Revolutionary War Historical Article

Divide and Conquer

by Donald N. Moran

Editor's Note: This article was reprinted from the June 1985 Edition of the Valley Compatriot Newsletter

Through this series of articles, "The Revolutionary War revisited" we have taken you back in time to the opening scenes of this world influencing drama. In chronological order we have explored the historic sites and events leading up to the of hostilities. We have visited the opening battle fields of Lexington, Concord, Battleroad and Bunker Hill. We have seen the home of Paul Revere, the Old North Church, the site of the Boston Tea Party and Boston Massacre. During this period of time, the British leaders were futility attempting to prevent a general rebellion. They were still convinced British arms would prevail. Bunker hill and the ultimate evacuation of the City of Boston taught them a bitter lesson. They were in the midst of a full blown Civil War - like it or not. Their opponents, first alluded to as a "rabble in arms" or "Peasants" was now looked upon as a formidable enemy and referred to as an "army". Our leaders graduated from "rebels" to "Generals"! We were at war and the British finally accepted that reality.


Since the conflict was centered in and around the Boston, Massachusetts area, logic and sound military tactics dictated isolating the problem area from the rest of the colonies - Divide and Conquer. The plan of action was conceived with that objective. Basically, it involved a three prong campaign. General Barry St. Leger was to come from the west, across the Mohawk Valley of New York to a designated junction point of Albany. Major General John Burgoyne was to proceed south from Montreal, Canada, and finally General William Howe was to move his army from recently occupied New York City to Albany. When all three of these expeditions met at Albany, The New England colonies would be isolated, hence ultimately defeated.

This series will take us in successive issues of the Valley Compatriot to Oriskany, Fort Stanwix, Fort Ticonderoga, Saratoga, Freeman's Farm, Bennington, West Point, Stony Point, New York City, and a few historical sites.

To present to you, our readers,the most comprehensive account of this, the TURNING POINT of the Revolutionary War, we are herein transcribing the original plan of Battle as presented by General John (Gentleman Johnny) Burgoyne and the approval received from his Majesty, King George, III, the LAST KING OF AMERICA.

To : Lord George Germain
February 28, 1777

I humbly conceive the operating army (I mean exclusively of the troops left for the security of Canada) ought not consist of less than eight thousand regulars, rank and file. The artillery required in the memorandums of General Carleton, a corps of waterman, two thousand Canadians, including hatchetmen and other workmen, and one thousand or more savages.

It is to be hoped that the reinforcements and the victualling ships may all be ready to sail from the Channel and from Corke on the last day of March ; I am persuaded that to part with the fleet of transports earlier is to subject government to loss and disappointment. It may reasonably be expected that they will reach Quebec before the 20th of May, a period in full time for opening the campaign. The roads, and the rivers and lakes, by the melting and running off of the snows, are in common years impractical sooner.

But as the weather, long before that time, will probably have admitted of labour in the docks, I will take for granted that the fleet of last year, as well batteaux as armed vessels, will be found repaired augmented and fit for immediate service. The magazines that remain of provisions (I believe them not to be abundant) will probably be formed at Montreal, Sorel and Chamblee.

I conceive the first business for those entrusted with the chief powers should be to select and post the troops destined to remain in Canada; to throw up the military stores and provisions with all possible dispatch, in which service the above-mentioned troops, if properly posted, will greatly assist; and to draw the army destined for operations to cantonments within as few days march of St. John's as conveniently may be . . .

I must beg leave to state the expeditious conveyance of provisions and stores from Quebec and several other depositaries, in order to form ample magazines at Crown-Point, as one of the most important operations of the campaign, because it is upon that which most of the rest will depend . . . .

The navigation of Lake Champlain secured by the superiority of our naval force, and the arrangements for forming proper magazines so established as to make the execution certain, I would not lose a day to take possession of Crown-Point with Brigadier Fraser's Corps, a large body of Savages, a body of Canadians, both for scouts and works, and the best of our engineers and articers well supplied with entrenching tools.

If due exertion is made in the preparations stated above, it may be hoped that Ticonderoga will be reduced early in the summer, and it will then become a more proper place for arms than Crown-Point.

