Three Rivers
Hudson~Mohawk~Schoharie
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

The Campaign of Lieut. Gen. John Burgoyne
and The Expedition of Lieut. Col. Barry St. Leger.
by William L. Stone.
Albany, NY, Joel Munsell. 1877.

No. IX.

JANE McCREA AND SKETCH OF FORT EDWARD.

Fort Edward, a short distance from which the death of Jane McCrea took place, has an important place in American history. In colonial times it was a central point of interest both to the whites and Indians. In the wars of Queen Anne, the Old French, and Seven Years War, both sides were equally anxious to possess it, and, in consequence, many thrilling adventures occurred in its vicinity.

The first white man, says Sir William Johnson, who settled in the town, was Colonel John Henry Lydius son of a Dutch minister of Albany. Lydius was a man of extensive acquaintance with the Indians, having resided much among them, in Canada for several years where he married, and again at Lake George. He erected several mills on an island opposite the present village ; and hence the names the place long went by - Lydius's Mills. His daughter Catherine Lydius was the first white child born in Washington Co. The street in the village of Fort Edward, now Broadway, was formerly called Lydius after the founder. Col. Lydius carried on an extensive trade with the Indians at this point for several years. He was, however, extremely unpopular with these people, who justly accused him of having, on various occasions, cheated them in land transactions. This feeling on the part of the Indians, at length culminated 1749, in which year they burned his house on the island and took his son prisoner.

Old Fort Edward stood on the east bank of the Hudson, a few rods below the present rail road bridge. Nothing now remains of it except, as in the case of Fort Hardy, a few slight mounds, where were the earth works, and the broken bricks and pottery which are mixed plentifully with the soil. At the best, it consisted only of a square fortified by two bastions on the east side, and by two demi-bastions on the side toward the river. It was built in 1700, by the-English, for the protection of the northern frontier, and was called Fort Nicholson, after Col. Nicholson. After the failure, however, of that officer's remarkable though entirely abortive, expedition for the subjugation of Canada-an expedition the organization of which cost the colonies and that of New York in particular a vast amount of money-the fort was abandoned and allowed to go to decay.

In 1755, the English, under General, and afterward Sir William Johnson, made a forward movement toward Canada. As one of the preliminary steps to this expedition General Phineas Lyman, with 600 men was sent forward to the site of Fort Lydius in the beginning of August of that year, to rebuild the fort. The site of the old fortification was abandoned, because it was too much commanded, and a large redoubt, with a simple parapet and a wretched palisade, was built on a more elevated spot not far distant. Within were small barracks for 200 men. The ramparts of earth and timber were sixteen feet high and twenty-two feet thick, and mounted six cannon. On the island opposite, were also barracks and store-houses. It received the name of Fort Lyman, and until after the surrender of the British army at Saratoga. 1

While Burgoyne lay at Fort Miller, it was occupied a portion of the time by General Riedesel with his Brunswickers. While here Riedesel buried two large bateaux inside of the fort for the benefit of Col. St. Leger in case the latter should retreat by way of this place,-marking the spot by two crosses to give the appearance of two graves. St. Leger, however, fell back on Oswego; and the bateaux were afterward found by the Americans [see Life of Reidesel and Gordon]. Reidesel was also quartered for three weeks on the garrison ground at Fort

1 It was while Schuyler lay at Fort Edward, before he fell back, that he resorted to a trick or expedient to delay Burgoyne's march.

"Frederick the Great, after Liegnizt, 16th August, 1760,caused a letter or despatch to fall into the hands of the Russian General Chernicheff, which induced the Muscovite, with every chance of success before him, to retire precipitately. In Schuyler's case he likewise by astuteness, turned the tables on his enemy. A communication had been sent by one Mr. Levins, from Canada, to Gen. Sullivan. It was concealed under the false bottom of a canteen. Schuyler substituted an answer worded in such a manner that if it reached Burgoyne it would cause him the greatest perplexity. Its purport he confided to certain parties around him, and then sent it forward by a messenger who was to conduct himself so as to be captured. The bearer was taken prisoner, and the paper which he bore was soon placed in the hands of Burgoyne. This had greater effect than even Schuyler could have expected. Stedman, the British staff officer and historian, acknowledged that Burgoyne ' was so completely duped and puzzled by it for several days that he was at a loss whether to advance or retreat.' This result, so flattering to Schuyler's sagacity, was communicated to one of Schuyler's staff, after Burgoyne's surrender, by an English officer. In justice to Schuyler let this be noted."- Gen. J. Watts de Peyster.

