Artist Emanuel Leutze specialized in dramatic scenes from American history. He froze the characters in this painting at the most powerful moment of their story. With the pointing hands, Leutze directs our eyes around the canvas to make sure we take in every detail we need to know.
It’s September, 1777. The British army is on the march toward Catherine Van Rensselaer Schuyler’s farm, outside Saratoga, New York. Everyone is about to leave, but before they do, Mrs. Schuyler decides to torch her fields, preventing the British from harvesting her crop for themselves. She’s the woman in the center, wearing the straw hat. With one hand, she sets her wheatfield on fire.
No one knows whether Mrs. Schuyler really did burn her wheat fields. But the British did burn her house down during the Battle of Saratoga. It was rebuilt after the battle, and is now part of the Saratoga National Historical Park.