The Battle of Saratoga occurred in September and October, 1777, during the second year of the American Revolution. It included two crucial battles, fought eighteen days apart, and was a decisive victory for the Continental Army and a crucial turning point in the Revolutionary War. After a failed Canadian invasion left much of the Continental Army beaten, sick and in retreat, the British hoped to quash rebellion once and for all by isolating the New England colonies. They also hoped to discourage potential American allies such as France from joining the fight. To accomplish this, the British Redcoats needed to take upstate New York and then control the Hudson River. In the spring of 1777, the British ordered three of their armies to merge in Albany, New York. Only one army, however, commanded by General John Burgoyne, made the final push toward its destination. Waiting for them was the heavily-fortified Northern Department of the Continental Army, commanded by General Horatio Gates. The opposing armies came face to face on September 19. Known as the Battle of Freeman’s Farm or the First Battle of Saratoga, the fierce fighting lasted for several hours. Momentum changed sides several times, but neither side gained significant ground until Burgoyne ordered his column of German troops to support the faltering British line and forced the Americans to pull back. Still, the British suffered twice the number of casualties than the Americans and couldn’t continue their drive to Albany. Burgoyne decided to stay put and wait for reinforcements from New York City. In the meantime, the number of Gates’ American troops increased to over 13,000 and continued to grow. By October 7, with supplies dwindling fast, Burgoyne realized waiting for backup was in vain. He sent out a reconnaissance force to attack the American’s left flank in the wooded area of Bemis Heights, south of Saratoga. The Americans got wind of the movement, however, and beat back the British and sent them into retreat – winning the day. Burgoyne decided to take his army north to safety, but heavy rain and frigid temperatures slowed their retreat On October 13, 1777. Within two days, Gates’ soldiers surrounded what remained of Burgoyne’s army and they surrendered. The news of the first defeat of a large British army sent shockwaves around the world and ultimately brought the French into the War on the side of the Americans turning the tide and helping secure American independence – all aided by nasty weather.
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