A 2020 BGES Revolutionary War Field University Program
With Gary Ecelbarger and Scott Patchan
September 22–26, 2020, from Albany, New York
In 1777, events in North America took a decisive turn with the defeat and surrender of British forces under the command of Gen. John “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne at Saratoga. The decisive nature of the British defeat convinced the French king Louis XVI to authorize an alliance with the rebellious American colonies. Perhaps further military successes in the British colonies would aid the French in Quebec and the West Indies. It would be a marriage of convenience but was timely, and, four years later, the French fleet and French soldiers aligned with General Washington’s soldiers, bringing down the curtain on military operations in North America at Yorktown.
How could this happen and what decisions were made that led to this decisive change in American fortunes? Certainly, the British expected great things from their North American armies, and the dispatch of General Burgoyne with a mandate to link up with General Howe in upstate New York was a strategy worthy of the great British Empire. Join us as Gary Ecelbarger and Scott Patchan continue their systematic trek across the operational theater created by Gen. George Washington and this most decisive of campaigns.
Tuesday, September 22, 2020
6:00 PM. Meet at the headquarters hotel in Albany to pick up your name tag and reading books. You also will meet the other members of your cohort. Our opening night discussion will bring you Scott and Gary outlining the factors that led to Burgoyne’s campaign and General Howe’s response. You will meet the personalities and strategic considerations that focused the armies on the Hudson River barrier. Dinner is on your own after 7:30 PM.
Wednesday, September 23, 2020
After Burgoyne’s arrival in Canada, he moved with alacrity while overriding the authority of the Canadian commander Gen. Sir Guy Carlton. Burgoyne was not titled, unlike other North American British commanders, and his sudden appearance with a King’s commission to command an expedition into upstate New York no doubt raised some eyebrows and ruffled some military feathers. We will immediately move to Crown Point a few miles above Fort Ticonderoga, where Burgoyne’s forces burst into the theater. This splendid ruin had been built during the French and Indian War to house the British army, and its massive size may have provided some undeserved security to the British commander. As we discuss the challenges Burgoyne would face, we will move to and occupy Fort Ticonderoga. This impressive structure already was legendary by 1777, and we will devote time and respect that history even as we brace up for Burgoyne. Terrain compromises the fort, and we will see that as we visit Mounts Independence and Defiance. Lunch is included, but dinner is on your own.
Thursday, September 24, 2020
The Americans lacked the combat capability to resist Burgoyne’s advancement and withdrew from the vicinity of Fort Ticonderoga. We spend today examining that retreat, starting with the engagement at Hubbardton, Vermont, a very tight little battlefield that is easily interpreted. We will continue to fall back along Lake George’s eastern shore to Skennesboro, where the American fleet, such as it was, was defeated in a rather unremarkable water engagement. The action moves to Fort Anne, where the Americans successfully resist the British advance. The day finishes with a visit to Fort George and a discussion on its role in the campaign. A benefit of the trip is that it covers much of the same ground fought over in the French and Indian War, and we will point that out to you. Lunch is provided, and dinner is on your own.
Friday, September 25, 2020
Burgoyne had split his forces, and a column under the command of Barry St. Leger looped far to the west near Fort Oswego to come in along the Mohawk River to the east. The operation did not go smoothly when American forces holed up at Fort Stanwix and were besieged for nearly three weeks throughout August. The most significant battle of the operation took place just to the east at Oriskiny, where relief forces including Native Americans, under the command of Nicholas Herkimer, battled Tories and friendly Native Americans. St. Leger held off the effort but was dramatically weakened when his Indian allies began to desert. If all goes well, we will take you to a bonus site that is never visited but is a forgotten but bloody event of the war. Lunch is on your own and dinner is included.
Saturday September 26, 2020
Our last day neatly wraps the campaign starting with the Patriots’ route of a German column under the command of Col. Frederich von Baum’s Hessians at Bennington. General Stark, the victorious commander, is often overlooked but was a significant asset for the Patriots’ cause. We then move to the national historical park at Saratoga, where the remainder of our day will evaluate the two significant operations along the banks of the Hudson River. The initial fighting took place at Freemen’s Farm, while the final and decisive military operations were near Bemis Heights four weeks later on October 7, 1777. On this day, you will meet legends such as Daniel Morgan and Benedict Arnold–the latter’s performance here established him as an officer of exceptional promise. Of course, history tells us that Arnold’s reputation and fortunes turned shortly thereafter–but at Saratoga he was an Ajax! Lunch and a farewell dinner are included.
About the Faculty
Gary Ecelbarger has developed a reputation for enthusiastic presentations and excellent history. Although he refers to himself as an “amateur historian,” Gary’s books are well researched, well written, and extremely well received. Constantly pushing the envelope by asking new questions and finding new answers, he has tackled a wide variety of America’s wars and is highly sought in the touring community. Gary’s fascination with the Revolutionary War matches his Civil War focus–a voracious student of history. We could not bring you a better scholar or educator.
Scott Patchan is at the top of a very short list of historians of any type who understand and can present northern Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley. He has begun to develop the same reputation in the Revolutionary War. He and Gary have worked together for a number of years now, and they present a very cogent story that is firmly based on extensive research and a “boots-on-the-ground” prep style. Neither Scott nor Gary are so-called “academic” historians, but you ignore them at risk of missing a very well-done program.
This program will be based in Albany, New York. The hotel will be posted on this site. The headquarters hotel room block will likely be in the $150 a night range plus tax–upstate New York is flat-out expensive. I will seek a hotel with shuttle services to and from the airport. We will notify you of the hotel selected and the date open for reservations. It may well be that we will suggest you go to Trivago.com or some other website to get the best online rates.
Albany is the capital of New York. The servicing airport is Albany (ALB). Southwest Airlines serves Albany and offers competitive rates. The area is easily accessed by I-87, I-88, and I-90. Albany is also served by Amtrak.
You will be provided with a reading book and maps upon arrival. The following books are suggested to enhance your readiness for the program. Amazon.com has a program to support non-profits IF YOU SIGN UP to support Blue and Gray Education Society (EIN 54-1720582) at AmazonSmile. When you sign up there rather than the normal Amazon site, one-half of one percent of your purchase price will be provided to BGES as a donation from Amazon.
- Richard Ketchum: Saratoga: Turning Point of America’s Revolutionary War
- Michael Logusz: With Musket and Tomahawk: The Saratoga Campaign and the Wilderness War of 1777
- John Luzader: Saratoga: A Military History of the Decisive Campaign of the American Revolution
- Ben Z. Rose: John Starke: Maverick General
- Dean Snow: 1777: Tipping Point at Saratoga
- U.S. Command and General Staff College Staff: Leadership Principles: How Their Use by Lt. Gen. John Burgoyne and Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates Influenced the Engagement at Saratoga, 1777
Register for this program using a secure PayPal link
Registration includes four lunches, a dinner, a reading book with maps, the academic program, all admissions, support of two professional historians, tour director, and transportation appropriate to the registration, which will be limited to two vans: 18 people. We will also provide snacks and bottled water.
To register by mail or fax, download this printable registration form: Gentleman Johnny Burgoyne Invades New York
Questions? Need more information? Please contact us.