After nearly two years of war with the British, things were not necessarily going well for the Americans fighting for independence. Supplies to many of the troops and militias were growing scarce as were their funds. In many areas of the colonies, patriots not only found themselves fighting trained British troops but they also faced armed opposition by colonists that remained loyal to the British crown. Patriots won a few battles and skirmishes here and there, but the British still seemed to command most of the victories of the war.
On January 28,1777, Major General John Burgoyne submitted a plan to the British crown to cut-off the New England colonies from the rest of the colonies. His plan called for Burgoyne to take a large British force into Canada then move down along Lake Champlain, then down the Hudson River to New York City. Once the New England colonies were cut off, British General William Howe would be able to take his forces and attack Philadelphia which at the time was the seat of the Second Continental Convention and the implied capital of the newly declared United States of America.
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Burgoyne was a colorful fellow with a somewhat sordid history. He purchased his first commission in the horse guards at the age of 15. He quickly earned the nickname ‘Gentleman Johnny’ because of his flair for fashion and love for gambling. Three years later he sold his commission to help pay off the gambling debts he had incurred.
A short time later, Burgoyne again purchased a commission, this time it was a cornet’s commission, resulting in his becoming part of the 1st Royal Dragoons and take part in the war of the Austrian succession. In 1758 he helped make raids on the French coast during the 7 Years War. In 1772, Burgoyne was promoted to major general. Burgoyne then made his way to the American colonies allowing him to be present at Bunker Hill.
King George III and Prime Minister Frederick North accepted Burgoyne’s plan to cut off the New England colonies and he was sent to Canada with 8,000 British troops. Burgoyne started his campaign down Lake Champlain and on June 2, 1777 he captured Fort Ticonderoga.
As Burgoyne continued down the lake and the Hudson River, he tried to establish a supply chain to bring necessary supplies down from Canada to his advancing troops. However, a patriot militia moved in behind Burgoyne and cut-off his supply chain.
Short on supplies, Burgoyne attempted to avoid a battle with the American forces at Bemis Heights, NY, but ended up facing opposition at Freeman farm. Burgoyne’s forces were victorious but the skirmish took a sizeable toll on his forces. Although some of his officers suggested he retreat, Burgoyne was resolved to move on.
Desperate for food and supplies, Burgoyne decided to attack the Americans at Bemis Heights, but that turned out to be a huge mistake as he was soundly defeated by colonists. After the humiliation of defeat, Burgoyne retreated back to Saratoga but again faced defeat at the hands of more colonial forces.
On October 17, 1777, Major General John Burgoyne was forced to surrender to the American forces. He was returned to England where he faced a great deal of public criticism and condemnation. After a year serving as Commander in Chief of the British Army in Ireland, Burgoyne resigned his commission.
When word of the American victory over Burgoyne reached France, it led them to be the first country to formally recognize America’s independence. Many suggest Morocco was the first but their formal recognition came after France. Eventually France offered support to America and was instrumental in our fledgling nation defeating the British in 1783 and securing our independence.
On this day in history, a plan was submitted that eventually help lead to the first official recognition of America as an independent country and the defeat of the British in 1783, securing that independence.