Jane McCrea’s life story starts out somewhere around the year 1752 in New Jersey. Her father was the Reverend James McCrea, and her mother was Katherine Rosbrugh. Jane was one of ten children, and they lived with their parents in Somerset County, New Jersey. Reverend McCrea was an Ulster Scot who was born in what is now Northern Ireland. Mrs. McCrea was the daughter of a reverend also. Her father, Robert Rosebrugh, was also an Ulster Scot.
Jane’s family of brothers were divided between the American Army and the British Army during the Revolutionary War. Her brother John was a Colonel in the American Army. Her brother Samuel was a soldier in the same army, and brother Stephen was a surgeon on the American side.
However, Creighton McCrea, another brother, served as a Captain in the 75th Highlanders, Queens Rangers. And her brother Robert, pledge allegiance to the British. He was a Captain in the Queens Rangers, and a Major in the 5th Royal Vet. Battalion.
Since her family’s allegiance to the war was split, it was no wonder that Jane would later fall in love with a British officer.
As time progressed, Jane blossomed into a tall, captivating young woman who wore a main of long, blonde hair. At the age of 26, Jane was engaged to be married to her sweetheart. His name was Lt. David Jones, and he was a loyalist in General Burgoyne’s army. Jane was living with her brother John on his farm at Fort Edward in New York. By living with her older brother, she could stay in closer contact with Jones.
In mid 1777, there came distressing news that General John Burgoyne’s troops were barreling down on Fort Edward, as well as on Fort Ticonderoga. Being that her fiancee was fighting for the British, Jane felt fairly safe, so she didn’t leave her home. Most of the colonists left their homes quickly, seeking safety in the south. But not Jane. She stayed in Fort Edward to wait on her fiancee, Lt. Jones. There is a historical account that she had received a letter from Jones saying he wanted to see her when he arrived. Another account has it that the two sweethearts were to be joined in wedlock on that same day.
On the morning of July 27, a fateful day in her life, Jane McCrea went to visit a friend, a lady by the name of Mrs. McNeil. She and her friend visited while Mrs. McNeil prepared to flee from Fort Edward. Around noon, a unit of Indians broke into the home and kidnapped both women. The Indians were paid to be scouts for the British Army under General Burgoyne.
The Indians divided up. One half of them took Jane McCrea, and the other half took Mrs. McNeil. Historical accounts report that Jane’s kidnappers left the house with her first. But when
Mrs. McNeil arrived at the British camp, Jane was no where to be found. Unfortunately, Mrs. McNeil didn’t need to wonder any longer when the unit of Indians who took Jane finally showed up with a scalp…
History also tells us that Jane McCrea was murdered in order to settle an argument.
When General Burgoyne found out about the incident, he did nothing. Afterall, he couldn’t condemn the Indians and turn them into his enemies because, they were on his side. And that was his downfall.
Even though it was a cold, senseless murder, Jane McCrea’s death was not in vain. When the word spread about “Burgoyne’s Indians” murdering Jane, and being allowed to ravage the colonies, men sprang up in anger. In England, in the House of Commons, Edmund Burke criticized the practice of hiring Indians as allies. In America, many men who were formerly uncommitted to either side of the war now denounced the British. The American patriotism rose to such a pitch that swarms of men even enlisted in the army to help bring down the British.
And that’s what happened. With the injection of new fighting soldiers on the American side,
General Burgoyne and his troops were defeated in Saratoga just three months later. This defeat was a significant turning point in the Revolutionary War.
Jane McCrea’s body was first buried outside of Fort Edward, near her brother John’s home in New York. There is a monument at the site that marks her original grave. But her remains were later moved to the Union Cemetery at Fort Edward. Then, her remains were moved yet a third time to lie in rest at the new Union cemetery, which is located in between Fort Edward and Sandy Hill.