Chuck's Reviews > Saratoga: Turning Point of America's Revolutionary War

Saratoga by Richard M. Ketchum
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's review
Jul 17, 2010

it was amazing
Read in July, 2010

I picked up this book at the Saratoga Battlefield park when it was recommended by several of the Park Rangers. They are right. It is indeed a wonderful read. I stayed up very late four nights running because I couldn't put the book down.

Ketchum covers the entire campaign, from it's inception in Canada and London, down to the disposition of the pow's and the Courts Maritial for Schuyler and St. Clair. (Courts Maritial in those days were a combination of peer review, after action review, and military justice with ability to levy sanctions or absolve the participants. Many times a commander would specifically demand one. Both Schuyler and St Clair were absolved of any wrongdoing. English politics prevented Burgoyne from getting one.)

Ketchum's technique is to describe what individual participants saw or heard at key points during the campaign. He selects these very wisely and cements them together with an excellent, if somewhat informal, writing style. I also appreciated his approach on notes. Rather than give a formal and very dry note, he describes the sources he used, why he used them, and, very importantly, what he thought about the quality of each source. An informal approach, and perhaps not sufficiently academically rigorous, but one that reached out and dragged me into the story.

The Campaign itself was a fiasco for the English. Burgoyne moved from Canada down Lakes Champlain and George, quickly overrunning American military posts there. New York Colony resources were clearly insufficient to halt him and a secondary attack by St. Leger along the Mohawk Valley.. Burgoyne then transferred to land travel marching towards Albany, his movements threatened New England which caused those states to mobilize and send military support to the American Army. At the same time the English armies along the coastal plain declined to support Burgoyne, allowing Washington to send a significant part of his army in support. This and the long supply line to Canada changed the balance of forces from the English outnumbering the Americans 2 or 3 to one, to teh Americans outnumbering the English 2 or 3 to one. The English Army finally ran out steam just north of the strategic town of Albany. They were stopped at the Battle of Saratoga and then surrounded and forced to surrender as they tried to retreat to Lake George.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the Saratoga Battle and Campaign, the Revolutionary War, Military History, or even curious about who the folks who lived and participated in the Revolution; New Yorker, New Englander, British or German.
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