The next measure must depend on those taken by the enemy, and upon the general plan of the campaign as concerted at home. If it be determined that General Howe's whole force should act upon Hudson's River, and to the southward of it, and that the only object of the Canada Army be to effect a junction with that force, the immediate possession of Lake George would be of great consequence, as the most expeditious and most commodiuos route to Albany ; and, should the enemy be in force upon that lake, which is very probable, every effort should be tried, by throwing savages, and the light troops round it, to oblige them to quit it without waiting for naval preparations. Should these efforts fail, the route by South-Bay and Skenesborough might be attempted ; but considerable difficulties may be expected, as the narrow parts of the river may be easily choked up and rendered impassible; and, at best, there will be necessity for a great deal of land carriage for the artillery, provisions, etc., which can only be supported from Canada. In case of success also by that route, and the enemy not removed from Lake George, it will be necessary to leave a chain of posts as the army proceeds, for the security of your communications, which may too much weaken so small an army.

Lest all their attempts should unavoidably fail, and it becomes indispensably necessary to attack the enemy by water upon Lake George, the army, at the out-set, should be provided with carriages, implements and artificers for conveying armed vessels from Ticonderoga to the lake.

These ideas are formed upon the supposition that it be the sole purpose of the Canada Army to effect a junction with General Howe, or, after co-operating so far as to get possession of Albany and open the Hudson's River, and thereby ....southward.

To avoid breaking in upon other matter, I omitted in the beginning of these papers to state the idea of an expedition at the out-set of the campaign by the Lake Ontario and Oswego to the Mohawk River; Which as a diversion to facilitate every proposed operation, would be highly desirable, provided the army should be reinforced sufficiently to afford it . It may first appear, from a view of the present strength of the army, that it may bear the sort of detachment proposed by myself last year for this purpose. But it is to be considered that at the time the utmost objective of the campaign. from the advanced season and unavoidable delay of preparation for the lakes, being the reduction of Crown- Point and Ticonderoga, unless the success of my expedition had opened the road to Albany, no greater numbers were necessary than for those first operations. The Case in the present year differs ; because the season of the year affords a prospect of very extensive operations, and consequently the establishment of many posts, patrols, etc., will become necessary. The Army ought to be in a state of numbers to bear those drains and still remain sufficient to attack anything that probably can be opposed to it.

Nor, to argue from probability, is so much force necessary for this diversion this year as was required for the last ; because we then knew that General Schuyler with a thousand men was fortified upon the Mohawk. When the different situations of things are considered, Viz. the progress of General Howe, the early invasion from Canada, the threatening of Connecticut from Rhode Island, etc, it is not to be imagined that any detachment of such forces as that of Schuyler can be supplied by the enemy for the Mohawk. I would not therefore propose it of more (and I have great diffidence whether so much can be prudently afforded) than Sir John Johnson's corps, a hundred British from the Second Brigade and a hundred more from the 8th Regiment, with four pieces of the lightest artillery and a body of savages; Sir John Johnson to be with a detachment in person, and an able field-officer to command it. I should wish Lieutenant Colonel St. Leger for that employment."

John Burgoyne
Major General

 

His Majesty, King George, III made some remarks on paper after reviewing Major General Burgoyne's plan for the invasion of New York. These comments are preserved in the British Museum, manuscript section, written in his own hand:

"The outline of the plan seem to be on a proper foundation. The rank and file of the army in Canada (including the 11th of the British, McClean's corps, the Brunswicks and Hanover) amount to 10527 add the eleven additional companies and 400 Hanover Chasseurs, the total will be 11,445. As sickness and other contingencies must be expected, I should think not above 7,000 effectives can be spared over Lake Champlain, for it would be highly imprudent to run any risk in Canada. The fixing of stations of those left in the province may not be quite right, though the plan proposed may be recommended. Indians must be employed, and this measure must be avowedly directed.

As Sir William Howe does not think of acting from Rhode Island into Massachusetts, the force from Canada must join him at Albany. The diversion on the Mohawk River ought, at least, to be strengthened by 400 Hanover Chasseurs.

The provisions ought to be calculated for a third more that the effective soldiery, and the General ordered to avoid delivering these when the army can be subsisted from the country. Burgoyne certainly greatly undervalues the German recruits."


Obviously, King George favored Burgoyne's plan. Neither he nor the General apparently expected a determined resistance, but rather intended to march right over the Hudson Valley totally unopposed. It is often said that great minds think alike - hence as demonstrated the opposite is equally as true.

Back to Index of Revolutionary War Events

Back to Historical Archives

 

link to aboutus