General Wilkinson, who was personally acquainted with Madame de Riedesel, published fragments of her journal in his Memoirs. He calls her "the amiable, accomplished, and dignified baroness." "I have more than once," he says, "seen her charming blue eyes bedewed with tears, at the recital of her sufferings." The regard she inspired, however, was not due entirely to admiration of her loveliness; for others in the American ranks, as well as in Europe, were deeply interested in her account of her adventures.
Frederica Charlotte Louisa, the daughter of Massow, the Prussian Minister of State, was born in Brandenburgh in 1746. Her father was Intendant General of the allied army at Minden, where, at the age of seventeen, she married Lieutenant Colonel Baron de Riedesel. In the war of the Revolution, he was appointed to the command of the Brunswick forces in the British service in America, and his wife followed him in 1777 with her three young children. Her journal, and letters addressed to her mother, describe her travels with the camp through various parts of the country, and the occurrences she witnessed. These papers, intended only for a circle of the writer's friends, were first published by her son-in-law in Germany in 1801, shortly after the death of General Riedesel. Portions having been copied into periodicals, and read with interest, the whole was translated, and presented to the American public. It forms an appropriate appendix to the history of the period, with its graphic pictures of scenes in the war and the state of society, and its notices of distinguished men.
But it is still more valuable as exhibiting an example of female energy, fortitude, and conjugal devotion. The moral is the more striking as drawn from the experience of a woman of rank, subjected to dangers and privations from which the soldier might have shrunk. The readiness with which she hastened to cross the ocean, that she might bear her husband company through toils or want, or suffering, or death; the courage with which she encountered perils, and the cheerful resignation displayed under trials, felt the more severely for the sake of those she loved, present a touching picture of fidelity and tenderness. After she has joined her husband in Canada, and is again separated from him, she thinks only of joy at being permitted at last to follow the army. Obliged to pass the night on a lonely island, where the only shelter is a half-finished house, and the only couch a cluster of bushes over which the traveller's cloaks are spread, she utters no murmur, nor complains of the scarcity of food. "A soldier," she says, "put a pot to the fire. I asked him what it contained. 'Some potatoes,' quoth he, 'which I brought with me.' I threw a longing glance at them; but as they were few, it would have been cruel to deprive him of them. At last my desire to have some for my children overcame my diffidence; and he gave me half his little provision (about twelve potatoes), and took at the same time from his pocket two or three ends of candles, which I accepted with pleasure; for my children were afraid to remain in the dark. A dollar which I gave him made him as happy as his liberality had made me."
With her three children, the Baroness proceeded to meet her husband at Fort Edward. When the army broke up the encampment, she would not remain behind. Her spirits rose at the observation of General Burgoyne on the passage across the Hudson - " Britons never retrograde." The action at Freeman's Farm took place in her hearing, and some of the wounded were brought to the house where she was. Among them was a young English officer, an only son, whose sufferings excited her deepest sympathy, and whose last moans she heard. A calash was ordered for her further progress with the army. They marched through extensive forests, and a beautiful district, deserted by the inhabitants, who were gone to re-inforce General Gates.
The Diary gives a touching account of the scenes passed through at the memorable conclusion of Burgoyne's campaign, with the battles of Saratoga. "On the seventh of October," she says, "our misfortunes began." Generals Burgoyne, Phillips, and Frazer, with the Baron, were to dine with her on that day. She had observed in the morning an unusual movement in the camp; and had seen a number of armed Indians in their war dresses, who answered "War! war!" to her inquiries whither they were going. As the dinner hour approached, an increased tumult, the firing, and the yelling of the savages, announced the approaching battle. The roar of artillery became louder and more incessant. At four o'clock, instead of the guests invited, General Frazer was brought in mortally wounded. The table, already prepared for dinner, was removed to make room for his bed. The Baroness, terrified by the noise of the conflict raging without, expected every moment to see her husband also led in pale and helpless. Towards night he came to the house, dined in haste, and desired his wife to pack up her camp furniture, and be ready for removal at an instant's warning. His dejected countenance told the disastrous result. Lady Ackland, whose tent was adjoining, was presently informed that her husband was wounded, and a prisoner! Thus through the long hours till day the kind ministries of the Baroness were demanded by many sufferers. "I divided the night," she says, "between her I wished to comfort, and my children who were asleep, but who I feared might disturb the poor dying General. Several times he begged my pardon for the trouble he thought he gave me. About three o'clock I was informed he could not live much longer; and as I did not wish to be present at his last struggle, I wrapped my children in blankets, and retired into the room below. At eight in the morning he expired."
