“BLACK hearts,” says Jean Paul, “are like black eyes: when closely observed, they are found to be only brown.”
It would perhaps be difficult to conceive of a deeper shade of black-heartedness than was popularly attributed to the “ hireling Hessians ” by the more violent and unreasoning of American patriots during our Revolutionary War. Upon that unfortunate body of men, really more deserving of compassion than scorn, was poured out the concentrated essence of the hatred and bitterness called forth in a liberty-loving people by unnecessary oppression. But the passions are dead which were so stirringly alive one hundred years ago, and time, which has softened down King George from a tyrant and a monster into a stupid, obstinate, blundering old gentleman, deaf to all suggestions as to what was for his own best interest, has also bleached out the Hessians into at the worst a very light shade of brown.1 The letters and journal of the Baroness von Riedesel may do even more than this, for they unconsciously give a pleasant picture of a Hessian woman’s courage and devotion ; of her homely, housewifely qualities, and her cheery fortitude under most trying circumstances.
When Duke Charles of Brunswick conceived the brilliant idea of paying his enormous debts and providing the means for further extravagance by selling his subjects to King George of England at a few shillings a head, Friedrich Adolf von Riedesel was a young officer serving on the duke’s staff. His family belonged to the old nobility, and he himself was born in Lauterbach, in Upper Hesse, in 1738. At the age of fifteen he was sent to the University of Marburg to study jurisprudence. A Hessian battalion was quartered in Marburg at the time, and the brilliant uniforms and gay life of the soldiers proved infinitely more to the young baron’s taste than the black robes and dry study of the law. A change of profession was effected, notwithstanding his father’s unwillingness, and in 1755 the young man was sent to England with his regiment, which had been hired by King George. On their return to Germany, the Hessian troops came under the command of Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick, and young Riedesel soon became a favorite with the duke, He was rapidly advanced in rank, and in all the trusts reposed in him he displayed so much courage and ability that Frederick the Great himself invited him to enter the Prussian service. This, however, he declined to do, from a feeling of attachment to his own duke,—a decision he afterwards regretted deeply when he found himself transferred to a service which brought him neither emolument nor honor.
His wife, whom he had married in 1762, was the daughter of President von Massow, of Minden. They had spent fourteen untroubled years together, when in 1776 Colonel von Riedesel was appointed to the command of the Hessian troops to be sent to America, with the rank of major-general. Their family consisted of two young daughters: Augusta, aged five, and Frederika, aged two years. A third daughter, Caroline, was born a few weeks after the general’s departure. It had been settled that he should be followed by his wife as soon after her confinement as her health and that of her child would permit. The prospect of such a journey, with three little children, one a baby of ten weeks, across a much-dreaded ocean, into a wild country, among a hostile people, could not have presented any very alluring features to the mind of an unadventurous German woman ; but the spectre, more terrible even than this, which haunted Madame von Riedesel was the thought of separation from her husband. Her friends, who seem to have been somewhat of the pattern of Job’s, tried to reinforce her courage by lively descriptions of the difficulties and horrors she would have to undergo, though without shaking her purpose. She did not shrink from the perils of the awful sea ; she was ready to risk being scalped by the Indians ; and even the chance of being forced to follow the general American custom of living on the flesh of horses and cats did not terrify her. But when her mother wrote to remonstrate with and reproach her for her intention, her grief was great.
“Your last letter,” the daughter wrote iu reply, “ drove me nearly frantic. I could not endure the idea of being separated from you for so long a time, and yet the thought that you could ask me, could even command me, to remain here makes me shudder. To stay here would be impossible, when the best and kindest of husbands permits me to follow him. Neither love, duty, nor conscience would allow it. It is a wife’s duty to forsake all and follow her husband. My love for him is well known to you, as well as his for me and for the children.”
Fortunately for her comfort on the journey, she was accompanied by an old servant of her husband’s, who had insisted on following his mistress’s fortunes, and who devoted himself to her and her children with untiring fidelity during all the years of their wanderings.
The little company set out on the 14th of May, 1776, impelled by almost as desperate a courage as that which sustained the passengers in the Mayflower, on its first voyage across the unknown sea. Traveling iu Germany itself, at that time, seemed hardly more safe than it had been pictured to her in the wild country to which she was going.
