OTD: American memory of the 2nd Battle

Ebenezer Matton was an American artillerist at the 2nd Battle of Saratoga (Battle of Bemus Heights). He writes a letter in 1835 (58 years after the Battles) to Philip Schuyler II. (Schuyler is the grandson of General Schuyler.) Matton wrote:

“…About one o’clock of this day, two signal guns were fired on the left of the British army, which indicated a movement. Our troops were immediately put under arms and the lines manned.

At this juncture Gens. Lincoln and Arnold rode with great speed towards the enemy’s lines. While they were absent, the picket guards on both sides were engaged near the river. In about half an hour, Generals Lincoln and Arnold returned to headquarters, where many of the officers collected to hear the report, General Gates standing at the door.

Genl. Lincoln says, “Genl. Gates, the firing at the river is merely a feint; their object is your left. A strong force of 1500 men are marching circuitously to plant themselves on yonder height. That point must be defended or your camp is in danger.”

Gates replied, “I will send Morgan with his riflemen and Dearborn’s infantry.”

Arnold says, “That is nothing; you must send a strong force.”

Gates replied, “Genl Arnold, I have nothing for you to do; you have no business here.”

Arnold’s reply was reproachful and severe.

Genl Lincoln says, “You must send a strong force to support Morgan and Dearborn, at least three regiments.”

Two regiments from Genl Learned’s brigade and one from Genl Nixon’s were then ordered to that station and to defend it at all hazards. Generals Lincoln and Arnold immediately left the encampment and proceeded to the enemy lines.

In a few minutes, Capt. Furnival’s company of artillery, in which I was lieutenant, was ordered to march towards the fire, which had no opened upon our picket in front, the picket consisting of about 300 men.

While we were marching, the whole line, up to our picket or front, was engaged. We advanced to a height of ground, which brought the enemy in view and opened our fire. But the enemy’s guns, eight in number and much heavier than ours, rendered our position untenable.

We then advanced into the line of infantry. Here Lieut. M’Lane joined me. In our front there was a field of corn. In which the hessians were secreted. On our advancing toward the cornfield, a number of men rose and fired upon us. M’Lane was severely wounded. While I was removing him from the field, the firing still continued without abatement.

During this time, a tremendous firing was heard on our left. We poured in upon them our canister shot as fast as possible, and the whole line form left to right became engaged. The smoke was very dense and no movements could be seen; but as soon as it arose, our infantry appeared to be slowly retreating and the Hessians slowly advancing their officers urging them on with their hangers…

The troops continuing warmly engaged, Col. Johnson’s regiment, coming up, threw in a heavy fire and compelled the Hessians to retreat. Upon this we advanced with a shout of victory. At the same time Auckland’s corps gave way.

We proceeded but a short distance before we came upon four pieces of brass cannon, closely surrounded with the dead and dying; at a few yards further we came upon two more.

Advancing a little further, we were met by a fire from the British infantry, which proved very fatal to one of Col. Johnson’s companies, in which were killed on sergeant, one corporeal, fourteen privates—and about twenty were wounded. They advanced with a quick step, firing as they came on. We returned them with a brisk fire of canister shot, not allowing ourselves time even to sponge our pieces. In a short time they ceased firing and advanced upon us with trailed arms.

At this juncture, Arnold came up with a part of Brooks’ regiment and gave them a most deadly fire, which soon caused them to face about and retreat with a quicker step than they advanced.

The firing had now principally ceased on our left, but was brisk in front and on the right.

At this moment Arnold says to Col. Brooks, “Let us attack Balcarres’ works.”

Brooks’ replied, “No. Lord Auckland’s detachment has retired there, we can’t carry them.”

“Well then, let us attack the Hessian lines.”

Brooks replied, “With all my heart.”

We all wheeled to the right and advanced. No fire was received, except from the cannon, until we got within about eight rods, when we received a tremendous fire from the whole line. But a few of our men, however, fell. Still advancing, we received a second fire, in which a few of our men fell and Genl Arnold’s horse fell under him and he himself was wounded.

He cried out “Rush on, my brave boys!” after receiving the third fire, Brooks mounted their works, swung his sword, and the men rushed into their works.

When we entered the works, we found Col. Bremen dead, surrounded with a number of his companions dead or wounded. We still pursed slowly, the fire, in the meantime decreasing.

Nightfall now put an end to this day’s bloody contest. During the day we had taken eight cannon and broken the center of the enemy’s lines. We were ordered to rest until relieved from the camps.

The gloom of the night, the groans and shrieks of the wounded and the dying and the horrors of the whole scene baffle all description.”

This excerpt is from Visits to the Saratoga Battle-grounds, 1780-1880: With an Introduction and Notes By William Leete Stone (1895)

Ebenezer Mattoon (19 August 1755 – 11 September 1843) was a veteran of the Battles of Saratoga and United States Representative from Massachusetts. He was born in North Amherst, Massachusetts. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1776. Mattoon served in the War of Independence. He taught school and also engaged in agricultural pursuits. He held various elected and militia positions in Massachusetts.

The Visitor Center at Saratoga National Historical Park is the best place to start to learn about the Battles of Saratoga. Here you will find the National Park Service Information Desk, Visitor Center artifacts, interactive displays, a overview video, special exhibit gallery, bookstore, and restrooms. The park website is at http://ift.tt/2cxkI82

The Schuylerville Public Library http://ift.tt/2dYYY7C and all the libraries in the region have a number of books on the Battles of Saratoga. One of the more popular and well written books is Richard M Ketchum’s Saratoga: Turning Point of America’s Revolutionary War. (1997) New York: Henry Holt. ISBN 978-0-8050-6123-9. OCLC 41397623

Burgoyne’s Campaign of 1777 moved south along the traditional waterways (Richelieu River, Lake Champlain, Lake George, Hudson River). The British Army pausing to drive the Americans from Ticonderoga and Mount Independence. The British and Americans fighting battles at Hubbarton, Fort Anne and Bennington. Finally, the British campaign meets a complete defeat here at Saratoga, the turning point of the American Revolution.

Saratoga is known for being the turning point of the American Revolution. In 1777 −− the second year of America’s War for Independence −− the British sought to quell the rebellion with a single decisive military campaign. The British plan depended on using an invading army to divide the colonies along a natural corridor of rivers and lakes stretching from Canada to New York City. The Americans’ determined resistance at Saratoga, coupled with British strategic blunders, resulted in a stunning defeat and surrender for a British army. This timely victory reversed American military fortunes, boosted patriot morale, and gained them international recognition and support, including military assistance. That is why studying the Battles of Saratoga is integral to a good understanding of the American freedoms.


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