After a series of discouraging military defeats, on September 19, 1777, continental soldiers fighting under American General Horatio Gates defeated the British at Saratoga, New York. Within weeks, Gates joined forces with American General Benedict Arnold to vanquish the redcoats again at the Second Battle of Saratoga. On October 17, British General John Burgoyne surrendered his troops under the Convention of Saratoga, which provided for the return of his men to Great Britain on condition that they would not serve again in North America during the war. American victory at the Battles of Saratoga turned the tide of the war in the colonists favor and helped persuade the French to recognize American independence and provide military assistance outright.
Born at Malden, Essex, England, circa 1728-29, Gates’ mother served as housekeeper to the Duke of Leeds. Gates joined the army while a very young man. He first came to North America to fight in the French and Indian War—the American theater of the worldwide conflict called the Seven Years War. Through distinguished service in Nova Scotia, New York, and Martinique, he achieved the rank of major. Encouraged by friend and former comrade-in-arms, George Washington, he returned to America a decade later and settled in western Virginia—the frontier at that time.
Sympathetic to the American cause, Gates’ name was the first proposed by Washington when Congress asked him to nominate officers for the Revolutionary Army. In 1775, Gates accepted his nomination as adjutant general of the Continental Army and by 1777 had replaced General Philip Schuyler in northern New York. After Saratoga, Gates, an able administrator, served as president of the Board of War. He had many friends in Congress and was, perhaps unwittingly, drawn into the “Conway Cabal”—an attempt to replace Commander-in-Chief Washington with Gates. Although criticized for his conduct during the battle of Camden, he continued to serve the American cause until the end of the war.
Troubled by the issue of slavery, Gates manumitted his slaves and relocated from Virginia to New York after the Revolution. He served one term in the state legislature but much of his time and money was spent aiding Revolutionary veterans. General Horatio Gates died on April 10, 1806.
- Read Washington’s correspondence with Horatio Gates. Search the George Washington Papers on Horatio Gates to find letters including Gates’ first communication with his new commander-in-chief.
- View images of the Saratoga Monument erected at Schuylerville, New York, to commemorate Gates’ victory over Burgoyne. The cornerstone of the one-hundred-and-fifty-foot obelisk was laid on October 17, 1877—the centennial of the Second Battle of Saratoga. Search the collection Detroit Publishing Company on Saratoga.
- Search the Today in History collection on Revolutionary War to read more about events in America’s fight for independence.
- Visit the Timeline featured in the collection Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774 to 1789.
- A Guide to the American Revolution, 1763-1783 compiles links to digital materials related to the American Revolution that are available throughout the Library of Congress Web site, including manuscripts, broadsides, government documents, books, and maps.