“In Maestricht,” she says, “I was warned to be on my guard, as the roads were very unsafe on account of highway robbers, one hundred and thirty of whom had been executed within a fortnight; part of them having been hanged, and the rest put to death in various ways. These, however, were not a quarter part of those still at large, who were hanged without trial wherever they happened to he caught. This information terrified me greatly, and I determined not to travel by night; but as the horses I was provided with were very poor, I was obliged to pass through a dense forest just at dusk, when something swinging from a tree was suddenly thrust through the open window of the carriage. I caught at it, and as I felt something rough I asked what it was. It proved to be the body of a robber who had been hanged, and my hand had come in contact with his woolen stockings.
“ Before I had recovered from the shock of this encounter, I was still more frightened by the stopping of the carriage before a very lonely house in this same wood, the postilions declaring they would go no farther. The place was called Hune, and I shall never forget it. A man of suspicious appearance received us, and led us into a very remote chamber, where I found only one bed. It was cold, and I had a fire made up in the huge fireplace. Our supper consisted of tea and very coarse bread. My faithful Röchel came to me with an anxious face, and said, ‘ I am sure things are not all right here. There is a room full of firearms out there, and most of the people seem to be away. I have n’t the least doubt that they are robbers. But I shall sit up before your door all night with my gun, and I will sell my life dearly. The other servant shall sitin the carriage with his gun, too.’
“ All this naturally made my slumbers anything but tranquil. I sat down on a chair and laid my head on the bed. But at last I fell asleep, and my joy was great, when I awoke and heard that it was four o’clock in the morning, and that everything was ready for our departure. I put my head out of the window, and perceived in the wood which surrounded us a great number of nightingales, which by their sweet singing made me forget the terrors of the past night.”
The songs of the nightingales proved a favorable omen for the travelers, for they had no more adventures of an unpleasant nature, and arrived safely at Calais.
To the home-keeping German woman the terrors of this unknown sea were almost as great as those of the robberhaunted forest. To quote her own words : —•
“ I was obliged to spend two days in Calais, on account of unfavorable winds. At length I was summoned to the ship. I must confess that my heart began to beat faster. My elder children were very happy, for in order to keep up their courage I had told them that when we had crossed the sea they would see their father. I appeared as brave as I could, so that they should not be afraid. We drove to the wharf. The boatmen took the two elder children and carried them to the boat. I had the youngest in my arms. I looked round after the children, and saw, to my great astonishment, that they were already in the boat, and were jumping about among the sailors. I had my baby lifted in, too; and then I had magnet3 enough to give me courage to follow myself, and I did not find it so bad as I had thought it would be.”
Madame von Riedesel had expected to proceed at once to America ; but she was detained in England month after month, by various circumstances for which she was not responsible, and it was not until April 16, 1777, that she finally sailed from Portsmouth for Quebec, where she landed safely after a voyage of two months. Here she learned, to her great disappointment, that her husband had already left Quebec to join the army in the field, and she made preparations to follow immediately.
The weather was frightful, and it was a weary journey, made partly in a small boat, partly in an uncomfortable Quebec calèche, and partly in a birch-bark canoe, in which she had to cross three rivers in a heavy storm of rain and hail. When she at length arrived at Trois-Rivières, the Hessian officers who met her threw up their hands in horror at the bare thought of the risk she had run in her frail bark with three little children, where the slightest movement would have been almost certain destruction. Though the weather still continued to be stormy, the stout-hearted baroness determinedly pushed on to Chamblé, only to find, when she reached there, that her husband had started to meet her, had missed her on the road, and could not be back until the following day. When he did arrive, they had only two happy days together, and then General von Riedesel was obliged to return to his troops, while his wife went back to Trois Rivières, where she led an anxious life until permitted t.o rejoin her husband at Fort Edward. Only a few days after she had reached the camp, there came the announcement that they were cut off from Canada by the American forces; so that this proved to have been the last opportunity she would have had for making the journey for three years. She kept with the army from this time until the surrender of Burgoyne at Saratoga.
The army began to move on the 11th of September, 1777. “At first,” she writes, “all went well. We had the pleasant hope of certain victory and of coming into the Promised Land ; and when we passed the Hudson River, and General Burgoyne said, ‘ Englishmen never give in,’ we were all of good courage. But what surprised me most was that the officers’ wives knew beforehand all the expeditions that were to he made ; and this seemed all the more extraordinary to me, as I had observed in Duke Ferdinand’s army, during the Seven Years’ War, that everything of the kind was kept a profound secret. Here, however, the Americans were informed in advance of all our plans, and wherever we went they were all ready for us, greatly to our disadvantage and loss. On the 19th of September there was a skirmish, which terminated fortunately for us, but it obliged us to make a halt at a place called Freeman’s Farm.
