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?

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Significance

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 actual military effect is incomparable to the 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.

Analysis

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 that Gates did not fill.

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Notes

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

Map of North America: http://teachnet.eu/tobrien/about/revolutions/the-american-revolution/

Map of the world: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_map_projections

John Burgoyne: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Burgoyne

 

If you enjoyed the Battle of Saratoga 1777 battle animation, you may also enjoy these other battle animations:

Battle of Cowpens 1781, another battle fought during the War of the American Revolution:

cowpens preview 1

Battle of the Plains of Abraham 1759, another battle fought in North America during the 1700s:

plains of abraham preview 1

Battle of Ayacucho 1824, another battle fought in the Americas against a colonial power in the Gunpowder Era:

ayacucho preview 1

Thank you for visiting The Art of Battle: Animated Battle Maps.

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