All day the cannonade continued, while the melancholy spectacle of the dead was before their eyes. The women attended the wounded soldiers who were brought in, like ministering angels. In the afternoon the Baroness saw the house that had been built for her in flames.
Frazer's last request had been that he should be buried at six in the evening, in the great redoubt on the hill; and the retreat was delayed for this purpose. The generals, with their retinues, followed the honored corpse to the spot, in the midst of a heavy fire from the Americans; for General Gates knew not that it was a funeral procession. The women stood in full view of this impressive and awful scene, so eloquently described by Burgoyne himself:
"The incessant cannonode during the solemnity; the steady attitude and unaltered voice with which the chaplain officiated, though frequently covered with dust which the shot threw up on all sides of him; the mute but expressive mixture of sensibility and indignation upon every countenance; these objects will remain to the last of life upon the mind of every man who was present."
The deepening shadows of evening closed around the group thus rendering the last service to one of their number, while each might anticipate his own death in the next report of artillery. A subject was presented for the pencil of a master. An appropriate side-piece to the picture might represent the group of anxious females who shared the peril, regardless of themselves. "Many cannon-balls," says Madame de Riedesel, "flew close by me; but I had my eyes directed towards the mountain where my husband was standing amidst the fire of the enemy; and of course I did not think of my own danger."
That night the army commenced its retreat, leaving the sick and wounded; a flag of truce waving over the hospital thus abandoned to the mercy of the foe. The rain fell in torrents all day of the 9th, and it was dark when they reached Saratoga. The Baroness suffered cruel suspense as to the fate of her husband. She had taken charge of some valuables belonging to the officers, and having no place to change her drenched apparel, lay down with her children upon some straw by the fire. Her provisions were shared the next day with the officers; and being insufficient to satisfy their hunger, she made an appeal to the Adjutant-General in their behalf. Again the alarm of battle, and reports of muskets and cannon, drove them to seek shelter in a house, which was fired at under the impression that the generals were there. It was occupied by women and crippled soldiers. They were obliged at last to descend into the cellar, where the Baroness laid herself in a corner, supporting her children's heads on her knees. The night was passed in the utmost terror and anguish; and with the morning the terrible cannonade commenced anew. So it continued for several days. But in the midst of the dreadful scenes, when the Baron spoke of sending his family to the American camp, the heroic wife declared that nothing would be so painful to her as to owe safety to those with whom he was fighting. He then consented that she should continue to follow the army. "However," she says "the apprehension that he might have marched away repeatedly entered my mind; and I crept up the stair case more than once to dispel my fears. When I saw our soldiers near their watchfires, I became more calm, and could even have slept."
"The want of water continuing to distress us, we could not but be extremely glad to find a soldier's wife so spirited as to fetch some from the river, an occupation from which the boldest might have shrunk, as the Americans shot every one who approached it. They told us afterwards that they spared her on account of her sex. I endeavored to dispel my melancholy by continually attending to the wounded. I made them tea and coffee, and often shared my dinner with them. One day a Canadian officer came creeping into our cellar, and was hardly able to say that he was dying with hunger, I felt happy to offer him my dinner, by eating which he recovered his health, and I gained his friendship.
A gallant army formed their last array
Upon that field, in silence and deep gloom,
And at their conquerors' feet
Laid their war weapons down.
Brave men - but brave in vain - they yielded there; -
The soldier's trial task
Is not alone 'to die.'"
