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Arnold and Gates argue at First Battle of Saratoga


In the early morning hours of September 19, 1777, British General John Burgoyne launches a three-column attack against General Horatio Gates and his American forces in the First Battle of Saratoga, also known as the Battle of Freeman’s Farm.

Coming under heavy cannon fire from the approaching British troops, General Gates initially ordered the Northern Army to be patient and wait until the British neared before launching a counter-attack. General Gates’ second in command, American Brigadier General Benedict Arnold, strongly disagreed with Gates’ orders and did not hesitate to share his opinion with his superior. After arguing for several hours, General Arnold was finally able to convince Gates to order American troops onto the battlefield to meet the center column of the approaching British, and to dispatch a regiment of riflemen to intercept the British right flank.

Although the Americans were able to inflict severe casualties on the British, the delay in ordering a counter-attack forced the Americans to fall back. During the five-hour battle, the Americans lost approximately 280 troops killed, while the British suffered a more severe loss of more than 550 killed.

Due to their heated argument and disagreement over military decisions at the First Battle of Saratoga, General Gates removed General Arnold as his second in command. Arnold continued to feel slighted by the army he served, and in 1780, he betrayed the Patriot cause by offering to hand over the Patriot-held fort at West Point, New York, to the British. With West Point in their control, the British would have controlled the critical Hudson River Valley and separated New England from the rest of the colonies. Arnold’s wife, Margaret, was a Loyalist and would not have objected to his plans. However, his plot was foiled, and Arnold, the hero of the early battles of Ticonderoga and Saratoga, became the most famous traitor in American history. He continued to fight on the side of the British and, after the war, returned to Britain, where he died destitute in London in 1801.

READ MORE: Revolutionary War: Timeline & Battles


Battle of Saratoga

Washington's defeats at Brandywine and Germantown caused negative reactions in Congress compared to Horatio Gates's stunning victory at Saratoga. Faced with an investigation of the army, Washington wrote to Congress about the Continental Army's many challenges and possible solutions.

The Battle of Saratoga fought in two stages on September 19 and October 7, 1777, proved to be a turning point in the American struggle for independence. It also had a direct impact on the career of General George Washington. Without the victory at Saratoga, American forces would likely not have received critical assistance from the French, and faith in the war effort would have been weakened. But the victory of General Horatio Gates at Saratoga also led to a serious but ultimately unsuccessful effort to replace Washington with Gates as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army.

The battle of Saratoga took place on the fields of upstate New York, nine miles south of the town of Saratoga. In accordance with British plans, General John Burgoyne was attempting to invade New England from Canada with the goal of isolating New England from the rest of the United States. Burgoyne had under his command an army of 7,200 troops with which he hoped to establish British dominance throughout the state of New York. Opposing Burgoyne was General Horatio Gates with a force of 9,000 soldiers, later joined by 2,000 additional troops. The ensuing battle was divided into two encounters, the first on September 19 and the second on October 7.

The first on September 19, 1777, also known as the Battle of Freeman&rsquos Farm, took place when the British attacked the entrenched Americans. Because Benedict Arnold anticipated the British maneuver, however, a significant contingent of American forces had been placed between the British and the main body of the American army. While the British managed in the end to overrun the Americans, their losses were significant. Almost 600 British soldiers were killed or wounded, which was roughly twice the American losses. 1

Before the second battle occurred, Burgoyne waited in vain for reinforcements, and by October 7, concluding he wait no longer, he launched a second attack. This time, the American forces held against the British assault and were able to counterattack to regain any lost ground. Burgoyne and his troops, defeated, began a march to the town of Saratoga where they entrenched themselves once again in hopes of escaping. Within a fortnight, however, Gates's army had surrounded them and forced them to surrender. 2

Following the American victory, morale among American troops was high. With Burgoyne's surrender of his entire army to Gates, the Americans scored a decisive victory that finally persuaded the French to sign a treaty allying with the United States against Britain, France's traditional enemy. The entrance of France into the war, along with its financial and military support, in particular its navy, was in the end crucial to Washington&rsquos victory at the Battle of Yorktown in October 1781, which effectively ended the war. 3 But the French were not alone in supporting the Americans following the Battle of Saratoga. The Spanish and later the Dutch provided support as well, eager to seize the opportunity to weaken their British rival. 4