. . . When we continued our march I had a large calèche made, in which I had room enough for my three children and my two women ; and so I followed the army among the soldiers, who sang and were merry and eager to conquer. We passed through dense forests and a magnificent country, which, however, was deserted, as all the inhabitants fled before us. and flocked to the army of the American General Gates. This was unfortunate for us, as every one of these country people is a soldier by nature, and can shoot extremely well ; and besides, the thought that they are fighting for their country and for freedom gives them all the more courage. At length the whole army was obliged to encamp for a while. . . . On the 7th of October my husband, with all the staff of generals, again broke camp. From that moment all our misfortunes began. I was at breakfast with my husband, when I discovered that something was about to occur. General Fraser, and I think Generals Burgoyne and Phillips also, were to dine with me that day. I noticed a great commotion among the troops, but my husband said there was to be a reconnoissance, which did not strike me as anything remarkable, as it often happened. As I was going back to my block-house, a great many Indians met me, in full war-paint and with their guns. When I asked them where they were going, they cried out, ‘ War ! War!’ That meant that they were going to battle, and I was quite overcome. I had hardly reached home when I heard shots, and the firing gradually grew louder, till at last the noise was dreadful. It was a fearful cannonade, and I was more dead than alive. About three o’clock in the afternoon, instead of the company who should have arrived, poor General Fraser, one of the expected guests, was brought in on a litter, mortally wounded. Our dinner-table, which was already laid, was taken away, and a bed was put up in its place for the general. I sat in a corner of the room, shivering and quaking. The thought that my husband might be brought in like that was horrible, and tortured me unceasingly. . . .
“At last, toward evening, my husband came. Then I forgot all my trouble, and thanked God that he had been spared to me. We had been told that we had the advantage, but the sad and downcast faces that I saw proved the contrary; and before my husband left me he took me aside, and told me that things were going very badly, and that I must get ready to start at any time, though without letting my preparations be perceived. So on the pretext of moving into my new house on the morrow, I had everything packed up. . . .
“ We set off on the evening of the 8th. The utmost stillness was enjoined upon us ; fires were made up and many tents left standing, to make the enemy believe that the camp was still there. And so we went on during the whole night. Frilzchen was afraid, and often began to cry; and I had to keep my handkerchief before her mouth, so that we should not be discovered.
“ At six o’clock in the morning we halted, to the surprise of all. General Burgoyne had the cannon brought up and counted, which displeased every one, for with a few good marches more we should have been in safety. ... At length we set off again ; but we had marched scarcely an hour when another halt was made, because we had caught sight of the enemy. There were about two hundred men, who had come out to reconnoitre, and our troops might have captured them easily if General Burgoyne had not lost his head. The rain poured in torrents, and Lady Acland had her tent put up. . . . The Indians had become disheartened, and one after another deserted. They turn cowards at the slightest obstacle, especially when there is no plunder for them. My maid did nothing but tear her hair and bewail her hard fate. . . .
“ Towards evening we reached Saratoga, which was only half an hour’s journey from the place where we had spent the whole day. I was wet through and through by the rain, and had to remain so the whole night, as I had no opportunity of changing my wet garments. So I sat down before a good fire and undressed my children, and we lay down together on some straw. I asked General Phillips, who came up to me, why we did not continue our march while we had time, as my husband had engaged to cover our retreat and bring the army through. ‘ Poor woman ! ’ he replied, ‘ I admire you. Wet through as you are, you still have the courage to go on in this weather. I wish you were our commanding general ! He feels too tired to go on, and is going to spend the night here, and give us a supper.’
“ It is a fact that General Burgoyne was very fond of amusement, and spent half the night singing and drinking with his mistress, the wife of a commissary, who was as fond of champagne as lie was.
