Battle of Saratoga Preliminary Study

Historical References & Subject Matter Experts

Mr. Joe Craig, Park Ranger, Saratoga National Historic Park

Mr. Joe Craig is very familiar with the Battle of Freeman's farm, and he can provide information for both battles. However, the park lacks sufficient personnel for any of the park rangers to serve as guides on staff ride tours. (518) 664-9821

Professor Thomas Kelley, Siena College, Albany, NY

Professor Kelley has helped Siena College Army ROTC in developing Staff Rides to Saratoga in the past.

Mr. Richard Patterson, Director, Old Barracks Association, Trenton, NJ

Mr. Patterson was contacted through the help of Dr. Stone, referenced in the Battle of Monmouth. Mr. Patterson used to lead historical tours and staff rides at the Battle of Saratoga park before relocating to Trenton, NJ, where he now supports the Battle of Trenton. He provided the names of the two local historians listed below, and may be able to provide information concerning the battle. However, his dislocation from the New York area precludes his ability to serve as a subject matter expert for a staff ride trip.

Mr. John Anson, Local Historian

Mr. Anson is a subject matter expert on the Battle of Saratoga and may be available to help in future staff rides. He should be contacted through correspondence rather than by phone out of respect for his privacy.

317 Kenwood Ave
Delmar, NY 12054

Mr. Robert Mulligan, Local Historian

Mr. Mulligan is another subject matter expert on the battle. Again, he should be contacted through correspondence rather than by phone.

12 Mayfair Drive
Slingerlands, NY 12159

Historical Library

American Antiquarian Society

The American Antiquarian Society offers a wealth of historical resources, housing 2/3 of all American primary source materials printed between 1640 and 1821. Their collections serve a worldwide community of students, teachers, historians, biographers, genealogists, and authors.

American Antiquarian Society
185 Salisbury Street
Worcester, MA 01609-1634


The work of John R. Elting serves as the standard for historical research concerning the Battle of Saratoga. Elting was a US Army Colonel and military historian who specialized in the organization of the 18th and 19th century military of the American, British, and other European nations.

He thoroughly researched the Battle of Saratoga as well as the events leading up to it using primary sources such as written orders, correspondence between key figures, memoirs, journals, and written troop returns. The last source, troop returns, provides the most accurate estimations of unit sizes at the various battles by providing the numbers fit for service, sick, and even those on furlough. These figures are conveniently organized in the appendices of his book. In addition, Elting devoted a significant amount of time on the battlefield to compare the historical accounts to his own observations of the terrain.

Elting, John R.;

"The Battles of Saratoga;" Philip Freneau Press, Monmouth Beach, NJ, 1977. However, this publication may currently be out of print. It is available at the American Antiquarian Society mentioned above as a reference only.

Some other sources which proved to be useful in the development of the on-line staff ride are listed below:

Bennett, Clarence E.;

"Advance & Retreat to Saratoga in the American Revolution - The American Offensive and the Burgoyne Campaign;" Gregg Press, Boston, 1972. This source provides a very detailed account of the battle, but it may be too involved to be effective for the scope of a staff ride.

Boatner, COL Mark M. III;

"Encyclopedia of the American Revolution;" David McKay Co., New York, 1966. This encyclopedia provides a detailed yet concise account of the battle as well as Smith's expedition. It serves as an excellent foundation upon which to pursue further research.

Furneaux, Rupert;

"The Battle of Saratoga;" Stein and Day, New York, 1971. This source provides several quotations of primary sources such as memoirs, journals, and orders. However, the timeframe of the battle presented in Furneaux conflicts with that of Elting and should be given less weight. Elting's work pulled together a greater variety of primary source materials and also included an in-depth analysis of the battlefield.

Greene, Jack P. and J.R. Pole;

"The Blackwell Encyclopedia of the American Revolution;" Basil Blackwell, INC., Cambridge, MA, 1991. This encyclopedia provides a brief overview of the battle as well as the events leading up to it, organized topically rather than chronologically.

