Out of a great variety of battles, in which hundreds thousands of people take part and tens of thousands die, any of them cannot be compared by results to that one where three thousand five hundred soldiers threw themselves upon the mercy of the conqueror at Saratoga. (Lord Mahon)
The 18th century left many battles, grandiose by the number of the participants, bloody by the results, and interesting by the ways of fights in memory of descendants. Being instructive from the point of view of the military studying, they did not always change the world. At the same time, there were situations when not too large-scale armed conflict led to war actions.
Historians consider the Battle of Saratoga to be the major turning point of the American Revolution. This battle proved to the world that the fledgling American army was an effective fighting force capable of defeating the highly trained British forces in a major confrontation. As a result of this successful battle, the European powers took interest in the cause of the Americans and began to support them.
The battle of Saratoga is an episode of the American Revolution during which the North American patriots managed to get a tremendous victory over a royal army on the 17th of October, 1777, for the first time. This battle is considered to be a turning point of the whole war. Two battles on the same district actually took place. On the 19th of September, the general Burgoyne won an insignificant victory in the battle at the Freeman’s Farm; however, the subsequent attack, on the 7th of October, known as the battle at Bemis Heights, was unsuccessful and the Americans seized a part of the British fortifications. Burgoyne started to retreat; it led to the blockade of Saratoga and army capitulations on the 17th of October. This victory gave occasion to France to enter the war on the side of the USA.
The Position of the British
In June, 1777, the British general John Burgoyne started an attempt to dismember the risen US army. He went to the south from the Province of Quebec, hoping to grasp the control over the Hudson River Valley. At the very beginning of this campaign, he managed to take the fort of Ticonderoga, but the difficulties began after that. The part of his army left for Hudson at the end of July, but the main part of his army remained in the fort Edward because of the problems with the communications. The attempt to solve these problems led to the fact that on the 16th of August about 1000 people were lost at the battle of Bennington.
At the same time, it became known that the general William Howe sent the army from New York to capture Philadelphia. The Indians, accompanying Burgoyne, left the general after the failure under Bennington; thus, the position of William Howe became absolutely difficult. In order to spend the winter in a safe position, it was necessary for him either to retreat to Ticonderoga or attack Albany. Burgoyne chose the last variant. He decided to interrupt the communications with the North in order not to spend the forces for the defense of the fortified posts, and he also decided to pass Hudson. The actions of Burgoyne complicated the situation. The general ordered to baron Ridesel to remove the posts on communication, and began to cross the Hudson River between September 13 and 15.
The Position of the Americans
The American Continental army retreated slowly even from the moment of the loss of Ticonderoga. In the middle of August this army, under the command of the major general Philip Schuyler, was encamped near Stillwater. The loss of Ticonderoga and retreat of the army affected Schuyler’s image and the army command was accepted by the General Horatio Gates on the 19th of August. During Gates’s command, the army increased its sizes because of the additional recruitment.
George Washington was disturbed more by the maneuvers of the General Howe. In August, having convinced that Howe left for the North, he sent 750 people from the New York heights to strengthen Gates, and also some of his best military units, including the Provisional Rifle Corps, staffed with the best shooters from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia.
On the 7th of September Gates ordered his army to move to the north. He chose a place, known as Bemis Heights, being to the north of Stillwater and ten miles to the south of Saratoga and had been fortifying it for a week. All districts were well-viewed from the heights, and they supervised the unique road on Albany.
There were 8 thousand British soldiers at the beginning of the battle in the Northern America. In five years, their number grew to 56 thousand people: every second British soldier appeared on far coast. The skillful British professional – the general Bergoyne and Howe – tried to act according to the norms and traditions of the battlefields of the European wars of the 18th century. An obligatory “general” battle should turn an outcome of a war or, at least, plan it. A big battle should occur in the open area for the commander to see a battlefield and move separate parts of the army according to his considerations. The linear system was considered to be the basis of formation.
Battle at Freeman’s Farm (September, 19th)
Bergoyne, a good officer, a witty playwright, and the ladies’ man acted from the territory of Canada at the head of perfectly trained 7-thousand army supported by the American Indian auxiliary troops. Having passed Hudson, Burgoyne started to move carefully to the south. After leaving of Indians, he did not have enough scouts and hardly imagined the position of the opponent. On September, 18, the vanguard of his army reached the position to the north of Saratoga, approximately in 6.4 kilometers from the American defensive line. There were some firefights between the American and the British military units.
