As the Americans under Colonel Morgan and General Poor started the conflict in the 2nd Battle of Saratoga (Battle of Bemus Heights), American Lieutenant Colonel Lt Col. John Brooks of the 8th Massachusetts Regiment recalled:
On the 7th of October the day of the last battle with General Burgoyne General Arnold and several officers dined with General Gates I was among the company and well remember that one of the dishes was an ox’s heart While at table we heard a firing from the advanced picket
The armies were about two miles from each other The firing increasing we all rose from table and General Arnold addressing General Gates said Shall I go out and see what is the matter General Gates made no reply but upon being pressed said I am afraid to trust you Arnold To which Arnold answered Pray let me go I will be careful and if our advance does not need support I will promise not to commit you Gates then told him he might go and see what the firing meant Arnold lost no time in
This excerpt is from Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society (1855-1858)
John Brooks (4 May 1752 – 1 March 1825) was a doctor, military officer, and politician from Massachusetts. He served as the 11th Governor of Massachusetts from 1816 to 1823, and was one of the last Federalist officials elected in the United States.
Trained as a doctor, Brooks was an officer of the Reading, Massachusetts militia when the American War of Independence broke out, and led his troops in the Battles of Lexington and Concord. He served under George Washington in the New York and New Jersey campaign of 1776. In 1777 he was part of the relief force for the Siege of Fort Stanwix, and led a successful assault against British positions in the key Second Battle of Saratoga. He played a significant role in the 1783 Newburgh Conspiracy, in which he helped quash ideas of mutiny in the Continental Army.
After the war he returned to medical practice, but continued to be active in the state militia, helping to put down Shays’ Rebellion in 1787 (There were many Saratoga veterans on both sides of the Rebellion). He served in the militia during the War of 1812, after which he was elected governor. Brooks was popular and politically moderate, and came to personify the “Era of Good Feelings” that followed the war. He retired in 1823, and died two years later.
When you are dealing with such rich historical series of events like the Battles of Saratoga, there may be some questions that pop up as you learn more about this fascinating junction in our nation’s history. You can visit the Saratoga National Historical Park in the towns of Saratoga and Stillwater. 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
The Saratoga Campaign of 1777 started in June along Lake Champlain. British Major General John Burgoyne, undertook his part of the plan for British control the waterway to Albany. Burgoyne’s army of some 8,000 men met no resistance as he sailed down Lake Champlain and took Fort Ticonderoga without firing a shot.
Burgoyne’s troubles began as he prepared to cross twenty-two miles of wilderness between Lake Champlain and the Hudson River. Burgoyne’s army struggle to cross the rugged terrain. American General Philip Schuyler directed the Americans to sabotage the narrow route through the wilderness to slow the progress of Burgoyne’s men. An unseasonably hot and humid July, combined with Burgoyne’s need to surround himself with the luxuries of British aristocratic life, which translated into over thirty wagons laden with personal belongings, proved to be a major hindrance to the progress of the British troops.
As Burgoyne’s supply lines stretched further, he sent a detachment of Hessian troops to Bennington to capture additional horses and supplies held by the colonists. What Burgoyne did not understand was that there was great disaffection among the Continentals who were enraged by widespread stories of brutalities against women and children. One story that was widely popular was Jane McCrea, an American woman betrothed to a British officer, who was scalped by Indians. The fear of further savagery throughout the frontier by Burgoyne’s native allies helped Americans organize a surprise attack on the Hessians, killing some 900 men at the Battle of Bennington.
This first real setback created considerable risk for Burgoyne as he approached Saratoga with no reinforcements, as British General Howe and his army was pursuing American General Washington in Philadelphia and British Colonel St. Leger’s army progress was halted at Fort Stanwix in the west.
The American Northern Army’s General Horatio Gates moved Americans northward from its camp near the Mohawk River in early September, 1777. There were three distinct phases of the Battle of Saratoga. The first and second battles were fought in Stillwater, on September 19 and October 7, 1777. From October 10-17, 1777 Burgoyne’s British troops took refuge in a fortified camp at the siege field in Saratoga (Schuylerville). During the siege, the American force had grown to nearly 20,000 men which surrounded the exhausted British army of 3,000 men. Faced with such overwhelming numbers, Burgoyne surrendered on October 17, 1777. By the terms of the Convention of Saratoga, Burgoyne’s depleted army marched out of its camp “with Honors of War” and grounded (or stacked) their arms at the “Field of Grounded Arms” which is now Fort Hardy Park in Schuylerville.
A few months after Burgoyne’s defeat in Saratoga, France entered a formal alliance with the recognized American nation in the spring of 1778, and set in motion a chain of events that eventually led to victory for the American War of Independence.
Saratoga is known for being the turning point of the American Revolution. 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.