Saratoga Campaign > First Battle of Saratoga

First Battle of Saratoga


The First Battle of Saratoga, also known as the Battle of Freeman's Farm, took place on September 19, 1777, during the American Revolutionary War. It was the initial engagement of the Saratoga Campaign, where American forces under General Horatio Gates clashed with British troops commanded by General John Burgoyne. This battle set the stage for the decisive Second Battle of Saratoga and was a critical moment in the war.


  1. Saratoga Campaign:

    • The British strategy in 1777 aimed to cut off New England from the rest of the American colonies by advancing south from Canada along the Hudson River Valley. General John Burgoyne led this campaign, moving from Quebec to Albany.
    • Burgoyne's force included British regulars, German mercenaries (Hessians), Loyalists, and Native American allies. After capturing Fort Ticonderoga in July, Burgoyne's advance slowed due to logistical challenges and increasing American resistance.
  2. American Forces:

    • The American Northern Army, commanded by General Horatio Gates, gathered at Bemis Heights, a strong defensive position overlooking the Hudson River near Saratoga. Gates's army consisted of about 8,500 men, including Continental Army regulars and militia.
    • Key American leaders included Benedict Arnold, who played a critical role in the battle despite conflicts with Gates, and Daniel Morgan, commanding a corps of riflemen known for their marksmanship.

The Battle:

  1. Forces Involved:

    • British Forces: Burgoyne's army, numbering around 7,200 men, sought to advance south to Albany. He divided his forces, sending a detachment to scout and secure Freeman's Farm, an area of cleared fields within a dense forest.
    • American Forces: Gates's army, anticipating Burgoyne's advance, positioned troops to intercept the British. Benedict Arnold and Daniel Morgan played pivotal roles in the American deployment and tactics.
  2. Initial Movements:

    • On the morning of September 19, Burgoyne sent a reconnaissance in force, led by General Simon Fraser and supported by German troops under Baron Riedesel, to scout the American positions and potentially engage the enemy.
  3. Engagement at Freeman's Farm:

    • The battle began when American forces, including Morgan's riflemen, ambushed the British scouts. The dense forest made visibility and coordination difficult, leading to a series of intense skirmishes.
    • Morgan's sharpshooters targeted British officers, causing confusion and slowing the British advance. Despite initial setbacks, the British managed to regroup and launch a counterattack.
  4. Main Battle:

    • The fighting concentrated around Freeman's Farm, with both sides reinforcing their positions throughout the day. Arnold's aggressive tactics and Morgan's marksmanship inflicted heavy casualties on the British.
    • The battle seesawed back and forth, with the British pushing forward only to be repelled by determined American counterattacks.
  5. Outcome:

    • As night fell, the battle ended inconclusively. The British held the field at Freeman's Farm, but their progress was halted, and they suffered significant casualties. Burgoyne's losses numbered around 600 men, while the Americans lost approximately 300.

Aftermath and Impact:

  1. Strategic Stalemate:

    • Although the British technically held the ground at Freeman's Farm, they failed to achieve a decisive breakthrough. The heavy casualties and the resilience of the American forces foreshadowed further difficulties for Burgoyne's campaign.
    • Burgoyne's position became increasingly precarious as supplies dwindled and American forces grew in strength.
  2. American Morale:

    • The battle boosted American morale and confidence. The ability to stand up to and inflict heavy losses on the British regulars demonstrated the effectiveness of the Continental Army and militia forces.
    • The engagement galvanized support from local militias and additional reinforcements, strengthening Gates's army for future confrontations.
  3. Prelude to the Second Battle of Saratoga:

    • The First Battle of Saratoga set the stage for the Second Battle of Saratoga, also known as the Battle of Bemis Heights, which took place on October 7, 1777. The American victory in the second engagement forced Burgoyne to surrender his entire army, marking a turning point in the Revolutionary War.


The First Battle of Saratoga remains a significant event in American Revolutionary history, highlighting the resilience and tactical prowess of the American forces and setting the stage for the decisive victory that would follow at Bemis Heights.

Saratoga Campaign Battles


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