The Patriot Resource - American Revolution

British General John Burgoyne
John Burgoyne Born: February 24, 1722; Bedfordshire, England
Died: June 4, 1792; London, England

Battles: Saratoga

Burgoyne's Offensive (Saratoga Campaign): 1777
On March 26, 1777, Lord Germain gave John Burgoyne a letter explaining the final approved plan to Maj. General Guy Carleton. The offensive would be a three-pronged attack with Burgoyne's main force marching south with many men who had served under Carleton in Canada. A diversionary force under Lt. Colonel Barry St. Leger would sail across Lake Ontario, put ashore in Western New York and march through the Mohawk Valley to Albany. Lastly, Maj. General William Howe would move up the Hudson River from New York City and meet with Burgoyne at Albany. The obvious objective was to secure the Lake Champlain-Hudson River Corridor and cut off New England from the rest of the colonies.

On May 6, 1777, Burgoyne delivered the letter to General Carleton upon his arrival in Quebec. Carleton now was in the inenviable position of not only assisting his former deputy, but even turning over command of many of his men to Burgoyne. Carleton handled the difficult situation well and was of great assistance to Burgoyne in making preparations for the offensive. Burgoyne spent six weeks gathering supplies and organizing his expedition.

On June 20, 1777, Burgoyne set out from St. John's, Canada and rapidly occupied Crown Point on June 27. After Burgoyne maneuvered for several days, the Americans abandoned Fort Ticonderoga to Burgoyne on July 6. Burgoyne secured Skenesboro later that same day and Fort Anne on the following day. Instead of continuing by water, Burgoyne now he decided to take a land route to Fort Edward. It took him nearly three weeks to make it the twenty-odd miles from Skenesboro to Fort Edward, which gave the Americans time to begin to send in reinforcements from General George Washington's main army and call up militia.

After the draining march to Fort Edward, Burgoyne now found his army short on supplies. He sent letters to General Howe requesting reinforcements and supplies. He also found his line of communications back to Canada to be tenuous at best. On August 9, 1777, Burgoyne ordered a detachment into the Connecticut Valley to raid for supplies, but the raid ended in disaster at Bennington on October 16, 1777 with the 800-man force and late-arriving reinforcements wiped out by New Hampshire and New York militia under Brig. General John Stark and Seth Warner.

Burgoyne now sat and waited to hear back from Generals Howe and Clinton. Later that month, he received some depressing news. The diversionary force under Lt. Colonel Leger had had to retreat back north to Canada out of the Mohawk Valley after a long siege at Fort Stanwix, because of a large force of Continental reinforcements led by Brig. General Benedict Arnold bearing down on them and the desertion of the Indian allies. Maj. General William Howe ws nowhere near New York, but rather carrying out his own operations in New Jersey and Pennsylvania against General Washingtonin an effort to capture Philadelphia.

With two of his three-pronged offensive missing, Burgoyne was now in serious trouble. He began sending letters to Maj. General Henry Clinton for aid, but Clinton was holding New York City and could not spare any men as long as American forces were massed in the Hudson Highlands to the north of the city. He was running low on supplies with no reinforcements or relief coming for at least a month and even worse, without any other enemy forces to worrry about in the region, the Americans could concentrate on building forces against Burgoyne.

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