Hudson River Campaign Essay

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1777 is generally referred to as the defining year of the US struggle for independence from Great Britain. (Moomaw, 1964, 498) The previous year the US had drafted and adapted the Declaration of Independence and save for two victories at Trenton and Princeton 1776 had resulted in a virtual defeat of the US by the British forces. (Moomaw, 1964, 500-501) In 1777 the British had devised a strategy calculated to divide the US colonies along the Hudson River-Lake George-Lake Champlain line thereby severing New England from the other colonies.

New England by all accounts was the hub of the US rebellion. (Moomaw, 1964, 498-499) The plan referred to as the Hudson River Campaign involved a three-tier assault on the US colonies was predicated on a divide and defeat strategy. (Morrissey, 2000, 19) In short the plan required cooperation between officers who did not benefit from direct communication with each other. (Morrissey, 2000) General John Burgoyne was meant to enter Albany from Canada via Lake Champlain and Lake George and lead an attack.

(Morrissey, 2000, 20) General Barry St. Leger was intending to launch an attack from the East from Lake Erie by navigating the Mohawk River toward Albany while General William Howe was slated to navigate the Hudson River toward Albany. (Morrissey, 2000, 19-22) The plan however would fail with the hardest fought battles led by Burgoynes campaign, the last of the British forces to surrender to US resistance.

(Morrissey, 200070-72) At the Battle of Freemans Farm Burgoynes troops were held off by General Benedict Arnold on September 19, 1777 and on October 7, 1777 both Generals Arnold and Daniel Morgan successfully resisted Burgoyne at the Battle of Bemis Heights with the result that Burgoyne fled to Saratoga. (Morrissey, 2000, 30-33) During October 10 and 17, the Battle of Saratoga which was conducted in an area where supplies had been cut off and was surrounded by the enemy, the British were forced to surrender entirely representing the USs greatest victory and the turning point in the US Revolution.

(Morrissey, 2000, 71-72) Not only did this defeat serve the publics confidence at home it gave way to greater recognition of US independence. (Morrissey, 2000, 72) The discussion that follows examines and explains the details of the British plans via the Hudson River Campaign, its failure and how that failure represents the turning point in the American Revolution. Overview and Background to The War of Independence

In order to understand and appreciate the significance of the Hudson River Campaign and its subsequent failure it is necessary to review the background facts and circumstances. Historian Henry Ward paints a portrait of a people although divided by ethnicity and race they were equally united in their quest for self-governance. (Ward, 1999) Ironically, the differences between the American colonists that should have divided them is what only served to distinguish them from the British.

(Ward, 1999) Ward paints the following picture of the circumstances that met the British and prevailed just prior to the onset of the American Revoluion: The New World settlers had forged a society and culture from multi-ethnic elements (English, Dutch, German, Scots-Irish and other Europeans), affected also by contact with native Americans and African Slaves. A sense of destiny beckoned from the lure of a spacious frontier.

The recent victory in the French and Indian War, the culmination of a long duel for a continent, left impressions of pride and invincibility. If challenged to defend against external encroachment upon their liberties, Americans were capable of translating their commonality into independence and union. (Ward, 1999, 1) As early as the 1760s these group of ethnic and racially diverse settlers had already demonstrated signs of resistence against the British government. Protest against taxes on the colonies had planted the seeds of dissention.

(Ward, 1999, 1-4) Protests came to bear on the British with the result that taxations both internally and internally had been modified to quell public outrage. (Ward, 1999, 2) However, the Tea Act of 1773 set off more unrest and escalated into a full blown war. (Ward, 1999, 1) The Tea Act 1773 was defined as: An Act to allow a Drawback of the Duties of Customs on the Exportation of Tea¦ (Ward, 1999, 1) The consequences of the 1773 Tea Act was the reimplementation of the tea imort customs duty which had been first introduced by virtue of the Revenue Act of 1767.

(Ward, 1999, 2) The reintroduction of the Tea duties were primarily calculated to secure a monopoly on the tea trade in America for the British East India Company. (Ward, 1999, 2) As Ward explains: With inland duties rebated in England, tea could be sold cheaper than before in America, interfering with merchants profits made from retailing smuggled tea. Boston rebel leaders now saw the opportunity once again to exploit the no taxation without representation issue when East India tea arrived in Boston harbour.