Johnson, Curt;

"Battles of the American Revolution;" Bonanza Books, New York, 1975. Johnson provides another brief look at the Battle of Saratoga as well as other battles of the American Revolution. This source also provides additional information about approximate sizes of British and American units and the weapons and equipment used by both sides.

Wood, LTC William J.;

"Battles of the Revolutionary War, 1775-1781;" Da Capo Press, New York, NY, 1995. This source was available at the Saratoga National Historic Park library and builds upon the work of Elting and Furneaux, providing a detailed account of the events leading up to the battle as well as a detailed account of the battle itself.

For additional references concerning various aspects of the battle, consult the following sources:

Anderson, Troyer Steele;

"The Command of the Howe Brothers During the American Revolution;" Oxford University Press, New York and London, 1936.

Bird, Harrison;

"March to Saratoga: General Burgoyne and the American Campaign, 1777;" Oxford University Press, New York, 1963.

Coffin, Charles, compiler;

"The lives and Sevices of Maj. Gen. John Thomas, Col. Thomas Knowlton, Col. Alexander Scammel, Maj. Gen. Henry Dearborn;" Egbert Harvey and King, New York, 1845.

Creasy, Sir Edward S.;

"The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World;" George Macy Companies, New York, 1969.

Gluckman, Arcadi;

"U. S. Muskets, Rifles and Carbines;" Otto L. Ulbrich Co., Buffalo, 1948.

Hudleston, Francis Josiah;

"Gentleman Johnny Burgoyne;" Bobbs-Merrill, Indianapolis, 1927.

Nickerson, Hoffman;

"The Turning Point of the Revolution;", Kennikat Press, Port Washington, NY, 1967.

Palmer, LTC Dave Richard and LTC Richard L. Tripp;

"Early American Wars and Military Institutions;" Dept of History USMA, West Point, NY, 1973.

Suggested Study Format

  • Biographies of Key Individuals with Bibliography


    MGN Horatio Gates
    --Patterson, Samuel W.; "Horatio Gates;" Columbia University Press, NY, 1941.
    MGN Benedict Arnold
    --Sellers, Charles C.; "Benedict Arnold: The Proud Warrior;" Minton & Balch,New York, 1930.
    COL Daniel Morgan
    --Graham, James; "The Life of General Daniel Morgan;" Derby & Jackson, NewYork, 1856.
    BGN Ebenezer Learned
    --Boatner, COL Mark M. III; "Encyclopedia of the American Revolution;" David McKay Co., New York, 1966.
    BGN Enoch Poor
    --Boatner, COL Mark M. III; "Encyclopedia of the American Revolution;" David McKay Co., New York, 1966.



    LTG John Burgoyne,
    --Hudleston, Francis Josiah;"Gentleman Johnny Burgoyne;" Bobbs-Merrill, Indianapolis, 1927.
    MGN Baron Friederich von Riedesel
    --Stone, William L.; "Memoirs and Letters and Journals of Major General Riedesel;" J. Munsell, Albany, NY, 1868.
    BGN James Hamilton
    BGN Simon Fraser
    --Boatner, COL Mark M. III; "Encyclopedia of the American Revolution;" David McKay Co., New York, 1966.


  • Key Events:
  • Time frame for study:
    Two months from scheduled date of depature for cadet study, 2 - 3 weeks for Cadre advance reconnoiter, 1 - 2 weeks for in-progress study.

Battle Analysis Summary

  • Objectives
    • American: Stop Advancement of British Army
    • British: Three-pronged assault on Albany to cut-off New England from the rest of America and bring an end to the American rebellion.
  • Comparison of Troops
    • Training Levels:

      The fledgling American Army was beginning to develop into a professional military organization under the experienced training of the veteran leaders. Experience gained from earlier battles of the rebellion also enhanced the combat skills of the American forces. They learned to take advantage of Indian fighting tactics by using those same tactics to place the British at a disadvantage, as European-style fighting was ill-suited to the rugged American terrain.

