"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, published in 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.
HiRes Image (56K)
On the map above, Stark's Knob would be in the middle of the blank area in the
upper right corner.
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
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.
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."
For more information...
If you have questions, or wish to obtain more detailed information about this subject,
New York State Museum
Room 3107 Cultural Education Center
Albany, New York 12230