History From America's Most Famous Valleys
of the American Revolution
by Elizabeth F. Ellet
New York: Baker and Scribner
ANN ELIZA BLEECKER.
ANN Eliza Bleecker, whose name is prominent on the list of the female poets of our country, was the youngest child of Brandt Schuyler, of New York, where she was born, in 1752. In her early years she was passionately fond of books, and wrote verses, which, however, were shown to none but her most intimate acquaintances. After her marriage, at the age of seventeen, to John J. Bleecker, of New Rochelle, she removed to Poughkeepsie, and thence to Tomhanick. a pretty and secluded village about eighteen miles from Albany, where her residence was well suited to her romantic tastes. The house commanded a beautiful view; on one side was a fine garden, fined with flowers and fruit trees, and beyond it the Tomhanick River dashed foaming. over a bed of broken rocks. On the other lay wide cultivated fields; a wood, through the openings of which cottages might be descried, bounded the orchard in the rear, and in front a meadow, through which wandered a clear stream, stretched itself to join a ridge of tall pines, on the shelving side of a mountain. To the imagination of Mrs. Bleecker, the dark forest, the green valley and the rushing river had more charms than the gay city she had quitted; but her tranquil enjoyment of these lovely scenes, in the cultivation of her flowers and grounds, and the indulgence of her poetical tastes, was destined to be short-lived.
The approach of Burgoyne's army, in 1777, drove the family from their rural retreat. While Mr. Bleecker was gone to Albany to seek a place of refuge for them, his wife was terrified by news that the enemy were close to the village, burning and murdering all before them. With her children and one servant, she fled to a place called Stony Arabia. The roads were crowded with carriages loaded with women and children; distress and weeping were every where; no one spoke to another, and the tramping of horses and the dismal creaking of burdened wheels, alone interrupted the mournful silence. Mrs. Bleecker obtained a place for her children in one of the wagons, and herself performed the journey on foot. But when she reached the place where she hoped to find friends, no door was open to her. She wandered from house to house, and at length obtained an asylum in the garret of a rich acquaintance, where a couple of blankets, spread on boards, were given her as a bed. The night was passed in tears; but the next day Mr. Bleecker came and brought them to Albany, whence they set off with several other families by water. A more severe distress here overtook the mother-her little daughter being taken so ill that they were obliged to go on shore, where she died, and was buried on the banks of the river. This bereavement was followed in rapid succession by the death of her mother and sister.
In August of the year 1781, while Mr. Bleecker was assisting in the harvest, he was taken prisoner by one of the scouting parties from Canada. His wife abandoned herself to hopeless grief. She says, "My hour of darkness and astonishment was very great; I lifted my broken heart in despair." But after the agonizing suspense of a few days, her husband returned, having been rescued by a party of Americans. Amid the scenes of distress, in many of which Mrs. Bleecker was a principal sufferer, she was sustained by the hope of yet seeing the footsteps of desolation effaced from the soil. She was not destined, however, to behold the recovery of her native land from the ravages of war. After a rapid decline, the struggles of this calm and lovely spirit were ended in death, in November, 1783.
The benevolence of Mrs. Bleecker's heart overflowed on all with whom she associated. "To the aged and infirm," says her daughter, "she was a physician and a friend; to the orphan a mother, and a soother of the widow's woes." She is said to have possessed a considerable share of beauty, her figure being tall and graceful; and her easy, unaffected deportment and engaging manners prepossessed strangers in her favor. Her letters describing the scenes around her, show her ardent and poetical temperament. An intense love of nature appears in her poems, and a warmth of heart, with a delicacy and taste, that cannot fail to please;though they lack the high finish a greater severity of critical judgment would have bestowed.
MRS. BLEECKER'S daughter, Margaretta Faugeres, was also a poet, and has sung in sweet strains" the hoar genius of old Hudson's stream," including a description of the scenery of Fort Edward and West Point. In the latter portion is introduced a highly poetical "Vision of Arnold," where Treason is personified, plotting her dark schemes while bending over the bright waters, and stealing softly to the traitor's couch. Margaretta became distinguished after the war, in New York fashionable society, as a gifted and accomplished woman, although her married life was rendered unhappy by a profligate husband. After his death in 1798, she assisted in a female academy in New Brunswick; but her sufferings had broken her heart. She died, a hopeful Christian, at the early age of twenty-nine.
THE correspondence of Ralph Izard was published a few years since by his daughter, Anne Izard Deas, at the desire of her mother, whose anxiety to do justice to the memory of her husband proves her worthy of sharing in his fame. Moving in her youth in the gayest circles of New York society, her amiable qualities and the discretion and modesty joined to her singular personal attractions, won the admiration and regard of all her acquaintances, and gave promise of those virtues which shone amid the trials of after life.
