30. Victory Woods: A Noble End

Burgoyne and his troops were hopelessly surrounded. They prepared for what might be their final stand.

Listen to the Turning Point Trail Site 30 Audio Narration:


Baroness Riedesel with her children, as imagined by Harper’s Weekly in 1857.

With the British army in retreat, the lines became reversed. The advanced guard, previously the charge of the now-deceased General Fraser, now took up the rear, while Baron Riedesel and his German troops took the advance, but their route was blocked. They were hopelessly surrounded.Burgoyne began to construct defenses around Schuylerville.

The Marshall House became the field hospital and the Baroness Riedesel took residence there. She hid in the basement with her three children as the house withstood a barrage of artillery attacks from the Rebel Captain Furnvial, who occupied the heights on the opposite side of the Hudson River. The Germans made camp behind the Marshall House in what is now the fields of Schuylerville Central School.

The other positions were under fire too. There were regular skirmishes between Rebel Daniel Morgan, who took up his position near the present-day hamlet of Grangerville to the west, and the British troops that erected breastworks along what is now Park Avenue (Route 29). What remained of Fraser’s Corps took up the position near what is now Victory Woods, where they withstood attacks from General Horatio Gates to the south.

Things were not looking good for Burgoyne and his allies. It was a cold October, the area was marshy, the ground was wet, and their supplies were dwindling. Lieutenant William Digby wrote, “our cattle began to die fast and the stench was very prejudicial in so small a space. We now began to perceive their design by keeping such a distance, which was to starve us out.”

Despite all these challenges, Burgoyne’s troops were ready to put up a fight. Lieutenant William Digby wrote, “…all thoughts of a retreat were then given over, and a determination [made] to fall nobly, together, rather than disgrace the name of British troops.

Travel Tools

The Marshall House, at 136 Route 4N, is now a private residence, but the owner, Dave Bullard, is willing to provide tours. For more information, visit themarshallhouse.org.

Victory Woods is a 22-acre parcel of land located in the village of Victory (about 8.5 miles north of the Battlefield). It marks the final encampment site for the British Army under General John Burgoyne prior to their October 17, 1777, surrender to American forces under General Horatio Gates.

Two options are available for visiting Victory Woods.

  • Park at Saratoga Monument and follow the foot path through the cemetery to the Victory Woods trail head;
  • Drive to the end of Monument Drive (just downhill/east of Saratoga Monument) and park in the cul-de-sac there.

An accessible boardwalk and pathway runs about ½ mile through Victory Woods. The path also has interpretive signs that help tell the story of the last stand for Burgoyne’s surrounded army.

We recommend visiting both while listening to Track 30. Begin playing Track 30 after leaving the Schuyler House.


First-Hand Accounts

Lieutenant Digby describes the wretched situation:
“…all thoughts of a retreat were then given over, and a determination [made] to fall nobly together, rather than disgrace the name of British troops ; on which we immediately changed our ground a little, and under the protection of that night, began to entrench ourselves, all hands being ordered to work. We were called together and desired to tell our men that their own safety, as well as ours, depended on their making a vigorous defense; but that I was sure was an unnecessary caution,— well knowing they would never forfeit the title of Soldiers. As for the Germans, we had but a poor opinion of their spirit since the night of the 7th. Certain our situation was not the most pleasing; but we were to make the best of it, and I had long before accustomed and familiarized my mind to bear with patience any change that might happen. The men worked without ceasing during the night, and without the least complaining of fatigue, our cannon were drawn up to the embrasures and pointed ready to receive them at day break.”

– Lieutenant William Digby, October 11, 1777

Baroness Riedesel makes sure the troops get fed:
The greatest misery and the utmost disorder prevailed in the army.* The commissaries had forgotten to distribute provisions among the troops. There were cattle enough, but not one had been killed. More than thirty officers came to me, who could endure hunger no longer. I had coffee and tea made for them, and divided among them all the provisions with which my carriage was constantly filled; for we had a cook who, although an arrant knave, was fruitful in all expedients, and often in the night crossed small rivers, in order to steal from the country people, sheep, poultry and pigs. He would then charge us a high price for them — a circumstance, however, that we only learned a long time afterward. At last my provisions were exhausted, and in despair at not being able to be of any further help, I called to me Adjutant General Patterson,† who happened at that moment to be passing by, and said to him passionately: “Come and see for yourself these officers, who have been wounded in the common cause, and who now are in want of every thing, because they do not receive that which is due them. It is, therefore, your duty to make a representation of this to the general.” At this he was deeply moved, and the result was, that, a quarter of an hour afterward, General Burgoyne came to me himself and thanked me very pathetically for having reminded him of his duty. He added, moreover, that a general was much to be pitied when he was not properly served nor his commands obeyed. I replied, that I begged his pardon for having meddled with things which, I well knew, a woman had no business with, but that it was impossible to keep silent, when I saw so many brave men in want of every thing, and had nothing more to give them. Thereupon he thanked me once more (although I believe that in his heart he has never forgiven me this lashing), and went from me to the officers, and said to them, that he was very sorry for what had happened, but he had now through an order remedied every thing, but why had they not come to him as his cock stood always at their service. They answered that English officers were not accustomed to visit the kitchen of their general, and that they had received any morsel from me with pleasure, as they were convinced I had given it to them directly from my heart. He then gave the most express orders that the provisions should be properly distributed. This only hindered us anew, besides not in the least bettering our situation. The general seated himself at table, and the horses were harnessed to our calashes ready for departure. The whole army clamored for a retreat, and my husband promised to make it possible, provided only that no time was lost. But General Burgoyne, to whom an order had been promised if he brought about a junction with the army of General Howe, could not determine upon this course, and lost every thing by his loitering. About two o’clock in the afternoon, the firing of cannon and small arms was again heard, and all was alarm and confusion.”

– Memoir of Baroness Riedesel