The Patriot Resource - American Revolution

Battle of Saratoga
Battle of Saratoga

Following the American retreat from Canada in May 1775, Maj. General Guy Carleton counterattacked with an invasion of the American colonies, but was forced to turn back as winter weather arrived. That winter, Maj. General John Burgoyne sailed back to England and received approval for a plan for a three-pronged invasion into the American colonies: a main force moving south through the Lake Champlain/Hudson River corridor, a diversionary force marching east through the Mohawk Valley to Albany, New York and a reinforcing army marched up the Hudson River to Albany from New York City.

On June 20, 1777, General Burgoyne set out from St. Johns, Canada and rapidly took possession of Crown Point, Fort Ticonderoga and Skenesboro. However, his expedition nearly bogged down on its way to Fort Edward thanks to American efforts to block both the land and water routes. Once he did reach Fort Edward and Fort George, he now found that his line of communication and supply line were stretched beyond managable distances.

General Burgoyne now realized that Maj. General William Howe was not on his way up to Albany from New York. The diversionary force under Lt. Colonel Barry St. Leger had also faced defeat in the Mohawk Valley at Fort Stanwix when their Indian allies had deserted the force leaving it outnumbered in the face of reinforcements under Brig. General Benedict Arnold. During the first week of August, Burgoyne authorized a raid into the Connecticut Valley under German Lt. Colonel Friedrich Baum to gather supplies. Instead, the force was completely defeated on August 16, 1777.

Around that same time, Maj. General Horatio Gates replaced Maj. General Philip Schuyler as Commander of the Continental Northern Department. Gates almost immediately began manuevering to cut off Burgoyne's route back to Canada. He kept close enough to threaten confrontation, but had a deliberate plan to simply starve Burgoyne into surrender. Continental Commander-in-Chief General George Washington had sent Maj. General Benjamin Lincoln with New England militia and Colonel Daniel Morgan. Gates made camp at Bemis Heights near Saratoga and waited General Burgoyne out.

General Burgoyne could wait no longer and attempted to salvage victory from sure defeat. On September 19, his troops attacked but Colonel Morgan halted the British advance and even began driving them back for several hours until Hessian reinforcements and low ammunition broke Americans counteroffensive. On October 7, Burgoyne again made a push and again his advance was halted. Though General Gates was satisfied with that, Brig. General Benedict Arnold ignored his orders and pushed forward, overrunning Burgoyne's fortifications at Freeman's Farm.

After a failed retreat, GeneralBurgoyne began negotiations for terms of surrender and formally surrendered to General Gates on October 17. Saratoga was the first victory for the Continental Army using recognized European tactics of war, which France recognized. Because of Saratoga, France would formally declare war on England. It also created political problems for George Washington whose own exploits had been limited to one surprise victory at Trenton and a string of defeats and retreats. Gates' newfound fame now made him a rival and to some a needed replacement to Washington.

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