She was the daughter of Peter De Lancey, of Westchester, and niece to James De Lancey, Lieutenant Governor of the province of New York. It is remarkable how many women of this distinguished family have married eminent men. Susan, the daughter of Colonel Stephen De Lancey, whose first husband was Lieutenant Colonel William Johnson, became the wife of Lieutenant General Sir Hudson Lowe, and was the beautiful Lady Lowe praised by Bonaparte. Charlotte De, Lancey, who married Sir David Dundas, did not escape her share of trials during the war. When their house at Bloomingdale was burned, her mother hid herself in a kennel, and not being able on account of her deafness to discover when the enemy departed, narrowly escaped death., On a visit afterwards from a party of soldiers, the your:g girl was put into a bin for concealment by the servants, and covered with oats, into which the soldiers, who were in search of a prisoner they might hold as a hostage, plunged their bayonets repeatedly, but luckily did not touch her. A Miss De Lancey was the wife of Sir William Draper. In later years one of this family married a distinguished American, whose genius is the pride of his country.*
Alice was married in 1767, to Ralph Izard; and after some years accompanied him to Europe. After the breaking out of the war, her anxious desire was to return with him to this country; but not being able to do so, she remained in France during his absence, devoting herself to the care and improvement of her children.
* J. Fenimore Cooper.
On their arrival at home, after the establishment of peace, their estate was found in a state of lamentable dilapidation; but the energy and good management of Mrs. Izard soon restored a degree of order, and rendered "the Elms"-the old family residence-the seat of domestic comfort and liberal hospitality. During her husband's illness, which lasted seven years, she was his devoted nurse, while the management of his large estate, embarrassed by losses sustained during the war, devolved upon her. She wrote all his letters of business, besides attending to the affairs of her family, then augmented by the addition of two orphan grandchildren; yet found time to read to him several hours of every day. The charge of two other families of grandchildren was afterwards undertaken by her. Notwithstanding these multiplied cares, each day was marked by some deed of unostentatious charity. Her piety, though deep and sincere, was cheerful, for a humble faith directed her steps, and taught resignation in trials the most severe the loss of many children. In the faithful performance, from day to day, of the duties before her, and the promotion of the good of others, her useful life was closed in 1832, in the eighty-seventh year of her age.
AN INTERESTING anecdote is related of another Mrs. Ralph Izard, a relative of the patriot, who resided near Dorchester, within the range of excursions made by the British, at that time in the neighborhood of Charleston. When the enemy ventured beyond their lines, the inhabitants of the country were-frequently subjected to depredations. The plantation' of Mr. Izard, who at that time acted as aid-de-camp to the commanding officer of the Light Troops, was often visited, but had been preserved from destruction by the prudent deportment of his wife. She invariably received the officers with polite attention, and by the suavity and gentle dignity of her manners, disarmed their hostility, and induced them to retire without disturbance. On the occasion her courage was put to a severe trial. Her husband was at home, when the alarm was suddenly given by the appearance of a party of British soldiers, from whom there was no way of escape, the house being surrounded. Mr. Izard hastily concealed himself in a clothes-press, while his wife awaited the entrance of his enemies, who had been informed of the visit of the master of the house, and were determined on his capture. A search was instituted, which proving unsuccessful, the soldiers threatened to fire the house, unless he surrendered himself. In their rage and disappointment, they proceeded to outrages they had never before ventured upon; Mr. Izard's wardrobe was robbed, and several of the marauders arrayed themselves in his best coats; valuable articles were seized in the presence of the mistress of the mansion, and an attempt was even made to force her rings from her fingers. Through all this trying scene, Mrs. Izard preserved, in a wonderful manner, her firmness and composure; her bearing, on which she knew her husband's safety depended, was marked with her accustomed courtesy and urbanity, and she betrayed no apprehension, notwithstanding the indignities offered, So calm, so dignified was her deportment, that the plunderers, doubting the correctness of the information they had received, and perhaps ashamed of their insolence, withdrew. No sooner were they gone, than Mr. Izard made his escape, and quickly crossing the Ashley, gave notice to the Americans on the other side of the river of the proximity of the enemy. Meanwhile, the British soldiers, returning to the house, again entered Mrs. Izard's apartment, and burst open the press, which they had before forgotten to examine. Finding no one there, they retired; but were speedily intercepted by a body of cavalry that had pushed across Bacon's bridge, and so completely routed, that but a few of their number returned within their lines to relate the disaster. The property taken from Mr. Izard's house was recovered, and restored by the conquerors to the owner, with a compliment to the matron whose strength of spirit had proved the means of their obtaining the victory.
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