32. Saratoga Surrender Site: A Gentlemanly Exchange

In contrast to the drama and violence of the past year, the end of Burgoyne’s 1777 Campaign was pensive—and a little jubilant.

Surrender of Burgoyne by John Trumbull. Courtesy of Architect of the Capitol.

About noon, Burgoyne and his Generals crossed  Fish Creek and passed the ruins of the Schuyler House, which Burgoyne had burned a week earlier. He continued about a half mile south to a hilltop overlooking the Hudson, where Rebel General Horatio Gates awaited Burgoyne’s arrival. There the two gentlemen met.

Burgoyne was following a tradition of surrendering by turning over his sword in ceremonial fashion. Burgoyne told Gates, “The fortunes of war have made me your prisoner,” as he handed over his sword. Gates held onto the sword for a short while then returned it to Burgoyne, responding, “I shall always be ready to testify that it was through no fault of your Excellency.”

The high officers of both armies then joined together for a meal in Gates’ tent. They sat together at a table made by laying boards across barrels and were served a modest four-course meal. They ate and drank in good humor, Burgoyne supposedly even raising a toast to George Washington at one point. The Baroness Riedesel was surprised at how jubilant Burgoyne was acting.

The Baroness and her children were invited to dine with a stranger who turned out to be General Philip Schuyler. He had arrived to tend to the reconstruction of his summer home when he came upon the lady. It was during this dinner the Baron and the Baroness Riedesel together with Burgoyne were invited to stay at the Schuyler Mansion in Albany.

Travel Tools

Along Rt. 4, in the Town of Saratoga, the Saratoga Surrender Site looks much now as it did back then when Burgoyne gave his sword to Gates. This iconic moment is memorialized in John Trumbull’s 1821 masterpiece painting, Surrender of General Burgoyne, which hangs in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. A 6’ by 4’ bronze bas relief of Trumbull’s painting is the centerpiece of the site.

Development of this site is ongoing, learn more at http://friendsofsaratogabattlefield.org/.

 

First-Hand Accounts

Baroness Riedesel dines with Rebel General Philip Schuyler.

– Memoir of Baroness Riedesel

 

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