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.

Listen to the Turning Point Trail Site 32 Audio Narration:


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. 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 Baroness Riedesel together with Burgoyne were invited to stay at the Schuyler Mansion in Albany.

Travel Tools

At the south corner of Schuyler Street and Route 4, in the Town of Saratoga, the Saratoga Sword 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/.

You’ll be heading back south on Route 4 to see this site.

First-Hand Accounts

Baroness Riedesel dines with Rebel General Philip Schuyler.
At last, my husband sent to me a groom with a message that I should come to him with our children. I, therefore, again seated myself in my dear calash; and, in the passage through the American camp, I observed, with great satisfaction, that no one cast at us scornful glances. On the contrary, they all greeted me, even showing compassion on their countenances at seeing a mother with her little children in such a situation. I confess that I feared to come into the enemy’s camp, as the thing was so entirely new to me. When I approached the tents, a noble looking man came toward me, took the children out of the wagon, embraced and kissed them, and then with tears in his eyes helped me also to alight. “You tremble,” said he to me, ” fear nothing.” “No,” replied I, “for you are so kind, and have been so tender toward my children, that it has inspired me with courage.” He then led me to the tent of General Gates, with whom I found Generals Burgoyne and Phillips, who were upon an extremely friendly footing with him. Burgoyne said to me, ” You may now dismiss all your apprehensions, for your sufferings are at an end.” I answered him, that I should certainly be acting very wrongly to have any more anxiety, when our chief had none, and especially when I saw him on such a friendly footing with General Gates. All the generals remained to dine with General Gates. The man, who had received me so kindly, came up and said to me, ” It may be embarrassing to you to dine with all these gentlemen; come now with your children into my tent, where I will give you, it is true, a frugal meal, but one that will be accompanied by the best of wishes.” “You are certainly,” answered I, “a husband and a father, since you show me so much kindness.” I then learned that he was the American General Schuyler. He entertained me with excellent smoked tongue, beef-steaks, potatoes, good butter and bread. Never have I eaten a better meal. I was content. I saw that all around me were so likewise; but that which rejoiced me more than every thing else was, that my husband was out of all danger. As soon as we had finished dinner, he invited me to take up my residence at his house, which was situated in Albany, and told me that General Burgoyne would, also, be there. I sent and asked my husband what I should do. He sent me word to accept the invitation; and as it was two days’ journey from where we were, and already five o’clock in the afternoon, he advised me to set out in advance, and to stay over night at a place distant about three hours’ ride. General Schuyler was so obliging as to send with me a French officer, who was a very agreeable man, and commanded those troops who composed the reconnoitering party of which I have before made mention. As soon as he had escorted me to the house where we were to remain, he went back.