| This Country of Ours|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|Stories from the history of the United States beginning with a full account of exploration and settlement and ending with the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. The 99 chapters are grouped under 7 headings: Stories of Explorers and Pioneers, Stories of Virginia, Stories of New England, Stories of the Middle and Southern Colonies, Stories of the French in America, Stories of the Struggle for Liberty, and Stories of the United States under the Constitution. Ages 10-14 |
BURGOYNE'S CAMPAIGN—BENNINGTON AND ORISKANY
 AS many of the Americans had foreseen, the British had from the
first formed the design of cutting the colonies in two by taking
possession of the great waterway from the Hudson to the St. Lawrence.
Their plans had been long delayed, but in the spring of 1777, they
determined to carry them out.
General Burgoyne was now in command of the Canadian troops. He was
a genial man of fashion, a writer of plays, and a great gambler.
But he was a brave soldier, too, and his men adored him. For in days
when it was common to treat the rank and file as little better
than dogs, Burgoyne treated them like reasoning beings.
It was arranged that Burgoyne should move southward with his main
force, by way of Lake Champlain to Ticonderoga, and that a smaller
force should go by Lake Ontario and seize Fort Stanwix. Howe, at
the same time, was in Albany, having, it was to be supposed, swept
the whole country free of "rebels."
It was a very fine plan, but it was not carried out as intended—because,
although Burgoyne received his orders, Howe did not receive
his. For the British minister, who ought to have sent them, went off
on a holiday and forgot all about the matter for several weeks.
When at length he remembered, and sent the order, Howe was far
 from the Hudson, at his old game of trying to run Washington
Burgoyne, however, knew nothing of this and cheerfully set out from
Canada with a well drilled, well equipped, and well fed army of
about eight thousand men, and on the 1st of July reached Ticonderoga.
Since this fort had been taken by Ethan Allen it had been greatly
strengthened, and the Americans believed that now it could withstand
any assault, however vigorous. But while strengthening the fort
itself they failed to fortify a little hill near. They had already
much experience of the danger of heights commanding a town or
fort. But they thought that this hill was too steep and rugged to
be a danger. No cannon, it was said, could ever be dragged up to the
top of it. When the British came, however, they thought otherwise.
They at once saw the value of the hill, and determined that guns
should be dragged up it. For forty-eight hours they worked furiously,
and when day dawned on the 5th of August both men and guns were on
The American commander, St. Clair, saw them with despair in his
heart. Every corner of the fort was commanded by the guns, and the
garrison utterly at the mercy of the enemy. To remain, he knew,
would mean the loss of his whole force. So he resolved to abandon
the fort, and as soon as the sun set the work was begun. Guns and
stores were laden on boats, cannon too heavy to be removed were
spiked, and nearly all the garrison had left when a fire broke out
in the officers' quarters.
The light of the flames showed the British sentinels what was going
on. The alarm was given. The British made a dash for the fort, and
as day dawned the Union Jack was once more planted
upon its ramparts.
Then a hot pursuit began. At the village of Hubbardton the Americans
made a valiant stand, but they were
 worsted and fled, and five days
later St. Clair brought the remnant of his force into Fort Edward,
where the main army under Schuyler was stationed.
Burgoyne had begun well, and when King George heard the news he
clapped his hands with joy. "I have beat them," he cried, dashing
into the Queen's rooms, "I have beat all the Americans." But over
America the loss cast a gloom. St. Clair and Schuyler were severely
blamed and court-martialled. But both were honourably acquitted.
Nothing could have saved the garrison from being utterly wiped out;
and when men came to judge the matter calmly they admitted that
it was better to lose the fort than to lose the fort and garrison
also. Meanwhile Burgoyne was chasing hot-foot after the fugitives.
As he approached, Schuyler abandoned Fort Edward, for it was a mere
shell and impossible of defence for a single day. But as he fell
back, he broke up the roads behind him. Trees were felled and laid
across them every two or three yards, bridges were burned, fords
destroyed. So thoroughly was the work done that Burgoyne, in
pursuit, could only march about a mile a day, and had to build no
fewer than forty bridges in a distance of little more than twenty-four
Besides destroying the roads Schuyler also made the country a desert.
