Summary of Burgoyne’s Campaign
During the winter of 1776–77, General John Burgoyne took leave of his duties in Canada to visit England where he lobbied King George III and Lord Germain, the Secretary of State for America, for command of an army to invade New York from Canada. With support from two smaller forces, Burgoyne proposed moving a major strike force down Lake Champlain and the Hudson River Valley, capturing Fort Ticonderoga and Albany, thereby isolating New England from the southern colonies. The King and Lord Germain approved the plan and after several months of preparation, Burgoyne set out from St. Johns, Canada, on June 20, 1777, leading about 9,000 British and German troops. Initially, the operation was successful and Burgoyne easily captured Fort Ticonderoga after the American commander, Major General Arthur St. Clair, abandoned it without a fight. By September, though, Burgoyne’s advances bogged down as his army outdistanced its supply lines, and expected reinforcements never arrived. American forces dealt Burgoyne two devastating defeats near Saratoga in September and October. On October 17, 1777, Burgoyne was forced to surrender the remainder of his army to Horatio Gates, the commander of the Northern Continental Army.
This painting by John Trumbull depicts Burgoyne surrendering his sword to General Horatio Gates at Saratoga. Image Source: Wikipedia.
Significance of Burgoyne’s Campaign
General Burgoyne’s Campaign was important because the humiliating defeat was disastrous for Britain. When news of the American victory reached Europe, France signed two treaties with the United States.
- The Treaty of Amity and Commerce. In this treaty, France became the first nation to officially recognize the independent United States of America as a nation.
- The Treaty of Alliance. In this treaty, the United States and France agreed to support each other against Britain. France sent money, supplies, and military forces to help the United States, which led to the American victory in the War for Independence.
Burgoyne’s Campaign — Quick Facts
- General John Burgoyne’s written plan for invading New York from Canada was entitled “Thoughts for Conducting the War from the Side of Canada.”
- Burgoyne’s army included about 4,200 British regulars, 4,000 German troops, and several hundred Canadians and Indians.
- Horatio Gates’ generous terms of surrender allowed Burgoyne’s army to march to Boston and then sail to England under the condition that they do not fight in America again.
- The American victory at Saratoga convinced King Louis XVI of France to openly enter the war on the side of the Americans.
Burgoyne’s Campaign — Timeline
These are the main battles and events that led to and followed Burgoyne’s Campaign, in chronological order.
- June 20, 1777 — Major General John Burgoyne set out from St. Johns, Canada, leading 9,000 British and German troops down Lake Champlain with the goals of capturing Albany, New York, and isolating New England from the other American colonies.
- July 6, 1777 — Burgoyne’s troops occupied Fort Ticonderoga — considered to be the unassailable guardian of the northern frontier — without opposition after General Arthur St. Clair abandoned it the day before.
- July 6, 1777 — Burgoyne’s troops captured the village of Skenesborough, New York, on the shores of Lake Champlain, where Benedict Arnold had assembled a small navy in 1775.
- July 7, 1777 — A rearguard detail of St. Clair’s troops successfully stopped the British pursuit of delayed a pursuing British force near the village of Hubbardton, New York, long enough to enable St. Clair’s retreating troops to escape.
- July 7, 1777 — A rearguard detachment successfully stopped the British pursuit of St. Clair’s retreating troops at the Battle of Hubbardton.
- July 29, 1777 — Philip Schuyler abandoned Fort Edward in the face of Burgoyne’s approaching army.
- August 2, 1777 — British forces led by Barry St. Leger started the Siege of Fort Stanwix.
- August 4, 1777 — Congress relieved Schuyler from command of the northern army and replaced him with Horatio Gates.
- August 6, 1777 — British forces led by Sir John Johson defeated Americans at the Battle of Oriskany.
- August 16, 1777 — American forces commanded by John Stark and Seth Warner defeated a German detachment at the Battle of Bennington.
- August 22, 1777 — St. Leger abandoned the Siege of Fort Stanwix and retreats from the Mohawk River Valley.
- September 19, 1777 — Burgoyne’s army reached its southernmost point of penetration but was forced to retreat by American forces at the First Battle of Saratoga, which is also called the Battle of Freeman’s Farm.
- October 7, 1777 — American forces under the combined leadership of Daniel Morgan, Benedict Arnold, and Ebenezer Learned defeated Burgoyne’s army at the Battle Second Battle of Saratoga, which is also called the Battle of Bemis Heights.
- October 13, 1777 — A cessation of hostilities was arranged between the combatants.
- October 17, 1777 — Burgoyne surrendered the remainder of his army to Gates, ending the campaign.
Learn More About Burgoyne’s Campaign of 1777
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Burgoyne’s Campaign of 1777 from U.S. History
In early 1777, American military leaders and members of Congress were aware that Major General John Burgoyne maintained a considerable force in Canada, but assumed that when those forces were readied for action it would be in an offensive against Philadelphia, the American capital city. Few colonists believed that the British would again try an assault southward down Lake Champlain, as they had done unsuccessfully in the early stages of the war. Read more at U.S. History.
Battle of Ticonderoga from British Battles
On 1st July 1777 Burgoyne’s army, carried by flotilla and marching down the lake side, arrived just north of Ticonderoga. Light Infantry under General Simon Fraser infiltrated the western side of the fort over Hope Hill. Fraser’s troops crossed the river leading to Lake George and circled around the southern side of Ticonderoga. They climbed Sugar Hill and saw, as Trumbull had, that the heights dominated the American positions in both Ticonderoga and Mount Independence. The British dragged guns to the summit and opened fire. Read more at British Battles.
Battle of Hubbardton from British Battles
General St Clair’s troops left Fort Ticonderoga on 6th July 1777 hastening to put as much ground between themselves and the pursuing army of General Burgoyne in their retreat to the South. The weather was hot and the march, along the rudimentary track through the forest, was heavy going. After 26 miles the Americans reached Hubbardton, a minute hamlet. St Clair marched on, leaving Colonel Seth Warner and his Green Mountain Boys to await the rearguard of Colonel Francis’ 11th Massachusetts and Hale’s 2nd New Hampshire Regiments. Read more at British Battles.
Battle of Bennington from British Battles
By August 1777, Major General John Burgoyne’s army had forced its way south from Canada down Lake Champlain and then to Fort Edward on the Hudson River. General Schuyler lay with the American Army to the south of the Mohawk River junction on the Hudson, covering the New York State capital, Albany. The rebel colonists' affairs in the North seemed at a low ebb, after the abject abandoning of Fort Ticonderoga and the hurried retreat. Read more at British Battles.
Battle of Freeman’s Farm from British Battles
On 19th August 1777 Burgoyne began a movement to encircle the American fortifications on Bemis Heights. Burgoyne’s intention was to take possession of the heights to the West of the American fortifications and use the advantage of greater elevation to bombard the Americans from their flank. Read more at British Battles.
Battle of Saratoga from British Battles
By 7th October 1777, in spite of considerable success in the southern reaches, General Sir Henry Clinton had not make any real progress up the Hudson River. Burgoyne determined to launch the delayed attack on the American positions on Bemis Heights. By this time Gates had been considerably reinforced and had some 12,000 men against around 4,000 British and Germans. Learn more at British Battles.