On the seventeenth, the capitulation was carried into effect. The generals waited upon Gates, and the troops surrendered themselves prisoners of war.
"At last," writes the fair Riedesel, "my husband's groom brought me a message to join him with the children. I once more seated myself in my dear calash; and while driving through the American camp, was gratified to observe that nobody looked at us with disrespect; but on the contrary, greeted us, and seemed touched at the sight of a captive mother with three children. I must candidly confess that I did not present myself, though so situated, with much courage to the enemy. When I drew near the tents, a fine-looking man advanced towards me, helped the children from the calash, and kissed and caressed them. He then offered me his arm, and tears trembled in his eyes. "You tremble, madam," said he; "do not be alarmed, I beg of you." "Sir," cried I - "a countenance so expressive of benevolence, and the kindness you have evinced towards my children, are sufficient to dispel all apprehension." He then ushered me into the tent of General Gates, whom I found engaged in friendly conversation with Generals Burgoyne and Phillips. General Burgoyne said to me - "you can now be quiet and free from all apprehension of danger." I replied that I should indeed be reprehensible, if I felt any anxiety, when our general was on such friendly terms with General Gates.
"All the generals remained to dine with the American commander. The gentleman who had received me with so much kindness, came and said to me: " You may find it embarrassing to be the only lady in so large a company of gentlemen. Will you come with your children to my tent, and partake of a frugal dinner, offered with the best will?"
"You show me so much kindness," replied I, I cannot but believe that you are a husband and a father."
He informed me that he was General Schuyler. The dinner was of excellent smoked tongues, beefsteaks, potatoes, fresh butter, and bread. Never did a meal give me so much pleasure. I was easy after many months of anxiety, and I read the same happy change in the countenances of those around me. That my husband was out of danger was a still greater cause of joy. After our dinner, General Schuyler begged me to pay him a visit at his house near Albany, where he expected that General Burgoyne would also be his guest. I sent to ask my husband's directions, who advised me to accept the invitation. We were two days' journey from Albany, and as it was now five o'clock in the afternoon, he wished, me to endeavor to reach, on that day, a place distant about three hours ride. General Schuyler carried his civilities so far as to solicit a well-bred French officer to accompany me on that first part of my journey. As soon as he saw me safely established in the house where I was to remain, he went back to the General.
"We reached Albany, where we had so often wished ourselves; but did not enter that city, as we had hoped, with a victorious army. Our reception, however, from General Schuyler, and his wife and daughters, was not like the reception of enemies, but of the most intimate friends. They loaded us with kindness; and they behaved in the same manner towards General Burgoyne, though he had without any necessity ordered their splendid establishment to be burnt. All their actions proved that at the sight of the misfortunes of others, they quickly forgot their own. Burgoyne was so much affected by this generous deportment, that he said to Schuyler: 'You are too kind to me - who have done you so much injury.' 'Such is the fate of war,' he replied; 'let us not dwell on this subject.' We remained three days with that excellent family, and they seemed to regret our departure."
General Riedesel, who brooded continually on the late disastrous events, and upon his captivity, was not able to bear his troubles with the spirit and cheerfulness of his wife. He became moody and irritable; and his health was much impaired in consequence of having passed many nights in the damp air. "One day," says the Baroness, "when he was much indisposed, the American sentinels at our doors were very noisy in their merriment and drinking; and grew more so when my husband sent a message desiring them to be quiet; but as soon as I went myself, and told them the General was sick they were immediately silent. This proves that the Americans also respect our sex."
The prisoners at length reached Boston; and after a stay of three weeks, were transported to Cambridge, where Madame de Riedesel and her family were lodged in one of the best houses of the place. On one of the windows of this house the name "Riedesel," written on the glass with a diamond, is still to be seen. In front are several beautiful lime trees, and the view is a lovely one. The house near it, which Washington occupied as his head-quarters, is now the residence of the poet Longfellow.