In the aftermath of his victory at Saratoga, General Gates enjoyed widespread popular support and some campaigned behind the scenes to have him replace Washington as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. In an episode that became known as the "Conway Cabal," Gates's supporters began to conspire against Washington, but their plot was discovered when a drunken officer, Colonel James Wilkinson, stated publicly that General Thomas Conway had praised Gates as the savior of the Revolution while at the same time disparaging Washington. 5 Specifically, Conway had said that &ldquoHeaven has been determined to save your Country or a weak General and bad Counsellors would have ruined it.&rdquo 6

It was only through the premature discovery of this plot and the strong backing of key figures in both the army and Congress that Washington was able to maintain his command. 7 The Conway Cabal had taken Washington by surprise, but in the aftermath of its failure it was Gates who found himself in the weaker position. He apologized to Washington, who retained his command for the remainder of the war and, supported by French forces on land and sea, received the British surrender at Yorktown in 1781.

Troy Smith
George Mason University

1. Douglas R. Cubbison, Burgoyne and the Saratoga Campaign: His Papers (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2012), 109-115 Jim Lacey and Williamson Murray, Moment of Battle: The Twenty Clashes That Changed the World. (New York: Bantam Books, 2013), 216-22.

2. Richard M. Ketchum, Saratoga: Turning Point of America&rsquos Revolutionary War (New York: Henry Holt, 1997), 391, 427.

3. Lacey and Murray, Moment of Battle,224.

4. John E. Ferling, The Ascent of George Washington: The Hidden Political Genius of an American Icon (New York. Bloomsbury Press, 2009), 137.

6. &ldquoFrom George Washington to Horatio Gates, 4 January 1778,&rdquo Founders Online, National Archives, Source: this is an Early Access document from The Papers of George Washington.


Arnold and Gates argue at First Battle of Saratoga - HISTORY

The Battles of Saratoga were a series of battles that culminated in the Battle of Saratoga and the surrender of British General John Burgoyne. This decisive victory by the Americans was a turning point of the Revolutionary War.

The main leader for the British was General John Burgoyne. He had the nickname "Gentleman Johnny".

The Americans were led by Major General Horatio Gates as well as Generals Benedict Arnold and Benjamin Lincoln. Other key commanders included Colonel Daniel Morgan and General Enoch Poor.


General General John Burgoyne
by Joshua Reynolds

British General Burgoyne had come up with a plan to defeat the American colonies. He would split the colonies in two along the Hudson River. With the colonies divided, he was sure they could not stand.

Burgoyne was to lead his army south from Lake Champlain to Albany, New York. At the same time General Howe was to advance north along the Hudson River. They would meet at Albany.

Burgoyne and his army successfully advanced south. They first recaptured Fort Ticonderoga from the Americans then proceeded to march south. General Howe, however, had other plans. Instead of heading north to Albany, he headed east to take Philadelphia. Burgoyne was on his own.

As the British continued south, the Americans harassed them along the way. They cut down trees to block the roads and took shots at the soldiers from the forests. Burgoyne's progress was slow and the British began to run out of food. Burgoyne sent some of his soldiers to Bennington, Vermont to find food and horses. However, Bennington was guarded by American General John Stark. They surrounded the British troops and captured around 500 soldiers. It was a decisive victory for the Americans and weakened the British forces.

The Battle of Freeman's Farm

The first battle of Saratoga took place on September 19, 1777 on the farmland of British loyalist John Freeman. Daniel Morgan led 500 sharpshooters to the field where they saw the British advancing. They were able to take out a number of officers before the British began to attack. At the end of the battle the British gained control of the field, but they had suffered 600 casualties, twice as many as the Americans.

The Battle of Bemis Heights

After the Battle of Freeman's Farm the Americans set up their defenses at Bemis Heights. More militia men arrived and the American forces continued to grow. On October 7, 1777 the British attacked. Their attack failed miserably and they were defeated by the Americans. British casualties mounted to nearly 600 men and General Burgoyne was forced to retreat.

The Americans under General Gates pursued the British army. Within days, they had them surrounded. The British surrendered on October 17, 1777.


Surrender of General Burgoyne
Source: U.S. Federal Government

The Battles of Saratoga and the surrender of the British army under General Burgoyne was one of the major turning points of the Revolutionary War. The Americans morale was boosted and the country now felt it could win the war. Just as important to the war, the French decided to support the Americans with military aid.


