Campaigns > Saratoga Campaign

Saratoga Campaign

Background

The Saratoga campaign in 1777 was an attempt by the British high command for North America to gain military control of the strategically important Hudson River valley during the American Revolutionary War. It ended in the surrender of the British army, which historian Edmund Morgan argues, "was a great turning point of the war, because it won for Americans the foreign assistance which was the last element needed for victory."

The primary thrust of the campaign was planned and initiated by General John Burgoyne. Commanding a main force of some 8,000 men, he moved south in June from Quebec, boated up Lake Champlain to middle New York, then marched over the divide and down the Hudson Valley to Saratoga. He initially skirmished there with the Patriot defenders with mixed results. Then, after losses in the Battles of Saratoga in September and October, his deteriorating position and ever increasing size of the American army forced him to surrender his forces to the American general Horatio Gates on October 17.

In this critical British loss in the field of battle, all of the related elaborate strategies that had been drawn up in far away London proved to have failed. Colonel Barry St. Leger had been assigned to move east through the Mohawk River valley on Albany, New York, but was forced to retreat during the Siege of Fort Stanwix after losing his Indian allies. The major expedition from the south never materialized due to miscommunication with London when General William Howe sent his army to take Philadelphia rather than sending it up the Hudson River to coordinate with Burgoyne. A last-minute effort to reinforce Burgoyne from New York City was made in early October, but it was too little, too late.

The American victory was an enormous morale boost to the fledgling nation. More importantly, it convinced France to enter the war in alliance with the United States, openly providing money, soldiers, and munitions, as well as fighting a naval war worldwide against Britain.

Battles

Saratoga Campaign Battles

Sources

Primary Sources

Secondary Sources