Monday, May 12, 2014

Battles of Saratoga

The battles of Saratoga marked a turning point in the American War of Independence. More of a mini-campaign than single battle, Saratoga was actually two major battles, with multiple skirmishes in between. The two main battles were fought 18 days apart on the same ground near Saratoga, New York.

British general John Burgoyne was attempting to drive down from Canada through the heart of New York in an effort to cut the colonies in two. The campaign started out well for Burgoyne. On September 19, 1777 he defeated American forces under Horatio Gates at the Battle of Freeman's Farm. This engagement is also considered the first Battle of Saratoga.

Logistical problems and attrition would lead to Burgoyne's downfall. By October 7th he only had about 5,000 combat-ready troops. The Battle of Bemis Heights, or the Second Battle of Saratoga, was fought that day. Over 8,000 American troops led by Gates and Benedict Arnold took to the field. British grenadiers opened the battle at 2 p.m. A charge by the grenadiers was broken up by short-range fire. Burgoyne lost 400 men and six of ten field pieces in the first hour. Agitated, Arnold led a successful attack on Breymann's Redoubt as darkness descended. Burgoyne retreated northward, but his dwindling army was soon surrounded. He surrendered his army on October 17th at Saratoga.

Not only did Saratoga prevent the British from cutting the colonies in two, it encouraged the French to enter the war on the side of the Americans. The War of American Independence turned decidedly in the favor of the Americans. The battlefield is preserved as Saratoga National Historic Park.