Arnold Or Gates: Who Was The Hero of Saratoga?

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Saratoga October 1777  - L to R Sir John Burgoyne, Benedict Arnold and Horatio GatesOn Saturday, April 11, 2015, from 2 to 3 pm, the NYS Military Museum at 61 Lake Ave in Saratoga Springs will host a debate on an old question: Horatio Gates or Benedict Arnold…who is the real hero of the Battles of Saratoga?

National Park Rangers Joe Craig and Eric Schnitzer will present this structured discussion on the strengths and weaknesses of American Generals Horatio Gates and Benedict Arnold and how each helped, or hindered, the American victory in the world-changing Battles of Saratoga, called the “most important battle of the last 1,000 years.”

This program is sponsored by Saratoga National Historical Park, Friends of Saratoga Battlefield and the NYS Military Museum.

For more information about this or other events call Saratoga National Historical Park’s Visitor Center at (518) 670-2985 or check their website at

Illustration: Saratoga October 1777, (l to r) Sir John Burgoyne, Benedict Arnold and Horatio Gates – unknown source.

4 thoughts on “Arnold Or Gates: Who Was The Hero of Saratoga?

  1. James S. Kaplan

    How is there any question? Gates was the commanding officer who designed the strategy. The idea that Arnold was the real hero is an invention of later Washington biographers.

  2. Dane K Martin

    Gates was a political appointee who was a coward and didn’t know the first thing about strategy(his nickname was ‘Granny”) Philip Schuyler devised and implemented the strategy before Gates was even on the field,and Benedict Arnold,a true warrior(but a badly flawed man)was the man who actually led the troops on the field of battle both times-in tne second battle,he was under house arrest by Gates because of rank jealousy,and the Americans were losing,when Arnold broke out,leaped on his charger,rode into the thick of the fight at the Redoubt,rallied the failing troops and charged over the redoubt,being badly wounded(he left his leg at Saratoga,which has a monument to it)the Americans then routed the Brits and Hessians back to what is now Schuylerville where they ultimately surrendered-now tell me who was the hero of the history-making Battle of Saratoga?

  3. Bill Werner

    Why does it have to be either or? They both contributed to the victory. Gates did a very good job at Saratoga. He devised a perfect strategy to win the battle. (Schuyler had nothing to do with it). When he took over the Northern army it was a mess. He was actually very popular with the New England militia, and was held in high regard, and his appointment as commander attracted a lot of militia to join this battle. (The nickname Granny was due to his appearance, not out of disrespect). He wound up with a huge army of over 18,000 men. That battle was won before it was fought. (The Americans were never losing this battle at any point). Benedict Arnold fought heroically in the field to help bring about the victory, and also deserves a lot of credit. He did not lose his leg in the battle.
    About Gates though, he was not a coward. Most generals in that era as in all eras, did not fight at the head of their army. They stayed behind the action and directed troop movements.
    Gates gets a bad rap in history for two reasons. The debacle at the battle of Camden, and because George Washington didn’t like him. Still, for his performance at Saratoga and for the tremendous significance that this battle held, he deserves a better place in American history.

  4. Michael DeBonis

    I am of the opinion that Gen. Horatio Gates was a thoroughly lousy field commander, but he was a first-rate quartermaster. When Gen. Washington lost battles, it could factually be blamed on his soldiers lack of training, field experience and resources. Washington gave the British forces terrific resistance at the Battles of Brandywine and NY. But his absolute shrewdness on the field of battle and his overpowering strength of character always kept his army safe from capture and surrender.
    Gen. Gates on the other hand (at Saratoga), greatly benefitted from the actions, bravery and cleverness of Generals Daniel Morgan and Arnold. They both greatly bolstered his strategy at Saratoga and it is unlikely that Gates would have won at Saratoga if it were not for the presence of Arnold and Morgan. Washington always lived to fight another day…but he would never abandon his army in the field as Gates did at Camden, South Carolina….which was, by the way, an absolute catastrophe for the Continentals. So one can say that Gates (always an arrogant glory-monger) was a coward. George Washington would never leave his army to surrender alone, for his errors in judgement.
    By 1778, at the Battle of Monmouth, a technical stalemate…but more of a patriot victory….Washington proved himself worthy of his command, as he had already done at Princeton and Trenton. Washington always led from the front. Had Hugh Mercer lived long enough, Washington easily could have leaned on him to earn and achieve victory in the South. But this question is really silly because Gen. Nathaniel Greene (like Morgan) was totally competent in the field (save for his fiasco at Fort Washington). Whatever virtues Benedict Arnold had as an outstanding army officer are to be obliterated by his treachery. What a waste! But Horatio Gates’ lame duck attitude after his infamous defeat at Camden is very revealing…he actually did not care. A general who does not place his troops’ welfare above his own is not worthy of his rank and his salt. Washington suffered with his troops at Valley Forge and he fought against the redcoats for free, all the while…and he never complained in doing so.
    And the one time that Washington did not (initially) lead his troops from the front (at Monmouth) he rallied his men from near disaster and had to make up for Gen. Charles Lee’s “shortfall.” On the hottest day in 1778, Washington fought toe to toe against the British forces with the Continental Army and he firmly demonstrated that his army was truly world class (thanks to modern and novel drilling instruction from Steuben). Washington never thought of himself as a god…but as more of a dogged soldier who predicated his success by open-mindedness, patience and an iron-will. He made many mistakes against Gen. Howe and he was not perfect…but his Fabian strategy of working against the British in the field is the one that won the war, along with his desire for French and Spanish help. He out-spied the British at every twist and turn (including General William Howe)…and because of this, the eventual American victory over the British was inevitable. Washington (by War’s end was the equal of Howe and Clinton)…but it was his overwhelming ability to work with the men in his command (cohesively) as a leader that made him an outstanding General.

    M. DeBonis.


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