On September 19, 1777, Continental soldiers battled with British troops at Saratoga, New York. A month later, another conflict at Saratoga ended with the surrender of John Burgoyne’s British army. Coming after a long string of defeats for the Americans, the battles at Saratoga were a turning point in the Revolutionary War—giving patriots a shot of optimism and encouraging the French to enter the war on the American side.
The American commander at Saratoga was General Horatio Gates—a resident of what is now West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle. In 1773, he’d purchased a farm in present Jefferson County and began building his home, known as Traveller’s Rest.
After Saratoga, Gates became a national hero. There was even talk of replacing George Washington with Gates as the overall American commander.
But, by the end of the war, Gates was no longer a hero. In 1780, he suffered a disastrous defeat at the hands of the British at Camden, South Carolina. During the Americans’ haphazard retreat, Gates essentially abandoned his troops, riding ahead of them to Charlotte, North Carolina. He never led a field command again.