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The Founders Club

Tracing the Philosophical Roots of the U.S. Constitution

The Murder of Jane McCrae

When David Jones was fighting the rebels, all he could think about was his fiancé Jane McCrea. He knew that when he saw his fiancé Jane McCrea again, he would marry her. Sadly, he would never get that chance.

Jane McCrae, was the daughter of a New Jersey minister. When her father died she moved to northern New York with her brother. Like many in the colonies her life was divided. Her brother was a patriot in the local militia and she was engaged to loyalist David Jones. Torn between family, she moved in with a loyalist friend named Sarah Mcneil to be closer to David because David Jones had left to join the Saratoga Campaign.

The primary thrust of the Saratoga campaign was planned and initiated by General Johnny Burgoyne. Commanding a main force of some 7,000 men, he moved south on June 14 through New York from Quebec. It would cut a central part of America off from the cause which would be devastating for the Americans. General Burgoyne also allied with the Native Americans to intimidate the colonists and raid their villages as they pushed through New York. The British moved down Lake Champlain and won the battle of Fort Ticonderoga and Fort Anne. They had their eyes set on Fort Edward next. American morale was low and the Americans haven’t won a major victory yet. France and many colonists were on the fence about joining the patriotic cause. It looked like the beginning of the end for the Americans.

The British Army was getting closer and closer to Jane McCrae and Sarah Mcneil. David Jones sent a letter to Jane that he was coming and they should have their wedding soon.

Now remember, with the British Army getting closer, it also meant that the people around that area were more at risk. The Native Americans that the British paid were getting anxious. They didn’t understand limited warfare. On July 25th the natives attacked a settlement 14 miles away from Fort Edward, 9 people including many children died. Another problem with the natives is they didn’t understand the difference between patriots and loyalists. That would be bad news for Jane McCrae. On July 27th the Native Americans showed up at the women's place. It either is believed that David Jones sent the natives to bring the woman to the British camp or their home was raided like the others. The women were separated and that’s when tragedy struck. Sarah McNeil made it to the camp...without her 23 year old friend Jane McCrae.

Back at the camp David Jones saw something that will haunt him for the rest of his life. He saw the scalp of Jane McCrae on one of the natives belts named Wyandot Panther. There are 2 accounts of what happened. The first account is that the Native Americans quarreled over who was going to get the bounty and in a fit of rage one of them shot and scalped her. The other is that they were attacked by an American Militia and a stray bullet killed her and the native American scalped her to get the bounty.

This event left the whole camp outraged. When Burgoyne heard of the killing, he went to the Native American camp and ordered the culprit to be delivered to be executed. He didn’t take action just in case the natives would defect. He needed them for his eyes and ears. The Natives were still offended and many abandoned him and because he didn’t actually do anything and was responsible for this tragedy. Many of Burgoyne's men left to go back home to either the colonies or Canada. It’s reported that David Jones buried his fiancé, left the military, moved to Canada and never married again. These aren’t the only things that happened though. The colonist picked up on this story and printed it everywhere. It was in newspapers, songs, poems, art, and more.

The colonists were outraged. Any colonist on the fence between the 2 sides chose the Americans. Many joined their local militias to fight against the British. They thought if Jane McCrae who was going to be married to a British soldier couldn't be saved from the British, what chance did they have? Burgoyne finally captured Fort Edward. In September 7500 British clashed with 9000 Americans at Freeman's farm. The battle was a stalemate. Burgoyne was forced to either attack again or retreat. He chose to attack. On October 17th, 1777, Burgoyne and his forces surrendered. This battle convinced the French to send troops and help the Patriot cause. This battle is considered the turning point of the Revolutionary War. This Victory is so great that the painting of it is in the Capital in the United States.

These topics are heavily debated by historians today. How did Jane McCrae die? What percentage of her death contributed to the victory of Saratoga? Let us know your thoughts below, we always want to know what you think about these interesting topics.

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