Takeaway

In conclusion, the well known tale of Benedict Arnold disobeying orders to take the field and save the day is a myth.

Thanks to the keen eye of Eric Schnitzer, we can now confirm that Horatio Gates made the wise decision to use Arnold and his military talents to secure victory.

It just goes to show that by further digging into history we can always find something new, even in the stories which have long thought to be true.

Benedict Arnold was an extremely interesting member of the American Revolution.

To learn more about Arnold, check out one of these articles:

The Saratoga Campaign is often considered the turning point of the Revolutionary War.

Eric Schnitzer, who brought the subject matter of this article to light, participated in the creation of ‘Campaign to Saratoga’, which is an illustrated narrative surrounding this important event.

If you’d like a copy you can get one through the Amazon affiliate link below (you’ll support this site, but don’t worry, Amazon pays me while your price stays the same).


Arnold's Staff

One seed that would bear bitter fruit later was Arnold's decision to take in two members of Schuyler's staff for own his divisional staff, Richard Verick and Harry Livingston. Both young men were bitter enemies of Gates, and almost fanatical in their devotion to Schuyler. Both men's continued correspondence to Schuyler was filled with blind hatred towards Gates. On 5 October 1777, James Lovell was to warn Gates that, "I fear that sprightly gentleman (i.e., Arnold) will be duped, by an artful senior now disgraced (i.e., Schuyler), so as to become a tool for base purposes. I will do my best neither one nor the other shall distract from your reputation here, if they should basely attempt it. You ought not to suffer yourself to be embarrassed there a moment after discovery of plain intention in any man to do it (15)." Why Arnold made such a poor decision, and accepted these two men on his staff, is unknown. Verick and Livingston were bound to antagonize Gates. There can be no doubt, when reading their correspondence over two hundred years later, of the malice they felt for Gates. They held him responsible for the removal of Schuyler, their mentor, and enjoyed with relish any problem thrown in the way of the new commander. Nor can there be a doubt that both verick and Livingston worked hard to cause a major confrontation within the army itself. As the British invaders marched towards them, the American chain of command would be bitterly divided by petty bickering.


Oct. 7,1777: The Beginning of the End at Saratoga

The German mercenaries were firing steadily from their redoubt. From the rear came the crack of rifles. A general mounted and, his sword flashing, led the riflemen into the redoubt. German resistance collapsed. The Battle of Saratoga was over.

The day was Oct. 7, 1777, 200 years ago yesterday. Twelve days later, “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne, the gifted, courageous British commander, surrendered to the American general, Horatio Gates. Thus ended the most ambitious and dangerous offensive launched by Britain in the Revolution. The attack on the redoubt was the last of a series of actions that constituted the Battle of Saratoga, considered the turning point of the Revolution and one of the decisive battles of history.

The rifle fire that decimated the Germans awoke echoes around the world.

The French court, friendly to any who fought the ancient British enemy, finally was convinced that France's interest lay in entering the war on the side of the Americans:•

In London, opposition to the direction of the war and to the whole adventure mounted. Edmund Burke told the House of Commons, “A whole army compelled to lay down its arms and receive laws from their enemies is a matter so new that I doubt if such another instance can be found in the annals of our history.”

Gates received Burgoyne's sword. But in the opinion of many American and British military historians Benedict. Arnold won the battle. Arnold was the general who led the last mad charge into the German redoubt. Arnold had been the bright sword in the earlier Saratoga battle at Freeman's Farm.

The only monument in America to Benedict Arnold lies behind the German redoubt called the Breymann redoubt for its German commander.

On one side of the simple stone slab is a horseman's boot, symbolizing the leg wound Arnold suffered when he charged into the redoubt. On the reverse side the words say the monument is “In memory of the most brilliant soldier of the Continental Army who was desperately wounded on this spot, the sally port of Burgoyne's Great Western Redoubt 7th October 1777 winning for his countrymen the Decisive Battle of the American Revolution.”

Arnold's name does not appear. For 200 years he has been reviled and scorned for his treason. Yet his field leadership in the Saratoga campaign is regarded as remarkable by competent historians.

