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Battle of Saratoga, 1777

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John Burgoyne versus Horatio Gates and Benedict Arnold: A British army under Burgoyne tries to reconnoiter the lines of an American army under Gates but Arnold, lacking a command, will not allow the British an easy time of it. How far can the Americans push the attack against the outnumbered British? Also known as the Battle of Bemis Heights. Click on images below to view PowerPoint presentation. | Legend |
 
 
This battle is often considered the decisive battle of the American Revolutionary War; the surrender of Burgoyne “removed a significant British force from combat [and] thwarted the British plan to divide the colonies. That was the best plan the British had during the war, but after Burgoyne’s failure it was rarely pursued” (Davis, 1999: 257). Its objective military effect is incomparable to the subjective political impact; the American victory convinced France that they could defeat Britain on conventional terms, prompting France to declare war on Britain. French military and economic support was a definitive factor in the eventual American victory. In this case, the perception of the victory was more important than the real impact.
 
Fuller harshly criticizes Burgoyne’s plan, calling his reconnaissance in force with 1,500 men “the blind throw of a gambler” (1954: 303). Howe’s plan to turn the American flank with 4,000 men does not seem any better but would at least be proportionately desperate to their situation. In the American camp, Gates only sent his troops into battle but never actually managed their actions thereafter. Arnold, in a sort of drunken, mythical rage, led the American units forward, somehow being “everywhere when needed” (Ketchum, 1997: 404). The victory on October 7 could have been more immediately decisive had Arnold not been wounded, leaving a vacuum of command which Gates did not fill.
 
 
I decided to animate this battle to make up for the absence of American content on the site. I hope one of the most decisive battles in American military history has the desired effect.
 
It may seem somewhat odd that I included Benedict Arnold as a commander. Although he did not hold any official command, he was the most influential personality on the battlefield, personally leading the American attack at its most urgent times.
 
- Jonathan Webb
 
Works Consulted

Ferling, John. E. Almost a miracle: the American victory in the War of Independence. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977.
 
Fuller, J.F.C. The Decisive Battles of the Western World Vol. 2. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1956.
 
Furneaux, Rupert. Saratoga: The Decisive Battle. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1971.
 
Ketchum, Richard M. Saratoga: Turning Point of America’s Revolutionary War. New York: Henry Holt, 1997.
 
Morrissey, Brendan. Saratoga 1777: Turning Point of a Revolution. Oxford: Osprey, 2000.

Images

American soldiers: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Infantry,_Continental_Army,_1779-1783.jpg
 
Benedict Arnold: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benedict_Arnold
 
British soldiers: http://www3.towerhobbies.com/cgi-bin/WTI0001P?I=LXYE41&P=8
 
Horatio Gates: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:HoratioGatesByJamesPeale.jpg
 
John Burgoyne: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Burgoyne

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