None of the officers were permitted to enter Boston; but Madame de Riedesel went to visit Mrs. Carter, the daughter of General Schuyler, and dined with her several times. Boston she describes as a fine city; but the inhabitants as "outrageously patriotic." The captives met in some instances with very different treatment from that which they had before encountered - and the worst, she says, from persons of her own sex. They gazed at her with indignation, and testified contempt when she passed near them. Mrs. Carter resembled her parents in mildness and goodness of heart; but the Baroness has no admiration for her husband - "this wicked Mr. Carter, who, in consequence of General Howe's having burnt several villages and small towns, suggested to his countrymen to cut off our generals' heads, to pickle them, and to put them in small barrels; and as often as the English should again burn a village - to send them one of these barrels." She here adds some sad stories of American cruelty towards the loyalists.
On the third of June, 1778, Madame de Riedesel gave a ball and supper to celebrate her husband's birthday. The British officers were invited, with Mr. and Mrs. Carter, and General Burgoyne, of whom the fair hostess records that he sent an excuse after he had made them wait till eight o'clock. "He had always some excuse," observes she - "for not visiting us, until he was about departing for England, when he came and made me many apologies; to which I made no other reply than that I should be extremely sorry if he had put himself to any inconvenience for our sake." The dance and supper were so brilliant, and so numerously attended, and the toasts drunk with such enthusiasm, that the house was surrounded with people, who began to suspect a conspiracy. The Baroness here notices the American method of telegraphing by lighting torches on surrounding heights, when they wished to call troops together. When General Howe attempted to rescue the troops detained in Boston, the inhabitants planted their torches, and a crowd of people without shoes or stockings, their rifles on their shoulders, flocked together; so that the landing would have been attended with extreme difficulty. Towards the approach of winter the prisoners received orders to set out for Virginia. The ingenuity of Madame de Riedesel devised means of preserving the colors of the German regiments, which the Americans believed they had burned. A mattress was made under her direction, into which the honorable badges were introduced. Captain O'Connel, under pretence of some commission, took the mattress to New York; and the Baroness received it again at Halifax, on their voyage from New York to Canada, and had it placed in her cabin.
A rascal on no small scale was the cook of Madame la Baronne. She had given him money for the daily expenditure, but he had paid nobody; and while preparations for the journey were going on, bills were presented to the amount of a thousand dollars. The cook was arrested; but escaping, went into the service of General Gates, who finding him too expensive, he entered into the employment of General La Fayette. The Marquis used to say, "that he was a cook only fit for a king."
The Baroness had the accommodation of an English
coach in commencing her journey to Virginia, November, 1778.
The provisions followed in the baggage wagon; but as that moved
more slowly, they were often without food, and were obliged to
make a halt every fourth day. At Hartford, General La Fayette
was invited to dine by the Baron, somewhat to the perplexity
of his wife, who feared she would have difficulty in preparing
her provisions so as to suit one who appreciated a good dinner.
The Marquis is mentioned with great respect; but
Madame de Riedesel thinks the suspicions of the Americans were excited by hearing them speak French.
"We reached one day a pretty little town; but our wagon remaining behind, we were very hungry. Seeing much fresh meat in the house where we stopped, I begged the landlady to sell me some. 'I have,' quoth she, 'several sorts of meat; beef, mutton and lamb.' I said, 'let me have some; l will pay you liberally.' But snapping her fingers, she replied; 'You shall not have a morsel of it; why have you left your country to slay and rob us of our property ? Now that you are our prisoners, it is our turn to vex you.' 'But,' rejoined I, 'see those poor children; they are dying of hunger.'
