Battle at Bemis Heights: October 7, 1777 Maj.
General John Burgoyne now ordered his force to entrench around Freeman's
Farm. He was waiting for Lt.
General Sir Henry Clinton, who was supposedly preparing to leave New
York City and march north to Albany. Burgoyne waited for three weeks, but Clinton
did not come. Burgoyne was now once again low on supplies and facing an American
army that was growing in numbers. He could wait no longer. He had to choose
to either retreat or engage General Gates.
On October 7, General Burgoyne sent a British force of 1,500 to test the American
left flank. The Americans responded to the British movement with three columns
Daniel Morgan, Maj. General Ebenezer Learned, and Maj. General Enoch
Poor, and attacked at about 3 P.M. The British line was repeatedly broken, but
rallied again and again.
After Brig. General Simon Fraser was mortally wounded trying to rally his men
to cover a withdrawal, Maj. General Benedict Arnold rode onto the field. He
General Horatio Gates had earlier quarrelled and had been relieved of
command. However, he now led General Learned's column against the British center
held by the German troops. The Germans joined the withdrawal.
Within an hour of the beginning of the battle, the British were forced to fall
back to their fortifications around Freeman's Farm. The Americans now believed
that victory was theirs, but the British heavy entrenchments proved difficult
to overwhelm. After failing to overrun one redoubt, General Arnold led the attack
on another that was manned by Germans. Here, he succeeded, but received a wound
in the leg.
Fighting only ceased when darkness fell. The darkness had saved General Burgoyne
from defeat. During the night, he left campfires burning and withdrew to a large
redoubt. He had suffered 1,000 casualties to only 500 for the Americans. The
following night he retreated to fortifications at Saratoga, New York, where
the American force, which now numbered 20,000 surrounded the British force of
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