Battle of Saratoga Field Study

Directions to Saratoga:

From:

  • New York City - New York State Thruway (I-87) north to Exit 13N.
  • Boston - Mass Pike to New York State Thruway (I-90); north on Thruway to Exit 24; I-87 north to Exit 13N.
  • Montreal - I-87 south to Exit 15.
  • Buffalo - East on New York State Thruway to Exit 28; Rt 29 east to Saratoga.
  • Worcester - (scenic route) 190 north to Rt 2 West, Rt 7 north, 67A to 67 west, 40 west to 4 north, park entrance road.
  • Commercial Airlines - Albany Airport; I-87 north to Exit 13N.
  • Amtrak Trains - Saratoga Springs Railway Station

1:250,000 Scale Map of New York

Detailed USGS topographical maps available from JiMAPCO, in Clifton Park, NY. JiMAPCO is located 15 miles north of Albany. +1-518-899-5091

Terrain Integrity

The Saratoga National Historic Park has left the battlefield undeveloped and completely intact, offering excellent terrain integrity for a staff ride. However, we must note that the forestation of the terrain differs from the time of battle with more growth in some areas and less in others since 1777.

Tour Options

Park Tour Road

The Saratoga National Historic Park offers a 9.5 mile driving tour which allows easy access to each of the points below and we recommend that Staff Ride teams with less than eight hours to spend on the battle site take the driving tour, which currently costs $4.00 per vehicle. The park tour road provides the following logical sequence of the positions:

  • Freeman Farm Overlook ("birds-eye" view)
  • Neilson Farm
  • American River Fortifications
  • Chatfield Farm
  • Barber Wheatfield
  • Balcarres Redoubt
  • Breymann Redoubt
  • Burgoyne's Headqarters
  • The Great Redoubt
  • Fraser Burial Site & Trail (north end of Great Redoubt)

Wilkinson Trail

The park also offers a 4.5 mile walking tour of the main battlefield for $2.00 per person. The Wilkinson National Recreation Trail provides access to the positions where the majority of the fighting occurred. By travelling on both the Wilkinson Trail and the other paths marked on the Saratoga Map and Guide as well as parts of the tour road, a staff ride team with three hours or more could analyze the following positions:

  • Barber Wheatfield
  • Chatfield Farm
  • Balcarres Redoubt
  • Breymann Redoubt

For those with more time, the following positions should also be analyzed:

  • Burgoyne's Headquarters
  • The Great Redoubt
  • Fraser Trail and Burial Site

WPI Custom Staff Ride

For those who have eight hours or more, the following sequential walking tour is highly recommended. Walking the terrain allows for a better understanding of the distances travelled by both armies and also provides more freedom to change the sequence that the team visits each position. However, we suggest that staff ride teams use a vehicle to transport the team to the first position, the American River Fortifications. In addition, staff ride teams may wish to use a vehicle to travel the longer distances to save time.

The combined walking / driving tour saves money for staff ride teams with more than two people per vehicle. The use of any vehicles requires payment for the use of the tour road (currently $4.00 per vehicle), but allows passengers to walk at any point during the ride. The charge for walking the battlefield is presently $2.00 per person.

  • American River Fortifications
  • Neilson Farm
  • Chatfield Farm
  • Barber Wheatfield
  • Balcarres Redoubt - Freeman's Farm
  • Balcarres Redoubt - Morgan's Position
  • Balcarres Redoubt - Poor's Position
  • Balcarres Redoubt - Aftermath
  • Balcarres Redoubt
  • Breymann Redoubt
  • Burgoyne's Headqarters
  • The Great Redoubt

The following points are designated by the park and provide additional insight to the battle:

  • Freeman Farm Overlook
    This position allows an elevated view of the field of Freeman's Farm, where fighting from both battles occurred.
  • Fraser Burial Site and Trail
    This position marks the approximate location of the grave of General Simon Fraser. It also marks the northern wall of the Great Redoubt and provides an excellent view of the Hudson River.

Saratoga Staff Ride Tour Map

Positions

Position 1: American River Fortifications

Situation: Polish engineer Colonel Thaddeus Kosciuszko directed the fortification of the high ground west of the Hudson River. His goal was to place artillery there to deny British access to the Hudson Valley and channel the attacking British towards the main fortifications at Bemis Heights. The fortifications were established prior to the First Battle of Saratoga but were never involved in the fighting.

