The humble graciousness of the German solider left an impression on James Selkirk, who then wrote, "I have never seen a man so thankful as he was and he offered to give me his grenadiers cap for he had nothing else to give me."
James Selkirk was also witness to another historical footnote when he saw Benedict Arnold break his leg in battle.
"General Arnold was wounded through the leg and his horse shot from under him," he wrote.
There is a monument that depicts a boot in the Saratoga National Historical Park in honor of Arnold's injury and valor in the Battles of Saratoga and other American victories. It reads, "In memory of the 'most brilliant soldier' of the Continental Army who was desperately wounded on this spot."
However, it never mentions Arnold by name as he is forever stigmatized as a traitor in the annals of American history.
On the back of Selkirk's framed discharge papers is a hand-written genealogy of sorts that listed the male line from James Selkirk down to Selkirk himself and his brother Charles Selkirk. Selkirk has now added his own two sons on the list.
His uncle Russell Selkirk moved to Cobleskill to open a hardware store while his father Robert Selkirk ran the family farm. Russell Selkirk went on to become the supervisor of Cobleskill and eventually the state Assemblyman for Schoharie County from 1959 until 1966.
The famous Selkirk Rail yards bear his family name as well, and were a huge development boom for the entire area. Selkirk said he heard family stories about its construction in 1924, which cost $25 million and was part of the Castleton Cut Off and encompassed the freight yards and the bridge over the Hudson River.
"The man came and said, 'We're gonna name it the Selkirk Rail yards,'" Selkirk said. "And my grandfather said, 'Well that'll be nice."