Morgan’s army carefully aimed and killed almost all officers in the column of the opponent, then attacked without suspecting that was deal ing with Burgoyn’s whole army. When they put the entire military unit to flight, they put the Americans back to the forest. James Wilkinson returned to the American camp for reinforcements. At this time, the advance units of the British army departed to the main column.
As a result, Burgoyne remained in the field, having lost about 600 people in the battle. There were people from the central column of Hamilton, and the 62nd regiment was reduced to the sizes of a military unit. Three quarters of gunners were killed or wounded. The Americans lost about 300 people.
Burgoyne gathered a council to decide whether it was necessary to attack the next day, and it was decided to postpone the attack till September, 21st. The army moved closer to the American camp, at the same time being engaged in the burial of victims. The attack of the 21st of September was cancelled, when Burgoyne received the letter from Henry Clinton, the head of the garrison in New York. Clinton wrote that he could come approximately in 10 days. Burgoyne had certain difficulties with the food, but he decided to wait for Clinton. Clinton sailed from New York on October, the 3d and seized the Fort Clinton and the Fort of Montgomery. His advance detachments reached Claremont on the 16th of October.
October came, and it became clear that Clinton would not come to the rescue, and Burgoyne transferred his army because of the lack of food. Burgoyn considered that retreat was incompatible with the dignity of the army and, as a result, it was decided to attack the left flank of the American army consisting of 2000 people on the 7th of October. Meanwhile, the American army grew and reached a number of 12 000 people.
Battle at Bemis Heights (October, 7th)
Since September 19, Burgoyn’s army decreased a little and had about 5000 efficient soldiers. He decided to attack the American army. After that the British army was dug round at the heights near the town Saratoga. The general called a War Council which should have made the decision: whether the capitulation is admissible at this conjuncture or not. The historical tradition argues that a bombshell flew by during Bergoyne’s speech, having served an additional argument in favor of capitulation.
Burgoyne lost about 1000 people in both battles. The opponent surpassed him thrice. The Americans lost about 500 people of the killed and wounded. Burgoyne lost some efficient commanders; the attempts of storm of the American camp were not successful, and his own positions were partially occupied by the opponent. At night, he took away his army. In the morning, on the 8th of October Burgoyne returned to the fortified positions, erected on the 16th of September. On the 13th of October, he gave up in Saratoga, and on the 17th of October the whole army capitulated. The remains of its group retreated from Ticonderoga to Quebec.
The Capitulation of the Englishmen at Saratoga
Bergoyne offered Heinst very honorary terms of capitulation. After negotiations the parties came to the agreement. On October 17, 1777, the British army left the heights occupied by them under the sounds of fanfares. The General Heinst met the won British general at the tent. The exchange of courtesies followed. After that the British soldiers laid arms down. According to the terms of capitulation, which Bergoyn called “convention”, the American soldiers should not have seen this procedure. Bergoyn and his officers were released to England.
The events at Saratoga had a defining value for the war development for the independence of the North American colonies. First of all, they led to the loss of the best army by the British side. The main thing was that they solved the international situation in favor of the risen colonies which began to call themselves the United States of America. France began to support the young republic with money and weapons openly. The other states, including the Russian Empire, took the position of benevolent neutrality towards it.
The War of American Independence lasted more than eight years, from the first shots in Massachussets to the treaty of peace in France. The British cabinet led by Frederick did not mount a sustained offensive for the duration of the war. At one time or another, British forces occupied every significant American city, but 95 percent of Americans did not live in cities, and their resistance, though fluctuating in its scale of effort, continued. The British tried first to isolate a supposed minority of rebellious agitators in the northeast. Then they tried to rally a supposed majority of loyal subjects in other parts of the continent. Neither effort succeeded because both were based upon false assumptions.
The battle of Saratoga in October, 1777, when the American armies surrounded and forced to give the captivity six-thousandth forwarding detachment of the Englishmen up, was one of the most important events of the war for independence. This victory gave confidence to the young American army and also became a reason for the conclusion of the allied contract between the USA and France, which influenced a war outcome. This treaty of friendship, trade, defensive alliance, signed by Franklin from the American side, became the first official recognition of the new state. Moreover, it promoted an active involvement of the European states in the war against Great Britain. In 1779, the example of France was followed by Spain, and in 1780, by Holland.
The French fleet unblocked the eastern ports of the USA, and there were regular parts and volunteers almost from all countries of Europe. The British army was surrounded and capitulated on October 19, 1781, at Yorktown by means of the joint efforts of the American, French, and Prussian soldiers. It predetermined the war outcome. On the 3d of September, 1783, a peace treaty between the states participating in the war was signed in Versailles. According to this peace treaty the USA was admitted as the independent, sovereign state.