Residents of Schaghticoke certainly knew of the murder of their neighbor, Jane McCrea.
In the last post, I talked a lot about the military service of local men during the Revolutionary War. Throughout the war, Schaghticoke was near the northern border of the new United States, with the residents afraid of raids by British, Tories,and Indians from British Canada. But the war really came home to Schaghticoke in the summer of 1777. As General Burgoyne and the British army advanced south from Canada, residents of Schaghticoke became more and more worried. In July they would have heard of the murders of the whole Allen family of Argyle and of the murder and scalping of Jane McCrea of Ft. Edward by the Indian allies of Burgoyne’s Army. The American General Gates sent a letter to Burgoyne in August accusing him of hiring Indians specifically to murder Europeans, paying them a bounty for each scalp. Of course the murder of Jane McCrea became a rallying cry for the American troops leading up to the battle of Saratoga.
Many families from Schaghticoke and all around evacuated to Albany. Lansingburgh was a small village at the time, and there was no Troy, so Albany was the first large settlement. It would have taken some time to reach Albany, either by water, having to get around the falls at Troy, or by trail- no Routes 40 and 787! General Gates made a special offer to the men of the evacuated families to join the Continental Army, to be provided with the usual rations “for themselves and their families,” in part because the number of refugees was proving too large for Albany to accommodate.
As you may recall, I wrote earlier about our local Gothic author, Ann Eliza Bleecker who was among the evacuees, suffering the tremendous trauma which fueled her later writing. She and her family evacuated, but continued on down the Hudson to Red Hook, where they had relatives. It was certainly terrifying and wrenching for all of the evacuees, leaving their homes, animals, and crops to who knew what fate. Finding housing would have been difficult. Did they take their cows with them? Did they try to take their most precious possessions? Sylvester’s History of Rensselaer County reports that the Viele family, living on the Tomhannock Creek in the Albany Corporation area, buried some of their belongings in a ravine.
In August and September of 1777, some of the more enterprising local farmers arranged to sell their crops and flour to the Continental Army, based at Saratoga, taking advantage of a market that was sure. Some of the American troops were camped in the Schaghticoke area, and after the war some residents petitioned the state for compensation for the fences destroyed for firewood and crops taken by the soldiers. One document in the NYS Archives records the claim of Daniel Shaw, who claimed loss of bushels of corn to the troops of Colonel Yates in 1777.
Other crops were evidently destroyed by marauding bands of Tories and Indians, and one source says that one of the few grist mills in town was burned by the Tories. In The History of the Seventeen Towns of Rensselaer County, the author quotes a “patriotic member of the Knickerbacker family” as stating in 1876 that at the time of the battle of Saratoga “the ancient fort or block-house..was taken possession of by a troop of Hessian soldiery, in the service of the British,” who raided the homes of the neighbors. I truly doubt that as there were so many American soldiers in the area. One source says that troops of the American General Lincoln were camped at Schaghticoke before the battle, meaning the Hessians certainly wouldn’t have been in the fort.
In the next post, I will relate the most famous local incident related to the battle of Saratoga.
Bibliography: Fitch, Asa, Their Own Voices, reprint 1983.
Kloppott, Beth, History of the Town of Schaghticoke, 1980.
Sylvester, Nathan, History of Rensselaer County, 1880.
Becker, John P. Sexagenary, Albany, Munsell, 1866.