In the year 1781 the war was chiefly carried on in the South, but the North was constantly troubled by bands of Tories and Indians, who would swoop down on small settlements and make off with whatever they could lay their hands on.
During this time General Schuyler was staying at his house, which stood just outside the stockade or walls of Albany. The British commander sent out a party of Tories and Indians to capture the general.
When they reached the outskirts of the city they learned from a Dutch laborer that the general's house was guarded by six soldiers, three watching by night and three by day. They let the Dutchman go, and as soon as the band was out of sight he hastened to Albany and warned the general of their approach.
Schuyler gathered his family in one of the upper rooms of his house, and giving orders that the doors and windows should be barred, fired a pistol from a top-story window, to alarm the neighborhood.
The soldiers on guard, who had been lounging in the shade of a tree, started to their feet at the sound of the pistol; but, alas! too late, for they found themselves surrounded by a crowd of dusky forms, who bound them hand and foot, before they had time to resist.
In the room upstairs was the sturdy general, standing resolutely at the door, with gun in hand, while his black slaves were gathered about him, each with a weapon. At the other end of the room the women were huddled together, some weeping and some praying.
Suddenly a deafening crash was heard. The Indian band had broken into the house. With loud shouts they began to pillage and to destroy everything in sight. While they were yet busy downstairs, Mrs. Schuyler sprang to her feet and rushed to the door; for she had suddenly remembered that the baby, who was only a few months old, was asleep in its cradle in a room on the first floor.
The general caught his wife in his arms, and implored her not to go to certain death, saying that if any one was to go he would. While this generous struggle between husband and wife was going on, their young daughter, who had been standing near the door, glided by them, and descended the stairs.
All was dark in the hall, excepting where the light shone from the dining-room in which the Indians were pillaging the shelves and fighting over their booty. How to get past the dining-room door was the question, but the brave girl did not hesitate. Reaching the lower hall, she walked very deliberately forward, softly but quickly passing the door, and unobserved reached the room in which was the cradle.
She caught up the baby, crept back past the open door, and was just mounting the stairs, when one of the savages happened to see her. "Whiz"—and his sharp tomahawk struck the stair rail within a few inches of the baby's head. But the frightened girl hurried on, and in a few seconds was safe in her father's arms.
As for the Indians, fearing an attack from the near-by garrison, they hastened away with the booty they had collected, and left General Schuyler and his family unharmed.