#Onthisday in 1777, there was a second great battle at Saratoga. It was known as the Battle of Bemus Heights. British Lieutenant William Digby of 53d Regiment of Foot described the action (in his journal he writes about it the day after 8 October 1777):
On our retreating, which was pretty regular, considering how hard we were pressed by the enemy, General Burgoyne appeared greatly agitated as the danger to which the lines were exposed was of the most serious nature at that particular period. I should be sorry from my expression of agitated, that the reader should imagine the fears of personal danger was the smallest cause of it.
He must be more than man, who could undisturbed look on and preserve his natural calmness, when the fate of so many were at stake, and entirely depended on the orders he was to issue.
He said but little, well knowing we could defend the lines or fall in the attempt. Darkness interposed, (I believe fortunately for us) which put an end to the action.
Every year, thousands of people visit Saratoga County, New York, to learn about the events in 1777. When visiting the area around the battle and siege field, the Visitor Center at Saratoga National Historical Park strives to tell the story of the battles in a variety of ways. 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.