The British plan for the campaign was bold. Burgoyne, striking south from Canada. would meet in Albany with forces coming northward from Sir William Howe's garrison in New York and with a column led by Cot. Barry St. Leger driving east across New York state from Oswego. Success would cut New England off from the other rebelling colonies.

The British made two major mistakes.

The first was to discount the difficulties facing an army marching south from Canada through a wilderness.

The second was to trust Lord George Germain, Secretary of State for the Colonies. Newly discovered evidence shows that Lord George failed to inform Howe in New York of his role in the campaign. Consequently the northward thrust toward Albany never was fully developed.

The campaign started on June 13 when Burgoyne led an army of 4,119 British, 3,217 German mercenaries, 250 Canadians and Loyalists, accompanied by about 400 Indians, south from Canada.

At the outset all went well. Crown Point on Lake Champlain was taken on June 16. Ten miles south lay Fort Ticonderoga, the “Gibraltar of the North.”

Ticondergoa was held by about 2,000 Continentals and militia under Gen. Arthur St. Clair. A reinforcement of 900 militia arrived on July 4 in the midst of an indecisive artillery duel. The siege ended the next morning. The Americans had not occupied Mount Defiance southwest of Ticonderoga. They thought it too steep to be scaled by artillery.

Gen. William Phillips. Burgoyne's chief of artillery, was of a different mind.

“Where a goat can go, a man can go,” he said, “and where a man can go, he can drag a gun.”

That night the Americans evacuated Ticonderoga.

The British inched their way toward Saratoga. There was a brisk fight at Hubbardton in present‐day Vermont won by the timely arrival of German reinforcements singing an ancient hymn. The Americans were beaten by a narrow margin.

Burgoyne now made his first serious mistake. He sent a column of about 450, half of them Germans, eastward toward the valley of the Connecticut River to seize horses and food and encourage the local Tories.

Shortly after the column started, Burgoyne learned that the Americans had a large supply depot at Bennington. Colonel Baum's objective was changed and he marched on the town.

At Bennington, Baum's column ran into American forces commanded by Gen. John Stark. Baum was killed Breymann, who led a relieving force, was wounded. The British lost hundreds of muskets and ammunitions wagons and stores and 907 men dead and captured.

The defeat at Bennington was almost simultaneous with that of St. Leger's force on the Mohawk River at Fort Stanwix, now known as Fort Schuyler.

All roads now led to Saratoga.

On Sept. 13 Burgoyne, after accumulating five weeks’ food, moved from the east to the west bank of the Hudson. The army was established at Old Saratoga, near the present town of Schuylervilie, 12 miles north of the American positions.

Meanwhile, the Americans had changed commanders.

By vote of Congress, Horatio Gates replaced Philip Schuyler. Gates, now entrusted with the strategic planning of the battle, was prudent.

Credit must be given him for choosing the basic American position three miles north of Stillwater on Bemis Heights, a mile or so from the Hudson. By Sept. 12 the Americans under the supervision of Col. Tadeuz Kosciusko, a Polish engineer, were laying out trenches supported by 22 guns.

Tactically the cards were in Gates's hands. His objective was to halt the British. 3urgoyne's was to reach Albany. He was a gambler, and he lost on the first throw.

This was an attack against the American positions by three columns. At first the fight went against the patriots. Col. Daniel Morgan's rifle corps was driven from the field by steady British infantry.

They fought for three hours over broken ground. The battle was not one between threadbare militia against British regulars but between trained American Continentals, some in their third year of service, who fought the British to a standstill in the European style.

By dusk the British, supported by German reinforcements, charged again, supported by artillery. The Americans withdrew. Burgoyne camped on the battlefield. But the route to Albany still was blocked.

Burgoyne's supplies were dwindling. The militia were flocking to the American army.

On Oct. 7 Burgoyne, desperate for breakthrough, ordered a reconnaissance in force to probe the American position. In retrospect It was a gamble. But it is likely that Burgoyne considered the operation held more chances of success than holding a defensive position under fire from American cannon and musketry.

So 1,723 men marched out of camp into the last of the Saratoga battles. Morgan's riflemen and light infantry hit the British right. Col. Enoch Poor's brigade attacked the Grenadiers. Col. Ebenezer Learned's units assailed the Germans in the center of the British column.

