebellion
A Journey Inland
The Carolina Pirates
Charter Oak
Salem Witches
Down the Mississippi
La Salle's Adventures
Indians on the Warpath
Two Wars with the French
Washington's Boyhood
Washington's Journey
Washington's First Battle
Stories of Franklin
Braddock's Defeat
Wolfe at Quebec
England and her Colonies
The Stamp Tax
The Anger of the Colonies
The Boston Tea Party
The Minutemen
The Battle of Lexington
Bunker Hill
The Boston Boys
The British leave Boston
Declaration of Independence
A Lady's Way of Helping
Christmas Eve
The Fight at Bennington
Burgoyne's Surrender
Winter at Valley Forge
The Quaker Woman
Putnam's Adventures
Indian Cruelty
Boone in Kentucky
Famous Sea Fights
The "Swamp Fox"
The Poor Soldiers
The Spy
A Traitor's Death
Two Unselfish Women
Surrender of Cornwallis
British Flag hauled down
Washington's Farewell