In June of 1777, British General "Gentleman Johnny" Burgoyne was marching from Quebec, Canada toward Albany, New York, with an army of 7,000 British and Hessian troops.
British General William Howe was supposed to be marching north, up the Hudson River Valley, from New York City to Albany in a "divide and conquer" entrapment plan.
Instead, without telling Burgoyne, General Howe abandoned the plan and left to capture Philadelphia - the capital of the new United States.
This was in accordance with European warfare, that when an enemy's capital was captured, the war would immediately end.
British General Burgoyne first recaptured Fort Ticonderoga, and in August of 1777, sent 500 Hessian troops to capture an American supply depot in Bennington, Vermont.
To his surprise, American General John Stark surrounded and captured them.
American General Philip Schuyler's army of 1,000 men gathered along the Mohawk River and blocked Burgoyne's route to Albany.
British General Barry Saint Leger was sent to scatter them.
On August 6, 1777, Saint Leger with his Iroquois, Seneca and Mohawk allies, set an ambush for American General Nicholas Herkimer, who was marching with 800 patriots and their Oneida allies to reinforce Fort Stanwix.
British led forces fired too soon.
Though Herkimer was mortally wounded, he continued giving orders resulting in Americans holding their ground.
Considered one of the bloodiest battles of the Revolution, the Battle of Oriskany made casualties of over half of the American forces, numbering 450, and 150 casualties among the British and their allies.
Saint Leger would have won had it not been for the American's mass courage, aided by a sudden torrential rain for over an hour that soaked the priming of their muskets and allowed Herkimer to regroup.
This battle strategically kept British reinforcements from helping Burgoyne.
As General Burgoyne continued down the Hudson River Valley.
Individuals living in frontier New York settlements who were loyal to Britain joined his forces.
One such loyalist, living near Saratoga, was David Jones, who recently became engaged to his fiancée Jane McCrea.
Indians would return to camp from their nightly raids, yelling and proudly displaying the scalps of their victims.
Patrick Henry had described such behavior to Richard Henry Lee:
"A fellow called 'the Dragging Canoe' has ceceded from the Cherokee and four hundred warriors have followed his fortune lying in the woods and making war with us ...
The British have provoked the increased attacks by supplying the Indians ... with arms and promises that they could keep any plunder and land they seized along with all the scalps they could harvest."
One night, to his dismay, loyalist David Jones recognized one of the scalps of long, beautiful hair. It was that of his fiancée Jane McCrea.
Shockingly, the Indians had shot and scalped her.
The reality of this brutal behavior is in stark contrast to the idealized 18th century sentimental literary character known as the "noble savage."
An outrage erupted in the British camp when it became known that Indians had killed the fiancée of a British soldier.
This resulted in Burgoyne having to meet with the Indians and tell them to show restraint.
The Indians became offended and left Burgoyne stranded deep in the frontier forest.
The British were now at a great disadvantage, as the Indians had been their eyes and ears, giving reconnaissance of the Americans' positions.
Jane McCrea's death was later immortalized in James Fenimore Cooper's novel The Last of the Mohicans.
The shocking account of her death rallied Americans and caused ranks to increase to 15,000.
France responded by secretly sending blankets and provisions to resupply the American troops.
British attempts to send reinforcements were thwarted, as Yale President Ezra Stiles explained, May 8, 1783:
"To whom but the Ruler of the Winds shall we ascribe it, that the British reinforcement, in the summer of 1777, was delayed on the ocean three months by contrary winds, until it was too late for the conflagrating General Clinton to raise the siege of Saratoga."
At the Battle of Saratoga, October 7, 1777, General Benedict Arnold led a valiant charge on the British flank, resulting in him being considered the hero of the battle.
Shortly thereafter, OCTOBER 17, 1777, British General Johnny Burgoyne surrendered to American General Horatio Gates, and an estimated 6,000 British troops were captured.
This was the first time in history that an entire British army was captured at one time.