The British fAught well. But Morgan's men rolled back their right, paying heavily in dead and wounded. Learned's brigade, supported by New York and Massachusetts militia, attacked the Germans but made small progress.

There was a stalemate. Arnold appeared. He took Poor's brigade and led it through the woods to attack the British. Moving across the open ground, the Americans suffered horribly from British fire.

But there were now more than 8,000 Americans in action. The key to victory lay on the British right flank where 200 Germans and Canadians held Breymann's redoubt. They fought desperately, inflicting heavy losses on Learned's troops. At this point Arnold, gathering up bits and pieces from various commands, including Morgan's riflemen, led an attack on the redoubt from the rear. The defense collapsed.

At nightfall the British withdrew to the north. They had been twice defeated. Supplies were running short. There was no sign of a British drive north from New York. Everywhere the Americans were stronger. Surrounded, outmanned and outgunned, Burgoyne surrendered. He had lost an army and the war.

Etching: betirnann Archive, Man: Col. Henry B. Carrington, reprinted by Arno Press, Inc., 1974

Benedict Arnold, later reviled as a traitor, was the hero of Saratoga. He was wounded in the leg when he_led the final charge, pictured above, into the German redoubt. Map, published during America's centenary, traces “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne's camaign.


Centennial Reflections: Saratoga National Historical Park

Saratoga National Historical Park

Amy Bracewell, Saratoga National Historical Park Superintendent, reflects on this Revolutionary War battlefield in celebration of 100 years of the National Park Service.

Saratoga National Historical Park

Revolutionary War | Stillwater, N.Y. | September 19 and October 7, 1777 | Federal Battlefield Park Since 1938 | 2,911 Acres


Standing on a bluff above the Hudson River, it is easy to see why the terrain inspired confidence in the American troops in the fall of 1777. Knowing that British General John Burgoyne and his soldiers were heading toward Albany, N.Y., the Northern Army fortified its high position overlooking the key bottleneck of both the river and road. Except for the now-larger forests and the modern cars zipping down U.S. Route 4, little of the landscape that encompasses Saratoga National Historical Park has changed in almost 240 years.

Understanding the terrain and using it to their advantage, the soldiers under General Horatio Gates secured a resounding American victory at Saratoga — and began a chain reaction that ensured the country’s independence for good. America’s victory gave rise to international support, showcased the strength of a diverse army, instigated the complex dichotomy of hero and traitor and gave the country physical evidence of a successful revolution. The multiplicity of lessons that can be understood at Saratoga guarantees a personal connection to not only America’s history, but to the impact that social revolutions have had on this nation.

Included among the cacophony of battle sounds at Saratoga were a diversity of languages and cultures. Standing side by side, the Northern Army was comprised of continental and militia soldiers from multiple states, including freemen and those still enslaved. Also serving were Stockbridge, Oneida and Tuscarora scouts, and a Polish volunteer, Colonel Thaddeus Kosciuszko, who used his engineering training to support the efforts of America. Adding to this mix of people were Brunswick and Hessian Germans, Americans loyal to the crown, French Canadians and indigenous tribes supporting the efforts of the British Army. Being so victorious at Saratoga, America’s strength convinced France to publicly become an ally of the United States in 1778. To face the realities of subsequent international war with France, Spain and the Netherlands, Britain expanded its fight to Central America, the Caribbean Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, North Africa and India, among other places. A battle of many faces and voices at Saratoga propelled the American Revolution into an international war of world powers.

As strongly as Saratoga speaks to the importance of solidarity by all of America’s allies to secure liberty for the new nation, this battlefield also highlights the complexity of loyalty. What can turn a devoted patriot into a nation’s despised enemy? Benedict Arnold’s valiant efforts at Saratoga are a prime source for this question. While Arnold’s relationship with General Gates quickly deteriorated, he was determined to “continue with the Army at this critical juncture when my country needs every support.” The Northern Army’s victory in the Second Battle of Saratoga can be attributed to Arnold’s sharp thinking and quick movement. Standing on the spot of his heroic actions, one can’t help but ponder what brought him to change his loyalty just three years later. Did the realities of life not measure up to the promises and ideals of the new nation? Did the philosophical pillars of America — freedom, democracy, liberty and justice for all — not permeate the lives of the people?

