The Battle of Saratoga

The American victory in the Battle of Saratoga was a turning point in the American Revolution. The American Revolution itself was started by the growing differences between England and the colonies. It was fought because the Americans wanted to have independence for their colonies. They wanted to preserve the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

With the Battle of Saratoga a series of events happened which allowed the colonies to accomplish those goals. This battle was able to prove to the whole world that the untrained American army was a force able to defeat the highly trained and highly regarded British army in a major battle. This battle was able to show that the British army was not undefeatable and that the American army was more powerful than most thought.

As a result of this successful battle, many other nations took interest in the cause of the Americans and began to support them in numerous ways. These nations helped supply America with money, soldiers, supplies and most importantly a navy. All of this help was able to secure America the victory. If not for the Battle of Saratoga, America may have not received their help.

The beginning of the American Revolution mostly consisted of British dominance on the battle field. Battle after battle the British were able to show why they were at that time, the most powerful country in the world. Slowly but surely the Americans began to gain on the British. Soon the Americans were beginning to show that they were not going to give up and that they were willing to fight for what they believed in. But not until the Battle of Saratoga did the British really begin to worry about losing the war to America. Because at this battle the Americans were able to build up all their courage and strength and have an all out fight with Britain.

The British did not expect the inexperienced American army to match up with all their trained soldiers. The British drew up an elaborate plan for the military campaigns of the summer of 1777. John Burgoyne thought that the plan would crush all effective American resistance.

Three armies were ordered to invade New York and unite at Albany. Pleasure-loving “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne was to come down from Montreal by way of Lake Champlain and the upper Hudson. By controlling the Hudson River they would shut off New England from the other colonies. Burgoyne believed that the Hudson River valley was the key to the war.

A second army, under General Barry St. Leger was to enter western New York from Canada over Lake Ontario and sweep in from the west.

General Howe would be expected to direct the third element of the attack. According to the plan, Howe would direct General Henry Clinton to move northward along the Hudson River and join up with Burgoyne in Albany.

The goal of this plan was to isolate and destroy the American forces in New England. Unfortunately for the British, the plan did not work. This scheme showed how little the British had learned from Braddock’s defeat twenty years earlier, because it totally disregarded the conditions of the travel in northern and western New York. This miscalculation by the British was the main reason why the British were unable to defeat the American army at the Battle of Saratoga.

Nevertheless, at first the British plan appeared to be working. Burgoyne’s army continually pushed back the Americans southward along the Hudson River with only minor casualties.

In an attempt to slow the British advances, the American General Philip Schuyler sent out a thousand men under the command of Major General Benedict Arnold. This force moved west to stop St. Leger’s eastward advance along the Mohawk River. Arnold returned with his army after stopping St. Leger in time to serve in the Battle of Saratoga.

At the Battle of Freeman’s Farm, the new commander of the Northern Department of the American army, General Horatio Gates, lost an indecisive battle. During this First Battle of Saratoga, fought September 19, 1777, the American forces lost ground to the British forces under General Burgoyne. The Americans initiated fire at about noon with the expert marksmanship of Colonel Morgan’s Virginia Riflemen, picking off all of the officers around the cabin on Freeman’s Farm. The battle swayed back and forth over the farm for more than three hours. Then, as the British lines began to waver in the face of deadly fire from the numerically superior Americans, German reinforcements arrived from the military road. With the German’s attack, the British were able to force the Americans to retreat back to their camp. Except for this timely arrival and the near exhaustion of the Americans’ ammunition, Burgoyne might have been defeated that day. The tactics and personalities displayed here led to a heated argument between generals Gates and Arnold. Gates then relieved Arnold of command as a result of this. This is ironic because Benedict Arnold played a crucial part in the American victories in the battles of Freeman’s Farm and Bemis Heights.

After waiting several weeks for developments from General Henry Clinton’s campaign along the Hudson River, British commander Lieutenant General John Burgoyne finally took the offensive on October 7, 1777. He planned to use a three winged attack. The three British columns moved out from their Freeman’s Farm in order to gain more information about the American positions at Bemis Heights.

American General Horatio Gates decided to assault the British forces in a three winged attack. With Morgan’s Rifle Corps attacking from the west and Poor’s Brigade from the east, Learned’s Continental Brigade moved towards the center of the British line. The attack began at roughly 3pm. The Americans repeatedly broke through the British line and pushed the enemy back, only to be repelled once the British leaders rallied their scattered forces to stage a counter-offensive.

