Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

Stark had, indeed, dealt Burgoyne a stunning blow. In a moment all his combinations were overthrown. Efforts were made to keep the disaster a secret from the army, but the movements made in consequence of it told the story but too plainly. 

In the first place, the whole army was hurried up to Batten-Kill in order to cover Breyman's and Frazer's retreat, [34] for Frazer had been ordered to recross the Hudson at once. Frazer's position was most critical; his bridge had been broken by a freshet, and for one whole day he was cut off from the main army.

As soon as Breyman's worn-out men had straggled into camp, Burgoyne's fell back to Duer's again. Meantime, Frazer had repaired his bridge and hastily recrossed the Hudson. Riedesel's corps was sent back to Fort Edward. The whole army had thus made a retrograde movement in consequence of the defeat at Bennington, and now lay in echelon [35] from Fort Edward to Batten-Kill, in the camps it had occupied before the advance was begun; it had retreated upon its communications; it was put on the defensive.

Burgoyne had now no choice left but to hold fast his communication with the lakes, and these could not be called safe while a victorious enemy was threatening his flank. From this time forward, he grew wary and circumspect. His councils began to be divided. The prestige of the army was lowered, confidence in its leaders visibly shaken. Even the soldiers began to grumble, criticize, and reflect. Burgoyne's vain boast that this army would not retreat no longer met the conditions in which it stood. It had retreated.

As if to prove the truth of the adage that misfortunes never come singly, most of Burgoyne's Indians now deserted him. So far from intimidating, their atrocities had served to arouse the Americans as nothing else could. As soldiers, they had usually run away at the first fire. As scouts, their minds were wholly fixed upon plundering. Burgoyne had sharply rebuked them for it. Ever sullen and intractable under restraint, their answer was at least explicit, "No plunder, no Indians;" and they were as good as their word.

We find, then, that the battle of Bennington had cost Burgoyne not far from two thousand men, whether soldiers or Indians. More than this, it had thrown him back upon his second alternative, which, we remember, was to halt until supplies could be brought from Canada. This was easily equivalent to a month's delay. Thirty days of inaction were thus forced upon Burgoyne at a time when every one of them was worth five hundred men to the Americans. Such were some of the substantial results of the victory at Bennington.

To the Americans, the moral and material gains were no less striking or important. At once confidence was restored. Men no longer hesitated to turn out, or feared for the result. A most hopeful sign was the alacrity with which the well-to-do farmers went into the ranks. There was general appreciation of the fact that Burgoyne had seriously compromised himself by advancing as far as he had; in short, the re-action was quite as decisive as that which had followed the victory at Trenton.


[34] BREYMAN'S RETREAT. The express from Baum arrived at headquarters at 5 A.M. of the fifteenth. Orders were immediately given to Breyman to march. News of Baum's defeat reached Burgoyne during the night of the sixteenth. The 20th regiment, British, was immediately marched to Breyman's support. Burgoyne's anxiety was so great, that he followed it until Breyman's Corps was met on the road.

[35] ECHELON, the French word for step-ladder, by the adoption of a universal military term, well describes the posting of troops, belonging to one army, at stated intervals apart, so as to be moved forward or backward step by step, always keeping the same relative distances between the separate bodies. In marking out such positions on the map, the columns would look like the rounds of a ladder, hence the term.