Baroness Charlotte Louise Friederike Riedesel wins the Toughest Traveling Mom With Kids Award of the American Revolution.
Her husband commanded several thousand German troops who fought for the British. When they set sail for America, seventy-seven of those men brought their wives and children with them. (The wives cooked, cleaned, sewed and cared for the soldiers.)
Charlotte didn’t like the idea of being left behind. She packed up her brood; four-year-old Augusta, two-year-old Frederika, and newborn baby Caroline and headed for the New World.
Do you understand what I just told you? In freaking 1777 she took three kids under the age of five, TWO STILL IN DIAPERS, across the ocean (eight week trip, btw) so she could be with her husband. Bitch was tough!
(You may never, ever complain about the drive to Disneyworld with your kids watching movies in the backseat of your minivan. Got it? No more whining. Ever. Think of Charlotte.)
AND THEN? Her husband wasn’t in Quebec, so she and the girls traveled by birchbark canoe through the wilderness until they found General Dad.
After a joyful reunion, he went back to making war. Charlotte and the girls followed, staying a few miles away from battlefields, which didn’t always work because one time near Saratoga the war got a little too close for comfort and their house was fired upon by Patriot cannons. She just moved the girls and the wounded soldiers she was taking care of to the basement. (That house is still standing.)
Gen. Dad and Brit General Burgoyne screwed up the Battles of Saratoga royally and got pantsed by the Patriots. They surrendered and became prisoners of war: 6000 Brit and German troops as well as the wives and kids who had accompanied them, including Charlotte and her well-travelled toddlers and baby.
All of the POWS were herded first to Boston, and, a year later, down to Virginia. Thomas Jefferson rented one his plantation houses to Gen. Dad’s family, sold them a piano, and had them over for, well, probably not for tea. Maybe they had mint juleps. The Riedesel girls became friends with Tom Jefferson’s daughter Martha. (Jefferson was governor of Virginia at this point.) I hope they got to run around in the yard a lot.
After eight months hanging out in very not-very-POW conditions, (Charlotte got pregnant, f. ex, then there were the dinner parties) the Riedesels were ordered to New York so Gen. Dad could be exchanged for captured American officers. The fourth Riedesel daughter was born in March 1780. They named her America. I kid you not!
Gen. Dad put in for a transfer (gee, I wonder why) and the family moved to Quebec. Charlotte gave birth to her fifth daughter there in 1782 and named her Canada. Sadly, little Canada died when she was five months old.
When the war ended, the family made their way back to Germany, arriving in October, 1783, six years after they left. Charlotte wrote a famous book about her adventures and spent the rest of her life NOT LEAVING THE HOUSE.
OK, I made that last part up. But that’s how I would have handled the situation.
(I nominate Isabella Rossellini as Charlotte’s modern-day doppelgänger. See what I did there, using a German word to end a piece about a kickass German lady?)