Teaching Points:

  • Military Aspects of Terrain (OCOKA):
    Observation & Fields of Fire
    Key Terrain
    Avenues of Approach
  • Principles of War:
    Security
    Simplicity
  • Leadership:
    COL Kosciuszko's planning of the defense.

Position 2: Nielson Farm (Bemis Heights)

Situation: American forces under General Horatio Gates fortified their positions at Bemis Heights under the direction of Major General Benedict Arnold and the Polish engineer Colonel Thaddeus Kosciuszko. The position gets its name from Patriot Jotham Bemis, the owner of the farm upon which the fortifications were constructed. From these entrenched positions, Gates observed British troop movements and waited for his enemy to take the offensive. Major General Benedict Arnold led constant harassing attacks from the position at Bemis Heights to keep constant pressure on the British. Like the River Fortifications, the Nielson Farm defenses were completed before the first battle but were never assaulted by the British.

Teaching Points:

  • Military Aspects of Terrain (OCOKA):
    Key Terrain
    Obstacles
  • Principles of War:
    Offensive
    Unity of Command
    Security
  • Leadership:
    COL Kosciuszko's planning of the defense.
    COL Stark's defiance of Schuyler's replacement.
    GEN Gates' intelligence gathering efforts.
    MG Arnold's harassing actions against British.
    MG Arnold compels Gates to take action.

Position 3: Chatfield Farm

Situation: From an outpost position at Asa Chatfield's Farm, Gates' patrols observed the movement of the British columns toward Barber Wheatfield before the Second Battle of Saratoga. The use of this listening and observation post provided the American army with early warning of the enemy's advance.

Teaching Points:

  • Military Aspects of Terrain (OCOKA):
    Observation & Fields of Fire
    Avenues of Approach
  • Principles of War:
    Surprise
    Economy of Force
    Security
  • Leadership:
    Gates' establishment of the outpost reporting system.

Position 4: Barber Wheatfield

Situation: (2nd Battle) The British columns of Lieutenant General John Burgoyne's second reconnaissance in force came into contact with the forces of Brigadier Generals Learned and Poor, initiating the 2nd Battle of Saratoga. Commanders of the British columns, from east to west, were Major Acland, Major General Riedesel, and Major Balcarres. The British forces were overwhelmed by the attacking Americans and forced to withdraw after an hour of some of the fiercest fighting in the American Revolution.

Teaching Points:

  • Military Aspects of Terrain (OCOKA):
    Obstacles
    Key Terrain
  • Principles of War:
    Objective
    Offensive
    Maneuver
    Unity of Command
  • Leadership:
    Burgoyne used advance to forage and harvest food for troops.
    Coordination of Morgan's riflemen with Dearborn's light infantry.
    Inactivity of Gates vs Arnold's initiative and decisive leadership.
    Burgoyne's failed attempt to order retreat.

Position 5: Freeman's Farm (Balcarres Redoubt)

Situation: (1st Battle) General Burgoyne's first reconnaissance in force ended with the center column under Brigadier General Hamilton occupying Freeman's Farm. The advance was in three columns, with Brigadier General Frasier commanding the west, Brigadier General Hamilton commanding the center, and Major General Riedesel commanding the east column. Fraser's advance column occupied high ground west of the clearing at Freeman's Farm while Riedesel's column was located on the west bank of the Hudson River with the supply trains. The British occupation of Freeman's Farm set the stage for the First Battle of Saratoga.

Teaching Points:

  • Military Aspects of Terrain (OCOKA):
    Observation and Fields of Fire
    Cover and Concealment
  • Principles of War:
    Mass
    Surprise
    Unity of Command
    Security
  • Leadership:
    Training and discipline of British vs American forces.
    Effects of American rifles and British artillery.
    Inactivity of Gates in supporting battle.
    Burgoyne failed to provide leadership to Riedesel and Fraser.

Position 6: Morgan's Position at Freeman's Farm

Situation: (1st Battle) Morgan's riflemen opened fire on the British officers and soldiers forming around the cabin of Freeman's Farm during the First Battle of Saratoga. Fires were initiated under cover and concealment from the woodline west of the clearing surrounding Freeman's Farm.