“ At seven o’clock in the morning of the 10th, I drank a little tea, and we hoped every moment that orders would be given to start. General Burgoyne ordered the beautiful houses and mills in Saratoga, which belonged to General Schuyler, to be set on fire. An English officer brought some excellent broth, which he insisted on sharing with me, and we began our march again, though only to another place not very far distant. The greatest misery and the wildest disorder prevailed in the army. The commissary had forgotten to distribute provisions among the troops. We had cattle enough, but not one had been slaughtered. More than thirty officers, who could not bear their hunger any longer, came to me. I had coffee and tea made for them, and divided among them all the provisions which I always had in my carriage ; for we had a cook who, although he was an arrant knave, understood his business very well, and often crossed the little rivers in the night, as we afterwards discovered, and stole sheep and fowls and pigs from the country people, which he made us pay dearly for. At last all my resources were exhausted, and in my despair at being unable to give more assistance I called to Adjutant General Patterson, who came by just then, and said to him with some vehemence, —for I felt the matter deeply. — ‘ Come and see these officers, who have been wounded in the common cause, and who are quite destitute because they have not received what is due them. It is your duty to represent the matter to the general.’
“ He was moved by my words, and the consequence was that a quarter of an hour after, General Burgoyne came to me himself, and thanked me with a great deal of pathos for reminding him of his duty. He added that a commander was much to be pitied when he was not well served and his orders were not obeyed. I replied that I begged his pardon for having interfered in a matter which, as I well knew, was not a woman’s province, but that it was impossible for me to keep silence when I saw so many brave men suffering and I had no more to give them. He thanked me again (though I feel certain that in his heart he never forgave me for this) ; and going from me to the officers, he told them that he was sorry for what had happened, but that he had made everything right by his orders. Why had they not come to him, as his kitchen was always at their service ? They replied that English officers were not in the habit of visiting their general’s kitchen, and that they had taken food from me with pleasure, because they felt assured I gave it with my whole heart. Upon this he gave the strictest orders that the provisions should he properly distributed. However, this lasted only a short time, and then things were no better than before. . . .
“ Our carriages were got ready for departure. All the army voted for the retreat, and my husband engaged to make it practicable provided no more time should be lost. But General Burgoyne could not make up his mind to it, and lost everything through his hesitation. About two o’clock in the afternoon we again heard cannon and musketry, and all was consternation and alarm. My husband sent me word to take refuge for the present in a house not far distant. I got into my calèche, with my children ; and we were just approaching the house, when I saw on the other side of the river five or six men, who were pointing their muskets at us. Almost unconsciously I thrust the children into the bottom of the calèche, and threw myself over them. The men fired at the same moment, and shattered the arm of a poor English soldier who was already wounded, and was also going to take refuge in the house. Immediately after our arrival a fearful cannonade began, which was chiefly directed towards the house where we had taken shelter; probably because the enemy believed, as they saw so many people streaming towards it, that the generals were there. Alas! there was no one but women and the wounded.
“ We were at last obliged to go into the cellar, where I camped down in a corner near the door. My children lay on the ground, with their heads in my lap. We remained thus through the whole night. The horrible smells, my children’s cries, and more than all my own anxiety prevented me from closing my eyes.
“ The next morning the frightful cannonade began again, but from the other side. Eleven cannon-balls crashed into the house, and we could hear them rolling over our heads. A poor soldier, who had been laid out on a table to have his leg taken off, had his other leg shot away in the mean time by a cannon-ball. His comrades all ran away ; and when they came to him again they found that he had rolled himself into a corner, in his terror, and was scarcely breathing. I was more dead than alive, not so much at the thought of our own danger as at that of my husband, who, however, often sent to ask how we were, and to let us know’ that he was well. . . .
“ We passed this night like the previous one. My husband came once to visit me, which lessened ray anxiety and gave me courage again. In the morning we began to arrange our quarters a little better. Major Hamish and his wife and Mrs. Reynolds made a little room for themselves in a corner, with curtains before it. They offered to arrange another for me in the same way, but I preferred to stay near the door, so I could get out easily in case of fire. I had some straw piled up and laid my beds on it, where I slept with my children ; not very far away were my women. Opposite were three English officers, who, though wounded, were determined not to stay behind in case of retreat. They all three swore solemnly that if we were obliged to retreat suddenly they would not leave me behind, and each of them would take one of my children on his horse. My husband’s horse was always kept ready saddled for me. He often thought of sending me to the Americans, to remove me from danger ; but I represented to him that it would be far harder than anything I had yet endured to be with people to whom I must be under obligations, while my husband was fighting against them; so he promised that I should keep on with the army. Sometimes, in the night, my fear lest he might have marched away without me became so strong that I would creep out of my cellar to reassure myself. When I had seen the troops lying about before the fire, in the already rather cold nights, I could sleep more quietly.
