General Horatio Gates defeated the British at Saratoga, New York

After a series of discouraging military defeats, on September 19, 1777, continental soldiers fighting under American General Horatio Gates defeated the British at Saratoga, New York.

Within weeks, Gates joined forces with American General Benedict Arnold to vanquish the redcoats again at the Second Battle of Saratoga. On October 17, British General John Burgoyne surrendered his troops under the Convention of Saratoga, which provided for the return of his men to Great Britain on condition that they would not serve again in North America during the war. American victory at the Battles of Saratoga turned the tide of the war in the colonists favor and helped persuade the French to recognize American independence and provide military assistance outright.

Born at Malden, Essex, England, circa 1728-29, Gates' mother served as housekeeper to the Duke of Leeds. Gates joined the army while a very young man. He first came to the North America to fight in the French and Indian War—the American theater of the worldwide conflict called the Seven Years War. Through distinguished service in Nova Scotia, New York, and Martinique, he achieved the rank of major. Encouraged by friend and former comrade-in-arms, George Washington, he returned to America a decade later and settled in western Virginia—the frontier at that time.

When the word of the revolution reached Gates in late May 1775, he rushed to Mount Vernon and offered his services to George Washington. In June, the Congress began organizing the Continental Army. In accepting command, Washington urged the appointment of Gates as adjutant of the army. On June 17, 1775, Congress commissioned Horatio as a Brigadier General and Adjutant General of the Continental Army.

Gates' previous wartime service as adjutant was invaluable to the fledgling army, as he and Charles Lee were the only men with significant experience in the British regular army. As adjutant Horatio Gates created the army's system of records and orders, and helped with the standardization of regiments from the various colonies.

While his administrative skills were valuable, Gates longed for a field command. By June 1776, he had been promoted to Major General and given command of the Canadian Department to replace John Sullivan.