She remained still unmoved; but when at length my youngest child, Caroline, who was then about two years and a half old, went to her, seized her hands, and said in English: 'Good woman, I am indeed very hungry,' she could no longer resist; and carrying the child to her room, she gave her an egg. 'But,' persisted the dear little one, 'I have two sisters.' Affected by this remark, the hostess gave her three eggs, saying, 'I am loth to be so weak, but I cannot refuse the child.' By-and-by she softened, and offered me bread and butter. I made tea: and saw that the hostess looked at our tea-pot with a longing eye; for the Americans are very fond of that beverage; yet they had stoutly resolved not to drink any more, the tax on tea, as is well known, having been the immediate cause of the contest with Great Britain. I offered her, however, a cup, and presented her with a paper case full of tea. This drove away all clouds between us. She begged me to go with her into the kitchen, and there I found her husband eating a piece of pork. The woman went into the cellar to bring me a basket of potatoes. When she returned into the kitchen, the husband offered her some of his dainty food; she tasted it, and returned to him what remained. I was disagreeably struck with this partnership; but the man probably thought I was envious of it, on account of the hunger I had manifested; and presented me with the little both had left. I feared by refusing to offend them, and lose the potatoes. I therefore accepted the morsel, and having kept up the appearance as if I ate, threw it secretly into the fire. We were now in perfect amity; with the potatoes and some butter I made a good supper, and we had to ourselves three neat rooms, with very good beds."
On the banks of the Hudson, in a skipper's house, they were not so fortunate in finding good accommodations - being given the remnants of breakfast after the hostess, children, and servants had finished their meal. The woman was a staunch republican, and could not bring herself to any courtesies towards the enemies of her country. They fared a little better after crossing the river. When the aids-de-camp who accompanied them to the house where they were to lodge, wished to warm themselves in the kitchen, the host followed, and taking them by their arms, said, "Is it not enough that I give you shelter, ye wretched royalists?" His wife, however, was more amiable, and his coarseness gradually softened, till they be came good friends.
They stopped one night on the road, at the house of a Colonel Howe, to whom the Baroness meant to pay a compliment by asking him if he was a relative of the general of that name. "Heaven forbid!" replied he, in great anger; "he is not worthy of that honor." Madame de Riedesel is amusingly indignant at the sanguinary temper of this gentleman's daughter, who was very pretty and only fourteen years of age. "Sitting with her near the fire, she said on a sudden, staring at the blaze, 'Ohl if I had here the king of England, with how much pleasure I could roast and eat him!' I looked at her with indignation, and said, 'I am almost ashamed to belong to a sex capable of indulging such fancies!' I shall never forget that detestable girl."
Passing through a wild, grand, and picturesque country, they at length arrived in Virginia. At a day's distance from the place of destination, their little stock of provisions gave out. At noon they reached a house, and begged for some dinner; but all assistance was denied them, with many imprecations upon the royalists. "Seizing some maize, I begged our hostess to give me some of it to make a little bread. She replied that she needed it for her black people. 'They work for us,' she added, 'and you come to kill us.' Captain Edmonstone offered to pay her one or two guineas for a little wheat. But she answered, 'You shall not have it even for hundreds of guineas; and it will be so much the better if you all die!' The captain became so enraged at these words, that he was about to take the maize; but I prevented him from doing it, thinking we should soon meet with more charitable people. But in this I was much mistaken; for we did not see even a solitary hut. The roads were execrable, and the horses could hardly move. My children, starving from hunger, grew pale, and for the first time lost their spirits. Captain Edmonstone, deeply affected at this, went about asking for something for the children; and received at last from one of the wagoners who transported our baggage, a piece of stale bread, of three ounces weight, upon which many a tooth had already exercised its strength. Yet to my children it was at this time a delicious morsel. I broke it, and was about giving the first piece to the youngest, but she said, 'No, mamma; my sisters are more in want of it than I am.' The two eldest girls, with no less generosity, thought that little Caroline was to have the first piece. I then distributed to each her small portion. Tears ran down my cheeks; and had I ever refused to the poor a piece of bread, I should have thought retributive justice had overtaken me. Captain Edmonstone, who was much affected, presented the generous wagoner who had given us his last morsel, with a guinea; and when we were arrived at our place of destination, we provided him, besides, with bread for a part of his journey homewards."