(Ward, 1999, 1) Daniel Marston explains that previously Britain had basically left its North American colony to self governance. (Marston, 2002, 9) However, financially crippled by the Seven Years War in North America the British had embarked upon a series of taxation schemes that only aroused the resistance of the then thirteen colonies, namely New Hampshire, Massachesetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

As Marston notes: The principal disagreement concerned the placement of British regulars in North America and how the British government sought to pay for their upkeep. (Marston, 2002, 9) On December 16, 1773, the settlers were poised and destroyed a large shipment of tea in Boston Harbor. (Ward, 1999, 1) What followed was a get tough policy by the British with more and more resistance by the Americans and the American revolution commenced ending with the Battle at Yorktown.

(Ward, 1999, 2) In 1777, the British plan to defeat the Revolutionists by dividing them by virtue of the Hudson River Campaign would lead to the Battle of Saratoga which would represent the turning point of the American Revolution and take its place in American History as the single most important battle for British defeat and victory for American independence. The Plan A review of the of the facts and circumstances surrounding the defeat of the British at the Battle of Saratoga and colossal failure of the Hudson River Campaign can easily lead any objective observer to the conclusion that the British had effectively defeated themselves.

It becomes increasingly clear that the British in devising their plan had miscalculated the level of resistance they would encounter and had over estimated the merits of attacking the colonies from an international location. Had it not been for these miscalculations the British would have defeated the US rebels handily. As it were in the previous year, the British had been successful in virtually all aspects of the American Revolution.

Following the Battle of Long Island on August 27 the previous year, General William Howe had forced General George Washington and his steadily decapitating army to White Plains up from Manhattan and eventually to Pennsylvania from New Jersey with Washingtons only victories at Trenton and Princeton. (Moomaw, 1964, 499) By June 1777, Howe withdrew from the battle for New Jersey, returned to New York and set about planning the campaign which would become known as the Hudson River Campaign. (Black, 1991, 127) It appears that Howe and Burgone were influenced by two different agendas.

Howe in November 1776 came up with a plan which was designed to capture Philadelphia. He requested additional troops from Great Britain with a plan to defeat Albany by virtue of the Hudson River following which he would capture Philadelphia. Surmising that delivery of the additional troops would be delayed Howe abandoned his previous plans and decided that the 1777 campaign should be spearheaded by capturing Philadelphia first and then going on to Albany. The new plan was dispatched to Lord Germain in London and was received in February 1777. (Black, 1991, 127)

Burgoyne who was in London in February 1777 introduced his plan which was essentially to attack the colonies from Quebec. Burgoyne provided the details of his plan to Lord Germain approximately one week after Lord Germain had received Howes revised plan. (Ketchum, 1997, 79) Burgoynes plan involved two factions. He would take command of the lead forces consisting of approximately 10,000 troops from Canada along Lake Champlain and move toward Albany. The second faction would include a deployment of roughly 2,000 troops under the command of Barry St.

Leger and they would proceed along the Mohawk River valley as a diversion. Ultimately both factions would meet at Albany where they expected to also be joined by Howe and his troops. (Ketchum, 1997, 80-83) What is clear however is that Howes plans would render the entire plan flawed and doomed for failure. It is uncertain whether or not Burgoyne knew to what extent he could or could not rely on Howes participation in the Hudson River Campaign. It has been argued that Howe simply failed to follow instructions and others have argued that Burgoyne failed all by himself and tried to place the blame on Howe.

(Boatner, 1974, 134-135) Jeremy Black however, argues that Lord Germain failed as a coordinator and left the Generals to their own devices. (Black, 1991, 126) The third faction was flawed from the beginning since Howe had already informed Lord Germain that his army would be delayed in arriving at Albany since he planned to take Philadelphia first. While it is not clear whether or not Germain notified Burgoyne of Howes anticipated delay, it can be assumed that Germain, the primary coordinator of the Hudson River Campaign would have definitely informed Burgoyne.

(Ketchum, 1997, 84) The Campaign Burgoyne set out as planned in June 1777 and by July of the same year he had successfully captured Fort Ticonderoga. Following that acquisition he would meet fierce and unforeseen resistance by the Americans who were steadfastly lead by Generals Arnold and Morgan. (Higginbotham, 1983, 188) US troops were derailing Burgoynes path by knocking down trees and when Burgoyne sent troops to retrieve supplies they were defeated losing approximately1000 men. (Higginbotham, 1983, 197-198) Meanwhile St.

Leger, whose men were primarily comprised of Native Americans lead a battle to Forth Stanwix successfully holding of the Americans which were comprised of a both American military personnel and Native Americans. (Higginbotham, 1983, 190) However a second unit lead by Arnold forced St. Leger to retreat to Canada. By this time Burgoynes army had seen the spoils of war and the number of troops had fallen to about 6000 men. (Higginbotham, 1983, 191) Be that as it may, Burgoyne pressed on with his plans to converge with Howe and Leger at Albany.

