The two Battles of Saratoga were the unarguable turning point of the Revolutionary War in favor of the Americans. The two battles, fought a mere eighteen days apart from one another, were the first massive victory for the Patriots. The American victories in battle led to support from French troops, pride for the Patriots, and the eventual American victory just three short years later. Saratoga was the point during which the war was spun in favor of the Americans over the British, signifying a march to victory that many believed would never come.

Preparing for the double-whammy of battles

Before the Battles of Saratoga, any chances of winning the war were looking bleak for the American troops. The British, led by the incredibly cocky General John Burgoyne, were able to overpower American troops at Fort Ticonderoga without batting an eye. While Burgoyne believed they had British victory under wraps, he made several fatal mistakes after capturing Fort Ticonderoga. The first was leaving behind nearly 1,000 men to guard their newly captured fort. That gave him just 6,500 men to march with towards Saratoga. The second mistake? The British acted unbothered by the threat of attacks from American troops, choosing to move slowly across the North and camp out near Saratoga with a mere 30 days worth of food under their belts. By then, American troops were busy organizing defensive strategies and highly-powerful generals to defeat the British troops moving into their territory.

With General George Washington commanding the army, he began to send reinforcements to the cunning General Horatio Gates on the outskirts of Saratoga. In addition to the 11,000 men Gates already had with him, Washington sent Commander Benedict Arnold, Colonel Daniel Morgan, and two brigades of Continentals to support an offensive attack. Not bad for backup, huh? Soon, they prepared to defend themselves against the overly-confident British troops. By then, they were more than prepared to take Burgoyne and his men on. By the time that Burgoyne decided to engage American troops, they were low on food, low on men, and underprepared to face off with the heavily armed and well-led Patriots.

The first Battle of Saratoga

On Sept. 19, 1777, Burgoyne marched against the American forces near Saratoga. Early on in the battle, British soldiers began to fall to long-range American marksmen. The American troops were concealed in the thick brush of nearby woods. They had no trouble taking down soldiers in a British flanking column that were exposed out in the open of fields. Although the first advancement of British troops failed miserably, their main troops arrived with German support shortly after. The British and German forces combined proved tough for the American forces to fend off. They fought over and around a clearing in the woods called Freeman’s Farm for hours into the late evening. The American generals withdrew their troops at dusk, leaving the British with their territory. However, the Americans had suffered far fewer casualties than the British. The withdraw from the initial battle seemed intentional for more reasons than the fact that it was nightfall.

The British troops were running low and supplies and spirit. Without any reinforcements or supply-shipments of their own, the British troops began to grow weaker, hungrier, and more desperate. Meanwhile, the Americans focused their energy on rebuilding their troops and replenishing the soldiers that they lost. They prepared to come back into battle twice as strong as before. While the Battle of Freeman’s Farm seemed to be a victory for the British, it wasn’t. In fact, the battle only left them isolated and defenseless with a useless piece of land. As the British troops continued to eat through their remaining rations, it became clear that their cocky general had sealed a fatal fate for the remaining British soldiers. As General Gates continued to strengthen his troops and collect more reinforcements, it became clear that the British didn’t stand a chance against the strategic Patriots.

Claiming victory in their second battle

On Oct. 7, 1777, Burgoyne made a last-ditch effort to attack the American troops with no reinforcements, weak troops, and zero supplies. The American troops, on the other hand, had been preparing for the attack for eighteen days following the previous battle. As the British troops marched weakly on the Americans, the Patriots began to take down the British soldiers with ease. Although Burgoyne divided his troops into three columns in an attempt to attack the Americans from multiple sides, American troops overtook each branch of his soldiers with help from Colonel Daniel Morgan and General Benedict Arnold. As British leaders began to acquire fatal wounds, they started to withdraw their troops back to Freeman’s Farm. While the Germans were eager to continue to fight the Americans, they quickly found themselves overpowered, as well. Benedict Arnold led the final, fatality-heavy attack that forced British and German troops back to Saratoga.

On Oct. 8, Burgoyne began to retreat with his soldiers, yet the damage to the British troops was already done. By that point, General Gates had acquired an incredible 20,000 men, while the British had lost thousands of men in combat. The British found themselves corned in Saratoga, unable to escape or overpower the massive, well-nourished American soldiers. On October 17th, 1777, ten days after the second Battle of Saratoga, Burgoyne realized that there was no way they could emerge victorious if they waged another battle with the American troops. As a result, Burgoyne and his troops surrendered under the Convention of Saratoga. He and his men were able to return to Great Britain, so long as they swore that they would never fight in North America again. Although these two battles didn’t end the war, they influenced the French to fight in favor of the Patriots and helped direct the Revolutionary War towards American victory in 1781.