The Battle of Saratoga was the most important battle in the American Revolutionary War. While there were important battles prior to Saratoga such as Lexington and Concord, Bunker Hill, Trenton, Princeton, and Bennington, there had not been a battle to change the tide internationally.
All of the other victories helped raise American morale, but did little to encourage the French, Spanish, or other European powers to get too involved.
1. It Aided Benjamin Franklin’s Diplomatic Efforts in France
Benjamin Franklin was an incredible diplomat who understood the character he must play.
When he was a diplomat in England he was proper and respectful while lobbying for colonial rights. As an Englishmen, he knew the rules and played the part well.
However, France was different. The culture was more liberal and Americans were viewed differently. While Franklin was viewed as the great inventor he often wore a coonskin hat because he found he gained an audience quicker by wearing it. It created the perception and romanticized these freedom seeking pioneers. It was nothing more than a ploy to gain an audience with King Louis XVI.
this among many other things worked and he began to negotiate with the French. They supplied muskets and some commanders to the cause, but they were reluctant to commit too much as they wanted to avoid a world war with Britain.
The victory at Saratoga changed that. The British lost their entire Northern Army and looked to be vulnerable in other areas of their empire.
Saratoga gave Franklin the chip he needed to convince King Louis to enter the war.
2. France Declares War on England
The second and most important reason why the Battle of Saratoga was important was France entering the war.
France entering the war is possibly the most significant event in the entire American Revolution. They were able to supply America with a Navy that they desperately needed, attack Britain in other colonies across the globe forcing them to defend more than just the 13 original colonies, and possibly gain back what they lost during the French and Indian War.
The French Alliance cannot be taken lightly as it changed the entire scope of the war. They would go on to play a pivotal role at Yorktown which formally ended the war.
While it is impossible to say that the Americans would not have defeated the British without French intervention, it is safe to say that the Revolutionary War would have looked very different.
3. Discredited General William Howe
While General William Howe is a bit of a controversial figure in the American Revolution since he sympathized with the Americans, he was a master tactician.
With the exception of his failure in Boston, he had George Washington’s number. He soundly defeated him in New York, Long Island, and Brandywine. He had successfully captured most of New York Colony and Pennsylvania Colony and was working on securing both of the colonies and putting them back under British control.
His strategy was sound, although a bit misguided.
General Howe took much of the blame for Burgoyne’s blunder at Saratoga and lost his political support. He was replaced by General Henry Clinton who was an exceptional leader but was not a tactician of Howe’s caliber.
Washington was able to keep Clinton in check and battled him to a draw at the Battle of Monmouth and ultimately trick him into not sending Cornwallis reinforcements and allowing Washington to move down and capture the entire British Southern Army at Yorktown.
4. Horatio Gates Stole the Credit from Benedict Arnold and Daniel Morgan
Horatio Gates was named the hero of Saratoga despite Benedict Arnold and Daniel Morgan playing the most important roles during the battle. Gates was the commanding officer, but Arnold broke command after an argument and led men without a direct order from Gates and Morgan’s riflemen and use of militia at Bemis Heights caused significant losses for the British.
Horatio Gates favored an Old World tactic while these two men preferred guerilla warfare.
Gates became a staunch critic of General George Washington and went on to become the General of the Southern Army, replacing Benjamin Lincoln. This blocked men such as Nathanael Greene from promotion.
Horatio Gates was a disaster and was exposed as a coward during the Battle of Camden when he fled from his army. He would later become a leader of the Conway Cabal at the end of the war that was planning on marching on Congress.
5. The British Abandoned Philadelphia
The British had captured Philadelphia and New York which gave them control over the two most important ports in colonial America.
After the Battle of Saratoga and the French Alliance forced them to abandon Philadelphia in order to maintain New York, which was the most important port of the two.
Once abandoned, George Washington placed Benedict Arnold as Military Governor of the city.
6. Benedict Arnold was Wounded and Promoted to Governor
Benedict Arnold had become one of Washington’s most trusted fighting generals.
He shared the philosophy of taking the war to the British and knew how to lead men. This was a quality that was lacking throughout the Continental Army and often frustrated him.
During the Battle of Saratoga, a bullet struck Arnold in the leg and caused his horse to fall and crush it. The rest of his life he would limp because of Saratoga. It would be the last time he would fight as a General for the American Cause.
General Washington made Benedict Arnold military governor of Philadelphia. It would be here that he met the Shippen family, a well-known loyalist family, and began to court their daughter Peggy. He eventually married her.
After many slights from the Continental Congress, his peers, and even George Washington, Benedict Arnold betrayed the Americans.
It is unlikely this would have happened if he had not been wounded at Saratoga and given a field command.
7. Spain and the Dutch Republic Entered the War
There is little talk of Spain during the American Revolutionary War, but they did join the American cause under a secret treaty they had with France called the Treaty of Aranjuez.
While Spain was no longer the world power they had been during the age of the Conquistadors they were still a threat to an over-extended Great Britain.
After Spain’s involvement, the Dutch Republic also joined the American cause.
John Adams served as a diplomat to the nation.
8. Native American Support Diminished
The British lost much Native American support during the Saratoga Campaign.
Although the battle of Saratoga did not completely eliminate Native American support, it certainly caused a disruption.
Burgoyne lost most of the support from the natives during the campaign and after his loss Native Americans were reluctant to side with the British.
Joseph Brant, the Mohawk Tribe leader, still remained very active and led many campaigns against the Americans throughout the war.
He still held much influence and would eventually become a heavy influence in the life of Tecumseh.
However, with the British Northern Army destroyed the Americans now had the ability to defend and attack the Native Americans who were more vulnerable.