Friday, October 07, 2005

October 7, 1777

I come from a little spot in upstate New York called Saratoga Springs, a few miles from the town of Saratoga. Two hundred and twenty eight years ago today, in that town, the rag-tag patchwork of American Patriot militiamen turned the tide of the Revolutionary War and drove back 1,500 British Army regulars in a bloody and vicious battle. Above is an American cannon in the Barber Wheat Field, where the first Battle of Saratoga started a couple of weeks before, on September 19, 1777. Below are some more photos from the battlefield that I took on Memorial Day of this year:

American artillery overlooking the Hudson River. British General John Burgoyne would retreat up the Hudson, north to the town of Schuylerville, upon his defeat and before his surrender.

A tribute to Timothy Murphy, "Celebrated Marksman of Colonel Morgan's Rifle Corps Whose Unerring Aim Turned the Tide of Battle by the Death of the British General Frazer on October 7, 1777." (Another plaque reads, "SARATOGA 1777, Here Morgan, Reluctant to Destroy so Noble a Foe was Forced by Patriotic Necessity to Defeat and Slay the Gentle and Gallant Frazer.")

The house of John Neilson, a local farmer who "cast his lot with the Patriot cause"
(as the plaque outside says). By mid-September, the American militia
had borrowed it for Patriot Headquarters.
"The Unknown American Soldiers who Perished in the Battles of Saratoga September 19 and October 7, 1777 and were Here Buried in Unmarked Graves Helped to Assure the Triumph of the War of Independence to Create the Republic of the United States of America and to Establish Liberty Throughout the World. In Honor of These Patriots and in Recognition of the Bicentennial of the Birth of George Washington, this Memorial is Erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution of New York State, 1951."

A monument to the great Polish engineer Thaddeus Kosciuszko, who believed in the Americans and was a leader in establishing the military defense of Saratoga - and was an early fighter for human rights. Not only did this great Pole lend his helping hand: the victory at Saratoga also brought the French to our side.

Burgoyne and his men were driven north to the town of Schuylerville, where they surrendered to the Americans on October 18, 1777. That winter, the Americans would camp at Valley Forge, and it would be four more long, bloody years until General Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown on October 19, 1781, after being stranded by the defeat of the British Navy by a surprise French attack at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.

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