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Taking the Boardroom to the Metaverse Battlefield

The Battle of Saratoga Corporate Staff Ride

What is a Corporate Staff Ride and What Does it Give You?

Utilizing an experiential-learning approach and the setting of an actual battlefield, the Applied Battlefield Concepts™ Corporate Staff Ride is a short duration, top-level management development and leadership training tool that delivers a uniquely powerful and rewarding team-building experience. It is a proven, cost-effective, adaptable, repeatable and flexible solution for meeting internal training metrics and broader goals for improvements in decision making across the entire enterprise.

• Professional Analysis of Organization-Specific Senior Management Development Issues

• Proven, Repeatable, and Proprietary Leadership Development and Team-Building Tool

• Experiential leadership training programs have an immediate, personal impact

• Our program is designed by a succesful Wall Street Analyst who is also a published and award-winning military historian

• A “Real World” Metaphor of Crisis Decision-Making Where Terrain Becomes the Environmental Landscape of the Enterprise

• Directly Relevant Program Design Perspective

• Experiential Learning and Interactive Case Study Method

Why Go to Saratoga?

The Battle of Saratoga offers a rich environment for an experiential training experience where battle functions as a metaphor for competitive conflict. The complex interplay of political and economic factors, foreign power interests, personality conflicts, and a rapidly changing organization all come together in a dramatic setting worthy of the pen of one of the antagonists, dramatist and General John "Gentleman Johnny" Burgoyne.

Just minutes from the Albany International Airport, the Saratoga National Historical Park provides a wonderful venue to conduct an intense team-building exercise at the site of one of the pivotal battles in world history. The Saratoga Corporate Staff Ride is a full day visit to the most decisive strategic ground of the American Revolution. The victory there ended with the surrender of an entire British army of nearly 6,000 men to the Continental Army, as well as the direct intervention of France into the struggle.

The Battle of Saratoga Corporate Staff Ride frames the battle in the context of domestic political events, as well as the conflicting global interests of England, France and the other major powers. The late summer and early fall of 1777 is one of those rare moments when grand strategy and theater-wide operations are the stage for a rich weave of successful tactics, innovative engineering, legendary leadership examples, effective decision-making, and those pesky intruders ... personality, ambition, envy & chance.

The day-long exercise examines the campaign through the decisions of the commanders and the words and actions of ordinary soldiers and officers, alike, while standing on the same ground which remains remarkably unchanged. General Horatio Gates and his team, a fractious but talented group, performed brilliantly on the world-historical stage. The British and German officers were professionals, highly trained and brave as well, veterans of the colonial wars, but lost. How well would you do?

Eighteenth Century Warfare

Continental Regular with Brown Bess Musket, Don Troiano, Fort Stanwix

American colonial veterans of the warfare before the revolution knew that independence would be achieved only if large numbers of ordinary Americans – “rank and file” soldiers - could be quickly assembled and trained in the military drill and skills of the time. Those tactics had, in many fundamental ways, changed little since the time of Marlborough at Blenheim in 1704 or the campaigns of Frederick the Great just 20 years before Saratoga - well-managed, close-order battlefield maneuver of regiments and brigades, all focused on delivering concentrated fire by volleys of musketry followed by the bayonet.

Continental Army Regiment, Reorganization of 1776

Linear Tactics

These "linear" tactics were consistent with the weaponry of the time, stressed the offensive, the skilled use of terrain, and as always, the paramount importance of personal leadership, especially the gift for "reading" a battle. Assault troops advanced in line, two ranks deep, with cadenced steps according to a set pace, stopping to fire volleys on command, and finally rushing the last few yards to pierce the enemy line with the bayonet. Infantry, often called “Queen of the Battlefield”, was the main combat force. Each enlisted man - the 'rank and file' - was equipped with a modern, well-machined, craftsman-built, single-shot, muzzle-loading smoothbore musket with an effective range of about one hundred yards. Cavalry was useful for reconaissance, foraging, raiding, but was rarely decisive. Artillery was becoming more important, consistent with technical advances in range, specialized ordinance, and improved accuracy. The mainstay was the British 6-pounder with a range of 800 yards firing solid shot and 500 yards firing anti-personnel grape shot.

Special Units

The Advanced Guard is the party of either horse or foot, which marches four to five hundred yards before the body, to give notice of any danger."
-- from Thomas Simes' Military Dictionary, London, 1768

The Role of Light Infantry
In the wars of the eighteenth century a thin force of infantrymen preceded the main battle line. Their purpose was to screen the advance or retreat of their own main body, to dissipate the impact of the volley from the enemy's line, and otherwise soften that line for the climactic assault with bayonet. Such an assault commonly began at a distance of fifty yards or less from the foe. As a result, one of two things took place: either a savage hand-to-hand encounter, or a collapse and retreat by one of the lines, usually followed by a pursuit. In any case, the infantrymen who moved out ahead of the line were trained to aim at individuals, to protect themselves by using cover, and to operate with an interval of several yards between them. They came to be called "light infantry."

During the 18th century the original function of the grenadier, hurling grenades against the enemy, was lost and since then the name has been applied to elite troops. The British Army used Grenadiers, as well as Light Infantry, as flank companies; often the biggest and strongest of the men, the Grenadiers were frequently detailed for particularly hazardous combat assignments.

