In the summer of 1777, General Burgoyne led an army of 8,000 men south through New York State in an effort to join forces with British General Sir William Howe’s troops along the Hudson River. After capturing several forts, Burgoyne’s force camped near Saratoga while a larger Patriot army under General Gates gathered just four miles away. On September 19, a British advance column marched out and engaged the Patriot force at the Battle of Freeman’s Farm, or the First Battle of Saratoga. Failing to break through the American lines, Burgoyne’s force retreated. On October 7, another British reconnaissance force was repulsed by an American force under General Benedict Arnold in the Battle of Bemis Heights, also known as the Second Battle of Saratoga.
Gates retreated north to the village of Saratoga with his 5,000 surviving troops. By October 13, some 20,000 Americans had surrounded the British, and four days later Burgoyne was forced to agree to the first large-scale surrender of British forces in the Revolutionary War. When word of the Patriot victory reached France, King Louis XVI agreed to recognize the independence of the United States. Soon after, French Foreign Minister Comte de Vergennes made arrangements with U.S. Ambassador Benjamin Franklin to begin providing French aid to the Patriot cause.