The Battles of Saratoga were a series of battles that culminated in the Battle of Saratoga and the surrender of British General John Burgoyne. This decisive victory by the Americans was a turning point of the Revolutionary War.
The main leader for the British was General John Burgoyne. He had the nickname "Gentleman Johnny".
The Americans were led by Major General Horatio Gates as well as Generals Benedict Arnold and Benjamin Lincoln. Other key commanders included Colonel Daniel Morgan and General Enoch Poor.
General Horatio Gates by Gilbert Stuart
General General John Burgoyne by Joshua Reynolds
Leading up to the Battles
British General Burgoyne had come up with a plan to defeat the American colonies. He would split the colonies in two along the Hudson River. With the colonies divided, he was sure they could not stand.
Burgoyne was to lead his army south from Lake Champlain to Albany, New York. At the same time General Howe was to advance north along the Hudson River. They would meet at Albany.
Burgoyne and his army successfully advanced south. They first recaptured Fort Ticonderoga from the Americans then proceeded to march south. General Howe, however, had other plans. Instead of heading north to Albany, he headed east to take Philadelphia. Burgoyne was on his own.
As the British continued south, the Americans harassed them along the way. They cut down trees to block the roads and took shots at the soldiers from the forests. Burgoyne's progress was slow and the British began to run out of food. Burgoyne sent some of his soldiers to Bennington, Vermont to find food and horses. However, Bennington was guarded by American General John Stark. They surrounded the British troops and captured around 500 soldiers. It was a decisive victory for the Americans and weakened the British forces.
Map of the Battles of Saratoga
Click picture to see larger version
The Battle of Freeman's Farm
The first battle of Saratoga took place on September 19, 1777 on the farmland of British loyalist John Freeman. Daniel Morgan led 500 sharpshooters to the field where they saw the British advancing. They were able to take out a number of officers before the British began to attack. At the end of the battle the British gained control of the field, but they had suffered 600 casualties, twice as many as the Americans.
The Battle of Bemis Heights
After the Battle of Freeman's Farm the Americans set up their defenses at Bemis Heights. More militia men arrived and the American forces continued to grow. On October 7, 1777 the British attacked. Their attack failed miserably and they were defeated by the Americans. British casualties mounted to nearly 600 men and General Burgoyne was forced to retreat.
The Americans under General Gates pursued the British army. Within days, they had them surrounded. The British surrendered on October 17, 1777.
Surrender of General Burgoyne Source: U.S. Federal Government
The Battles of Saratoga and the surrender of the British army under General Burgoyne was one of the major turning points of the Revolutionary War. The Americans morale was boosted and the country now felt it could win the war. Just as important to the war, the French decided to support the Americans with military aid.
Interesting Facts About the Battles of Saratoga
Benedict Arnold did not get along with General Gates. At one point they had a heated argument and Gates relieved Arnold of his command.
George Washington declared a day of Thanksgiving on December 18, 1777 to celebrate the victory over the British at Saratoga.
Despite being relieved of his command, Benedict Arnold entered the battle at Saratoga. He was injured when his horse was shot and fell on his leg.
The American ranks swelled from 9,000 soldiers at the first battle to over 15,000 by the time the British surrendered. The British army, on the other hand, shrunk from 7,200 at the first battle to around 6,600 at the second battle.