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:


1 thought on “The Fate of John Burgoyne”

  1. I believe this William Tilden is my 5th great-grandfather, so I was delighted to see this site come up in a search today. I am researching the documents in Lucy Tilden’s pension file. As you know, Lucy’s claim for a pension was rejected. William had moved from Stoughton to Palmer in 1783, and likely moved to Otsego County, New York between 1800 and 1810.

    Thank you for posting the papers and the recording!


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