The Battle of Saratoga, comprised of two significant battles in September and October of 1777, is considered a major turning point of the American Revolution. British General John Burgoyne devised a plan to crush the growing rebellion. Using three separate armies to invade simultaneously the colony of New York from the north, south, and west, Burgoyne would capture Albany, and cut New England off from the rest of the colonies. New England was viewed as the birthplace of the rebellion; Massachusetts in particular was a hot bed of civil unrest. By isolating New England, Burgoyne hoped to restore order and bring a speedy end to the war. On June 17, 1777, Burgoyne and 10,000 British troops left Quebec, Canada. The invasion at first met with success as Burgoyne captured Fort Crown Point, Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence. Rough roads and untamed wilderness slowed the British advance to a crawl. A string of disasters soon followed. Burgoyne lost nearly 1,000 men when he sent a detachment towards the town of Bennington in search of supplies. Shortly thereafter Burgoyne's Native Americans allies abandoned him. In August, Colonel Barry St. Leger, who was pushing his way into New York from the west, was forced to withdraw back to Canada. General William Howe, who was to invade New York from the south, instead moved his army into Pennsylvania, leaving General Sir Henry Clinton to defend New York City. Although Howe captured Philadelphia, the American capital, his actions effectively doomed Burgoyne's campaign. When Burgoyne needed reinforcements, Howe and Clinton had none to send. Although Burgoyne's plans were unraveling, he refused to change course and continued to push towards Albany.
  • September 12, British delays and defeats allowed the Americans to reorganize. American General Horatio Gates placed artillery on Bemis Heights which over looked the Hudson River and road below, the route used by Burgoyne's advancing troops.
  • September 19, First Battle of Saratoga -- Freeman's Farm. The two armies collided near the farm of John Freeman, a loyalist. Although the British took the field, it was a costly victory. Burgoyne decided to fortify his encampment and wait for reinforcements and supplies that never arrived.
  • October 7-8, Second Battle of Saratoga -- Bemis Heights. Burgoyne attempted to flank Gates' army, but after taking heavy casualties withdrew back towards the town of Saratoga, New York.
  • October 17, Surrounded and running dangerously low on supplies, Burgoyne had no choice but to surrender his army.
Saratoga proved to be a crucial victory for the American army, one that ultimately led to France joining the war on the American side. It was with the help of France that American troops would force the surrender of British General Lord Cornwallis at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781, finally ending the war.


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