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service, and for this he had the orders of his government, and the example of his predecessor.—A reply from General Burgoyne to the accusations of General Gates, in which he entered into a minute vindication of his conduct and character, closed the correspondence between the two commanders, and on the 8th September General Gates turned to meet his enemy.
The army arrived at Stillwater on the 9th of September, fully determined to face the foe, and if necessary pursue him into his own confines. This was at first supposed to be an eligible position for throwing up a line of entrenchments, and a large party under the engineer Kosciusko, were accordingly set to work for that purpose. But upon a more narrow inspection of the grounds, the General determined to change his position, and occupy Behmus's Heights, which were taken possession of and fortified on the 13th. Burgoyne at this time lay opposite to Saratoga, occupying old Fort Miller and Battenkiln; but what were his further intentions, General Gates had no means of judging. In this situation the Deputy Adjutant General, Colonel James Wilkinson, volunteered to head a select reconnoitering party, and obtain if possible the desired information. He left the camp with 170 men under cover of a dark night and arrived by day-light at Davocote, about two miles from Saratoga. Here he posted the greater part of his men in a wood near the road, and proceeded himself to the Heights of Fishkill Creek; from which position he discovered a column of the enemy drawn up under arms, on the opposite bank of the creek, within three hundred yards of bim, and another column under march, descending the Heights below Battenkill. Being satisfied from these circumstances
that General Burgoyne was advancing, Colonel Wilkinson returned to camp with his party, bringing with him three prisoners, who confirmed the intelligence.
On the 15th General Burgoyne, having crossed the river some days before, had advanced as far as Davocote, where he halted twenty-four hours for the purpose of repairing the bridges and roads in his advance, for the more convenient march of his army. On the 18th General Arnold was sent out with fifteen hundred men, to harrass and impede him, but returned without accomplishing any thing; Burgoyne continuing his march until he had arrived within two miles of General Gates's camp. Here he encamped in a line extending from the river to a range of hills six hundred yards distant, and upon which were posted the elite of his army. The position occupied by General Gates, as described by an eye-witness, and one who knew it well, was as follows:— His right occupied the brow of the hill near the river, with which it was connected by a deep intrenchment; his camp in the form of a segment of a great circle, the convex towards the enemy, extended rather obliquely to his rear, about three-fourths of a mile to a knoll occupied by his left; his front was covered from the right to the left of his centre, by a sharp ravine running parallel with his line, and closely wooded : from thence to the knoll at bis extreme left, the ground was level and had been partially cleared, some of the trees being felled, and others girdled, beyond which in front of his left flank, and extending to the enemy's right, there were several small fields in very imperfect cultivation, the surface broken and obstructed with stumps and fallen timber, and the whole bound
ed on the west by a steep eminence. The extremities of this camp were defended by strong batteries, and the interval was strengthened by a breastwork without intrenchments, constructed of the bodies of felled trees, logs and rails, with an additional battery at an opening left of the centre. The right was almost impracticable; the left difficult of approach."
The greater part of the intermediate space was low, open ground ; that portion which intervened between the right of the enemy, and left of the Americans, was covered with woods. On the 19th in the morning, the enemy began to move, from the low ground, towards the heights occupied by the American left; upon perceiving which, Colonel Morgan was ordered to advance with his rifle corps, to hang on their front and flanks, and impede their approach by every means in his power. Major Morris, who headed the advance of this corps, fell in with the enemy's picket about 12 o'clock, which he drove in, and pursued, until he came unexpectedly upon the British line. His party were of course routed, and thrown into considerable confusion; and several of the men and officers were made prisoners. Intelligence of this being conveyed to the General, he ordered two of the New Hampshire regiments to the support of Morgan, under Colonels Cilley and Scammel. They took post on Morgan's left, and in an hour after, the action recommenced, other regiments successively engaging, until about 3 o'clock, it became general. From this hour until night the firing was incessant, without producing any apparent advantage to either side. About 3000 of the Americans were engaged, and about 3500 of the enemy, who had the further advantage of being enabled to bring four pieces of ar
tillery into the action; while the Americans from the nature of their ground were unable to make use of their field pieces. General Poor's brigade, and Colonel Morgan's corps, opposed to Hamilton's brigade, consisting of the 20th, 21st and 62d British infantry, sustained the hottest of the action. The American loss on this day amounted to 321, killed, wounded and missing; and that of the enemy between five and six hundred. Colonel Cook's regi. ment of Connecticut militia, and Colonel Cilley's of New Hampshire, suffered very severely. Lieutenant Colonel Colburn, and Lieutenant Colonel Adams were both killed. But few prisoners were taken on either side ; two of Morgan's officers and twenty privates fell into the enemy's hands on the first charge; and about one hundred of the enemy were captured by the Americans in the course of the day. The artillery of the enemy fell into our hands several times in the course of the action ; but it was impracticable to use it against them. The British corps which served this artillery, fought with the most heroick bravery, 36 of them out of 48, being killed and wounded at the guns. It was certainly one of the warmest actions ever fought, and sustained by both sides with equal courage ; night only putting an end to the contest. General Burgoyne, as was discovered by his intercepted correspondence claimed the victory; but it is evident, that there was no victory on either side, neither having gained a solitary advantage, or a single inch of ground.
It has been remarked, and from a source which renders the fact unquestionable, that there was not a single general officer on the field of battle on this day. This may be accounted for from the fast,
that the battle was wholly unexpected by either army. Burgoyne had no other object in view, in the movement which led to it, than to take such a position as should enable him to defend his provisions and bag. gage; and General Gates was not in a situation to wish for a general action, as he had neither completed his works of defence, nor received half the reinforcements which he expected. The mistake which the advance of Colonel Morgan's corps made, in running in upon the British line, and the necessity of sending two regiments to his support, led unexpectedly to the consequences which followed. Arnold would have been engaged, but fearful of his rashness, General Gates prohibited his interference. General Learned was ordered out late in the evening, but the action terminated soon afterwards, and before he had an opportunity of sharing much in the fortunes of the day. Had Burgoyne attacked the Americans the next morning, which it was his intention to have done, but for some dissausive reasons offered by General Fraser, or the morning after, which he was prevented from doing by intelligence from Sir Henry Clinton, there can be little doubt that his success would have been certain and complete.
Leaving the two adverse armies thus situated, let us now turn to the commander in chief.