Saratoga campaign

All Sources -
Updated Media sources (1) About content Print Topic Share Topic
views updated


SARATOGA CAMPAIGN. Stung by their inability to end the American rebellion in 1776, the British government ordered an invasion of the colonies from Canada, meant to surgically separate New England from the other colonies. Unfortunately, General Sir William Howe, insistent on invading Pennsylvania from his base in New York, left the army sent from Canada, under General John Burgoyne, unsupported as it marched south. Marching out of Quebec in July 1777, Burgoyne's 9,000 men faced the enormous problems inherent in a 350-mile march: river crossings, hostile Indians, and poor support from French Canadians, as well as transporting an overloaded baggage train and heavy artillery. Although he displaced the Americans from Fort Ticonderoga, Burgoyne delayed en route to the Hudson River in order to gather supplies, allowing the rebels time to place obstacles along the route and plan an attack, which came when a detachment under Lieutenant Colonel Friederich Baum was defeated by rebels while on a foraging mission in Bennington, Vermont.

Advancing towards Albany, New York, Burgoyne learned that an American army under Horatio Gates had entrenched itself at Bemis Heights, also called Freeman's Farm, and had approximately the same number of men (5,500) as himself. The first battle of Saratoga, fought on 19 September 1777, began when Burgoyne ordered his army to attack the American fortifications. While Gates kept his troops behind their entrenchments, his more flamboyant second in command, Benedict Arnold, sent his left wing to fight in the woods in front of the entrenchments. The battle ended in a curious situation—although the British held the field, they had lost 600 men, while the Americans, unable to advance against the artillery commanded by Hessian General Friederich Riedesel, retreated to their fortifications on Bemis Heights and gathered more men and supplies.

Eighteen days later, while Gates waited for the British to weaken through lack of supplies and attrition from sniping, Burgoyne waited with increasing desperation for help from General Sir Henry Clinton in New York. Reaching the end of his patience on 7 October, Burgoyne sent out a reconnaissance force of 1,500 men to push the left wing of the American fortifications on Bemis Heights. Attacked by the Americans under the command of Arnold, who had been relieved of command after arguing with Gates, Burgoyne's men were routed. Burgoyne began a costly retreat back to Canada, but was surrounded by Gates's army on 12 October and compelled to negotiate a surrender.

These battles, later collectively known as Saratoga, were a major turning point in the Revolutionary War. The capture of a British army raised morale at a time when George Washington's army had been defeated by Howe in Pennsylvania. When news reached Europe, the American victory encouraged open French and Spanish aid to the rebels. The campaign also sparked the differences between Arnold and the American command, which were later to lead to his defection to the British. On the British side, the defeat led to the replacement of Howe with Clinton, and after the loss of so many men and resources, the British turned increasingly to the Royal Navy to press their advantage on the American coastline, particularly in the southern colonies.


Elting, John R. The Battles of Saratoga. Monmouth Beach, N.J.: Philip Freneau Press, 1977.

Ketchum, Richard M. Saratoga: Turning Point of America's Revolutionary War. New York: Holt, 1997.

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

Margaret D.Sankey

See alsoRevolution, American: Military History .

views updated

Saratoga, Battles of (1777).The plan to isolate rebellious New England, adopted by British secretary of state for the colonies George Germain midway into the Revolutionary War, stipulated a Lake ChamplainHudson River campaign under Gen. John Burgoyne and a sweep through Lake Ontario under Lt. Col. Barry St. Leger, both to join, at Albany, with Gen. William Howe's army, advancing north from New York City. Burgoyne's army included 4,135 British regulars, Friedrich von Riedesel's 3,116 Germans, and large numbers of authorized “camp followers.” Approximately 500 Indians and 500 French Canadian militia also accompanied the expedition, but most soon departed. Fort Ticonderoga fell to Burgoyne when its commander, Arthur St.Clair, left it unprotected against artillery fire from southwest Sugar Loaf Hill and northwest Mount Hope. The Americans escaped across the lake.

Burgoyne, running short of food, sent a detachment of Germans under Lt. Col. Friedrich Baum to Bennington, Vermont, for supplies; there they were routed by John Stark's militia on 16 August 1777. Howe, meanwhile, sailed for Philadelphia instead of Albany, and St. Leger's army of loyalists and Indians, although victorious at Oriskany, 6 August, withdrew to Canada. Burgoyne, instead of turning back, declared his orders mandatory and crossed the Hudson; this effectively severed his Canadian supply line.

Horatio Gates, as commander of the 10,277 American troops, replaced Philip Schuyler, who was blamed for the loss of Ticonderoga. At Freeman's Farm, 19 September, Burgoyne's three‐pronged attack was stalled by Col. Daniel Morgan's riflemen and thrown back by a charge under Gen. Benedict Arnold. British losses were 566, American 313. At Bemis Heights, 7 October, Burgoyne's 1,723‐man spearhead was repulsed by an unauthorized but successful attack led by Arnold, who was wounded in the leg. British losses were 631, American 130.

Gen. Henry Clinton, Howe's successor in command at New York, declined to send reinforcements, and Burgoyne had waited too long to turn back. He retreated to Saratoga, and on 17 October surrendered his force of 5,895 men. The defeat of a major army led the British government to restrict operations to the southern coast. More important, the American success at Saratoga led France to sign the France‐American Alliance and provide the forces that ultimately helped win the Revolutionary War.
[See also Militia and National Guard; Revolutionary War: Military and Diplomatic Course.]