The place of their destination was Colle, in Virginia, where General Riedesel, who had advanced with the troops, already expected them with impatient anxiety. This was about the middle of February, 1779. They had passed, in the journey, through the States of Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland; and in about three months had travelled six hundred and twenty-eight miles. They hired a house belonging to an Italian who was about leaving the country. The troops were at Charlottesville, three hours ride distant - the road thither running through a fine wood.
The life of Madame de Riedesel and her family in Virginia was not an unhappy one, though they suffered from the heat during the summer. The General was brought home one day with a coup de soleil, which for years afterwards affected his health. His physician and acquaintances advised him to go to Frederic Springs. It was there that he and his wife became acquainted with General Washington's family, and with some other amiable persons attached to the American cause.
While at Frederic Springs, General Riedesel received the news that he and General Phillips, with their aids-de- camp, were expected in New York, where they were to be exchanged for American prisoners. He returned to Colle, to place the troops during his absence, under the care of Colonel Specht. In August, 1779, the Baroness left the Springs to join her husband in Pennsylvania, stopping near Baltimore to pay a visit to one of the ladies with whom, though of opposite political opinions, she had formed a friendship at the Springs. This visit was a charming episode in the troubled life of Madame de Riedesel. She remembered long after, with gratitude, the hospitality and kindness received. "The loyalists," she says, "received us with frank hospitality, from political sympathy; and those of opposite principles gave us a friendly welcome, merely from habit; for in that country it would be considered a crime to behave otherwise towards strangers."
At Elizabethtown they met with many friends to their cause. They were exulting in the anticipation of an exchange, and restoration to freedom, when an officer arrived, commissioned by Washington to deliver to General Phillips a letter containing an order to return to Virginia - Congress having rejected the proposal of a cartel. The disappointment was excessive, but unavoidable; and after a day's halt, they commenced their journey back. On reaching Bethlehem, the two Generals, Riedesel and Phillips, obtained permission to remain there till the difficulties respecting the cartel should be removed. Their bill, after six weeks' lodging for the party, with the care of their horses, amounted to thirty-two thousand dollars in paper money, corresponding to about four hundred guineas in specie. A traveller who bought silver coin, gave them eighty dollars in paper money for every dollar in silver, and thus enabled them to leave the place, when at last permitted to go to New York.
Arrived at New York, a soldier went before the travellers "from the gate of the city," to show the way to their lodging. This proved to be the house of the Governor, General Tryon, where the Baroness made herself at home with her children and attendants, under the belief that they had been conducted to a hotel. She received visits here from General Patterson, the Commandant of the city; and also from Generals Cornwallis and Clinton; and had a romantic introduction to her host, who did not announce his name at the first visit, nor till she had expressed a wish to become personally acquainted with him.
Madame de Riedesel went from the city to General Clinton's country-seat, a mile distant, where her children were inoculated for the small-pox. When the danger of infection was over, they returned and spent the winter in New York. The charming country seat was again their residence in the summer of 1780. The situation was uncommonly beautiful; around the house were meadows and orchards, with the Hudson at their feet; and they had abundance of delicious fruit. General Clinton visited them frequently, and the last time was accompanied by Major André, the day before he set out on his fatal expedition.
The breaking out of a malignant fever, which made dreadful ravages in the city and neighborhood, disturbed their pleasure. In the house no less than twenty were laboring under the disease. The Baron himself was dangerously ill; and the cares and nursing devoIved on his wife, who was worn out with anxiety. "We were one day," she says, "in anxious expectation of our physician from New York, my husband's symptoms having become of late more and more threatening. He was continually in a lethargic stupor, and when I presented him the sago water, which the physician had ordered for him, he turned round, desiring me to let him die quietly. He thought his end must be near. The physician having entered the room at that moment, I urgently begged him to tell me the truth, and to let me know if there was any hope of my husband's recovery. He had scarcely said 'Yes,' when my children, on hearing this merciful word, sprang from under a table where they had lain concealed in dreadful expectation of the doctor's sentence, threw themselves at his feet, and kissed his hands with rapturous feelings of gratitude. Nobody could have witnessed the scene without sharing my deep emotion."