(Higginbotham, 1983, 193) Don Hogginbotham explains that at the time of planning the Hudson River Campaign the British essentially had two main military operations in North America. They each consisted of an Army commandeered by General Carleton in Canada and Howes army located in New York. (Higginbotham, 1983, 195) Germain who remained in London was the coordinator of these two main armies and as a result of poor planning and lapses in communication these armies had difficulties working together harmoniously.

(Higginbotham, 1983, 190) As it turns out, while Howe was able to capture Philadelphia the Northern armies were defeated with the result that they were forced to surrender at Saratoga. (Higginbotham, 1983, 190-193) While Burgoyne vainly hoped for reinforcements from Howe who had taken his fight to Philadelphia, the American army led by Gates began to grow in numbers as more Americans joined the cause so that by October the numbers rose to 11,000. (Higginbotham, 1983, 196) Burgoynes journey to Albany would be met by unexpected setbacks and his number of troops would fall to about 6,000.

(Higginbotham, 1983, 190) Undeterred, Burgoyne would press on vastly outnumbered by an American army led by General Horatio Gates who had taken up a post near Saratoga. (Higginbotham, 1983, 192) Burgoyne pressed on nonetheless, obviously hopeful that he would be met by Howes army at some stage. (Higginbotham, 1983, 192) The Battle of Freemans Farm and the Battle of Bemis Heights Although the Battle of Saratoga is recorded as single event it was actually a hard fought battle consisting of the Battle of Freemans Farm and the Battle of Bemis Heights.

(Savas and Dameron 2006, 125) Having fought his way from Canada, Burgoyne had taken what amounts to a breather in Saratoga, New York obviously hoping to hear from St. Leger and Howe with the expectation that he would soon be joined by both Generals and their troops. (Savas and Dameron 2006, 126) Eventually Burgoyne came to the realization that no help was forthcoming and he had to press on with the campaign. Burgoyne moved on to the West bank of the Hudson River just south of Saratoga just two miles north of Bemis Heights.

(Savas and Dameron 2006, 140) By August 19, 1777 Gates had taken up a position at Bemis Heights where Arnold returned on August 24, surprised to find Gates and some disagreements about strategy and plans erupted between the two. (Ferling, 2007, 204-205) Arnolds plans were to sue the Heights as a redoubt from which to launch an attack via the woods retreated to Heights to regroup. (Ferling, 2007, 204) This tactic favoured the US since the British army were armed with more superior arms than the Americans. (Ferling, 2007, 205)

Arnold prevailed and with General Washington deploying an additional contingent of troops, Arnold was poised for victory at Freemans Farm, the farthest point down the river where Gates had deployed him. (Ferling, 2007, 225) When Burgoyne advanced his position along the river he was met by fierce resistance from Arnold who waged what would become known as the Battle of Freemans Farm which effectively stifled Burgoynes advance. (Ferling, 2007, 235-237) When Arnold attempted to include Enoch Poors contingent in the Battle of Freemans Farm, Gates interceded sending Arnold back to the Army headquarters leaving the battle undecided.

(Ferling, 2007, 235-237) Burgoyne seized the opportunity, falling back and setting up his own reinforcements north of Bemis Heights. (Ferling, 2007,238) At any rate, Gates attached some of Arnolds men to his cause at the center of the battle. (Ferling, 2007, 235-237) In the meantime Lincolns troops launched an attack at Fort Ticonderoga and American fighters continued to assault British strategic postings. All along American reinforcements continued to arrive. (Ferling, 2007, 238) Burgoyne found himself running short of supplies and men and in a final act of desperation he launched an attack on October 7, 1777.

(Ferling, 2007, 238-241) Daniel Morgan and Henry Dearborn thwarted Burgoynes efforts relentlessly and Arnold defying orders took control of the Battle of Bemis Heights driving the British back with the result that Burgoyne retreated to Saratoga on October 8, 1777. (Ferling, 2007, 240-241) Burgoynes Native American contingents dropped back while the loyalists returned to Canada. (Ferling, 2007, 230) What followed was the Saratoga Convention in which Gates and Burgoyne negotiated a week long surrender terms and conditions.

(Ferling, 2007, 239-240) On October 17, 1777 Burgoynes army surrendered their weapons and the army under the terms of the Saratoga Convention the army returned to Great Britain. (Ferling, 2007,240) Congress however, did not honor the agreement and the army was sequestered in camps throughout New England with most of them subjected to imprisonment in West Virginia. (Ferling, 2007, 240-241) The remaining British and Canadian regiments began withdrawing and the Americans were able to take back Fort Ticonderoga and Crown Point almost effortlessly. (Ferling, 2007, 241)

The Consequences of the Battle of Saratoga In the immediate aftermath of the British defeat at the Battle of Saratoga and the twin battles of Bemis and Freeman Farms, the dire consequences for the British although grave were merely superficial compared to what would develop later on. Burgoyne who basically fought the battles alone saw his troops disarmed and imprisoned while he himself was returned to Great Britain, a disgraced general. The consequential impression was to say the least unsettling for the British while at the same time uplifting for the Americans.

