Use the Activities
Putting It All Together
Saratoga was the turning point of the American Revolution. The following activities build on material in the readings and maps and are intended to engage students with the people and events of this decisive battle.
Activity 1: A Council of War
Explain to students that before committing an 18th-century army to battle, the commanding general would hold a council of war with his staff. At Saratoga, prior to committing his troops to a second battle in October, General Burgoyne held a council of war with his top officers. Burgoyne, who was determined to reach Albany and opposed to retreat, recommended an all-out attack. His staff unanimously disagreed. Burgoyne had the option to override the advice of his council, but he compromised, agreeing to send out a reconnaissance in force of only 1,700 troops on October 7.
Explain to students that they will be assuming the roles of Burgoyne and his officers. Divide students into groups of 5 or 6 and ask each group to select a commander. Provide the students with Reading 1 and Drawing 1. Direct "staff" to examine these documents apart from their "commander." Students should evaluate Burgoyne's situation from the information he had and weigh all the options for attacking the American army, waiting for Clinton, or retreating to Fort Ticonderoga. They should consider if there are any other options and decide what option seems the most logical. They ought to review the objective of the campaign, to reach Albany, and decide if the advantages justify the risks. When both "staff" and their "commander" are ready to make recommendations, the "commander" should call the October 6 council of war. The "commander" and "staff" should make their respective recommendations. Finally, each of the group "commanders" will announce a final decision to the whole class and explain why they accepted or rejected the advice of their "staff," or how they compromised with their "staff" and why. Compare the plan of action announced by the class "commanders" with General Burgoyne's decision and its consequences. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of having a council of war and whether this 18th-century decision-making model still works today.
Activity 2: The War Continues
Remind students that it is important to remember that the battles at Saratoga occurred in 1777, but the American Revolution did not end until 1783. The alliance with France specified no separate peace, so neither party could make peace with England alone. After Yorktown in 1781, America wanted to end the war, but France had not made any gains, so America stayed in for two more years.
Ask students to research the alliance with France. They should address the following questions and present their findings in a written report.
- Locate where French armies were fighting in 1781-1783. Could the United States supply any troops, supplies, or money to help France?
- What British forces were still in America following Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown? What fighting occurred in America in 1782 and 1783? Did the United States make any strategic gains during these two additional years of warfare?
- Did France get anything out of the alliance?
- What events in 1783 persuaded the French to join with the Americans to end the war with Britain?
- What were the terms of the Treaty of Paris of 1783?
Activity 3: Soldiers and Settlement
Explain to students that many people have ancestors who fought in the American Revolution. Some of these ancestors settled in or near the areas where they fought, while others returned to their hometowns after the war. Some moved to areas outside of the original 13 colonies and their descendants are found around the world. Ask students to conduct research in their community to determine of there are any descendants of participants in the American Revolution who live in their community. The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) have local chapters in many communities and each member has documented descent from a Revolutionary War participant. The national societies also keep extensive records about participants. Depending on the community, students may also be able to locate information from cemetery and church records, town or county records, or university archives and libraries. Students may wish to compile their findings on a large map with pushpins identifying the names and hometowns of the Revolutionary War participants whose local descendants they locate.