Burgoyne's Invasion

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BURGOYNE'S INVASION. In the late spring of 1777, General John Burgoyne prepared to invade New York from Canada by the Lake ChamplainHudson River route. Lieutenant Colonel Barry St. Leger was given command of a small expedition that was to ascend the St. Lawrence River, cross Lake Ontario, and advance on Albany by the Mohawk Valley. Burgoyne's army was made up of 3,700 British regulars, 3,000 German troops, 250 American Tories and Canadians, and 400 Indians. With his well-equipped force he proceeded up Lake Champlain

in late June and on 1 July was within four miles of Ticonderoga, forcing the Continentals to abandon it four days later. The taking of Ticonderoga increased the confidence of the British and was at first a severe shock to the patriots; later, it proved a stimulus to resistance.

Burgoyne's progress was retarded by his extensive baggage and because the transportation of his artillery up Lake George required all available boats, while his army proceeded overland. A force of some 2,000 Americans under General Philip Schuyler, later enlarged to 3,700, retreated before Burgoyne's slow advance, felling trees across the roads and encouraging the country people to burn their standing crops and drive off their cattle. Meanwhile, Howe, believing that the rebellion was nearly crushed and that Burgoyne did not require his help, went to Philadelphia, leaving Sir Henry Clinton at New York to make a sortie up the Hudson with such troops as could be spared from the garrison.

Fortune now began to turn against Burgoyne. A raiding force dispatched to secure patriot stores at Bennington, Vermont, was overwhelmed on 16 August by General John Stark's New Hampshire militia and Seth Warner's small force. St. Leger, besieging Fort Stanwix, managed to repulse a relieving body of militia under General Nicholas Herkimer at Oriskany, but his Indian allies dispersed before the arrival of a patriot force under Benedict Arnold, and he abandoned his campaign.

General Horatio Gates, now in command of the American army near the mouth of the Mohawk, had about 6,000 effective troops. Reinforced by General Daniel Morgan's Virginia riflemen, he moved northward and entrenched at Bemis Heights, about nine miles south of the hamlet of Saratoga (now Schuylerville). Burgoyne was close upon the American army before he realized its presence. The first Battle of Freeman's Farm was fought on 19 September. Both armies remained in position, and Burgoyne waited, hoping for news of Clinton's advance up the Hudson, but Clinton got no farther than the highlands of the Hudson. Meanwhile, Gates's numbers were increasing, more New England militia were gathering at Burgoyne's rear, and the British supplies were running dangerously low. Burgoyne retreated to Saratoga. He was surrounded there on 17 October by more than 17,000 regulars and militia. With fewer than 3,500 infantry ready for duty, he surrendered his army to Gates.


Billias, George A., ed. George Washington's Opponents. New York: Morrow, 1969.

Bird, Harrison. March to Saratoga: General Burgoyne and the American Campaign, 1777. New York: Oxford University Press, 1963.

Hargrove, Richard J. General John Burgoyne. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1983.

Mintz, Max M. The Generals of Saratoga: John Burgoyne and Horatio Gates. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1990.

Ralph FosterWeld/a. r.

See alsoOriskany, Battle of ; Saratoga Campaign ; Ticonderoga, Capture of .