Saratoga campaign

Saratoga campaign, June–Oct., 1777, of the American Revolution. Lord George Germain and John Burgoyne were the chief authors of a plan to end the American Revolution by splitting the colonies along the Hudson River. Burgoyne was to advance S from Canada along Lake Champlain to Albany, where he would join Sir William Howe, advancing N from New York City up the Hudson, and Barry St. Leger, coming E along the Mohawk River. Howe, however, became engaged in the campaign against Philadelphia, and Sir Henry Clinton, who assumed the command in New York City, never reached Albany. Burgoyne had no trouble in taking Ticonderoga (July 6), but his march south proved difficult. The column of Hessians (German mercenaries) he sent to raid Bennington was badly beaten (Aug. 14–16) by troops (including the Green Mountain Boys) under John Stark and Seth Warner. Meanwhile, the force under St. Leger besieged the Revolutionary forces at Fort Stanwix (Fort Schuyler). An American party under Nicholas Herkimer, which had come to relieve the fort, was ambushed (Aug. 6, 1777) when crossing Oriskany Creek; Herkimer was mortally wounded, and the force dispersed. The British siege did not prosper, however, and when rumors came that a large Revolutionary force was approaching under Benedict Arnold, the Indians deserted the British service. St. Leger had to abandon (Aug. 22) the siege and retreated to Canada. Burgoyne continued southward, crossed the Hudson (Sept. 13), and halted near the present Saratoga Springs, where, on Bemis Heights, the Americans had taken up position. With Benjamin Lincoln threatening his rear and his supplies running low, Burgoyne tried to break through at Freeman's Farm (Sept. 19) and at Bemis Heights (Oct. 7). Both attempts were stopped by Benedict Arnold, Daniel Morgan, and Horatio Gates, who had replaced Philip J. Schuyler as American commander. The British commander then tried to retreat, but, finding himself outnumbered and surrounded, he surrendered on Oct. 17, 1777. The battle of Saratoga was the first great American victory of the war, and it is considered by many the decisive battle of the Revolution. Besides the heartening effect on the patriots, the campaign also encouraged the French, who had helped the victory by unofficial supplies and funds, to send official aid.

See studies by H. Nickerson (1928, repr. 1967), C. E. Bennett (1933), H. Bird (1963), R. Furneaux (1971), and R. M. Ketchum (1997).

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