“…one of the Greatest battles that Ever was fought in America…” Major Henry Dearborn
The battle of Saratoga was the major turning point in the American Revolution for the Americans. Most people remember it as the beginning of a new nation born in freedom. In this memory the conflict was quick and easy, the adversaries are little more than cartoon-like tin soldiers whose brightly colored uniforms make them ideal targets for straight-shooting American frontiersmen.
In actuality, the very year of Independence was a time of many military disasters for the fledgling republic; the first year of its existence was almost its last. New York was the stage for much of the drama that unfolded.
In hopes of crushing the American rebellion before foreign powers might intervene, the British concocted a plan to invade New York from their base in Canada in 1777. Essentially, two armies would follow waterways into the Rebel territory, unite and capture Albany, New York. Once the town was in their possession, these British forces would open communications to the City of New York, and continue the campaign as ordered. It was believed that by capturing the Hudson River’s head of navigation (Albany) and already holding its mouth (the City of New York), the British could establish their control of the entire river. Control of the Hudson could sever New England-the hot bed of the rebellion-from the rest of the colonies.
The British Governor of Canada, Sir Guy Carleton, with his experience of campaigning in North America would have been a sound appointment for this command, particularly after his determined and resourceful defense of Canada in 1775 and 1776. Instead Lord Germaine, the minister in London with direct control of the British war policy, persuaded King George III to appoint Major General John Burgoyne (known to the troops as “Gentleman Johnnie”), Carleton’s subordinate during 1776. Burgoyne had taken the precaution of returning to London during the...