The Fate of John Burgoyne

A pension file is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you’re going to find inside.  The Revolutionary War pension file for Lucy Tilden, widow of William Tilden of Stoughton, Massachusetts (R. 10604) is a good example.

Tucked in between the typical paperwork, of sworn depositions and memoranda, is a slip of paper.  It had once been folded in thirds to form an envelope.  On the outside it was addressed, “To Corporal William Tilden, Castle Island.”   (Castle Island, in Boston Harbor, had hosted a British fort, Castle William, until the British evacuated Boston in March 1776.)

The interior of the paper, “For the Amusement of Wm. Tilden, Castle Island, March the 23, 1778,” contains the text of a ballad of the day, one that in later anthologies was titled “The Fate of John Burgoyne.”   It describes the defeat of General Burgoyne and his forces at the Battle of Saratoga which was fought the previous September.

If you want to test your ability to read late 18th century handwriting, you might give this a try:

And if you want to hear it as it might have been sung, you can give a listen to this:


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