[REVOLUTIONARY WAR - SARATOGA]. WILKINSON, James (1757-1825). Autograph letter signed ("James Wilkinson") to Gov. George Clinton, Camp, Bemis Heights, 9 October 1777. 4 pages, 4to.
"WE HAD ON THE 7TH AN ACTION WITH GENERAL BURGOYNE WHICH REFLECTS THE HIGHEST LUSTER ON OUR ARMS"
"AMONG THE [WOUNDED] IS THE GALLANT GENERAL ARNOLD..." A spirited account of the astounding American success at the Second Battle of Saratoga on 7 October 1777. Wilkinson writes on behalf of the "much engaged" General Gates, who "desired me to tell you that he...congratulates you on the bravery & address of your little Garrison [which had been overrun at Fort Mongomery]. To compensate for this Disaster, we had on the 7th Inst. an Action with General Burgoyne which reflects the highest luster on our Arms as we carried his Encampment & advance Works...made Prisoners the Commanding Officers of Artillery, of a Foreign Brigade [Hessians]....The slain both of Officers & Men is considerable, among the former is General Frazer. The consequent hurry has prevented a Return, but I am sensible our killed & Wounded do not exceed eighty, of the former there is barely one Subaltern Officer, among the latter is the Gallant General Arnold so badly injured as to render the Amputation of the Leg Necessary. To aggravate the Misfortune General Lincoln yesterday on the Lines received a chance shot which also Fractured a leg in such a manner as to deprive us of his important service. General Burgoyne last night evacuated his Post leaving behind him upward of three hundred sick & Wounded, among whom are six Captains, with a quantity of Flour and has retired towards Ft Edward; but as General Gates had taken the Precaution to throw about 2,000 Men in his Rear, on the East Side of the River it is probable they will obstruct his Retreat, and give us Time to come up with Him. The Militia you demand were yesterday ordered down, & the Albany County with 300 Connecticut Militia under Genl. Wolcot will this Day; if the Weather Permits, follow them."
The "gallant General Arnold," far more than Gates, played a crucial role in the American victory at this the second Battle of Saratoga. The first engagement, at Freeman's Farm, took place on 19 September. This second, climactic clash, occurred at Bemis Heights on 7 October. It was Arnold's daring assault against the Breymann Redoubt that finally broke the British line. Ironically, Arnold had quarreled with Gates after the first battle in September, and nearly quit the army in disgust. But he plunged into this second and decisive battle, ignoring Gates's petulant commands to desist and join him in the distant safety of headquarters. Arnold was shot in (what military historian Mark Boatner called) his "Quebec leg." And this second wound doomed the limb. An equally devastating blow to Arnold's pride came when he watched how Gates preened after the battle, depicting himself to Congress as the American Hannibal and requesting--and nearly getting--command over all American forces in place of Gen. Washington! No such recognition ever came Arnold's way from his political or military masters, and the poisonous resentment that had been simmering for years would soon push him to treason. Provenance: See note preceding 316.