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We remember that the united voice of the army and people had demanded the recall of those generals whose want of foresight or energy, or both, had caused the disasters with which the campaign had opened. Congress chose General Gates[41] to command in room of Schuyler, who, with St. Clair, was ordered to report at headquarters. With the methods of travel then in use, Gates was nearly two weeks in getting from Philadelphia to Albany. This fact will sufficiently illustrate the difficulties which attended the movement of reinforcements from one army to another, before the day of railways and steamboats.

All that lay in the power of man to do, Washington had done for the Northern army. Though fronting an enemy greatly superior to himself, he had still found time to so direct operations in the North, that his hand may almost be said to have guided the course of events in that quarter. He had soothed Schuyler's wounded self-love, commended his efforts, strengthened his hands in the field, and nobly stood between him and his detractors in Congress. When Congress had suspended all the generals of the Northern army from command, it was Washington who interposed to save them and the army from the consequences of such blindness and folly. To Schuyler, he had said, "Burgoyne is doing just what we could wish; let him but continue to scatter his army about, and his ruin is only a question of time." Schuyler urgently called for more troops. Brigade after brigade had gone from Washington's own army to swell Schuyler's ranks. "I care not where the victory is won, so we do but gain it," Washington said. Schuyler again pleaded his want of general officers. Washington sent him Arnold, the dare-devil of the army, and Lincoln, a man of sound head, steady hand, and even temper, as a counterpoise to Arnold's over-confident and impetuous nature. Thanks to these efforts, we had created a new army on the ruins of the old.

Schuyler's deportment toward the Massachusetts authorities at this time was neither conciliatory nor conducive to the interests of the service. He knew their feelings of distrust toward him, and in making application to them for reinforcements showed his resentment in a way that called forth an acrimonious response. He upbraided them for their shortcomings; they entreated him to look nearer home. Thus we find General Schuyler and the Massachusetts Council engaged in an exchange of sarcasms at a time when the exigency called for something besides a war of words between the commander of an army and the executive head of a powerful State.

 

Gates took command just after the Battle of Bennington was won. He found the army in much disorder but pleased with the change of commanders. Gates was a thorough disciplinarian and organizer. In his hands, the efficiency of the army daily increased. Old jealousies were silenced, and confidence restored. Letters from the soldiers show the change in temper and spirit to have been instant and marked. One of them says, "When we came to Albany, things looked very dark for our side, for there were officers in town who had left camp and would not go back as long as Schuyler had the command. Both officers and soldiers were determined not to fight under him and would tell him so to his head. But General Gates came to town, and then the tune was turned, and every face showed a merry heart."

The hostile armies now lay, quietly gathering up their strength for the decisive struggle, within the sound of each other's evening guns.

Gates was the first to act. Having been joined by Morgan's rifle corps,[42] and by large numbers of militia, the whole army now moved up to Stillwater, within a dozen miles of the enemy, who still remained entrenched behind the Batten-Kill. This movement put new life into our soldiers and was not without its effect upon the enemy, whose spirit was aroused at finding the antagonist it had been pursuing suddenly become the aggressor. The Americans had a well-served though not numerous artillery, but the presence of Morgan's corps more than made good any deficiency in this respect. The great drawback to the efficiency of the army was the want of cordiality between Gates and Arnold. The breach between them was daily widening that was presently to become an impassable gulf.

Gates purposed taking up a strong position and awaiting Burgoyne's attack behind his entrenchments. Either Burgoyne must risk an assault, under conditions most favorable to the Americans, or retire discomfited under conditions highly unfavorable to a successful retreat.

The country between Saratoga and Stillwater, covered with woods and intersected by ravines, was wholly unsuited to the free movement of troops. All the shore of the Hudson is high ground, rising to a nearly uniform level next to the river, but gradually ascending, as the river is left, to the summit of the streams falling into it. Long slopes or terraces are thus formed, furrowed here and thereby the ravines, which serve to drain off the water from above into the river below. Puny rivulets where they begin, these watercourses cut deeper as they run on, until, at the river, they become impassable gulches. The old military road skirts the foot of the heights, which sometimes abut closely upon the river, and sometimes draw back far enough to leave a strip of meadow between it and them.

Kosciusko,[43] Gates's engineer, chose the ground on which to receive Burgoyne's attack, at one of these places where the heights crowd upon the river, thus forming a narrow defile, which a handful of men could easily defend against an army. At this place, the house of a settler named Bemis stood by the roadside. Our army filed off the road here, to the left, scaled the heights, and encamped along a ridge of land, running west as far as some high, rough, and woody ground, which formed the summit.

Except for two or three clearings, all the ground in Gates's front was thickly wooded. One settler, called Freeman, had cleared and planted quite a large field in front of the American center and left, though at some distance beyond, and hid from view by intervening woods. This field of Freeman's was one of the few spots of ground lying between the two armies, on which troops could be maneuvered or artillery used with advantage. The farmhouse stood at the upper edge of it, at a distance of a mile back from the river. Our pickets immediately took post there, as no one could enter the clearing without being seen from the house. Accident has thus made this spot of ground, Freeman's Farm,[44] famous. The Americans were at work like beavers, strengthening their line with redoubts, felled trees, and batteries, when the enemy was discovered marching against them.

FOOTNOTES:

[41] GENERAL GATES had resigned his command at Ticonderoga, rather than serve under Schuyler. There was no good feeling between them.

[42] MORGAN'S RIFLEMEN was the most celebrated corps of the Continental Army. The men were unerring marksmen, and on that account greatly feared by the British. All were expert woodsmen, devoted to their leader, who held them under strict discipline.

[43] THADDEUS KOSCIUSKO came to this country to offer his services to Congress. "What can you do?" asked Washington. "Try me," was the laconic reply. In course of time, he was sent to Schuyler as engineer of his army.

[44] FREEMAN'S HOUSE was made use of by Burgoyne, during the battle of September 9, as his headquarters. After this battle, it was included within the British lines.