Teaching Points:

  • Military Aspects of Terrain (OCOKA):
    Cover and Concealment
  • Principles of War:
    Mass
    Offensive
    Surprise
    Maneuver
  • Leadership:
    British ability to maintain organized control under heavy fires.
    Morgan's tactic of eliminating officers and artillery first.
    Van Cortlandt's night firing tactics. (Elting)

Position 7: Poor's Position at Freeman's Farm

Situation: (1st Battle) Poor's BDE attacked the British forces at Freeman's Farm from the woodline east of clearing at the First Battle of Saratoga. He used surprise, cover and concealment against the superior British forces in the clearing, and coordinated efforts with Morgan.

Teaching Points:

  • Military Aspects of Terrain (OCOKA):
    Cover and Concealment
  • Principles of War:
    Mass
    Offensive
    Obstacles
    Surprise
    Maneuver
  • Leadership:
    Coordinated initiation of fires with Morgan's elite light infantry.
    Initiative (and delegation) of Riedesel in supporting British line.

Position 8: Freeman's Farm - Aftermath

Situation: (1st Battle) After winning the First Battle of Saratoga, the British fortified the positions occupied at the close of combat. The main British positions fortified were Breymann's Redoubt, Balcarres Redoubt and the Great Redoubt.

Teaching Points:

  • Military Aspects of Terrain (OCOKA):
    Observation & Fields of Fire
    Obstacles
  • Principles of War:
    Offensive
    Unity of Command
    Security
  • Leadership:
    GEN Burgoyne indecisive and his army suffered.
    GEN Riedesel moved for retreat to Batten Kill.
    British 4-5 October council of war to consider next action.
    Burgoyne issues plan to reconnoiter left flank of enemy to determine whether to attack or retreat to Batten Kill.

Position 9: Balcarres Redoubt

Situation: (2nd Battle) Arnold led an assault against the well-defended British position at Balcarres Redoubt. After repeated unsuccessful attempts, he rode across the field of battle to lead an attack against Breymann's Redoubt. This position was attacked during the end of the Second Battle of Saratoga.

Teaching Points:

  • Military Aspects of Terrain (OCOKA):
    Cover & Concealment
    Obstacles
  • Principles of War:
    Mass
    Maneuver
  • Leadership:
    Arnold led failed attempt at redoubt, then shifted efforts.
    Poor's brigade suppressed British after Arnold left.

Position 10: Breymann's Redoubt

Situation: (2nd Battle) Arnold led a second assault against the weaker British position at Breymann's Redoubt. This British position was not heavily defended and Arnold was finally able to breach the breastworks. He was wounded upon entering the fortification. This attack marked the close of the American advance during the Second Battle of Saratoga.

Teaching Points:

  • Military Aspects of Terrain (OCOKA):
    Cover & Concealment
    Obstacles
  • Principles of War:
    Mass
    Objective
    Maneuver
  • Leadership:
    Arnold coordinated frontal and rear attacks on redoubt.
    Arnold led Learned's men to rear of redoubt.
    Morgan and Dearborn stormed front of redoubt.

Position 11: Burgoyne's Headquarters

Situation: From this position on the northern end of the battlefield, Burgoyne waited to decide his next move. He expected relief from General Henry Clinton moving north along the Hudson River and waited over two weeks before taking action. Burgoyne held a Council of War with his subordinate leaders during which the British formulated the plan for the Second Reconnaissance in Force.

Teaching Points:

  • Military Aspects of Terrain (OCOKA):
    Cover & Concealment
  • Principles of War:
    Offensive
    Objective
    Unity of Command
  • Leadership:
    MG Riedesel suggested that the British retreat to Batten Kill.
    MG Burgoyne listened when subordinates advised against his plan to send the main body of British forces on the offensive.

Position 12: Great Redoubt

Situation: British realized they had lost the fight at the close of the Second Battle of Saratoga and fell back to the Great Redoubt. This immense fortification housed the British hospital, artillery park, and supply train and served as their last line of defense. This position was fortified after the First Battle of Saratoga.

Teaching Points:

  • Military Aspects of Terrain (OCOKA):
    Cover & Concealment
    Avenues of Approach
  • Principles of War:
    Maneuver
    Unity of Command
  • Leadership:
    • British blamed Germans for failure.
    • Fraser's dying wish was declaration of his disapprobation of plans adopted throughout campaign.
    • Gates surrounded Burgoyne to prevent retreat, forcing surrender.

Battle of Saratoga Staff Ride

 
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A replica of an engraving done in 1874 from a painting by Alonzo Chappel entitled the Battle of Bennington.

Image © The Polaroid Company