“ Our cook kept us supplied with food, but we found it hard to get water; and I was often obliged to quench my thirst .with wine, and to give it to the children. . . . At last we found a soldier’s wife who had the courage to bring water from the river, —■ a task which no one had been willing to undertake, because the enemy shot all the men who went to the river. They did not harm this woman out of respect to her sex, as they afterwards told us themselves.
“ We were six days in this dreadful condition. At last there began to be talk of capitulating, as we had hesitated too long, and retreat was now impossible. An armistice was proclaimed, and my husband, who was quite exhausted, was able for the first time for weeks to go to bed within four walls. In order that he might not be disturbed, I had a good bed made for him in a small room, and I slept with my children and my women in the adjoining parlor. But about one o’clock in the morning, some one came and asked to speak with him. Sorely against my will, I was obliged to waken him. I could see that the message was not an agreeable one, as he dispatched the man at once to headquarters, and grumblingly lay down again. Soon after General Burgoyne summoned all the other generals and staff officers to a council of war, to take place early in the morning ; at which he proposed, on the strength of a false report which he had received, to break the capitulation which he had already concluded with the enemy. But it was at length decided that this was neither advisable nor practicable ; a fortunate circumstance for us, for the Americans told us afterwards that if we had broken the capitulation they would have massacred us all, which they could the more easily have done as we had not more than four or five thousand men, and we had allowed them time to collect more than twenty thousand.
“ On the morning of the 1 6th of October my husband had to return to his post and I to my cellar. . . . On the 17th the terms of capitulation were completed. The general surrendered to Gates, the American commander in chief, and the troops laid down their arms and gave themselves up as prisoners of war.
“ At length my husband sent a messenger to me to say that I was to come to him with the children. So I seated myself in my calèche, and in driving through the American camp I made the comforting observation that no one looked at us with insulting glances ; that they all greeted me, and even showed compassion in their faces at seeing a woman with little children. I confess that I had felt afraid of going among the enemy, which was quite a new experience for me. As I approached the tent, a very fine-looking man came towards me, took the children out of the carriage, kissed and caressed them, and then, with tears in his eyes, helped me to descend. ‘You are trembling,’ he said to me. ‘ Don’t be afraid ! ’
“‘No,’ I replied; ‘for you look so kind, and you have been so tender with my children, that you give me courage.’
“ He then led me to General Gates’s tent, where I found Generals Burgoyne and Phillips, who seemed to be on a very friendly footing with the former. Burgoyne said to me, ’ Have no further anxiety, for your troubles are all over now.’
“ I answered that I certainly need not feel anxiety, since our commander in chief had none, and I saw him on such good terms with General Gates. All the generals stayed to dinner with General Gates. The same officer who had received me so kindly came up to me, and said, ’ You would find it embarrassing to dine with all these gentlemen. Come with your children into my tent, where I will give you a dinner; frugal, it is true, but offered with hearty goodwill.’ ’ I am sure,’ I replied. ’ you must be a husband and father, because you are so kind to me.’ Upon this I learned that he was the American General Schuyler. He furnished me with excellent smoked tongue, beefsteak, potatoes, and good bread and butter. I have never enjoyed a dinner so much. I felt calmer, and 1 saw that all around me were so ; and what was more than all, my husband was now entirely out of danger.
“ When we had finished dinner the General invited me to stay at his house, near Albany, and told me that General Burgoyne would be there, too. When I asked my husband what I should do, he advised me to accept the invitation ; and as it was a two days’ journey, and it was already five o’ clock in the afternoon, he urged me to go on before, and spend the night at a place about three hours distant. General Schuyler had the kindness to send a French officer to escort me thither. When we reached the house where I was to stay, he left me and went back. . . .
“ Two days after we reached Albany, where we had so often longed to be. But we did not come as conquerors, as we had expected. We were received by the good General Schuyler and his wife and daughters, not as enemies, but in the kindest manner; and they showed the greatest attention to us, and to General Burgoyne as well, though he had had their beautifully furnished houses burnt down, and, as every one said, without any real necessity. But they behaved like people who knew how to forget their own losses in the misfortunes of others. This generosity touched General Burgoyne greatly, and he said to General Schuyler, ’ How can you show so much kindness to me who have done you so great an injury ! ’ ‘ Oh, that is the fortune of war,’replied the noble man. ’ Let us say no more about it.’