When news of Burgoyne's surrender reached King Louis XVI, he decided to have France openly enter the Revolutionary War of the side of the Americans.
This effectively caused the American Revolution to become a global war, stretching Britain's resources to defend colonies around the world, including the West Indies and Europe.
Holland and Spain soon aided the American cause with their support.
Spanish Governor of Louisiana, Bernardo de Galvez, drove the British out of the West Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, while letting the Americans have access to the Mississippi River.
Mobile, Alabama, has a Museum of the French Fort Conde, which the British renamed Fort Charlotte when they took possession of it after the French and Indian War in 1763.
The land the British had claimed, as past of the Louisiana Territory east of the Mississippi, they called British West Florida.
The Museum exhibit states:
"British Colonial period on the Gulf Coast ended in spectacular fashion during the American Revolution ...
... In March 1780, Don Bernardo de Galvez, the Spanish governor of Louisiana, led more than a thousand troops to Mobile and laid siege to Fort Charlotte ...
... For 14 long days, Spanish guns battered the old fort. Faced with the complete destruction of his ragtag army of 300 men, including armed slaves and volunteers from the town, Captain Elias Dumford surrendered Fort Charlotte."
The Museum exhibit explained that the Spanish changed Mobile's Fort Charlotte to Fort Carlota.
Galvez, with 32 ships and 3,000 troops from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Mexico, Canary Islands, along with black militia and Native Americans, fought many battles along the Mississippi River and the Gulf Coast, including the Port of New Orleans, Fort Bute, Baton Rouge, Natchez, and Nassau, Bahamas.
After a two month siege, he captured Pensacola and effectively drove the British out of the Gulf of Mexico. The Museum exhibit ended:
"Galvez continued eastward toward Pensacola ... Soon all of British West Florida was under Spanish control."
Galvez not only kept the British from attacking Washington's army from the west, but allowed army supplies, weapons, uniforms, and medicine to flow up the Mississippi River to the Ohio River, then across Pennsylvania to the American troops.
In 1777, the value of the supplies delivered was over $70,000.
Galvez also sent reinforcements to St. Louis, near where the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers meet, to repel the British in the Battle of Fort San Carlos, May 25, 1780.
In gratitude, General Washington invited Galvez in 1783 to be in the July 4 victory parade, and he was awarded honorary American citizenship - one of only seven other people to be thus recognized.
Galveston, Texas, was named for him.
Another Spaniard who helped with the American Revolution was Captain Jorge Farragut.
He served in the American navy in South Carolina.
His son, David Farragut became the first U.S. Navy Commodore.
The surrender of British General Burgoyne at the Battle of Saratoga is considered a major turning point in the Revolutionary War, and one of the most important battles in world history.
Artist John Trumbull's painting of the Surrender of General Burgoyne is in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.
General George Washington wrote to his brother John Augustine the day after the Saratoga victory:
"I most devoutly congratulate my country, and every well-wisher to the cause, on this signal stroke of Providence."
When Roger Sherman of Connecticut, who signed the Declaration of Independence, heard of the victory of Saratoga, he exclaimed:
"This is the Lord's doing, and marvelous in our eyes!"
On November 1, 1777, the Continental Congress proclaimed the First National Day of Thanksgiving after independence had been declared.
The Proclamation was written by Sam Adams after the victory of the Battle of Saratoga:
"That with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feeling of their hearts ...
join the penitent confession of their manifold sins ... that it may please God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of remembrance ...
and ... under the providence of Almighty God ... secure for these United States the greatest of all human blessings, independence and peace."
Upon receiving news of the Proclamation, General George Washington ordered the holiday to be observed by the Continental Army:
"Being the day set apart by the Honorable Congress for public Thanksgiving and Praise; and duty calling us devoutly to express our grateful acknowledgements to God for the manifold blessings he has granted us,
the General directs that the army remain in its present quarters, and that the Chaplains perform divine service with their several Corps and brigades.
And earnestly exhorts, all officers and soldiers, whose absence is not indispensably necessary, to attend with reverence the solemnities of the day."