Amherst 1 at the half-way brook between the present village of Glen's Falls and Lake George.

Schuyler was greatly blamed for not defending Fort Edward.2 Ticonderoga had to be evacuated, without resistance because it was commanded by Sugar-loaf mountain. Fort Edward was in like manner commanded on all sides. Major General, the Marquis de Chastellux, who visited it shortly after the surrender, described it as situated in a basin or valley both as to ground and encircling forests. " Such is Fort Edward," he writes, " so much spoken of In Europe, although it could in no time have been able to resist 500 men, with four pieces of cannon." " The fact is Fort Edward was not a strong position ; " and Kalm criticised both of these forts justly in 1758-9. " They were the result of jobs, badly located and badly built, with the design to put money into some favorite's pockets."

The Marquis de Chastellux closes his description of his trip to the fort as follows :

" I stopped here (Fort Edward) an hour to refresh my horses, and about noon set off to proceed as far as the cataract (Glen's Falls,) which is eight miles beyond

1 The Fort Amherst here mentioned, was the fortified camp spoken of on page 92 as being held by the Americans.

2 Mrs. Riedesel joined her husband at Fort Edward. " The following day passed Ticonderoga, and about noon arrived at Fort George, where we dined with Col. Anstruther, an exceedingly good and amiable man, who commanded the 62d regiment. In the afternoon we seated ourselves in a calash, and reached Fort Edward on the same day, which was the 14th of August."- Journal of Mrs. General Riedesel.

it. On leaving the valley, and pursuing the road to Lake George, is a tolerable military position, which was occupied in the war before the last. It is a sort of intrenched camp, adapted to abatis, guarding the passage from the woods, and commanding the valley. I had scarcely lost sight of Fort Edward, before the spectacle of devastation presented itself to my eyes, and continued to do so as far as the place I stopped at. Peace and industry had conducted cultivators amidst these ancient forests, men content and happy before the period of this war. Those who were in Burgoyne's way alone experienced the horrors of his expedition , but on the last invasion of the savages, the desolation has spread from Fort Schuyler (or Fort Stanwix) to Fort Edward. I beheld nothing around me but the remains of conflagrations; a few bricks proof against the fire, were the only indications of ruined houses , whilst the fences still entire and cleared out lands, announced that these deplorable habitations had once been the abode of riches and of happiness.

" Arrived at the height of the cataract it was necessary for us to quit our sledges and walk a mile to the bank of the river. The snow was fifteen inches deep, which rendered this walk rather difficult and obliged us to proceed in Indian file in order to make a path. Each of us put ourselves alternately at the head of this little column, as the wild geese relieve each other to occupy the summit of the angle they form in their flight. But had our march been still more difficult, the sight of the cataract was an ample recompense. It is not a sheet of water as at Cohoes. The river confined and interrupted in its course by different rocks, glides through the midst of them, and precipitating itself obliquely forms severalcascades. That of Cohoes is more majestic; this, more terrible. The Mohawk river seems to fall from its own dead weight; that of the Hudson frets and becomes enraged. It foams and forms whirlpools, and flies like a serpent making its escape, still continuing its menaces by horrible hisses.

" It was near two when we regained our sledges, having two and twenty miles to return to Saratoga, so that we trod back our steps as fast as possible, but we still had to halt at Fort Edward to refresh our horses. We employed this time as we had done in the morning, in warming ourselves by the fires of the officers who commanded the garrison. They are five in number, and I have about one hundred and fifty soldiers. They are stationed in this desert for the whole winter, and I leave the reader to imagine whether this garrison be much more gay than the two most melancholy ones of Gravalines or Briancon, our own in France. We set off again in an hour, and night soon overtook us ; but before it was dark I had the satisfaction to see the first game I had met in my journey. It was a bevy of quails. (Part- ridges?) They were perched to the number of seven upon a fence, I got out of my sledge to have a nearer view of them. They suffered me to approach within four paces, and to make them rise I was obliged to throw my cane at them , they all went off together in a flight similar to that of partridges, and like them they are sedentary.
Copyright 1998, -- 2003. Berry Enterprises. All rights reserved. All items on the site are copyrighted. While we welcome you to use the information provided on this web site by copying it, or downloading it; this information is copyrighted and not to be reproduced for distribution, sale, or profit.

Contents Introduction Links Home