Publish date:
Updated on

British General John Burgoyne dies

On this day in 1782, the British playwright and general, John Burgoyne, dies in England. His humiliating surrender to Patriot forces at Saratoga on October 17, 1777, left a black mark on his military career, but his successful play The Heiress, released in 1786, secured his literary reputation.

Burgoyne was born in London and educated at the prestigious Westminster School before entering the army as a teenager. After eloping with Charlotte Stanley, the daughter of Edward Stanley, the 11th Earl of Derby, Burgoyne had to sell his commission to cover his debts before fleeing to France in shame. The Seven Years’ War proved a boon to Burgoyne, whose father-in-law helped him return to the army. At the close of the war, Burgoyne served in Parliament and began his writing career. In 1775, his first dramatic play, The Maid ofthe Oaks, went into production. In 1777, Major General Burgoyne took command Britain’s efforts to invade their rebelling former colonies from Canada.

The expedition began with Burgoyne leading 3,300 Redcoats, 3,900 Hessian mercenaries and 650 Canadians, Loyalists and Indians to victory at Ticonderoga, New York, on July 5, 1777, which earned him a promotion to lieutenant general. However, as he extended his supply lines ever further south, he found himself trapped at Saratoga after General William Howe decided to take Philadelphia instead of meeting Burgoyne at Albany as planned. Following Patriot victories on September 19 at Freeman’s Farm and October 7 at Bemis Heights, Burgoyne’s troops were surrounded by Patriots under General Horatio Gates and forced to surrender on October 17. Burgoyne successfully negotiated that his surviving men would be returned to Britain with a pledge that they would never again serve in North America. The nearly 6,000-man army was kept in captivity at great expense to the Continental Congress until the end of the war.

The striking Patriot victory over Burgoyne is commonly thought to be the turning point in the War of Independence in the Patriots’ favor.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!


Washington becomes Master Mason

George Washington, a young Virginia planter, becomes a Master Mason, the highest basic rank in the secret fraternity of Freemasonry. The ceremony was held at the Masonic Lodge No. 4 in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Washington was 21 years old and would soon command his first military more

Slain civil rights workers found

The remains of three civil rights workers whose disappearance on June 21 garnered national attention are found buried in an earthen dam near Philadelphia, Mississippi. Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, both white New Yorkers, had traveled to heavily segregated Mississippi in more

Borden parents found dead

On this day in 1892, Andrew and Abby Borden are found hacked to death in their Fall River, Massachusetts, home. Andrew was discovered in a pool of blood on the living room couch, his face nearly split in two. Abby was upstairs, her head smashed to pieces; it was later determined more

Anne Frank captured

Acting on tip from a Dutch informer, the Nazi Gestapo captures 15-year-old Jewish diarist Anne Frank and her family in a sealed-off area of an Amsterdam warehouse. The Franks had taken shelter there in 1942 out of fear of deportation to a Nazi concentration camp. They occupied more

Secret negotiations are initiated in Paris

The first secret negotiating session takes place between Henry Kissinger and North Vietnamese representative Xuan Thuy, at the apartment of French intermediary Jean Sainteny in Paris. Kissinger reiterated an earlier proposal put forth on May 14 for a mutual withdrawal of North more

Lizzie Borden took an axe…

Andrew and Abby Borden, elderly residents of Fall River, Massachusetts, are found bludgeoned to death in their home. Lying in a pool of blood on the living room couch, Andrew’s face had been nearly split in two. Abby, Lizzie’s stepmother, was found upstairs with her head smashed more

Union generals squabble outside of Atlanta

A Union operation against Confederate defenses around Atlanta, Georgia, stalls when infighting erupts between Yankee generals. The problem arose when Union General William T. Sherman began stretching his force—consisting of the Army of the Ohio, the Army of the Tennessee, and the more

“Talladega Nights” released

“Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” an irreverent comedy based in the outlandish (fictionalized) world of American stock car racing, premieres in movie theaters around the United States on this day in 2006. The comedian Will Ferrell (who also co-wrote the screenplay more