The Patriot Resource - American Revolution

Battle of Saratoga
Battle of Saratoga

Battle of Freeman's Farm: September 19, 1777
Maj. General John Burgoyne's plan of attack for September 19, 1777, used three columns. Brig. General Simon Fraser was chosen to command 2,200 men on the right. He was to sweep west toward the vicinity of Freeman's Farm. Brig. General James Inglis Hamilton commanded the 1,100 men of the center column, although Burgoyne himself would accompany this column and thus was the actual commander. This column would move south and then west and join with the right column. The left column had 1,100 men and was led by Maj. General Friedrich von Riedesel and joined by Maj. General William Philips. This column was to move south along the road adjoining the Hudson River. What the subsequent movements would be all depended on how the Americans responded.

After a cold and foggy morning, it was bright and clear at 11:00 A.M. when General Burgoyne's columns got underway. An American patrol on the eastern bank of the Hudson River saw and reported the activity to Maj. General Horatio Gates. By 12:30 P.M., the advance guard of the center column had reached Freeman's Farm. Burgoyne halted here and awaited word from General Fraser. General Riedesel had been slowed while repairing bridges, but had reached a point due east of Freeman's Farm.

General Gates was content to make no response, but Brig. General Benedict Arnold, who had recently returned from Fort Stanwix urged him to action. Gates sent out Colonel Daniel Morgan and his rifle company supported by 300 New Hampshire light infantry under Major Henry Dearborn to make contact. At about 12:45 P.M. the first shots of the battle were fired when Colonel Morgan's men picked off every officer in General Burgoyne's advance guard located at the cabin on Freeman's Farm. The advance guard retreated, which brought on an unathorized charge by Morgan's men. The charge dissipated when they ran into General Hamilton's main body. A turkey call brought his men back to Morgan.

Some of the British actually fired on their own men in the confusion following the charge by Colonel Morgan's men. General Burgoyne decided to respond quickly and instead of waiting for word on General Fraser's position, he signalled to the other two columns that he was moving out. By 1:00 P.M., the center column had formed along the northern edge of the clearing at Freeman's Farm without opposition. Colonel Morgan and Major Dearborn had taken up positions along the southern edge of the same clearing, while some seven regiments had moved forward from the American fortifications at Bemis Heights as reinforcements. The Americans would fire from cover and then charge, while the British regrouped and repelled using bayonets. This action continued back and forth for more than three hours. The Americans had greater numbers and the British had artillery and experience.

At about 2:00 P.M., General Riedesel received word that a general engagement appeared to about to be undertaken. He sent four guns and an aide, who returned at 5:00 P.M. with orders from General Burgoyne to leave enough men to defend his current position and bring reinforcements to the battlefield. The central column had been strung out dangerously thin and had taken casualties during their own bayonet assaults. Riedesel was risking his own force and the supply train. He led 500 infantry and another two six-pound guns.

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