British General John Burgoyne
||Born: February 24, 1722; Bedfordshire, England
Died: June 4, 1792; London, England
John Burgoyne was born on February 24, 1722. He was educated at Westminster after which he began his military career at age fifteen. He eloped with Lady Charlotte Stanley, daughter of the eleventh Earl of Derby. The earl at first disapproved of the marriage, but eventually accepted Burgoyne and purchased a captaincy in the 11th dragoons for him on June 14, 1756. Burgoyne was present at the attacks on Cherbourg and St. Malo in 1758 and in 1759, he received his first command.
Burgoyne was elected to Parliament in 1762 and also saw action in Spain in the French and Indian War that same year. In 1772, he was promoted to Major General. He also dabbled in literary interests and in 1774, one of his plays was produced. Even though Burgoyne had been opposed to harsh action against the colonies, he was ambitious and a war was the place for a military man to make a name for himself, so he followed his orders. On May 25, 1775, he arrived in America with fellow Major Generals Henry Clinton and William Howe. On January 1, 1776, he was given the local (to America) commission of Lieutenant General. Later that year, he led reinforcements to Canada, which forced the American retreat from Canada for the remainder of the war. He returned to England in December 1777.
Back in England, Burgoyne returned to his seat in Parliament, but also put together a three-pronged offensive meant to cut off New England from the rest of the colonies and ostensibly end the war. After beating out General Clinton and getting final approval from the government, he returned to America. In June 1777, he set out from Canada and rapidly moved south, taking Crown Point, Fort Ticonderoga, Skenesboro and Fort Anne with little resistance.
However, his choice of using an overland route slowed his progress and gave the Americans time to begin to react to his campaign. Though he occupied Forts Edward and George again with little opposition, he now was low on supplies. A raiding detachment to the Connecticut Valley was nearly destroyed in mid-August. Meanwhile, Maj. General Horatio Gates was now the Continental Commander in the region and had moved his forces to prevent a retreat back to Canada. Also in August, Burgoyne learned that the diversionary force was forced to turn back in the Mohawk Valley and the third prong under Maj. General William Howe never moved up the Hudson River.
Burgoyne soon had little choice but to face General Gates or starve. He gathered up supplies and maneuvered against Gates hoping to entice him into attack, but Gates was content to sit and wait. On September 19, Burgoyne probed the American defenses, but was turned back at what is now known as the Battle of Freeman's Farm. He again waited for reinforcements, but instead he was told it would be several more weeks, so he was again forced to attack. On October 7 1777, at what is known as the Battle of Bemis Heights, Burgoyne's men were again turned back and this time the British fortifications were overrun.
After the second clash between Burgoyne and Gates' armies near Saratoga, New York and Burgoyne had to surrender on October 17, 1777. In early 1778, Burgoyne returned to England now out of favor. He vigorously defended himself, but drifted further from politics and toward literary pursuits, which culminated with a successful play in 1786. He fathered four illegitimate children during this time and then died suddenly in London on June 4, 1792.
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