      The British were a highly trained, disciplined, and organized fighting force. The majority of the leaders were combat veterans, and most of the units involved in the battle were regular infantrymen. British soldiers were considered the finest in the world, but their overconfidence and displacement from England proved costly.

    • Leadership:

      The American units were a combination of regular infantry combat veterans along with less rigid militia units. The command structure was improving, but dissention between general officers of the American ranks detracted from unity of command during the Battle of Saratoga.

      The British forces were led by organized echelons of command. The professionalism of the British leaders allowed for a very unified command structure.

    • Equipment:

      Americans and British were both using Muskets. In addition, the American riflemen were equipped with the colonial long rifle and the German jaegers used the heavy jaeger rifle. The American use of skilled riflemen granted a decided advantage during the battle, while the British effectively used artillery to counter that advantage. Americans also possessed artillery but neglected to make use of it during the battle.

      The overextended supply lines of the British forces failed to provide provisions and reinforcements to the British expedition, and food and ammunition shortages placed Burgoyne's forces in a difficult position.

  • Initial Schemes of Maneuver
    • American:
      From the sporadic reinforcements of arriving militia units, the Americans were finally strong enough to face the advancing British. General Philip Schuyler began the establishment of defensive positions at Bemis Heights when Congress replaced him with General Horatio Gates, the new commander of the Northern Army. Upon completion of the defenses, Gates' entrenched army awaited the actions of the British. An effective outpost reporting system monitored the movement of the British expedition, keeping Gates informed of the actions of the enemy.
    • British:
      The British Campaign of 1777 called for a three-pronged attack against the northern colonies, to link up in Albany, New York. To this end, Burgoyne sought to close with the fleeing American army and destroy it while moving towards Albany. The armies clashed several times during the British pursuit of the American forces, until the fateful scene of the Battle of Saratoga was set. When a British foraging party fell victim to American patrols, Burgoyne seized the offensive.
  • Starting Locations of Forces

    A map is provided to illustrate the initial positions of the Americans at Bemis Heights and the southward march of Burgoyne's army in three columns.

    Battle of Freeman's Farm Map

    Battle of Bemis Heights Map

  • Action

    In need of reliable intelligence of his enemy, Burgoyne organized a reconnaissance in force. His plan called for a southward advance toward the suspected American position in order to gain information about their strength and position. The advance was to be in three columns, with hopes of engaging and destroying the enemy if contact was made.

    Gates observed the movements of the columns and sent Morgan's Corps to initiate fires on the British at Freeman's Farm. The marksmen of Morgan's Riflemen killed or wounded all British leaders surrounding the cabin at Freeman's Farm by firing from cover and concealment. As a result, the British took heavy losses before finally repulsing the American forces with the coming of nightfall.

    The second battle began with a similar British strategy of three columns advancing on the rebel position, but Riedesel was placed on flank security with a column moving southward through the woods west of the clearing. Gage decided to attack the British from east and west flanks, again utilizing cover and concealment to the advantage of the Americans. Upon realizing victory, Gage intended to allow a British retreat but Arnold forced the issue to decisively destroy the ability of Burgoyne to salvage his war-torn soldiers.

  • Outcome
    The Americans were able to defeat the British and turn the tide of the war by showing the powers in Europe that the Revolutionary Army was a force to be reckoned with. Seeing the American Revolution as a way to embarrass their long-time enemies, the French government decided to aid the American cause after witnessing the victory at Saratoga and the surrender of Burgoyne to the American forces.
  • Lessons Learned

    Americans were able to use their unorthodox, guerrilla tactics effectively in the hilly, wooded terrain of New England and put the British Army at a disadvantage.

    For the British, the over-extending of their supply lines and the slow rate of their advance along the Hudson greatly contributed to their defeat. The men under Burgoyne suffered from severe food and ammunition shortages, and many deserted before the Second Battle of Saratoga.

Battle of Saratoga Staff Ride

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Replica of a portrait of GEN John Burgoyne

Image © The Polaroid Company