Friday, September 25, 2015

Visiting the Northeast: Saratoga

September 6, 2015

On our second to last day of vacation, we took some time to go visit one more historical park before heading back to the Midwest. We drove North of Albany to the Saratoga Battlefield and spent a couple hours driving through and learning more about the events that took place here. But instead of me telling you what we did, I thought it'd be more interesting if Curtis stepped in and wrote about it!

Overlooking Freeman Farm: Site of fighting on Sept. 19, 1777
The battle of Saratoga was the turning point of the American Revolution.  For it was here that American forces proved that they were capable of defeating a British army in the field of battle.

The Hudson River: Route of Gen. Burgoyne's invasion of New York

At the beginning of 1777, two years into the war, the British strategy was to separate the New England Colonies from the more Loyalist southern colonies.  To do this, the British were to launch a three way offensive in New York.  One coming east from the Ontario Peninsula, one heading north from New York City, and the third, under General John Burgoyne heading south along the Hudson river from Lake Champlain.  This third assault was initially successful, pushing back the Continental army from Ticonderoga.  However, around the beginning of September, the British faced setbacks.  Neither of the other columns would reach Albany in support of Burgoyne, and Burgoyne was running short on supplies.  With Winter fast approaching, Burgoyne was forced to make the decision to either push down to Albany for Winter quarters or retreat to Ticonderoga.  He chose Albany.

Monument to Kosciuszko chief engineer of the American defenses
In response to General Burgoyne's movement, Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates moved up north of Albany and built a set of fortifications on Bemis Heights overlooking the Hudson River.  This site, designed by Polish engineer Tadeusz Kosciuszko, was strategically designed so that the British could not approach Albany via the Hudson without first throwing the Americans off of their fortifications.

The line of the American Fortifications near the American Headquarters

On September 19, the British attempted their first offensive to remove the Americans by moving inland from the Hudson several miles to a position North of the American headquarters in an attempt to gain the American left.  Interestingly, Gen. Howe was unable to see the consequence of this movement and it was Gen. Benedict Arnold who demanded to be able to counterattack and prevent the British from obtaining the high ground.  (Glenn and myself spent a long time talking to a park ranger of the ability of Gen. Arnold and the possible consequences of the British movements).

The battle that ensued on Freeman's Farm is considered to be a British victory only because the British maintained the field of battle following the fighting.  But, due to the efforts of Gen. Arnold, the British were prevented from obtaining the high ground to the American left.  

Cannon inside Balcarres Redoubt (British Fortifications).  Also the location of Freeman's Farm and the fighting of Sept. 17

Following the first Battle of Saratoga, the British retreated and formed their own fortifications alongside the Hudson and the American front.  Both sides were given a respite of fighting until October 7.  On that day, Gen. Burgoyne authorized a recon expedition to the American left again.  Gates, hearing of this movement ordered troops to confront the British.  This lead to a general engagement on the British Right (American left).  The Americans pushed the British back from their forward positions and back upon their fortifications (called redoubts).  But this was not enough.  The Americans soon overran these redoubts and completely turned the British right.  

Many British Generals were killed at Saratoga, including  General Fraser 

Following the defeat of his army on the 7th, Gen. Burgoyne retreated north to the town of Saratoga where he was quickly surrounded by the Americans.  Outnumbered and down several Generals, Burgoyne surrendered on October 17 to General Gates.  

The Battle of Saratoga marked one of the first times Americans defeated a British field force.  But more importantly, it proved to the French that the Americans were a capable ally.  Benjamin Franklin, following this battle, was able to persuade the French to join the war, donating ships that would be instrumental in causing Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown.

Thank you Curtis! I have to say, I think this trip made me really realize how I married someone so much like my dad. It was so fun to see them bonding over these historic places. These are 2 of the greatest men I know and this weekend gave me a new appreciation for both of them. :)

Following the Erie Canal along I-90

After our morning in Saratoga, we drove to Cleveland, OH for the night, then finished the drive back to Iowa the next day. And there you have it, our quick but fun filled trip out East! Come back next week to read about our next trip that took place 2 days later! :)

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