On May 25, 1775, John Burgoyne arrived in America abourd the Cerberus with fellow Major Generals Henry Clinton and William Howe to assist Maj. General Thomas Gage in getting the British Army out of Boston. Even before he reached America, he became the butt of jokes for his cocky statement regarding the Provincials surrounding Boston. After learning that only twice as many militia surrounded Boston as British soldiers were presents, Burgoyne said: "Well, let us get in, and we'll soon find elbow-room."
Instead of assisting General Gage in quelling the upstart rebellion, Burgoyne engaged in correspondance with London that was repeatedly critical of Gage and hurt his standing with the ministry there. When Gage had returned to Boston, he orders to become military governor and enforce martial law. In an effort to avoid escalating the situation, Gage called on Burgoyne's literary skills to write a manifesto which offered pardons to all rebels save Samuel Adams and John Hancock. It was issued on June 13, as one last attempt at a peaceful resolution. However, Burgoyne's prose proved to be flamboyant and did little but offend the 'simple' Provincials. Burgoyne returned to England in November 1775 while the siege continued.
On January 1, 1776, John Burgoyne was given the local (to the American colonies) commission of Lieutenant General. In May 1776, he arrived in Quebec with reinforcements for Commander-in-Chief in Canada Maj. General Guy Carleton. The Americans retreated from Quebec, but reinforcements under Maj. General John Sullivan arrived at St. Johns and the Americans made another push back north and attacked Trois Rivieres on June 8, 1776. Believing it was held by only 800 men, the Americans sent 2,000 men, which were no match for the nearly 7,000 British regulars under the command of Burgoyne and Brig. General Simon Fraser.
Following their defeat at Trois Rivieres, the Americans retreated south again closely followed by General Carleton and Burgoyne, now serving as his deputy. Carleton remained at St. Johns until October 4, building up supplies and men, but his caution would be criticized by Burgoyne in higher circles. Carleton's offensive stalled out at shortly after the Battle at Valcour Island on October 11, 1776. Carleton then turned back to enter winter quarters. Burgoyne did not desire to winter in Canada and returned to England in December 1776 to find that his wife Charlotte had died that July.
Burgoyne's Ambition: 1777
Once in England, Burgoyne returned to his seat in Parliament, but also worked on putting together an offensive that would give him the glory of independent command. Burgoyne had to use some political maneuvering to try to ensure his selection over General Clinton. Clinton had also returned to England that winter and was lobbying for his own independent offensive. While vacationing, he made a fifty guinea bet that American would be defeated within a year.
Burgoyne was not completely on holiday. He took the opportunity to write his "Thoughts for Conducting the War on the Side of Canada, " which he submitted to Secretary of State for American Affairs Lord George Germain on February 28, 1777. Only on February 20, had Burgoyne been at last selected over Clinton for the command.After having received the final approval for leading the campaign on February 20th.
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