The Patriot Resource - American Revolution


Battle of Saratoga
Battle of Saratoga


Planning Burgoyne's Offensive: May 1776-May 1777
In May 1776, Maj. General John Burgoyne arrived in Canada with reinforcements. With Burgoyne's arrival in Canada, the Continental forces under Brig. General John Sullivan had to retreat. The British Commander in Canada, Maj. General Sir Guy Carleton, then began to pursue a plan of moving down along Lake Champlain into New York with the intention of cutting off the New England colonies from the rest of the colonies, but his offensive was halted by winter. At about the same time, Burgoyne and Maj. General Henry Clinton arrived in London under the pretense of taking their seats in Parliament, but both actually were maneuvering for greater military positions.

After some political wrangling, General Burgoyne was the final choice over General Clinton for leading an offensive out of Canada against the rebellious colonies. Burgoyne then submitted his "Thoughts for Conducting the War on the Side of Canada" on February 28, 1777, to Lord Germain, who oversaw British activities in America. On March 26, 1777, Lord Germain explained the final approved plan in a letter to General Carleton. Carleton received Lord Germain's letter on May 6, 1777, when Burgoyne reached Quebec.

The final plan called for Carleton to hold 3,770 troops in Canada. Burgoyne was to move south up Lake Champlain (which flowed south to north) with a force of 7,173 men first capturing Fort Ticonderoga and then advancing to Albany, New York. A diversionary force of 2,000 men under Lt. Colonel Barry St. Leger would move through the Mohawk Valley to Albany. A third force under Maj. General William Howe was to march up the Hudson River from New York City and link up with Burgoyne's forces at Albany. The intended result would be that New England would be cut off from the rest of the colonies and once divided, the rebellion would collapse.


Continental Plans for Canada and Horatio Gates: May 1776-May 1777
On May 1, 1776, Maj. General John Thomas, the newly selected commander of the Canadian Department joined the American army outside of Quebec. However, on May 6, he had to begin a retreat as word of General Burgoyne to arrive with reinforcements. On June 2, Thomas died of smallpox and Brig. General John Sullivan took temporary command. Sullivan had no choice but to continue the retreat out of Canada as smallpox decimated his troops and a British counteroffensive.

On June 17, 1776, Maj. General Horatio Gates was selected by the Continental Congress as the new commander of the Canadian Department. Gates would never serve in that capacity since Sullivan had withdrawn his force from Canada back into New York. Instead, he became the second-in-command of the Northern Department under Maj. General Philip Schuyler. Gates began political maneuvering in an effort to supplant Schuyler. Gates proved to be more popular with New Englanders and militia than the upper class New Yorker Schuyler.

In December 1776, General Gatesled New Jersey and Pennsylvania regiments south to support General George Washington in his New Jersey Campaign. He joined Washginton on December 20, but claiming illness, he left for Baltimore, Maryland, where the Continental Congress was in session. He was lobbying the politicians for military advancement, when Washington gained his surprise victory at Trenton. On March 25, 1777, Gates was named commander of Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain, which was made an independent command from the Northern Department.








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