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This Day In History: British General Agrees To 1st Large-Scale Surrender During Revolutionary War

October 17, 2016

This day in history, October 17, 1777, British General John Burgoyne agrees to the first large-scale surrender of British forces during the Revolutionary War. On this day, he surrendered 5,000 British and Hessian troops to American General Horatio Gates at Saratoga, New York.

During the summer of 1777, Burgoyne and his 8,000 man army were heading south to join up with British General Sir William Howe’s troops along the Hudson River.

Burgoyne’s forces then gathered near Saratoga, while General Gates’ Patriot Army was gathering just four miles away.

On September 19, the British forces engaged the Patriot army at the Battle of Freeman’s Farm but were forced to retreat. On October 7, a British reconnaissance force was beaten by American forces under General Benedict Arnold in the Battle of Bemis Heights, also known as the Second Battle of Saratoga.

Burgoyne and his 5,000 remaining troops then retreated north, but by October 13, roughly 20,000 Americans had surrounded the British forces. Burgoyne then surrendered four days later and negotiated with the American forces. His 5,000 man army would be kept in captivity to the end of the war, which came at a high cost for the Continental Congress. Additionally, the men would be allowed to return to Britain at the end of the war, but they had to pledge that they would never serve in North America ever again.

The surrender was a turning point in the American Revolution, demonstrating American determination to gain independence. After the surrender, France sided with the Americans, and other countries began to get involved and align themselves against Britain.