The Death of Jane McCrea and Revolutionary War Opinion


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John Vanderlyn's "The Death of Jane McCrea"In Upstate New York, few tragedies have the cache of the death of Jane McCrea. In the summer of 1777, British armies were pressing southward through New York to Albany, with the goal of dividing the rebellious colonies.

On July 27, 1777 a young woman named Jane McCrea was killed in the vicinity of Fort Edward. There are conflicting stories about what happened, but most accuse Ottawa or Mohawk allies of Burgoyne in her death.

The murder of the young Loyalist bride changed the public perceptions of the war. General Gates wrote Burgoyne a scathing letter. Sir Edmund Burke, a Whig member of British Parliament, used the tragedy to rail against the Crown’s policies regarding its Indian allies.

The murder of Jane McCrea became propaganda against the British, who had claimed they would protect Loyalists from the violence of the Revolution.  McCrea’s murder inspired New Yorkers to take up the Patriot cause and helped grow the ranks of the Continental Army, at a time when desertion was otherwise high.  This rush of enlistments would contribute to the victories of the Saratoga Campaign.

Jane’s body was buried near Fort Edward. It would be moved several times before reaching its current resting place in Fort Edward’s Union Cemetery.

Illustration: John Vanderlyn’s “The Death of Jane McCrea,” described as “a classic depiction of American attitudes toward Indian savagery.”

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Marie Williams

About Marie Williams

Marie Williams is an independent historian and writer of the blog "The Half-Pint Historian" living in the foothills of the Southern Adirondack Mountains in Upstate New York. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in social studies adolescent education from The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY and her Master's degree in American history from Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, NH. When not engaged in historical research for her blog, Marie enjoys teaching middle school and high school level social studies classes.

One thought on “The Death of Jane McCrea and Revolutionary War Opinion

  1. Bob Ulrich

    Slight correction: “Young bride” is wrong, I believe. She was engaged to a British soldier, but not yet married. Although a Loyalist, from a Loyalist family, the news of her murder was spun by the Americans into a “Look at what the allies of the British will be doing to YOUR wives and children if not stopped ! Get to Saratoga and join the fight for freedom ! ” By the time of the second battle of Saratoga, the Americans outnumbered the British by several thousand men !! Upon seeing this, many of Burgoyne’s Indians deserted, which saved him the difficult decision to berate them for their actions….

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