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Maj. Gen. Philip Schuyler
Maj. Gen. Philip Schuyler, first commander of the American troops opposing Burgoyne.

The Burgoyne Campaign

With all the pomp and pagentry characteristic of the 18th century, Burgoyne embarked from St. Johns, Canada, on June 17, 1777, with a force of approximately 9,400 men. He was directed "to proceed with all expedition to Albany and put himself under the command of Sir William Howe." The army consisted of about 4,700 British regulars, 4,200 German troops hired by the King of England, and between 600 and 700 Canadians, Tories, and Indians. It was accompanied by a splendid train of artillery made up of 138 bronze cannon. Seldom, if ever, has the American continent witnessed a more picturesque display of military splendor. To the gay, multicolored uniforms of the various British, German, Canadian, and Tory regiments were added the bright war paint and feathers of their Indian allies.

With 3 large vessels, 20 gunboats, and 200 flat-bottomed transports, Burgoyne sailed boldly along the 200-mile length of Lake Champlain to attack his first objective, Fort Ticonderoga, the American guardian of northern New York and New England. On July 1, the British Army reached Fort Ticonderoga and began the siege of this fortress, which was considered by British and Americans alike to be the strongest in North America. A number of factors, unknown to the British and most Americans, however, had caused the strength of Ticonderoga to be greatly overestimated. The lines of the fort had been laid out to be held by an army of at least 10,000 men; the American commander, Gen. Arthur St. Clair had only some 3,000 men on hand with which to defend these vast works. Due to the shortage of men, and perhaps also to neglect, the Americans had failed to fortify steep Sugar Hill (Mount Defiance) which dominated the fort from the southwest, It was the belief of the American leader that the slopes of this mountain were so steep that they would prevent the British from dragging cannon to its top. Burgoyne's engineers soon dispelled this American illusion, for on the afternoon of July 5 the Americans were horrified to see the Royal Army constructing batteries on the mountaintop. Once these cannon were in position, the American Army was in immediate danger of being completely encircled.


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