STARK'S KNOB SCIENTIFIC RESERVATION

"This was the springing of the trap about which General Riedesel had talked, the corking of the bottle which sealed the fate of the British army..."
- From John Henry Brandow's The Story of Old Saratoga and History of Schuylerville (1919)

To understand the potential significance of this site in American history is to understand the events which unfolded in the Hudson Valley in the late summer months of 1777. The British army, under General Burgoyne, was thrusting southward along the upper Hudson in a calculated attempt to strike through to Albany before winter. Linking up with a cooperative effort driving eastward down the Mohawk Valley, and another coming up the Hudson out of New York City, this campaign would divide the Colonies and hopefully end the rebellion.

However, the Mohawk Valley invasion was stopped at Fort Stanwix, eventually to be turned back in defeat, and the movement northward from Manhattan was first diverted southward, and then delayed to the point of being useless. So the entire success of the 1777 campaign rested on Burgoyne, who in the late summer found his progress south along the west side of the Hudson blocked by an American force positioned on a line of hills just north of Stillwater.

Here the two armies lay entrenched from September 19th until October 7th. Two major attempts by Burgoyne to break through the blockade, known today as the "Battles of Saratoga", failed. On October 8th he was forced to turn his army northward and begin a retreat to Canada.


1777 Plan of the Position which the Army under L' Gen' Burgoyne took at Saratoga
(The location of Starks Knob is indicated with a star.)


By October 10th the British army was entrenched on the heights of what is today the Village of Schuylerville (see above). As they fortified their positions, the American Army gradualy encircled them and placed them under seige. Escape north along the military road (now Route 32) remained possible until October 12th, but on the 13th a contingent under John Stark crossed the Hudson from the east side and blocked the road by establishing a position on the low rise of ground in the gap through which it ran, situated between Stark's Knob on the west and an area of marshy ground along the Hudson on the east.

This led to the surrender of the British Army a few days later.

Surrender of the British Army

Over the years after the war this action came to be described less as General Stark setting up artillery at the Knob and more as setting up artillery on the Knob. But there is no evidence this ever happened. There is, however, a statement made by one of the British Commanders in his journal that suggests the top of Stark's Knob was used during the battle:

    ...The rebels had now entirely enclosed us, and had placed a post of observation on a height on our right flank...
It cannot be yet confirmed if it was Stark's Knob, or another hill to the south that is being referred to here. But without doubt, General Stark had scouts scramble to the top of the Knob to watch the areas of approach from the west and south.

Stark's Knob provided the bottleneck through which lay the only avenue of British escape on that day in October, 1777. And the occupation of this gap was, as indicated above, the "...corking of the bottle."


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