Saratoga Campaign > Battles of Saratoga

Battles of Saratoga


The Battles of Saratoga, comprising the First Battle of Saratoga (Battle of Freeman’s Farm) on September 19, 1777, and the Second Battle of Saratoga (Battle of Bemis Heights) on October 7, 1777, were pivotal engagements during the American Revolutionary War. These battles resulted in a decisive American victory and marked a turning point in the war by securing French support for the American cause.


  1. British Strategy:

    • In 1777, British General John Burgoyne devised a plan to isolate New England from the other American colonies by capturing the Hudson River Valley. His strategy involved a three-pronged attack converging on Albany, New York.
    • Burgoyne’s force, advancing south from Canada, was to meet up with British forces moving north from New York City and west from the Mohawk Valley.
  2. American Defense:

    • American forces, commanded by General Horatio Gates, fortified positions at Bemis Heights, south of Saratoga, to block Burgoyne’s advance.
    • Key American leaders included Benedict Arnold, whose tactical acumen was crucial, and Daniel Morgan, commanding a corps of riflemen.

First Battle of Saratoga (Battle of Freeman’s Farm):

  1. Forces Involved:

    • British Forces: General Burgoyne’s army, consisting of about 7,200 men, including British regulars, German Hessians, Loyalists, and Native American allies.
    • American Forces: General Gates’s army, numbering around 8,500 men, including Continental Army soldiers and militia.
  2. Battle Dynamics:

    • On September 19, 1777, Burgoyne advanced a reconnaissance in force to probe the American defenses and secure Freeman’s Farm.
    • The Americans, led by Arnold and Morgan, engaged the British in a series of skirmishes. Morgan’s riflemen effectively targeted British officers, creating confusion and slowing their advance.
    • The battle was intense and seesawed back and forth, with neither side able to secure a decisive victory by the end of the day.
  3. Outcome:

    • The British technically held the field at Freeman’s Farm, but their advance was halted, and they suffered significant casualties, with around 600 men lost.
    • American casualties were approximately 300. The battle demonstrated the Americans' resilience and ability to inflict substantial damage on the British forces.

Second Battle of Saratoga (Battle of Bemis Heights):

  1. Forces Involved:

    • British Forces: Burgoyne’s army, reduced to around 6,000 men due to casualties and desertions.
    • American Forces: Gates’s army, strengthened to about 12,000 men with reinforcements and local militia.
  2. Battle Dynamics:

    • On October 7, 1777, Burgoyne, facing dwindling supplies and no reinforcements, attempted a bold attack on the American left flank at Bemis Heights.
    • The Americans, led by Arnold (despite being relieved of command) and Morgan, launched a fierce counterattack. Arnold’s leadership and Morgan’s sharpshooters played crucial roles in breaking the British lines.
  3. Key Moments:

    • Arnold, disregarding orders, rode onto the battlefield and rallied the American troops, leading charges that captured key British positions, including the redoubt defended by Hessian troops under Colonel Heinrich von Breymann.
    • The American forces overwhelmed the British, forcing them to retreat in disarray.
  4. Outcome:

    • The Second Battle of Saratoga was a decisive American victory. British casualties were heavy, with around 600 men killed or wounded. The Americans suffered fewer losses, with about 150 killed or wounded.
    • Burgoyne’s army, demoralized and outnumbered, retreated to Saratoga (now Schuylerville), where they were surrounded by American forces.

Aftermath and Impact:

  1. Burgoyne’s Surrender:

    • On October 17, 1777, facing no viable options for escape or relief, General Burgoyne surrendered his entire army of approximately 5,800 men to General Gates. The terms of surrender, known as the Convention of Saratoga, allowed the British troops to return to Britain under the condition that they would not serve again in North America during the war.
  2. Strategic Consequences:

    • The American victory at Saratoga was a turning point in the Revolutionary War. It halted the British strategy to divide the colonies and significantly boosted American morale.
    • The surrender of Burgoyne’s army demonstrated the effectiveness of American military tactics and leadership, gaining international recognition.
  3. International Impact:

    • The victory at Saratoga was instrumental in securing French support for the American cause. Recognizing the potential for American success, France formally entered the war as an ally of the United States in 1778, providing crucial military and financial assistance.
    • French involvement broadened the scope of the war, placing additional pressure on British resources and contributing significantly to the eventual American victory.


The Battles of Saratoga remain among the most significant military engagements in American history, symbolizing the resilience and strategic ingenuity of the American forces and their ability to achieve victory against formidable odds.

Saratoga Campaign Battles


Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

See W. L. Stone, Campaign of Lieut.-Gen. John Burgoyne (Albany, 1877).

1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 24

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