A comprehensive study of the Saratoga Campaign of 1777.

The Battle of Saratoga, which took place over three weeks, was really a series of two large battles and many smaller engagements along the Hudson River north of Albany, New York. As Weddle, a former Army officer who teaches at the Army War College, shows, the outcome was a stinging defeat for the British, whose commander, John Burgoyne, had not long before humiliated the American defenders of Fort Ticonderoga. The Continental Army was, in the view of the British, a ragtag affair. However, by the time of Saratoga, the Northern Army, headed by Horatio Gates, consisted of seasoned soldiers and “a depth of strong leadership in many outstanding field officers and junior general officers.” Perhaps the best of them, writes Weddle in a narrative rich in strategic analysis, was Benedict Arnold, a complex character whose name would later be a byword for treachery. At Saratoga, he proved himself a brilliant tactician with a brittle disposition, certain that he was being slighted by not being placed higher in the chain of command and so dismissive of Gates that, by the time of the fighting, the two were not speaking and communicated only by letter. Badly wounded in the Battle of Bemis Heights, Arnold nonetheless performed bravely even though formally relieved of command. So did units such as Daniel Morgan’s frontier riflemen, who poured lethal firepower with muskets that were “highly accurate to 200 yards.” For his part, Burgoyne had counted on the support of loyalists but discovered that most in the region “wished to observe complete neutrality,” even as he had trouble coordinating with detachments of Native allies. In the end, Burgoyne surrendered 6,000 soldiers, the second-largest British army in North America, though under terms that, strictly read, allowed those 6,000 to sail home only to be replaced by 6,000 fresh troops, for “despite all his disadvantages, Burgoyne had out-negotiated Gates.”

A significant contribution to the military history of the Revolutionary War.

Pub Date: today

ISBN: 978-0-19-533140-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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