I think it’s finally happened — I’ve completely run out of thing to say. I have some ideas for future topics, but I don’t want to write about any of them now (some because I have more topical release dates, some because even I think they’re boring). I haven’t done anything particularly interesting recently, and I — somehow — haven’t heard or seen or read anything that’s really incensed me (or possibly everything I’ve read and seen and heard has incensed me, but I’ve become to numb to the constant incense).
I briefly contemplated doing a listicle, but then I intellectually belittled myself for even knowing the “word.” Plus, ClickHole has won the listicle anyway, so it’s pointless to even try. I could post cat videos, but Lana is surprisingly unphotogenic for the world’s most adorable bear.
I could just go through pictures on my phone and post them, but nobody wants to see that many pictures of my junk — trust me, I have the cease and desist order to prove it.
So instead, I’ll ramble a bit about something that I’ve always had a special attachment to that’s coming up. I’m talking, of course, about the anniversary of October 17… 1777.
This date marks the close of the Saratoga Campaign during the Revolutionary War; specifically, when General Gates accepted the surrender of the dastardly British commander, General Whatsisface McNobodyCaresBecauseHeLost — er, I mean, John Burgoyne — and the 6,000 troops under him, while the American camp played Yankee Doodle, which, let’s be honest here, is awesome.
Why do I care about this, you ask? Because this victory is absolutely pivotal to the American cause during the war. Prior to the battles at Saratoga in the summer of ’77, the Americans had had little success prosecuting their war. Although Washington was able to defend Boston in early ’76, he turned around and lost New York later that year, and Philadelphia fell to the British in early ’77. The successes of the war, including the defense of Boston, were successful primarily due to smuggled French materiel; in fact, the French government (largely inspired by their embarrassment during the 7-Years War), continued to supply the Americans with gunpowder and other resources throughout the early part of the war and into the Saratoga campaign. Without these French resources, the rebellion would have foundered before it really had a chance to take off. Still, the French were reluctant to declare all-out war — which would prove necessary to defeat the British, since the Americans had no particular Navy to speak of and would ultimately rely on the French Navy to blockade the Chesapeake, cutting off the British retreat and trapping them at Yorktown, leading to the final surrender of the war. (Incidentally, the customary white flag appeared four years to the day after the surrender at Saratoga.)
Coming out of these embarrassing defeats in New York and Philadelphia, the French were reticent to support what might be a losing American cause, especially since they had a relatively untested Navy and the war would be expensive to support. Ultimately, the victory at Saratoga proved that the fledgling nation could stand up to the big bad Brits, and the French officially recognized the United States as an independent nation in early ’78, joining the war officially in March; the rest, as they say, is history.
Another key facet of this story is its effect on Washington, who, until Saratoga, had little to show for over a year’s work. Washington’s legacy as a military commander is something of a mixed bag — on the one hand, he commanded and trained the Continental Army, which ultimately defeated the largest British force ever deployed outside of Europe at the time, but on the other, he had very few military victories in his career — principally Boston, Yorktown and Saratoga, although at the latter he was not present to command. To his credit, after losing New York, he avoided large, pitched battles with what was a pretty meager army, but just before the victories at Saratoga in the summer and fall of ’77, he was coming off of what may have been his worst year as Commander-in-Chief — such a poor year, in fact, that Congress was threatening to remove him from command. The surrender at Saratoga on October 17, 1777 came at just the right time to reinforce his credentials, and for better or worse, Congress decided to stick with him, through French involvement all the way to the surrender at Yorktown. (Ed. note: This is actually a somewhat simplified and rosy view of how everything went down, but it helps for my narrative.)
So this Friday, think about what happened 237 years ago on a field with a cannon pointed at some British guy’s junk and whistle Yankee Doodle to yourself. I know I will.