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After the British had gone back to Canada, it was thought they would return as soon as the lake should be frozen hard enough to bear artillery. But when it was found that they had gone into winter quarters, and the danger was past, part of the garrison of Ticonderoga was hurried off to Washington, who was then fighting against great odds in the Jerseys.

This winter was the dark hour of the Revolution, upon which the victory at Trenton[12] shed the first ray of light. So low had the American cause fallen at this time, that, but for this unlooked-for success, it is doubtful if another army could have been brought into the field.

The British were really planning to invade New York as soon as the lakes should be open again, in the spring. For this campaign, great preparations were made, both in Canada and England. Quiet, therefore, reigned at Ticonderoga throughout the winter of 1776 and 1777.

General Burgoyne sailed for England in November, to lay before the king a plan for subduing the colonies in a single campaign. Burgoyne was a good soldier, popular with the army and government, brave to rashness, but vain and headstrong. He knew the Americans were not to be despised, for he had seen them fight at Bunker Hill, as well as in the campaign just closed, in which he himself had taken part; yet easy confidence in his own abilities led Burgoyne into committing many grave errors, not the least of which was underestimating this very enemy.[13]

Any plan that promised to put down the Americans, was sure of gaining the king's ear. Justice was never tempered with mercy in this monarch's treatment of his rebellious subjects. His heart was hardened, his hand ever ready to strike them the fatal blow. Moreover, the Americans had just now declared themselves independent of Great Britain. They had crossed their Rubicon. To crush them with iron hand was now the king's one thought and purpose. No half-measures would do for him. He told his ministers, in so many words, that every means of distressing the Americans would meet with his approval. Mercenaries, savages, refugees--all who could fire a shot, or burn a dwelling, were to be enrolled under the proud old banner of the isles. No more effectual means could have been devised to arouse the spirit of resistance to the highest pitch.

Burgoyne's ambition was kindled by the hope of making himself the hero of the war. He combined the qualities of general and statesman without being great as either. He wrote and talked well, was eloquent and persuasive, had friends at court, and knew how to make the most of his opportunity. On his part, the king wanted a general badly. He had been grievously disappointed in Sir William Howe, whose victories seemed never bringing the war any nearer to an end. Burgoyne brought forward his plan at the right moment, shrewdly touched the keynote of the king's discontent by declaring for aggressive war, smoothed every obstacle away with easy assurance, and so impressed the ministers with his capacity, that they believed they had found the very man the king wanted for the work in hand.

The plan proposed for making short work of the war was briefly this: The American colonies were to be divided in two parts, by seizing the line of the Hudson River; just as in later times, the Union armies aimed to split the Southern Confederacy in two by getting possession of the Mississippi. To effect this, two armies were to act together. With one, Burgoyne was to come down the lakes from Canada, and force his way to Albany, while the other was coming up the Hudson to join him. Once these armies were united, with full control of the Hudson in their hands, New England would be cut off from the other colonies by forts and fleets, and the way laid open to crush out rebellion in what was admitted to be its cradle and stronghold.

Ever since Sir William Howe had been driven from Boston, in the spring of 1776, the opinion prevailed among American generals that, sooner or later, New England would become the battleground.[14] This view was sustained by the enemy's seizure of Newport, in December of the same year, so that the Americans were perplexed at finding themselves threatened from this quarter until the enemy's plans were fully developed.

There was yet another part to the plan concerted between Burgoyne and the British cabinet. It was seen that in proportion as Burgoyne moved down toward Albany, he would have the fertile Mohawk valley on his right. This valley was the great thoroughfare between the Hudson and Lake Ontario, Niagara, and Detroit. In it were many prosperous settlements, inhabited by a vigorous yeomanry, who were the mainstay of the patriot cause in this quarter. The passage to and fro was guarded by Fort Stanwix, which stood where Rome now is, and Fort Oswego, which was situated at the lake. Fort Stanwix was held by the Americans, and Oswego, by the British. Perceiving its value to the Americans not only as a granary, but as a recruiting station, and in view of the danger of leaving it on his flank, Burgoyne decided to march a force through this valley, clear it of enemies, and so effectively bring about a timely coöperation between the two branches of the expedition. Freed of fear for himself, he could materially aid in the work entrusted to his auxiliary. It followed that the Americans, with whom Burgoyne himself might be contending, would, of necessity, be greatly distressed by their inability to draw either men or supplies from the Mohawk Valley, no less than by the appearance of this force upon their own flank. The command of it was given to Colonel St. Leger, who was ordered to proceed up the St. Lawrence to Oswego, and from thence to Fort Stanwix and Albany.

It must be allowed that this plan was well-conceived; yet its success depended so much upon all the parts working in harmony together, that to have set it in motion, without consultation or clear understanding between the generals who were to execute it, is inconceivable. At a distance of three thousand miles from the scene of war, the British cabinet undertook to direct complicated military operations, in which widely separated armies were to take part. General Burgoyne received his orders on the spot. General Howe did not receive his until the 16th of August; his army was then entering the Chesapeake Bay. Burgoyne was being defeated at Bennington, at the time Howe was reading his despatch, and learning from it what he had not known before; namely, that he was expected to cooperate with the army of Burgoyne. These facts will so sufficiently illustrate the course that events were taking, as to foreshadow their conclusion to the feeblest understanding.

In order to make the war more terrible to the Americans, the British cabinet decided to use the Indians of Canada, and the Great Lakes, against them. Not even the plea of military necessity could reconcile some Englishmen to letting loose these barbarians upon the colonists. Though enemies, they were men. Lord Chatham, the noblest Englishman of them all, cried out against it in Parliament. "Who is the man," he indignantly asked, "who has dared to associate to our arms the tomahawk and scalping knife of the savage?" All knew he meant the prime minister, and, behind him, the king himself. Had not King George just said that any means of distressing the Americans must meet with his approval?

FOOTNOTES:

[12] VICTORY AT TRENTON. After being driven from the Jerseys, Washington suddenly turned on his pursuers, and by the two fine combats of Trenton and Princeton, compelled much superior forces everywhere to retreat before him, thus breaking up all the enemy's plans for the ensuing campaign, saving Philadelphia, and putting new life into the American cause.

[13] UNDERESTIMATING HIS ENEMY. Burgoyne candidly admits as much in his letter to Lord G. Germaine. _State of the Expedition_, Appendix, xcii.

[14] NEW ENGLAND THE BATTLE-GROUND. Sir William Howe did propose, at first, operating against Boston from Rhode Island, with ten thousand men, while an equal force should effect a junction with the army of Canada, by way of the Hudson. This purpose he subsequently deferred for an advance into Pennsylvania, but Burgoyne asserts that he was not informed of the change of plan when he sailed for Canada in April; and, though Sir William Howe afterward wrote him to the same effect (July 17th) a letter which was received early in August, Burgoyne, nevertheless, persisted in his intention of passing the Hudson, notwithstanding he knew, and says (August 20th), that no operation had yet been undertaken in his favor. _State of the Expedition_, 188, 189; Appendix, xlvii.