Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Gen. Horatio Gates' Letter to Continental Congress Announcing Victory at Saratoga

After the battles at Saratoga, New York, General Horatio Gates, wrote a letter to John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress announcing the victories. By rights the letter should have been sent to General George Washington, Gates' commanding officer. Many historians believe Gates was playing politics and angling to replace Washington as the supreme commander of the Continental Army. What is interesting about this letter to me, as an ancestor of a private in Morgan's Riflemen, is that Col. Morgan is mentioned in the letter. That private, who interests me so much was Benjamin Jennings, my four times great grandfather.

Page 1 of Gen. Gates' letter to the Continental Congress announcing his army's
victory at Saratoga; courtesy of the Library of Congress

Camp at Saratoga, Oct. 12th 1777


I have the satisfaction to acquaint your Excellency with the great successes of the arms of the United States in this department. On the 7th instant the enemy attacked our advanced Picket upon the left which drew on an action about the same hour of the day and was near the same spot of ground where that of the 19th of Sept. was fought. From three o'clock in the afternoon until almost night the conflict was very warm and bloody, when the enemy by a precipitate retreat, determined the fate of the day leaving in our hands eight pieces of brass cannon, and the tents and baggage of their fleeing[?] army, a large quantity of fixed ammunition, a considerable number of wounded and prisoners, among whom are the following principal officers -- Major Williams who commanded the artillery, Major Ackland who commanded the corps of grenadier, Capt. Money L. McGeneral[?], and Sir Francis Clark, principal aide de camp to his Excellency Gen. Burgoyne. The loss upon our side is not more than _____ killed

Pages 2 and 3 of Gen. Gates' letter to the Continental Congress announcing
his army's victory at Saratoga; courtesy of the Library of Congress

Killed and wounded, amongst the latter is the gallant Major Gen. Arnold, whose leg was fractured by a musket ball as he was forcing the enemy's breastwork. Too much praise cannot be given to the Corps commanded by Col. Morgan consisting of his rifle regiment, and the light infantry of the army under Maj. Dearborn. But it would be injustice not to say that the whole body engaged deserve the honor and applause due to such exalted [illegible]. The night after action, the enemy took position in the strong entrenched camp upon their left. Gen. Lincoln, whose division was opposite to the enemy, going in the afternoon to fired[?] a cannonade to annoy their camp, received a musket ball in his leg, which shattered the bone. This has deprived me of the assistance of one of the best officers as well as men. His loss at this time cannot be too much regretted. I am in hopes his leg may be saved.

The 9th at midnight the enemy quitted their entrenchment and retired to Saratoga. Early in the morning of the 9th I received the enclosed letter from Gen. Burgoyne acquainting me that he left his whole hospital to my protection, in which are 300 wounded officers and soldiers. Brigadier Gen. Fraser, who commanded the flying army of the enemy was killed the 7th instant. At one o'clock in the morning of the 10th I received the enclosed letter from Gen. Burgoyne with Lady Harriet Ackland. That morning as soon as the army could be properly put in motion, I marched in pursuit of the enemy and arrived on the evening, and found the enemy had taken position upon the opposite side of the Fish Kill in an entrenched camp which they occupied upon their advancing down the country. The enemy have burned all the houses before them as they retreated. The extensive buildings and mills, etc., belonging to Maj. Gen. Schuyler are also laid to ashes.

This shameful behavior occasioned my sending a Drum with the enclosed letter to Gen. Burgoyne.

I am happy to acquaint your Excellency that desertion has taken a deep root in the Royal army, particularly among the Germans who come to us in shoals.

I am so much possessed on every side with business that it is impossible for me to be more particular now, but I hope in a few days to have license to acquaint your Excellency with every circumstance at present omitted.

I am with great respect your Excellency's most obedient and humble servant,

Horatio Gates

[1] Excellency John Hancock, Esq.

Van Schaick Mansion: Planning the Defense of Albany
Morgan's Rifle Corps Travel North to Saratoga
Morgan's Rifle Corps Established and the Fog of War
Benjamin Jennings (c1740-1815): A Morgan's Rifleman
British Surrender at Saratoga
Revolutionary War Soldier

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