Burgoyne Surrenders At Saratoga


In August 1777, British troops under Gen. John Burgoyne were finding the march from Fort Ticonderoga to Albany, N.Y., a difficult one.

Not only was the terrain hostile, but colonists Burgoyne thought would be loyal to the crown were proving anything but; and colonial troops under Philip Schuyler had scorched the crops and scattered the cattle as they retreated ahead of Burgoyne’s march, making foraging difficult. And Burgoyne suffered 800 casualties — one-seventh of his army — when Gen. John Stark and a troop of American farmers attacked his force near Bennnington, N.H.

But Burgoyne remained inspired by his defeat of Schuyler at Ticonderoga and continued to press on. In fact, the one-line summary of strategy he offered his troops was, “This army must not retreat.”

Gen. Horatio Gates took over Schuyler’s army when it arrived at Albany. He chose a plateau named Bemis Heights to set up his defenses and determined to stop Burgoyne in his tracks. He had about 7,000 men under his command.

As Gates dug in, Burgoyne and his army of almost 6,000 men crossed the Hudson River carrying about one month’s rations. After a brief respite, Burgoyne, in a magnificent display, marched his troops toward Bemis Heights. On Sept. 15, they set up camp four miles from the entrenched Americans.

Early on Sept. 19, Burgoyne got his troops on the move. Scouts told Gates the British were headed toward a 15-acre clearing owned by a farmer named Freeman. As usual, Benedict Arnold counseled an aggressive response. But Gates disagreed, concerned about how his troops might respond to warfare on open ground.

At Arnold’s insistence, Gates sent out riflemen and some infantry to harass the Brits from a dense pocket of forest. The armies fought all day in a battle that ended in stalemate. But despite Burgoyne’s insistence that he had won the battle, his troops knew different. The Americans had proven themselves ferocious in battle, and Burgoyne had lost two men for every one the Americans lost. His army had been reduced by one-third, and he was no closer to Albany.

For the next several weeks, the armies rested only two miles apart. British soldiers were forced to sleep on their arms lest the Americans attack. Each night, American raiding parties attacked the British camp, harassing their sleep. During the day, sharpshooters took aim at every British officer that stepped into view.

With his troops on half rations and his situation becoming increasingly difficult, Burgoyne disregarded the advice of his generals and led a force of 1,500 of his best men on a reconnaissance mission on Oct. 1. He hoped to catch the Americans in a vulnerable position, attack their flank, push them aside and move to Albany. When Burgoyne paused near a wheat field to ascertain the American position, some of his troops moved into a wheat field to cut some wheat. They lingered there much too long, and Gates decided to pounce.

He sent three regiments to attack the enemy in the field. Outnumbered six to one, Burgoyne’s entire left wing collapsed; and the Brits fled into the woods back toward their camp.

The next morning, Burgoyne struck camp, abandoned his field hospital, left the camp fires burning and retreated toward Saratoga. He decided against a forced march to Lake George and safety, instead gambling on the prospect of digging in and fighting from a fortified position. He also hoped to hold on until Gen. Sir Henry Clinton arrived with reinforcements from New York.

By Oct. 14, Burgoyne was surrounded by Gates’ forces, which had grown to more than 20,000; and he had rations for only 24 hours. Already his oxen and horses were dead of starvation. Clinton was nowhere in sight.

He convened his council and discussed surrender. His question: Did national dignity and military honor ever justify an army of 3,500 fighting men, who were well armed, in capitulating? His generals offered their lives once more if the fighting would produce results; but if such an action would lead to nothing, it was wiser to capitulate on honorable terms. A soldier with a flag of truce was sent to the American lines.

Burgoyne and Gates haggled over terms for the next three days as Burgoyne stalled for time. But on Oct. 17, Burgoyne surrendered. It was the first large-scale surrender of British forces in the Revolutionary War.

When word of the British defeat at Saratoga reached France, King Louis XVI agreed to recognize U.S. independence and told U.S. Ambassador Benjamin Franklin that France would provide aid to the patriot cause.

Sources: Patriots: The Men Who Started the American Revolution, by A.J. Langguth.


Personal Liberty

Bob Livingston

founder of Personal Liberty Digest™, is an ultra-conservative American author and editor of The Bob Livingston Letter™, in circulation since 1969. Bob has devoted much of his life to research and the quest for truth on a variety of subjects. Bob specializes in health issues such as nutritional supplements and alternatives to drugs, as well as issues of privacy (both personal and financial), asset protection and the preservation of freedom.