When I first stepped onto the battlefield at Saratoga, my mind immediately connected this sacred place to the United States of today. We have come a long way since 1777, but our debates and struggles still include similar themes. Does every citizen have equal freedoms and rights? How do we embrace our diversity to make us stronger? What can we do if we disagree? America’s battlefields are the perfect place to explore these questions. By learning about our collective history, and walking in the footsteps of our ancestors, we are able to add new perspectives to aid in our own journey.

As I have explored America’s history on our battlefields, I am reminded that this country is still evolving. We continue to change based on our votes, our debates and our continued fight for personal rights and freedom. Just like our Revolutionary War ancestors, we sometimes have to revolt and fight for what we believe in. Our society may struggle with modern marches, protests and passionate debates on equality or human rights, but these exercises in discourse have been a part of our fabric since the very beginning. Battlefields remind us to continue to champion our ideals. They ask us — what can we do to protect freedoms and independence in this country? They give us pause and encourage us to contemplate how we can honor and respect one another’s liberty. American battlefields command us to be active citizens of this country and to continue to carry the torch of freedom from those who sacrificed everything to ensure its perpetual flame.


Arnold and Gates argue at First Battle of Saratoga - HISTORY


Burgoyne felt he had no option but to press on to Albany. The American army, however, was blocking his way at Bemis Heights. The British made two attempts to break through American defenses, but failed. After the second attempt, they withdrew to Saratoga, where they were surrounded by American troops. The British had no choice but to surrender which they did on October 13, 1777. One quarter of the British forces in North America thus surrendered, and, while many battles were yet to be fought, American Independence was assured.

Burgoyne continued southward, even as his options and support began to crumble. He crossed the Hudson on September 13th 1777 heading towards Albany. Burgoyne was down to 6,500 troops.

American General Gates was waiting for Burgoyne with 7,000 men. Gates was entrenched in Bemis Heights. The heights had been selected by his engineer, Thaddeus Kosciusko. They were anchored on the right by the Hudson, and on the left by a forest with steep bluffs. Burgoyne had no choice. If he wanted to make his way to Albany, then he had to take on Gage and his army.

Burgoyne sent 2,000 men, under General Fraser, on a flanking movement to the west, and then towards the American line. The main attack was to take place by General Hamilton's forces in the center. A third attack was to proceed straight down the river road. Burgoyne was handicapped by his limited knowledge of American positions.

Early in morning of the 19th of September 1777, the British troops set off. The Americans became aware of the British movements. At the insistence of Arnold, Gates agreed to send a force out from the fortification to determine British intentions. As a result, the battle developed at a clearing near Freeman's Farm. First, Morgan's riflemen ran into Fraser's left flank, cutting them down. The forces sent by Gates were, in turn, decimated by part of Hamilton's brigade. It went this way for most of the day, with piecemeal parts of the American and British forces being thrown at each other.

However, at the end of the day, the Americans still held the Heights. The British had lost 600 killed, and wounded or captured. Time was not on Burgoyne's side, with the nights getting longer and colder, food beginning to run low, and no option of local foraging. He had lost his Native American scouts, and the ranks of the American forces were swelling every day. Finally, in a desperate move to break out, Burgoyne sent 1,500 of his men on an attack on the western flank of the American forces. They were immediately attacked by Morgan's men, and a general British retreat soon ensued.

The Americans were not content with driving the British back. Soon a force under Arnold was attacking a section of the British defensive lines known as "the Horseshoe". After a fierce fight, the "Horseshoe" was captured. Burgoyne's position became untenable. That night, he pulled his forces back toward Saratoga. Burgoyne left behind his wounded and much of his supplies, after losing another 600 men. Once he arrived in Saratoga, it became clear Burgoyne would not be able to sustain his position. Gates had followed him, and soon had Burgoyne surrounded.

On October 12th, Burgoyne called a Council of War with his officers. The officers unanimously agreed there was no choice but to surrender. The next day, Burgoyne asked for terms, to which the parties agreed. Burgoyne surrendered. At this point, one quarter of the British troops in North America had been captured. The effects were far reaching, for the American victory had convinced the other European powers that an American victory was possible. As a result, aid was soon forthcoming.


Early Years

Horatio Gates was born in Essex, England in 1727. He served in the German 20th Foot during the War of the Austrian Succession. He was well-educated in European style warfare and lived in their aristocratic system.