Hoffman Nickerson , The Turning Point of the American Revolution, 1928; repr. 1967.
Max M. Mintz , The Generals of Saratoga, 1990.
Richard M. Ketchum , Saratoga: Turning Point of America's Revolutionary War, 1997.

Max M. Mintz

views updated

Saratoga campaign, June–Oct., 1777, of the American Revolution. Lord George Germain and John Burgoyne were the chief authors of a plan to end the American Revolution by splitting the colonies along the Hudson River. Burgoyne was to advance S from Canada along Lake Champlain to Albany, where he would join Sir William Howe, advancing N from New York City up the Hudson, and Barry St. Leger, coming E along the Mohawk River. Howe, however, became engaged in the campaign against Philadelphia, and Sir Henry Clinton, who assumed the command in New York City, never reached Albany. Burgoyne had no trouble in taking Ticonderoga (July 6), but his march south proved difficult. The column of Hessians (German mercenaries) he sent to raid Bennington was badly beaten (Aug. 14–16) by troops (including the Green Mountain Boys) under John Stark and Seth Warner. Meanwhile, the force under St. Leger besieged the Revolutionary forces at Fort Stanwix (Fort Schuyler). An American party under Nicholas Herkimer, which had come to relieve the fort, was ambushed (Aug. 6, 1777) when crossing Oriskany Creek; Herkimer was mortally wounded, and the force dispersed. The British siege did not prosper, however, and when rumors came that a large Revolutionary force was approaching under Benedict Arnold, the Indians deserted the British service. St. Leger had to abandon (Aug. 22) the siege and retreated to Canada. Burgoyne continued southward, crossed the Hudson (Sept. 13), and halted near the present Saratoga Springs, where, on Bemis Heights, the Americans had taken up position. With Benjamin Lincoln threatening his rear and his supplies running low, Burgoyne tried to break through at Freeman's Farm (Sept. 19) and at Bemis Heights (Oct. 7). Both attempts were stopped by Benedict Arnold, Daniel Morgan, and Horatio Gates, who had replaced Philip J. Schuyler as American commander. The British commander then tried to retreat, but, finding himself outnumbered and surrounded, he surrendered on Oct. 17, 1777. The battle of Saratoga was the first great American victory of the war, and it is considered by many the decisive battle of the Revolution. Besides the heartening effect on the patriots, the campaign also encouraged the French, who had helped the victory by unofficial supplies and funds, to send official aid.

See studies by H. Nickerson (1928, repr. 1967), C. E. Bennett (1933), H. Bird (1963), R. Furneaux (1971), and R. M. Ketchum (1997).

views updated


In 1777 the British high command attempted to win the Revolutionary War by seizing control of Lake Champlain and the Hudson Valley, isolating the Patriot movement in New England. General John Burgoyne led an army of over 8,000 men (4,000 British regulars, 3,000 Brunswickers under Baron Friedrich von Riedesel, 650 Canadians, and 500 Native Americans) from Canada into upstate New York.

Burgoyne began well and captured Fort Ticonderoga on 5 July. Things broke down quickly thereafter. Though less than one hundred miles from Albany, Burgoyne's progress was slowed to a near standstill by rugged and dense terrain, the difficulties of transporting excessive equipment and personnel, and the efforts of American militia, who placed downed trees and other obstacles in his path. The brutal murder of Jane McCrea (ironically a Loyalist) by Burgoyne's Native American auxiliaries on 27 July drove thousands of enraged inhabitants to the Patriot army being organized by General Horatio Gates. By early August, Burgoyne was in serious trouble, as evidenced by the near annihilation of a detachment of nearly 1,000 Germans under Lieutenant Colonel Friedrich Baum sent to Bennington, Vermont, for supplies. As Gates's army swelled to 11,000 and more, Burgoyne appealed to Sir William Howe in New York City for assistance. But Howe had left New York to capture Philadelphia. To compound matters, Howe inexplicably took the sea route to Philadelphia, allowing Washington to interpose the Continental Army between the two British armies. With no assistance from New York, Burgoyne attempted to fight his way to Albany. At Freeman's Farm on 19 September and Bemis Heights on 7 October, Burgoyne was repulsed by forces under General Benedict Arnold and Colonel Daniel Morgan, losing almost 1,500 men to less than 500 for the Americans. By mid-October, Burgoyne was left with few supplies and no prospect of either escape or relief. Thus, on 17 October, Burgoyne surrendered his army of 5,800 men to Gates at Saratoga.

The victory at Saratoga convinced the French government that the United States might be an effective ally. The conclusion of the French alliance in February 1778 transformed the American Revolution into an international conflict, bringing the new nation a powerful ally and forcing the British to reconsider their military strategy.

See alsoRevolution: Military History .


Ketchum, Richard M. Saratoga: Turning Point of America's Revolutionary War. New York: Holt, 1997.

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

Daniel McDonough

views updated

Saratoga, Battle of (October 7, 1777) First American victory in the American Revolution, fought in upper New York. In a series of battles, the Americans, led by Horatio Gates, prevented the British from linking up with other forces at Albany and taking the Hudson valley. The Americans eventually surrounded the British, forcing them to surrender. The victory persuaded the French to intervene against Britain.

views updated

Saratoga, Battle of either of two battles fought in 1777 during the War of American Independence, near the modern city of Saratoga Springs in New York State. The British defeats are conventionally regarded as the turning point in the war in favour of the American side.