US American History Info and Articles
It had become plain to the British that if they could get control of the Hudson River, thus cutting off New England from the other States, they could so weaken the Americans as to make their defeat easy. So they adopted this plan: Burgoyne with nearly eight thousand men was to march from Canada, by way of Lake Champlain and Fort Edward, to Albany, where he was to meet a small force of British, who also were to come from Canada by way of the Mohawk Valley. The main army of eighteen thousand men, under General Howe, was expected to sail up the Hudson from New York. They believed that this plan could be easily carried out and would soon bring the war to a close.
And their plan might have succeeded if General Howe had done his part. Let us see what happened.
Howe thought that before going up the river to meet and help Burgoyne, he would just march across New Jersey and capture Philadelphia. This, however, was not so easy as he had expected it to be. Washington’s army was in his pathway, and, not caring to fight his way across, he returned to New York and tried another route, sailing with his army to Chesapeake Bay. The voyage took two months, much longer than he expected.
When at length he landed and advanced toward Philadelphia, he was again thwarted. Washington’s army grimly fronted him at Brandywine Creek, and a battle had to be fought. The Americans were defeated, it is true, but Washington handled his army with such skill that it took Howe two weeks to reach Philadelphia, which was only twenty-six miles away from the field of battle.
Howe was thus kept busy by Washington until it was too late for him to send help to Burgoyne.
Moreover, Burgoyne was disappointed also in the help which he had expected from the Mohawk Valley, for the army which was to come from that direction had been forced to retreat to Canada almost before reaching the valley at all.
Burgoyne was now in a hard place. The Americans were in front of him, blocking his way, and also behind him, preventing him from retreating or from getting powder and other greatly needed supplies from Canada. He could move in neither direction.
Thus left in the lurch by those from whom he expected aid and penned in by the Americans, there was nothing for him to do but fight or give up.
Like a good soldier, he fought, and the result was two battles near Saratoga and the defeat of the British. In the end Burgoyne had to surrender his entire army of six thousand regular troops (October 17, 1777).
Such was the way in which the British plan worked out. Of course the result was a great blow to England.
On the other hand, the victory was a great cause of joy to the Americans. It made hope stronger at home; it won confidence abroad. France had been watching closely to see whether the Americans were likely to win in their struggle, before aiding them openly. Now she was ready to do so, and was quite willing to make a treaty with them, even though such a course should lead to war with England.
To bring about this treaty with France, Benjamin Franklin did more than any other man. After signing the Declaration of Independence - and you will remember that he was a member of the committee appointed to draft that great state paper - he went to France to secure aid for the American cause. He must have been a quaint figure at the French court, his plain hair and plain cloth coat contrasting strangely with the fashion and elegance about him. Yet this simple-hearted man was welcomed by the French people, who gave feasts and parades in his honor and displayed his picture in public places. By his personal influence he did very much to secure the aid which France gave us.