In short the British had been defeated and disarmed by the Americans in a huge battle and while they were discredited the American Revolutionists gained new credibility. The far reaching consequences began with the French military and naval forces joined the war effort against Great Britain with the final result ending in a victory at the Battle of Yorktown, the battle that would ultimately win the war. (Mintz, 1990, 3-9) The American victory at the Battle of Saratoga is earmarked as the turning point of the American Revolution and the ongoing struggle for independence.

In short it proved to the world at large and more particularly the European interests that what appeared to be a fledging American Army in the previous year, 1776 was not a formidable army and a force to be reckoned with. (Vierow, 2003, 23) Despite being outclassed by the highly sophisticated British army the Americans proved that they could defeat the British in a major battle. The natural result was an ongoing pledge of support for the American cause on the part of the Europeans.

Aside from gaining in international respect and acceptance the Americans were able to garner domestic support and confidence for the remainder of the war for independence and were able to seize the momentum. (Vierow, 2003, 23) The French who had been covertly lending aide to the American efforts in the ongoing war for independence were convinced as a result of the Battle of Saratoga that the Americans were poised to win the war. As a result the French signed the Treaty of Mutual Alliance with the US in February 1778.

(Ketchum, 1997, 442) What soon followed was a declaration of war against the British on the part of the French. (Ketchum, 1997, 445-446) This declaration of war by the French further disadvantaged the British whose empire would require protracted and more advanced protection particularly in Canada, the West Indies, Gibraltar and India where the French maintained a presence. (Ketchum, 1997, 446) The British would have to minimize its presence in North America in order to improve upon and increase its protection of colonial interests in other areas where the French resistance catapulted.

(Ketchum, 1997, 447) The consequences for the US war for independence were immediately obvious. For instance, Howe who had by and large sacrificed victory at Saratoga for his conquest of Philadelphia had to leave that location less than a year following the Battle of Saratoga and return to New York. (Ketchum, 1997, 446) The British would then turn their attention to the Southern colonies including Georgia and the Carolinas although the momentum would turn against them from 1780-1781 when Americans well supported by the French would sustain victories at Kings Mountain, Cowpens and finally at Yorktown.

(Ketchum, 1997, 444-445) The French support was key to the US victory and its significance is as important for its philosophical support as much as it is for its military cooperation. The ideology of 18th century French philosophers on freedom and equality are reflected in the American Declaration of Independence of 1776. (Chartrand, 2003, 3) Previously embarrassed by the English in the Seven Years War, the French had something to prove by restructuring and rallying around the Americans. (Chartrand, 2003, 3)

So in many ways the British by its oppressive rule and greed to extend its empire had set the stage for revenge. It is therefore not surprising that the French and other European nations such as Spain would seize the opportunity for victory over the British following the Saratoga defeat. The Americans, by demonstrating their ability to defeat the British at the Battle of Saratoga inadvertently solicited the momentum and the assistance that would place the final nail in the British coffin, securing for themselves the victory for freedom and self-governance.

Conclusion The significance of the American defeat of the British at Saratoga by virtue of the twin battles of the Battle of Bemis and the Battle of Freemans Farm cannot be overstated. As revealed by the details of the Hudson River Campaign the British had planned to take control of the North by dividing the American rebels but in the end as a result of miscommunication and poor planning they succeeded only in dividing their own factions with Howe relegated to Philadelphia and Leger taking off to Canada.

This botched plan would undermine the execution of the Hudson River Plan and greatly contribute to Gates victory at Saratoga. Perhaps more significantly, the defeat of the British at Saratoga served to build momentum in the American Revolutionists favour. First and foremost it conferred upon them domestic and self-confidence in their military prowess over the British. Finally assured that they themselves were a formidable enemy they were ready, willing and able to fight more tenaciously for their countrys independence.

Moreover, Americas renewed confidence did not end at home. It impressed the Europeans who took a greater and more active role in the American quest for independence. This was especially true of the French who were there at the battle lines fighting along side the Americans at the final Battle of Yorktown. These facts and circumstances culminated to make the Battle of Saratoga the turning point for the Americans in their battle for independence while the Hudson River Plan failed to accomplish just the opposite for the British.

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