Samuel Kettell, ed. Specimens of American Poetry. 1829.
Critical and Biographical Notice
Ann Eliza Bleecker (17521783)
MRS BLEECKER was the daughter of Mr Brandt Schuyler, and was born in New York in 1752. In 1769 she was married to John J. Bleecker Esq. of New Rochelle, and removed to Poughkeepsie, and shortly after to Tomhanick, a beautiful solitary village eighteen miles above Albany. Here she passed several years in the unbroken quiet of the wilderness, and although accustomed to move in the busy and gay throngs of the metropolis, her love for rural scenery, and the endearments of her domestic circle, rendered her life in this retirement a scene of unalloyed tranquillity and happiness. The repose of this beautiful and romantic spot, was at length broken by the clamors of war. In 1777 the approach of Burgoynes army from Canada spread terror and consternation throughout the back settlements, in that quarter. The horrors of military rapine were augmented by the fierce cruelties of savage warfare, and the dread of the British generals Indian ally frightened the peaceful inhabitants of the forest from their dwellings. Mr Bleeckers residence lay directly in the march of the invading foe, and he hastened to Albany to prepare a shelter for his family. But a few hours after his departure, Mrs Bleecker, as she sat at table, received intelligence that the enemy was within two miles of the village, burning and slaughtering all before him. In unspeakable terror at this information, she started up, and taking one of her daughters under her arm, and seizing the other by the hand, set off on foot, attended only by a young mulatto girl, leaving her house and all its contents a prey to the savages. The roads were incumbered with carriages loaded with women and children, and no assistance could be obtained; nothing but confusion and distress prevailed. After travelling on foot four or five miles, she procured a seat for the children in a wagon, and walked onward to the village of Stony Arabia, where after much difficulty she obtained shelter in a garret. Her husband returning from Albany, met her the next morning, and they proceeded to that city, from which place they departed down the Hudson by water. Twelve miles below Albany, her youngest daughter was taken so ill, that they were forced to go on shore, where shortly after she died. From hence they proceeded to Red Hook, where they considered themselves in safety.
The capture of Burgoyne soon after allowed them to return to their retreat in the country, but the loss of her daughter made so deep an impression upon her mind, that she never recovered her former happiness. She was naturally of a pensive turn, and brooded over her griefs with too free an indulgence. She lived, however, in tolerable tranquillity till the year 1781, when, as Mr Bleecker was assisting in the harvest one day in August, he was surprised by a party of the enemy from Canada, and carried off prisoner with two of his men. Mrs Bleecker, unknowing of the circumstance, continued to expect him home till late in the day, at which time, growing apprehensive, she despatched a servant in search of him, who returned without making any discovery. As a number of parties from Canada were known to be prowling about in the woods for the purpose of seizing and carrying off the most active citizens, she began to conjecture what had become of him. The neighborhood was raised, and the forest searched for him, but without effect; not a trace could be discovered of the party. Mrs Bleecker, completely overcome with grief, gave him up for lost, and set out for Albany, although it was near night. Mr Bleecker however, had the good fortune to be rescued from his captors, just at the time when they had proceeded so far as to imagine themselves in perfect security. He was retaken by a party of Americans from Bennington, and returned to his wife, after an absence of six days. The joy she experienced on again beholding him, so far overpowered her, as to bring on a fit of sickness, which nearly proved fatal.
After the peace, she returned to New York for the purpose of revisiting the scenes and associates of her childhood, but the loss of her friends, and the ruinous condition of her native city, preyed so powerfully upon her, that her spirits were unequal to the burden. She returned to her cottage at Tomhanick where she died on the 23d of November, 1783, at the age of 31.
Mrs Bleeckers poetry is not of that high order which would sustain itself under any very bold attempt; but the events of her life confer a degree of interest upon the few productions which she has left behind her. A female cultivating the elegant arts of refined society at the ultima Thule of civilized life, in regions of savage wildness, and among scenes of alarm, desolation, and bloodshed, is a spectacle too striking not to fix our attention.