The word Saratoga is shorthand for two battles that gave the coup de grace to the 1777 British invasion from Canada during the American Revolutionary War. After capturing Fort Ticonderoga with almost laughable ease, the British army, led by overconfident General John Burgoyne, crawled south at a tortoise pace, giving the rattled Americans time to regroup under Horatio Gates. To support him, General George Washington sent Benedict Arnold, his best infantry commander; Colonel Daniel Morgan and his crack regiment of Virginia riflemen; and two brigades of Continentals from the Hudson Highlands. They raised Gates’s strength to about sixty-five hundred men. Equally important was Colonel Thaddeus Kosciusko, the Polish engineer, who built excellent field fortifications on Bemis Heights overlooking the Hudson River.
Did You Know?
To celebrate the American victory at Saratoga, the Continental Congress issued a proclamation for a national day "for solemn Thanksgiving and praise," the first official holiday observance with that name.
On September 19, Burgoyne attacked. The fiery Arnold prodded Gates out of his defensive mentality, winning permission to lead Morgan’s men and Henry Dearborn’s light infantry into the woods to block a British flanking column. For most of the afternoon, a furious struggle raged around and across a clearing called Freeman’s Farm; Arnold poured in fresh regiments until the jittery Gates broke off the action, leaving the battered British in possession of the ground. After fortifying his camp and waiting in vain for reinforcements from New York, Burgoyne attempted another assault on October 7. Ignoring orders from the jealous Gates to remain in his quarters, Arnold joined the fighting and led an attack that captured key strong points, forcing the British to retreat to Saratoga (modern Schuylerville). There, surrounded by a belated outpouring of militia, Burgoyne surrendered ten days later.
The Reader’s Companion to Military History. Edited by Robert Cowley and Geoffrey Parker. Copyright © 1996 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Battle of Saratoga
In the summer of 1777, over 7,200 British soldiers under the command of Lieutenant General John Burgoyne departed Quebec down the Hudson River to ?sever the head of the rebellion? (Department of Military Science, 2006). In the British?s path were 7,000 poorly trained and poorly equipped American soldiers under the command of Major General Horatio Gates. These two Armies would meet and do battle in Saratoga, New York. Many battles during the Revolutionary War were either won or lost by the Armies that fought in them and military tactics played a role in each battle?s outcome. One battle, however, sticks out as the turning point for American forces that turned the tide of war in their favor. This essay will discuss some of the military tactics used to win the Battle of Saratoga which helped to determine the fate of the United States.
First it is important to understand that ?the success at Saratoga gave France the confidence in the American cause to enter the war as an American ally? (ushistory.org, 2012). Without this victory the American cause would not have been successful as the French would not have offered much needed financial and military assistance. For this reason, the Battle of Saratoga is known as ?the turning point of the Revolutionary War? (ushistory.org, 2012).
Additionally it is important to understand what military tactics are. Military tactics can be defined as: ?the techniques for using weapons and military units in combination for engaging an enemy on the battlefield in an effort to defeat that enemy? (M. Smith, personal communication, September 17, 1997). Some practices have not changed since the dawn of warfare: ambushes, counterattacks, reconnaissance, creating and using obstacles and defenses, and controlling the supply chain are all tactics still used today. The use of the terrain to the best advantage has not changed much; neither has the use of elevation and natural cover which will all be discussed later in this essay.
The first military tactic that will be discussed is the reconnaissance. The reconnaissance is a vital tactic used by military leaders that help them to understand the situation and better prepare for contact with the enemy. Reconnaissance can be defined as ?the process of obtaining information about the position, activities, resources, etc, of an enemy or potential enemy? (reconnaissance, 2012). Good reconnaissance led to the American?s detaching 1000 men (commanded by Major General Benedict Arnold) that engaged and defeated the British force (commanded by Brigadier General Barry St. Leger) along the Mohawk River. It is important to note that BG St. Leger?s forces retreated back into Canada and were not present for the battle of Saratoga. By understanding the importance of the reconnaissance tactic the Americans were able ?to thwart St. Leger's eastward advance along the Mohawk River? (Department of Military Science, 2006), and deny LTG Burgoyne much needed supplies and reinforcements. By knowing what the British were doing, MG Gates was able to ?set the stage? for the Battle of Saratoga in the American?s favor.
Another military tactic that had a significant impact on the Battle of Saratoga is the control of the supply chain. If a military unit is stretched too thin or out paces its supply chain, the unit will lose its combat power or the ability to take the fight to the enemy. During the Battle of Saratoga, ?American general Schuyler proceeded to burn supplies and crops in the line of Burgoyne's advance so that the British were forced to rely on their ever-longer and more and more unreliable supply line to Canada? (ushitory.org, 2012). This is one example of how to effectively disrupt the enemy?s supply chain. Other examples would be to ambush or raid enemy supply wagons in order to deny the enemy vital supplies such as food, water, ammunition, and gun powder. The negative effects of denying the British supplies during the battle of Saratoga were evident during the battles. It is also important to note that Burgoyne was unsuccessful at raiding the American?s supply depot at Bennington, Vermont. British LTG Burgoyne was ?Overextended, cut off from supply routes, and with demoralized forces?? (Department of Military Science, 2006). So the military tactic of disrupting the enemies supply chain was one
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Related TopicsUnited StatesBattles of SaratogaSaratoga CountyNew YorkJohn BurgoyneAmerican Revolutionary WarBenedict ArnoldMilitary tacticsJohn StarkReconnaissanceSaratoga campaignDaniel Morgangeneral john burgoynegeneral horatio gatesbattle of saratogasaratoga new yorkamerican allylieutenant generalmilitary tacticsmilitary sciencemilitary assistancemilitary unitspersonal communicationm smithbritish soldiersamerican forceshudson riverrevolutionary warsaratogaamerican soldiersseptember 17turning point
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