He would come to the Middle Colony of New York in 1754 after he purchased a captaincy of the New York troops. When the French and Indian War broke out he would fight along the British and take part in the ill-fated march of General Edward Braddock.

During the march, he would come in contact with many future Revolutionary War Leaders such as George Washington, Daniel Morgan, Thomas Gage, and Charles Lee. However, Gates did not see as much combat as these men due to being ill.

Gates married Elizabeth Philips in 1755. The couple had a son Robert in 1758.

His military career began to stall after the Seven Years War. He also became frustrated with how one rose in rank in the British military.

Unlike the 13 original colonies, in Britain one rose through the ranks by their wealth or influence.

This class hierarchy frustrated many and Gates was no exception. He would go on to sell his major&rsquos commission in 1769. By 1772 he had re-established contact with George Washington and bought a plantation in the Southern Colony of Virginia.


Benedict Arnold, Hometown Bad Boy

BENEDICT ARNOLD is back. Not in actuality, of course Arnold has been dead and buried in England for, lo, these past 200 years. But he is back in the news, something that happens sporadically and is always of particular interest to Connecticut.

After all, the man -- whom schoolchildren learn about as the country's most notorious traitor -- was born and raised in Connecticut. Traitor he may have been but he is our traitor. Besides, there has always been a certain ambivalence about the man.

To most Connecticut people he is, undoubtedly, the weasel of weasels, the man who sold out his country during the American Revolution, then returned to his home state as a British officer and burned New London, just down the Thames River from his native city of Norwich.

Some others, however, maintain that though he did wrong, he also was done wrong, by historians and teachers failing to acknowledge that he was a great American military leader and patriot before he became the great American turncoat.

To this day, a ceremony full of pomp and patriotism is held in New Haven each April 24, known as Powder House Day. It re-enacts the events of April 24, 1775, when the captain of the Second Company of the Governor's Horse Guard demanded, and got, the key to the British powderhouse from city officials before marching his men to Cambridge, Mass., in aid of imperiled patriots there after the Battle of Lexington. The captain was Benedict Arnold.

And in the town of Ridgefield twice in this century, once in the 1960's and again in the 70's, a re-enactment has been held of the battle in that town on April 25, 1777, between British soldiers who had just burned Danbury and American patriots led by, right again, Benedict Arnold.

The second re-enactment, on April 25, 1977, the 200th anniversary of the battle, drew more than a bit of controversy. Its sponsors sold medals of Arnold in an effort to raise money for a monument to him in the town.

The monument was never built. 'ɺnd never will be,'' says Richard E. Venus. He is the town's former postmaster and present historian, who directed the first re-enactment but had nothing to do with the second. He says the Battle of Ridgefield was a delaying action by Arnold and a real lift to the patriot cause. And he will also admit that Arnold was a great general. 'ɻut he was too ambitious and got too big for his boots,'' Mr. Venus said. And, of course, Arnold later defected to the British. You don't build monuments to traitors.

The latest news about Arnold is that a gunboat that was part of a fleet he commanded on Lake Champlain in the early years of the revolution has been found this summer, in amazingly good condition, at the bottom of the deep lake.

No immediate decision has been made on what to do with the old boat, but its chance finding has been described as possibly the most significant discovery in American maritime history in the last half century.

The discovery of the gunboat is also guaranteed to bring Arnold back into some prominence again. And in his home state there have been early ripples in two communities that once knew Arnold intimately. William B. Stanley, a Norwich stockbroker, former state senator, and authority on Arnold, suggested early on that the boat should be brought to Norwich, Arnold's old home town.

Mr. Stanley's suggestion was roundly applauded by the local paper, The Norwich Bulletin, in its 'ɼheers and Jeers'' editorial page column. ''There could be no better place for this piece of history than Norwich,'' said the paper in a Cheer. ''It would fit in nicely with the city's effort's to increase tourism.''

A few days later, the New London newspaper, The Day, countered with its own suggestion. In an editorial, The Day said New London should get the boat. The rationale offered was that Arnold owed something to the city because of his dastardly burning of it more than two centuries ago.

After acknowledging that Arnold was a native son of Norwich, The Day reminded its readers that he is less fondly remembered in New London. ''New London still enjoys many buildings of fine architectural design, but imagine the embarrassment of riches the city would have possessed save for General Arnold,'' the editorial said.