"Out of thirty persons of whom our family consisted, ten only escaped the disease. It is astonishing how much the frail human creature can endure; and I am amazed that I survived such hard trials. My happy temperament permitted me even to be gay and cheerful, whenever my hopes were encouraged. The best health is often undermined by such sufferings; still I rejoice to think I had it in my power to be useful to those who are dearest to me; and that without my exertions, I might have lost those who now contribute so much to my felicity. At length all my patients were cured."
In the autumn Generals Phillips and Riedesel were exchanged; although the rest of the army who surrendered at Saratoga still remained prisoners. General Clinton wished to replace the Baron in active service, and appointed him Lieutenant General, investing him with the command at Long Island. A second dangerous attack of fever so impaired his health, that the physicians thought he could never recover as long as he resided in that climate. But he would not leave the army, nor ask a furlough.
In the following spring, the Baroness was established on Long Island. Her husband's health mended slowly; and his thoughts being often fixed on the remnant of his late regiments, which had remained in Canada, General Clinton at length consented that he should pay them a visit. Being about to depart in July, Madame de Riedesel sent the residue of their wood - about thirty cords - to some poor families, and took but a few articles of furniture, returning the rest to the commissary of the army. They at last embarked for Canada, and reached Quebec after a journey of about two months, in September, 1781.
Madame de Riedesel gives a pleasing description of her life in Canada, which seems to have been very agreeable. She had an opportunity of observing the habits of the Indians, some of whom were under her husband's command. Before she joined him on her first arrival in Canada, one of the savages, having heard that M. de Riedesel was ill, that he was married, and felt uneasy on account of the delay in his wife's arrival, came, with his own wife, and said to the General; "I love my wife - but I love thee also; in proof of which I give her to thee." The Indian seemed distressed and almost offended at the refusal of his gift. It is somewhat remarkable that this man was by birth a German, who had been taken prisoner by the savages when about fifteen years of age.
In the summer of 1783, the General having received news of the death of his father, became impatient to return to Europe. They made all necessary arrangements for the voyage, and after the troops had embarked, were accompanied by many of their friends to the vessel.
General and Madame de Riedesel were graciously received by the king and queen of Great Britain when they reached London. Their return to Germany was welcomed by their old friends and acquaintance; and the fair traveller rejoiced on seeing her husband once more -standing in the midst of his soldiers, and a multitude of parents, wives, children, brothers and sisters, who either rejoiced at meeting again their relatives who had been so long absent, or mourned over the loss of those who had been long missed and expected. "
It is to be presumed that the after life of one who possessed a spirit so generous and cheerful, was happy. The record of her sojourn in America impresses the reader with feelings of admiration and esteem for her. Such details have a value beyond that of a mere narration of facts; they illustrate character, and add the warm coloring of life to the outlines of history. They afford light by which we can more clearly read the great lessons in the story of battle and victory. In the midst of our enthusiasm for the achievement of Saratoga, we do not lose pity for the disasters that accompanied the triumph. We see courtesy and humanity prevailing in the midst of the strife, and honor both the opposing principles of loyalty and patriotism. "If the figures of the picture are at first fierce and repulsive - the figures of brethren armed against brethren, of mercenary Germans and frantic savages, Canadian rangers and American ploughmen, all bristling together with the horrid front of war - what a charm of contrast is presented, when among these stern and forbidding groups is beheld the form of a Christian woman moving to and fro, disarming the heart of every emotion but reverence, softening the misfortunes of defeat, and checking the elation of victory!"
After the death of General Riedesel, in 1800, the Baroness fixed her residence at Berlin, where she died on the 29th of March, 1808. She established here an asylum for military orphans, and an almshouse for the poor in Brunswick.
She was long remembered, with her interesting family, in Virginia, as well as in other parts of the continent. She is described as full in figure, and possessing no small share of beauty. Some of her foreign habits rendered her rather conspicuous; such as riding in boots, and in what was then called, "the European fashion;" and she was sometimes charged with carelessness in her attire. She was visited by many families in the neighborhood of Charlottesville.