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Jane McCrae

Jane McCrae (1752- 1777) was a Tory loyalist during the American Revolutionary War. Her death at the hands of Indian warriors accompanying British General John Burgoyne's Saratoga Campaign became a motivating event for the rebels.

Jane was born one of the younger children in the large family of Rev. James McCrae of New Jersey. The McCrae family illustrated one of the difficulties caused by the war. Since her father's death, she had been living with her brother John at Saratoga, New York. She had become engaged David Jones. As the war began two of her brothers served with the American forces, while her fiancÚ fled with other loyalists to Canada. As the Burgoyne expedition neared Albany, Colonel John McCrae took up his duty with a regiment of the Albany County Militia. Her intended was serving as a Lieutenant in one of the loyalist of Tory militia units accompanying Burgoyne, and had been stationed at Fort Ticonderoga after its capture. She left her brother's home and was travelling to join David.

She had reached the village surrounding the old Fort Edward but so had the war. She was staying at the home of a Mrs. McNiel, another loyalist and a cousin to the British General Simon Fraser. On the morning of July 27th, 1777 a group of Indians fighting with the British advance raided the outskirts of the village, and Jane and Mrs. McNiel were taken hostage. As the Indians withdrew, they were separated. Mrs. McNiel was later united with her cousin, but discovered to her horror that another brave had Jane's scalp.

There are conflicting accounts of her death. The traditional version has it that two warriors quarreled over who would take her in for an expected reward, and that one of them killed her with a tomahawk to settle the issue. Another that she was killed by a bullet from the rear guard of the Americans withdrawing from Fort Edward. This second version was claimed by the brave with her scalp to avoid punishment when questioned by General Fraser.

Her death, and those of others in similar raids, inspired some of the resistance to Burgoyne's invasion leading to his defeat at the Battle of Saratoga. But the effect expanded later as reports of the incident were used, almost as propaganda, to excite rebel sympathies during the war, especially before the Sullivan Expedition in 1779. The story had become a part of American folklore when James Fenimore Cooper described some similar events in his novel The Last of the Mohicans.

David Jones never married, and later lived in Canada with the United Empire Loyalists. The place where Jane died is marked by a monument three miles south of Fort Edward, New York, and in 1852 her body was moved to the Union Cemetery there.