“ We stayed with them three days, and they were reluctant to let us go.”
Though the perils of war were now over for our baroness and her family, they had by no means said good-by to all disagreeable adventures. They traveled slowly from Albany to Boston, where they were to spend the winter. To keep off the cold the baroness had had her carriage covered with coarse painted linen, which gave it the appearance of the wild beast cart of a traveling menagerie. This so aroused the curiosity of the people of the villages through which she passed that she was often obliged to descend from her carriage and show herself, to gratify their curiosity to see the Hessian general’s wife. This she did with great good humor, finding it only a source of amusement; but to her husband, already depressed by ill-health and a gnawing sense of failure and disgrace, it added one pang more to the bitterness of his captivity.
Her impressions of Boston were not very favorable. The family were lodged in the house of a countryman, and were all crowded into one room under the roof; sleeping on straw, which they strewed on the floor. As a favor, their host permitted them to take their meals in his room, where all the family ate and slept. The woman of the house, to revenge herself for the trouble they gave her, always took occasion, while they were at dinner, to comb out her children’s hair, and was deaf to all entreaties to choose another time for the operation. The baroness pronounces Boston a very pretty city, “ but inhabited by ardent patriots, and full of disagreeable people.”
They remained here three weeks, and then were removed to Cambridge, where they were sumptuously lodged in one of the finest houses in the town, which had formerly belonged to a wealthy royalist. In this house they spent a comfortable and pleasant year, at the end of which they were ordered to Virginia. During this journey they endured many privations, often being quite without food, owing to becoming separated from their provision-wagon.
In Virginia, she says, “ we passed through the most picturesque scenery, but so savage in its wildness that it made me shudder; and we often risked our lives in passing over the breakneck roads, where we suffered greatly from the cold, and, what was worse, from want of food. When we entered Virginia, and were only a day’s journey from our place of destination, we had nothing left but our tea and a biscuit apiece, and could not get anything. One man gave me a handful of dried fruit, on the way. At noon we reached a house, where I begged for something to eat. The people refused it with hard words, saying that they had nothing for dogs of royalists. . . . The roads were frightful, the horses overloaded, my three children quite white and fainting with hunger, and for the first time I felt quite discouraged. ... At length an adjutant obtained from a guide a small piece of old bread, which had been gnawed all round, as it was too hard to break. . . .
“ One evening we came to a pretty place, but our provision-wagon was unable to follow us, and we could not endure our hunger any longer. As I saw an abundance of meat in the house where we had taken shelter, I begged the hostess to let me have some. ’ I have all kinds,’ she replied: ’ there is beef and veal and mutton.’ My mouth watered as she spoke. ’ Give me some,’ I said, ’ and I will pay you well.’ She snapped her fingers in my face, and said, ’ You shall not have a bit of it. Why did you come out of your own country to kill us and to devour our substance ? Now you are prisoners, and it is our turn to torment you.’ ’ But see these poor children,’ I pleaded ; ’ they are nearly dead with hunger.’ She remained unmoved ; but when my three-years-old Caroline went up to her, took her hand, and said to her in English, ’ Good woman, I am very hungry,’ she could hold out no longer, but took her into the kitchen and gave her an egg. ’ No,’ said the little girl, ’ I have two sisters.’ The woman was touched by this, and gave her three eggs, saying, ’ I am ashamed of myself, but I can’t resist the child.’ She afterwards softened so far as to offer me some bread and milk.”
Such scenes were of frequent occurrence on the journey. The family reached Colle, their destination, in the middle of February, 1779.
A lack of space precludes the possibility of giving many details of the life of the captives in Virginia, where they built them a house and were surrounded by a pleasant circle of friends, among whom were Madame Garel and General Washington’s family. General von Riedesel’s health suffered from the climate, and his spirits from the galling sense of captivity; while his wife was always busy and cheery, saddened only when anything went wrong with her husband and children.
In August of that same year, they traveled to New York, with the expectation of being exchanged ; visiting Madame Garel at her plantation on the way. Here Madame von Riedesel was much struck by the beautiful aspect presented by the vineyards, which were planted on the slope of a hill; the vines alternating with roses and amaranths, making a perfect bower of bloom. Madame Garel’s husband did not please her so well as the vineyards, as he proved brusque and unamiable.
