Burgoyne and America's Destiny


Burgoyne returned to England on parole in the May of 1778, intent on seeking some alleviation of the hard fate that Congress had visited on the men who had followed him to Saratoga. He was coldly received by the King, Germain, and certain others with uneasy consciences. For Carleton’s letter to Gentleman Johnny had gone the rounds, in which the writer bluntly affirmed that “This unfortunate event [Saratoga], it is to be hoped, will in future prevent ministers from pretending to direct operations of war in a country at three thousand miles distance. …” But Burgoyne’s demand for a court-martial was refused. Since he had been guilty of nothing but an attempt to achieve the impossible, it is difficult to imagine upon what charge even the most ingenious politician could have had him arraigned. In any case, Germain possessed sufficient sense of self-preservation to let sleeping dogs lie. It was clear, however, that the defeated General’s chance of further military employment under the existent Administration was remote in the extreme.

John Burgoyne died in honorable retirement early in August of 1792. And although there had been many occasions in his life when he had confronted danger and the agony of decision with cool and debonair courage, it is probable that he never showed a braver face than in that bitter moment of surrender in the dripping woods of Saratoga.