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Mrs. Schuyler Burning Her Wheat Fields on the Approach of the British

Mrs. Schuyler Burning Her Wheat Fields on the Approach of the British by Emanuel Leutze

Mrs. Schuyler Burning Her Wheat Fields on the Approach of the British

“Mrs. Schuyler Burning Her Wheat Fields on the Approach of the British” by Emanuel Leutze depicts Catherine Van Rensselaer Schuyler, wife of General Philip Schuyler, setting fire to her wheat fields as per General Schuyler scorched-earth policy to keep them from the enemy.

The British’s imminent arrival is announced by a messenger in this composition, which Leutze conceived as a theatrical scene. Mrs. Schuyler is the central object of attention and is dressed in a red, white, and blue gown to underscored the patriotic deed. 

The British under John Burgoyne arrived at Saratoga, now called Schuylerville, on September 13, 1777, and occupied her house, which was then burned down during Saratoga’s Battle.

The first account of this act of heroism appeared in Mrs. Schuyler in Elizabeth F. Ellet’s “The Women of the American Revolution,” published in 1848. It was one of the many anthologies of Revolutionary War feminine heroism popular during the period.

The story is based on the account written in 1846 by Catherine Van Rensselaer Cochrane, Mrs. Schuyler’s youngest daughter, one of the four Schuyler sisters.

The painting reflects the history painting tradition of Düsseldorf School that Emanuel Leutze attended and received his formal art education. Leutze made efforts to obtain an accurate portrayal of Mrs. Schuyler by studying a portrait in the family’s possession.

Leutze had phenomenally successful with his “Washington Crossing the Delaware,” To capitalize on the successful theme of the Revolutionary War, he followed it with this painting. It was the second of some dozen subjects from the Revolutionary War that he was to paint.

Patriotic feelings were heightened with the Mexican American War, which inspired patronage for such themes. 

Catherine Schuyler

Catherine Van Rensselaer Schuyler (1734 – 1803) was a Colonial and post-Colonial American socialite and the matriarch of the prominent colonial Schuyler family as the wife of Philip Schuyler.

Her second daughter, Elizabeth Schuyler (1757–1854), married Alexander Hamilton (1755/7–1804), who later became the first Secretary of the Treasury. Elizabeth co-founded the first orphanage in New York City.

Her husband, Philip Schuyler, was known as a man of great wealth and intelligence. He commanded a militia in the French and Indian War and still managed to assume ownership of the large estate given to him by his father. 

Together, Philip and Catherine had 15 children, eight of whom survived to adulthood.

Mrs. Schuyler Burning Her Wheat Fields on the Approach of the British by Emanuel Leutze

Mrs. Philip John Schuyler (Catherine van Rensselaer) by Walter Robertson, 1795 – Smithsonian American Art Museum

The Battles of Saratoga

The Battles of Saratoga in 1777 marked the climax of the Saratoga campaign, giving a decisive victory to the Americans over the British in the American Revolutionary War.

British General John Burgoyne led a large invasion army southward from Canada in the Champlain Valley, hoping to meet a similar British force marching northward from New York City.  

Burgoyne found himself trapped by superior American forces with no relief, so he retreated to Saratoga (now Schuylerville) and surrendered his entire army on October 17.

Burgoyne’s strategy to divide New England from the southern colonies had started well but slowed due to logistical problems.

Schuylerville, New York

Schuylerville is a village located in the northeast part of the Town of Saratoga, east of Saratoga Springs. The village was incorporated in 1831 and is named after the Schuyler family, a prominent family of Dutch descent in colonial America.

Schuylerville was the site of the British Army’s surrender under General John Burgoyne following the Battles of Saratoga (1777). Schuylerville contains several historic buildings, including the General Schuyler House.

Originally inhabited by Native Americans, the region was eventually settled by Dutch settlers from Albany, New York, in 1691, who called the region Fort Saratoga. These settlers included the influential Schuyler family. 

Homes and mills were built by European Americans, including General Phillip Schuyler’s flax mill in 1767, the first of its kind in the American colonies.

“Mrs. Schuyler Burning Her Wheat Fields on the Approach of the British” by Emanuel Leutze

  • Title:                 Mrs. Schuyler Burning Her Wheat Fields on the Approach of the British
  • Artist:               Emanuel Leutze
  • Year:                1852
  • Medium:          Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:    Height: 32 in (81.2 cm); Width: 40 in (101.6 cm)
  • Type:                History Painting
  • Museum:         Los Angeles County Museum of Art

‘The Schuyler Sisters’

Emanuel Leutze

Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze (1816 – 1868) was a German American history painter best known for his painting “Washington Crossing the Delaware.”

Leutze was born in Germany and was brought to the United States as a child in 1825. His parents settled first in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and then at Philadelphia. 

At 14, he was painting portraits for $5 apiece. Through such work, he supported himself after the death of his father. In 1834, he received his first instruction in art and soon became skilled.

In 1840, one of his paintings attracted attention and gave him several orders, which enabled him to attend the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in his native Germany. 

In 1842 he went to Munich, to study and in the following year, he visited Venice and Rome, making studies from Titian and Michelangelo.

After an Italy tour, he returned to Düsseldorf in 1845, making his home there for 14 years before returning to the United States in 1859.

On returning to the United States, Leutze opened a studio in New York City and divided his time between New York City and Washington, D.C. 

Emanuel Leutze

Schuyler Sisters’ Father Rebuilt the Family Home

Virtual Tour of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

The Women of Hamilton


A Tour of History Paintings

How Hamilton’s In-Laws Lived

Schuyler Sisters


“Responsible people work, earn, save, invest, make things better for self & family.”
– Philip Schuyler


Photo Credit: 1)Emanuel Leutze, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.; UpstateNYer, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons; Walter Robertson, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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