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The memory of Madame Riedesel* will live in the hearts of Americans, as long as letters shall endure. The child-like trust in Providence, which alone enabled her to leave a luxu. rious home and powerful friends, and follow her husband across a pathless ocean into a strange land, then almost a wilderness, for the sake of sharing with him his trials and hardships, affords an example worthy of our study and admiration. Nor can any one peruse these touching records of a devoted, conjugal love, chastened and sanctified, as it was, by an unaffected religious experience, without the consciousness of a higher ideal of faith and duty.
A few detached and imperfectly translated portions of these letters were first published in English by General Wilkinson, in his Memoirs of my own Times, and were afterwards copied into Professor Silliman's Tour in Canada. The work was subsequently more fully translated and given to the public in 1827. This translation, however, not only fails, in innumerable instances, to convey the ideas and spirit of the original, but omits nearly forty pages of the first and only German edition published
* Ried-esel, pronounced Re-day-zel, with accent on second syllable. The cockneys in the British army pronounced it Red-hazel.
at Berlin in 1800.* ..Wher; therefore, a few months since, Mr.
*It was entitled, Die | Berufs Reise nach America | Briefe der | Generalin von Riedesel | aus dieser Reise / und | während ihres sechsjährigen Aufenthalts | in America | zur Zeit des dortigen Kreiges | in den Jahren 1776 bis 1783 nach Deutschland geschrieben Berlin bei Haude und Spener 1800. 16mo, pp. x, 352.
The voyage of duty to America ; letters of Mrs. General Riedesel, upon her journey and during her six years' sojourn in America, at the time of war in that country, in the years 1776-1783, written to Germany.
the original, a totally false impression. If the readers of this volume are so fastidiously refined” as to be shocked by any thing which the pure and lovely Madame Riedesel has written, it is high time that the works of our chastest authors be put out of their reach, until their morbid sensibilities be restored to a healthy tone. Designed for no eyes but those of her mother and her family, these letters have an unstudied familiarity. There is, however, nothing in them that can offend the correct and cultivated taste of any true man or woman.
Many of them were written amid the sickening horrors of the camp; and it is her artless and faithful delineations of the scenes through which she passed, and the state of society in this country at one of its most momentous epochs, that give to her story its highest charm and value.
A translation of a passage from Weld's Voyage to North America, in relation to the Indian chief Thayendanegea, which forms the appendix to the German volume, has been omitted, as the original is accessible to the English reader. In its place we give, as of far more interest, a personal sketch of the baroness, including an account of her romantic courtship and marriage.
The appendix to the edition of 1827, contains several letters from General Riedesel to Generals Washington and Gates. These letters are not reproduced in this volume, as they will soon appear in a translation of the Life and Writings of General Riedesel, upon which I am now engaged. This work contains, besides Riedesel's military and personal journal during his residence in America, many additional letters from Washington, Gates, Burgoyne, Schuyler, and other revolutionary characters, which have never been published in English.
To David M. Stone, T. W. Field, and the late Theodore Dwight of Brooklyn; Friedrich Kapp, Charles Congdon, and David T. Valentine of New York; Hon. Judge Hay of Saratoga Springs; and to my loved teacher and friend, Professor Robinson P. Dunn of Brown University, I am indebted for kind and valuable suggestions. Nor must I forget to thank Mr. John C. Buttre for the pains he has taken with the artistic engraving which forms the frontispiece of this volume.
One word further in relation to the authenticity of the engraving itself.* Upon writing to Lieutenant Colonel Max Von Eelking-the author of the Life and Writings of General Riedesel, now residing at Meiningen — for a copy of the portrait of the baroness, he with great courtesy complied with my request, accompanying the photograph with a letter, under date of December 7, 1866, from which I make the following extract:
“At last I am able to answer your wish. The only one to whom I could apply is Baron Rotenhan, a grandson of Mrs. General Riedesel, who has inherited the whole estate, and who is, at the same time, in the possession of all the family portraits. I, accordingly, send you enclosed the photograph, which you will please send back after having used it. Please send me five or six copies, which I would like to distribute among the relatives of Mrs. Riedesel. Baron Roten han has not given me any other items in relation to Mrs. Riedesel, although I asked him for them. Probably he does not know more than that which I have stated in my biography of the General, which was communicated to me by his son.”
* The portrait from which the engraving is taken, represents Madame Riedesel at the age of sixteen, a few weeks before her marriage. It was celebrated German artist, Tischbein, in 1762.