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  • RobinPC

    Nice to remember how it really happened. How many are not aware of this? Surely anyone born after 1960 has had a 50×50 chance of learning this in the public schools. I would appreciate it if this became a daily column. Good job.

    • ONTIME

      My kids were fortunate that I was a history buff and had a number of good read books that dealt with our revolutionary struggles, we should be very proud of this country and it’s heroes. Their sacrifices were great, the odds huge and they endured and overcame….I was a grad in 1960.

  • Quester55

    Not so Strange that I never read about this in Any of my History Classes, Even in My day, the American History Distortion’s, where Well on their way to distort the Truth about our Nations Birth Panes !
    However, Now that I’ve seen this, I’ll have to Finish reading it!
    Great Job!!

  • Miyako

    I Was Never Taught This In High School’? Why”? I Think….They Are Afraid.. Americans Might Become Nationalistic”’?…(Nazi Fear’?)………Be Proud Of their History For Freedom.

  • Bill

    Great article, Bob
    Keep the history coming. You won’t find the real history taught in schools.

  • historybuff

    So happy to find a bit of US history here. It’s tragic that today’s school kids aren’t exposed to the exciting, dramatic true stories that are our national heritage, and if they’re taught history at all, it’s presented as too boring to bother with. Those of us who grew up not far from Saratoga (and in a time when History WAS a major subject in school) learned the strategic importance of this battle, known as The Turning Point of the Revolution, and we understood that freedom and independence were once considered qualities of life worth dying for. Just a couple points of information — Bennington is in Vermont near the NY border (not in NH), and Bemis Heights is closer to Saratoga than to Albany. For a riveting account of this battle, read “Saratoga!” by Richard Ketcham.histor

    • http://personalliberty.com/ Bob Livingston

      Dear historybuff,

      You write: “Bennington is in Vermont near the NY border (not in NH)…” That is the case now but in 1777 it was in what was known as the New Hampshire Grants. Though it declared itself the Vermont republic in July 1777, Vermont was not recognized by the Continental Congress as a State until 1791. So, technically speaking, we are both correct and both incorrect.

      Best wishes,

  • Karen

    Members of Congress, not supporting the liberals’ agenda, have been threatened (and/or a family member’s life threatened), blackmailed, bribed … etc. However, if every one of them would stand up, all at one time, there would be nothing that Obama and/or his thugs could do. It would be too obvious.
    What we need to do is to have a very large, huge & massive march on Washington demanding they initiate impeachment proceedings against Obama immediately.
    Making it clear to those that don’t support it will not be re-elected… period.
    Most of you know the song “Stand Up for Jesus”; now is the time to also ‘Stand up for America’ …

    Am receiving positive feedback and comments from people who agree that we need to march on Washington demanding the impeachment of Obama.
    How do we go about doing this?
    We need your help and advice.
    Karen Martin

    • http://personalliberty.com/ Bob Livingston

      Dear Karen,

      You write: “Am receiving positive feedback and comments from people who agree that we need to march on Washington demanding the impeachment of Obama. How do we go about doing this?” Any effort to impeach Obama will be a fool’s errand. The criminal elected class will never allow it to happen. Only an Arab Spring-style American revolt will have any chance of removing him before his term is up. That would be a bloody and costly affair and the American people are not yet ready for that step.

      Best wishes,

      • Motov

        What we need to do is get noticed in a positive light, by showing what the Constitution is all about and what the donkey & the elephant parties have done to it.
        We must remind those what freedom is all about.
        We need to get excited about the constitution,
        Most important is we need to get started now, put both the donkey & GOP on notice they haven’t fulfilled their duty in preserving our Law of this land.

        In short we need followers like those who backed Ron Paul,
        Then we will become a real threat to the status quo.
        Let us hope we are successful as those who fought against tyranny in the past.

  • historybuff

    Hi, Bob — I chuckled to read your response about Vermont’s having been part of NH — you’re right, but it’s a rather obscure piece of information. In fact, since Geography has joined History as part of the Lost Curriculum, some folks don’t know much of anything about Vermont. On my travels around the U.S. I’ve been asked more than once, “Vermont? What state’s that in?”

  • Kittie

    Why is the text messed up? It’s all mushed together n I can’t read it :/