''So it only seems fair to us that the city put its oar in the water to get the Arnold gunboat, bring it to restoration here and use it as a tourist attraction.''

In Norwich, Mr. Stanley greeted The Day editorial with some amusement. ''Once people wouldn't even talk about Arnold now everyone wants his boat,'' he said.

When it comes to talking about Benedict Arnold, Mr. Stanley might hold a world record. For the past half century, he has studied Arnold, discoursed about him, even acted as him for a motion picture made in connection with the 325th anniversary of Norwich in 1964.

Mr. Stanley has also visited descendants of Arnold in England. He has been to Arnold's final resting place near London. He commissioned a painter to do portraits of Arnold from descriptions of him, because all known paintings of him were destroyed in the rage after he joined the British. Mr. Stanley talks about Arnold in schools, and anywhere else, when invited.

One time, he went to New London for a talk -- ''I wore my sword in case I had to defend myself'' -- and told the folks there that Arnold was simply the city's first redevelopment agent in burning it and that all the city was really famous for was privateers. ''That's a polite name for pirates and all they did was hold tag sales on the piers there.''

In 1959, the 300th anniversary of Norwich, Mr. Stanley and some fellow enthusiasts even asked President Eisenhower for help in rehabilitating Benedict Arnold's image.

It was done more as a lark than anything else, he says, and they received no reply from the President. ''We never expected to.'' They did, however, receive all sorts of great press coverage. One of the premiere news magazines even used a little teaser line on its cover: ''Local Boy Makes Bad.''

The state's biggest Arnold booster has long been accustomed to incurring invective for his labors. It goes with unpopular causes. But he thinks people sometimes get carried away.

Once, he said, he was addressing a large group in his hometown when a man jumped up and yelled that if Mr. Stanley's father was still alive he would be ashamed of his son. All Benedict Arnold ever did as a boy, the man said, was kill kittens with electricity. The charge was so absurd that Mr. Stanley responded that maybe Arnold should then be credited as the inventor of electricity.

All he wants to do, Mr. Stanley says, is to give Benedict Arnold what he is due in history, nothing more.

He does not deny that Arnold was a traitor. But before he defected, he was a genuine American hero, he adds, and without the valor he displayed in the Revolutionary War, the Revolution would have failed. ''George Washington admitted that,'' he said.

One of Arnold's greatest successes, Mr. Stanley says, was the battle of Valcour Island in Lake Champlain. It was a delaying action that kept the British from advancing south on George Washington's troops, unprepared to fight at the time.

Arnold's greatest success came later on land, at the Battle of Saratoga, considered the turning point in the war to the patriot cause. Saratoga was also the turning point in Arnold's career for the worse, Mr. Stanley says. He was injured in body -- three inches of bone had to be cut out of his leg and gangrene set in -- and in spirit. He did not get credit for winning the battle, was denied a promotion, was short of money, distrusted Congress, and had a young second wife whose father was a Tory and wanted him to defect to the British.

''He snapped,'' says Mr. Stanley. ''He started drinking, was given to profanity, striking nurses. He became a violent man.'' Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Samuel Eliot Morison, in ''The Oxford History of the American People,'' concurs that the Battle of Saratoga was the climatic time for Arnold. Horatio Gates, as the top commander of American troops at Saratoga, received credit for the victory ''that should have gone to Benedict Arnold who began to think that his talents would be better appreciated by the King than by Congress,'' Mr. Morison wrote.

And how did Mr. Stanley, become so fascinated with, and such a defender of, the nation's traitor?

It happened in his senior year, 1948, at Norwich Free Academy, Mr. Stanley says, and started innocently enough with a class assignment that each student write an essay on who he or she considered the most valuable American ever.

He immediately knew his choice: General Horatio Gates, the man who won the Battle of Saratoga, according to the history he had read. But when he explored a bit more, he discovered an awful truth. ''Gates was not even on the field of battle.'' So he changed his mind and wrote about his new choice for the most valuable American ever, the man who really won the battle.

The response was immediate. ''Mr. Stanley, is this a joke?'' the teacher asked. She sent him to the principal. The principal sent him home for a few days. ''I was suspended and I didn't know why.'' He still doesn't. History is history.


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