Faced by a growing American army without hope of help from the south, and with supplies rapidly diminishing, the British army became weaker with each passing day. Before the enemy’s flanks could be rallied, General Benedict Arnold, who had been relieved of command after a quarrel with Gates, rode onto the field and led Learned’s brigade against the German troops holding the British center. At Bemis Heights, Gate’s defensive tactics had insured a tactical victory for the American forces. British General Simon Fraser was wounded while attempting to cover the British withdrawal. This bold move so badly wounded the British forces that Burgoyne surrendered days later at Saratoga.

At this point, Arnold took control of Learned’s men and led them to Balcarres Redoubt where they attacked. After several failed attempts to defeat the British there, Arnold led his men northwest across the battlefield to join an attack on Breymann Redoubt. With superior numbers on their side, the Americans were able to breach the breastworks of the Redoubt and force the British forces to surrender. On October 17, 1777, Gates and Burgoyne signed a truce, and the British laid down their arms.

After the Battle of Saratoga, the American fortunes began to take a turn for the better. It weakened the British and it strengthened American morale. Many countries began to support the American cause by contributing money, supplies, skilled generals and a navy which all helped the Americans win the war. In a quiet ceremony on February 6, 1778, France and America signed a military alliance. Soon the French navy was fighting the British on the high seas. Shiploads of French soldiers and supplies landed at American ports. A year after the military alliance Spain entered the war against Great Britain. Soon after that the Netherlands offered its support to the American cause. With all of these countries supporting the American cause, Britain ended up being no match for the Americans. If the Americans had not won the Battle of Saratoga, these countries may not have supported the American cause against Britain.

The conflict that had first erupted over stamps and tea swept with deadly fervor across the western world. The Battle of Saratoga proved to be one of the biggest moments in the American Revolution. It was a battle that was able to raise the morale of the American soldiers and lower the morale of the British soldiers. It was a battle that was able to gain support from foreign nations who before were not sure if it would be worth helping out a fledgling nation. It was a battle where the Americans showed that they would not be controlled and that they would fight for what they believed in. Most importantly it was a battle that turned the tide of the American Revolution, because after this battle the American’s morale overshadowed the superior British army. In each and every battle that took place after Saratoga the Americans fought their hardest, either winning the battle or coming very close. If not for the Battle of Saratoga, the Americans may not have won the Revolution and their independence.

Books on The Battle of Saratoga

Saratoga : Turning Point of America's Revolutionary War
Saratoga : Turning Point of America’s Revolutionary War

An exciting and richly detailed narrative history of the events leading up to the decisive battle that altered the course of the American war for independence. Distinguished historian Ketchum (The Borrowed Years: 19381941, etc.) uses a wide range of primary and secondary sources to vividly depict this extraordinary drama. When “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne’s feared army of British and German veterans invaded New York, intending to meet up with General Howe’s forces, they seemed at first unstoppable. Burgoyne’s fierce (and uncontrollable) Indian allies terrorized the countryside, killing civilians and burning and looting outlying settlements. The settlers (some of them previously lukewarm about the revolution) were forced to unite to defend their lives, families, and homes. The Americans soundly defeated the forces of the king at the fierce battles of Bennington and Fort Stanwix. At the same time, a merciless civil war between loyalists and rebels was being fought out in a series of small, vicious engagements. Burgoyne’s logistical problems (he was compelled to drag mountains of equipment and supplies over narrow, primitive roads in unfamiliar country) and constant casualties served to weaken his seemingly invincible army. His exhausted forces were finally surrounded at Saratoga, and in the ensuing battle the Americans won a great victory under the courageous leadership of Benedict Arnold, Dan Morgan, and John Glover. Burgoyne’s stunning surrender of his 6,000-man army brought a reassured France into the war on the side of the Americans, a move that would prove decisive. With clear, vigorous prose and well-drawn portraits of famous and obscure personalities, Ketchum captures a stirring time in American history, producing what should be the definitive study of Burgoyne’s defeat for many years to come.

Saratoga 1777: Turning Point of a Revolution
Saratoga 1777: Turning Point of a Revolution

The Saratoga campaign was a watershed, and is widely believed to have been the turning point of the American War of Independence. For the first time British regulars were beaten in open battle by equal numbers of Americans. The Continentals bore the brunt of the fighting, supported by ‘hordes’ of militia who proved adept at attacking detachments or lines of communication.The after-shock in America (on both sides) and Europe transformed a civil war into a global struggle against the two colonial superpowers of the day, France and Spain, and eventually lost George III his American colonies.

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