He carried away and destroyed the crops, drove off the sheep and
cattle, sweeping the country so bare that the hostile army could
find no food, and were forced to depend altogether on their own
supplies. Before long these gave out, and the British began to
suffer from hunger.
Burgoyne now learned that at the village of Bennington the patriots
had a depot containing large stores of food and ammunition. These
he determined to have for his own army, and he sent a force of six
hundred men, mostly Germans and Indians, to make the capture.
 The old trapper, Captain John Stark, was in command of the American
force at Bennington. He had fought in many battles from Bunker Hill
to Princeton. But, finding himself passed over, when others were
promoted, he had gone off homeward in dudgeon. But now in his country's
hour of need he forgot his grievances and once more girded on his
sword. He led his men with splendid dash and the enemy was utterly
defeated, and Stark was made a brigadier general as a reward. It
was a disaster for Burgoyne, and on the heels of this defeat came
the news that the second force marching by way of Lake Ontario had
also met with disaster at Oriskany near Fort Stanwix.
This force had surrounded Fort Stanwix, and General Nicholas Herkimer
had marched to its relief.
General Herkimer was an old German of over sixty, and although
he had lived all his life in America, and loved the country with
his whole heart, he spoke English very badly, and wrote it worse.
It must have sadly puzzled his officers sometimes to make out his
dispatches and orders. One is said to have run as follows: "Ser,
yu will orter yur bodellyen to merchs Immetdielich do ford edward
weid for das broflesen and amenieschen fied for en betell. Dis yu
will desben at yur berrel." This being translated means:" Sir, you
will order your battalion to march immediately to Fort Edward with
four days' provisions, and ammunition for one battle. This you will
disobey at your peril."
As this doughty old German marched to the relief of Fort Stanwix
he fell into an ambush prepared for him by the famous Indian chief,
Joseph Brant, who, with his braves, was fighting on the side of
the British. A terrible hand to hand struggle followed. The air
was filled with wild yells and still wilder curses as the two foes
grappled. It was war in all its savagery. Tomahawks and knives were
used as freely as rifles. Stabbing, shooting, wrestling,
 the men
fought each other more like wildcats than human beings. A fearful
thunderstorm burst forth, too. Rain fell in torrents, a raging
wind tore through the tree tops, thunder and lightning added their
terrors to the scene.
For five hours the savage warfare lasted. Almost at the beginning
a ball shattered Herkimer's leg and killed his horse. But the stout
old warrior refused to leave the field. He bade his men take the
saddle from his horse and place it at the root of a great beech
tree. Sitting there he directed the battle, shouting his orders in
his quaint guttural English, and calmly smoking a pipe the while.
They were the last orders he was to give. For, ten days after
the battle he died from his wound, serenely smoking his pipe, and
reading his old German Bible almost to the last.
Soon the noise of the battle was heard at Fort Stanwix, and the
garrison, led by Colonel Marinus Willett, sallied forth to the
aid of their comrades, put a detachment of the enemy to flight,
and captured their stores of food and ammunition, together with
five flags. And now for the first time the Stars and Stripes were
When Washington had taken command of the army there had still been
no real thought of separating from Britain. So for his flag he
had used the British ensign with the Union Jack in the corner. But
instead of a red ground he had used a ground of thirteen red and
white stripes, on stripe for each colony. But when all hope of
reconciliation was gone Congress decided that the Union Jack must
be cut out of the flag altogether, and in its place a blue square
was to be used with thirteen white stars in a circle, one star for
each state, just as there was one stripe for each state.
People, however, were too busy doing other things and had no time
to see to the making of flags. So the first one was hoisted by
Colonel Willett, after the battle of
 Oriskany. He had captured five
standards. These, as victor, he hoisted on the fort. To make his
triumph complete, however, he wanted an American flag to hoist over
them. But he had none. So a soldier's wife gave her red petticoat,
some one else supplied a white shirt, and out of that and an old
blue jacket was made the first American flag to float upon the
This, of course, was only a rough and ready flag, and Betsy Ross,
a seamstress, who lived in Arch Street, Philadelphia, had the honour
of making the first real one. While in Philadelphia Washington and
some members of council called upon Betsy to ask her to make the
flag. Washington had brought a sketch with him, but Betsy suggested
some alterations. So Washington drew another sketch, and there and
then Betsy set to work, and very soon her flag also was floating
in the breeze.
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