They had scarcely arrived in New York when it was announced to them that the exchange had not been effected, and they must return to Virginia at once. This was a severe blow, especially to Madame von Riedesel, who was in a delicate state of health, and had suffered greatly from the journey. However, they were permitted to await the decision of Congress at Bethlehem, where they lodged with a Moravian brother, who proved his indifference to this world’s goods by bringing them in a bill, at the end of six weeks, of thirty-two thousand dollars, for the board of sixteen persons. This appalling sum was in paper money, however, and sounds more moderate when reduced to two thousand dollars in gold ; though even then board in Bethlehem could hardly be considered cheap.
In November, they were allowed to go to New York on parole. Here a fourth daughter was born to them, whom they named America, from the country of her birth. They received many kindnesses from the English officers, who visited them frequently.
“ The last time General Clinton came to us,” writes the baroness, " he brought with him the unhappy and since famous Major André, who started the next day on the fatal expedition on which he was captured by the Americans and hanged as a spy. It was very sad that this admirable young man should have been the victim of his zeal and kindness of heart, which led him to undertake such a very doubtful enterprise in order to spare another and older officer, whose risk would have been greater because he was so much better known.”
In 1780 General von Riedesel was exchanged, and was given command at Long Island by General Clinton. For some months the family were obliged to be constantly on the alert, for fear of being captured in their beds; and General von Riedesel’s dread of again being a prisoner was so great that he could sleep only when he was sure that his wife was awake.
This constant anxiety and the ill effects of the climate told still more upon his already broken health, and at his own desire he was transferred to Quebec, where he and his family remained until their return to Germany in 1783. Here a fifth daughter was born, whom they named Canada, and who lived only a few months. Madame von Riedesel gives an interesting account of her life in Quebec.
In September, 1783, they arrived in England, where they were welcomed most graciously by the King and Queen.
“ One day when we were at dinner,” writes the baroness, “ Lady Howard, the Queen’s lady in waiting, sent us word that the Queen would receive us at six o’clock that evening. As my court-dress was not done, and I had nothing else but a very simple Anglaise,I sent apologies at once, which I repeated myself when we had the honor to be presented to their majesties, who were together. But the Queen, who as well as the King received us with extreme graciousness, replied very kindly, ‘ We do not think of the clothes of persons we are glad to see.’ She was surrounded by all the princesses, her daughters. We all sat down around the hearth in a half-circle, — the Queen, the princesses, the lady in waiting, and I, — while my husband stood before the fire with the King. Tea and cakes were passed round. I sat between the Queen and one of the princesses, and had to tell them all ray adventures. The Queen said to me, ‘ I have followed your movements all the time and have often inquired about you, and always heard with pleasure that you were well and happy and were beloved by every one.’
“ I had a terrible cough, and Princess Sophia went herself to get some black currant jelly, which she recommended as a very good remedy, and insisted on my taking a pot of it.
“ At nine o’clock in the evening the Prince of Wales came in. His youngest sisters ran up to him, and he embraced them and danced them about. The royal family have so eminently the gift of making one feel at ease that one fancies one’s self in a happy family circle of one’s own rank. We stayed till ten o’clock, the King talking a great deal about America with my husband, and in German too, which he speaks perfectly. My husband was astonished at his wonderful memory. When we took leave of the Queen, she had the kindness to say that she hoped we would not leave England very soon, as she would like to see me again. But as we learned that the fleet which was to convey us with our troops back to Germany was waiting only for us, we had to hasten our departure, so that we could not wait upon the royal family again.”
It was with tears of thankfulness that the baroness returned to her home, but it was not a triumphant home-coming for her husband. Of the 4300 men he had carried away, but 2600 came back with him; and he himself had written to his duke “ that he had lost in America the reputation he had won in Europe, and considered himself the most unfortunate of men.” This feeling never left him, nor did he ever again have an opportunity of distinguishing himself in the field.
His misfortunes in his professional life were balanced by peace and happiness in his domestic relations. A son was born to him after his return, by whose death in 1854 the male line of his branch of the family became extinct. His daughters married men of rank, and Frederika was remarkable for her intellectual ability and for her friendships with celebrated men. He died in the beginning of the century, his wife surviving him about eight years.
- In the year 1799, Count Henry XLIV. of Reuss-Köstritz, son-in-law of the Baroness, collected and had printed for circulation among friends and relatives, the American letters and journal of his mother-in-law. That edition was succeeded in the following year by one intended for public circulation. The extracts given in this article are taken from a new edition of the book published in 1881.↩