The Revolt of Pontiac and the American Invasion

Burgoyne's Expedition

Advance to Disaster

Gunner, Royal Regiment of Artillery, 1777 Burgoyne expedition

Caption: Gunner, Royal Regiment of Artillery, 1777 Burgoyne expedition

As the Loyalists were forming these various regiments, Burgoyne was planning the British campaign against the northern United States. The troops would advance along two routes. The main army, under his own command, would go to the south of Lake Champlain by boat and then march all the way to Albany. A second expeditionary corps, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel St. Leger, was also to move towards Albany, but through the Mohawk Valley, taking Fort Stanwix (at Rome, New York) along the way before rejoining the main army.

In 1777, at the beginning of June, 7,000 soldiers, 3,000 of whom were German, reached the southern end of Lake Champlain without difficulty; but once this stage was completed, many problems began to afflict the expedition. Burgoyne lost valuable weeks assembling baggage and equipment and building a road and bridges.

The slow British advance gave the Americans the time they needed to mobilize an army of some 12,000 men, consisting largely of militiamen under the command of General Horatio Gates. The British army soon became the target of deadly fire from snipers hidden in the woods. General Simon Fraser, the second in command, was killed by their fire - and his loss was deeply felt. The Americans managed to surround Burgoyne's army near Saratoga. After a desperate and futile attempt to break through enemy lines, Burgoyne surrendered on October 17. His defeat was one of the worst disasters in the annals of the British army. The repercussions of the American victory were enormous, giving dazzling military credibility to the Americans throughout all of Europe. The fact was, how could the Americans still be considered farmers barely able to hold on to their pitchforks after they had defeated the British and German troops, regarded at the time as the best in the world? The Americans kept the regular soldiers prisoner, but released the Canadians and Loyalists because they did not consider them professional soldiers.