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John Freeman
and the Battle of Freeman's Farm

The Freeman family, according to some, originally came to the New World aboard the Abigail, which accompanied the second voyage of the Mayflower. One branch of the family settled in upstate New York, and by 1777 were living on a farm rented from Philip Schuyler near Stillwater in Saratoga County. This farm also happened to be the scene of one of the most important battles of the American Revolution - the 1st Battle of Saratoga, more commonly known as the Battle of Freeman's Farm.

In 1777, the British began to advance on Albany, with Gen. Burgoyne leading the central column south from Quebec, down Lake Champlain and the Hudson River. The plan was for him to meet up with Gen. St. Leger's men moving east along the Mohawk River, and with a third column under Gen. Howe's command coming up from the south along the Hudson. The plan was initially successful, despite the Americans under Benedict Arnold having thwarted St. Leger's advance. Burgoyne had decisive victories at Ticonderoga and Hubbardton, and continued to push the American forces south along the Hudson until, by the summer of 1777, he was ready to cross the river into Saratoga Village.

By August, hundreds of men from Saratoga Co. were flocking to join the British forces, and among them were John Freeman and his 12 year old son, Thomas. John was employed as a guide, and young Thomas enlisted with Jessup's King's Loyal Americans. On September 19th, these two were to find themselves home again as British and American forces met on their very farm, in a battle which was to become a turning point in the Revolutionary War.

The British, under Burgoyne, suffered greater casualties than the Rebels in this first battle, but managed to gain the field and are considered to have won it. Despite his forces being depleted, however, Burgoyne chose to press the Americans again a few weeks later just south of Freeman's farm at Bemis Heights (the 2nd Battle of Saratoga). This time the Americans won the day, and Burgoyne was forced to retreat and later surrender arms.

(an interesting note - Benedict Arnold is given large credit for this victory, and was severely wounded in the leg during the battle. It was while he was recovering from this wound that he began to dwell on his ill treatment by Gen. Gates, who had actually relieved him of command before the battle. It is believed that this was the cause of his turning to the British, and to commemorate this, a monument stands on the site with a bronze replica of Benedict Arnold's Leg.)

Under the terms of the surrender, Burgoyne and his men were allowed to return to Canada, along with the families of the local Loyalists, which including the Freeman and Scott families. All their land and property had been confiscated, and in John Freeman's case, there wasn't much of his property left after the battle anyway. This exhausted and demoralized group began making their way north, a seventeen day, two hundred mile journey from Saratoga to St. John, Quebec, where they arrived November 3rd.

Soon after arriving, the Freeman family suffered yet another devastating blow. In January and February of 1778, a smallpox epidemic struck the settlements along the eastern shores of Lake Champlain. John Freeman, his wife, and 7 of their 10 children died, leaving only Thomas and two of his sisters, Mary and Dorcas. In 1781, and again in 1788, Thomas Freeman petitioned Gen. Haldimand for compensation on the losses sustained by his father, stating that Gen. Burgoyne had personally promised him reward for his loyalty. His petition was supported by letters from several officers who had fought at Saratoga, and was eventually accepted.

John Freeman was my 5th great-grandfather. I am descended through his daughter Dorcas.

Truax / Jaques / Holding Family Album

Jennifer's Genealogy Page
Created: Tuesday, July 21, 1998 - 11:39:01 AM
Last Updated: Tuesday, July 04, 2006