Morgan's Continental Rifle Corps
Daniel Morgan's riflemen were expert marksmen and proficient in irregular warfare tactics. They were regarded by Washington as "chosen men, selected from the army at large, well acquainted with the use of rifles, and with that mode of fighting which is necessary to make them a good counterpoise to the Indian." The Corps played a key role in the Battle of Saratoga where riflemen were deployed in the front to concentrate accurate fire on selected targets, especially officers and artillerymen. Early claims that Timothy Murphy mortally wounded British Brigadier Simon Fraser on October 7, thus ending the British momentum at a crucial moment in their advance, have been mostly debunked.

Daniel Morgan's Independent Rifle Company 1775, Don Troiani
"The Other Mystery Shot of the American Revolution: Did Timothy Murphy Kill British Brigadier General Simon Fraser at Saratoga?" (223 KB)

... The latest on who fired the fatal shot, Journal Military History, 2010

Artillery at Saratoga

Continental artillery 6-pounder crew in action (Troiano)

Although the European forces of the era relied extensively upon artillery support in European conflicts, the use of artillery was greatly hampered during the American Revolution. This was due to the scarcity of both guns and horses in the Americas. Also, the hilly and forested terrain of the continent hampered the effectiveness of artillery fire. However, both the British and American armies found ways to use indirect fire during the the Revolution. Artillery pieces used were cannon, howitzer, and mortar.

6-Pounder with Caisson near Freeman's Farm

The Headquarters Staff
Washington’s staff generally corresponded to contemporary European armies. One of the critical staff officers was the Quartermaster General, responsible not only for transportation and delivery of supplies but also for arranging the camp, regulating marches, and insuring the army’s watercraft. There were also an Adjutant General (responsible for issuing orders for the commander and administrative paperwork), a Judge Advocate General, a Paymaster General, a Commissary General of Musters, several Commissary Generals of Provisions (procurement and issue of rations), a Clothier General, a Chief Surgeon, and a Chief Engineer.

Each Continental Army Department, eg. General Gates’s Northern Department, had staff officers in these positions, designated as deputies to the officers at Continental Army headquarters. Soon after Saratoga, the Continental Army introduced a new innovation—the Inspector General. This officer provided a focal point for developing standard battle drills and written tactical texts and evolved into the de facto chief of staff. The modern concept of a general staff that acts as a sort of collective “brain” for the commander, as well as responsible for personnel, intelligence, operations, logistics, and communications, had no real equivalent in the eighteenth century.

For advice on strategy and operations, commanders like Washington and Burgoyne relied on a council of war made up of principal subordinate commanders. Conforming to his original instructions from Congress, he usually consulted the council before making major decisions. Gates did not make use of this prerogative. Generally, the system was similar for brigades and higher units when they were formed, with considerable discretion exercised by the commander.

Regimental Staff
The typical regular continental infantry regiment staff consisted of the Colonel (mostly a titular leader), Lt. Colonel (the battlefield commander), a Major & 3 Aides, Adjutant, Quartermaster & Asst. Paymaster, Surgeon & Asst., Chaplain, and two Fife & Drum majors, 15 officers and men.

Command and Control
Movements were communicated and coordinated in ways that had not changed for centuries. Drums, flags, couriers, screams. The close-order formation and the officers' control over the company, the regiment, the brigade were essential in order to concentrate the firepower of the relatively inaccurate weapons. Bayonet charges might then succeed in breaking the enemy line because infantry could rush the last eighty yards before the defending infantrymen could reload their muskets after firing a volley.

The Opposing Forces at Saratoga

Northern Continental Army, Major General Horatio Gates, (11,700 men)

Right Wing: Major General Benjamin Lincoln (8,500)
Glover Continental Brigade, 4 MA Regular, 3 NY Militia regiments
Nixon Continental Brigade, 4 MA Regular regiments
Patterson Continental Brigade, 4 MA Regular regiments

Center: Brigadier General Ebenezer Learned (1,400)
Learned's Continental Brigade, 3 MA Regular, 1 NY Militia Regt.
Cavalry - Maj. Hyde, 2nd Regt. CT Light Horse Cavalry (250)
Artillery - Maj. Stevens - Battalion of Cont'l Artillery (400) - 22 cannon of various types

Left Wing: Major General Benedict Arnold (relieved, Sept. 17, 1777) (1,800)
Brigadier General Enoch Poor (1,000)
Poor's Continental Brigade, 3 NH Regular, 2 NY and 2 CT Militia Regts.
Colonel Daniel Morgan (800)
Morgan’s 11th Virginia Independent Rifle Corps
Dearborn’s New Hampshire Light Infantry Battalion, Major Henry Dearborn

Burgoyne’s Expeditionary Army, Lieut General John Burgoyne (7,000 men)

Right Wing: Maj General William Phillips, (3,725)
Advanced Corps: Brig General Simon Fraser, MW, 7 October 1777, 24th Foot, Fraser's Rangers, Canadians, Indians
1st Brigade, Brig General James Hamilton, 3 Regts of British Foot
2nd Brigade, Brig General Powell, 3 Regts of British Foot

Left Wing: Maj General Baron Friederich von Riedesel (3,000)
Advance Corps, LTC Heinrich von Breymann (KIA, 7 October 1777), Grenadiers, Light Infantry Battalions, Dragoon Regiment
1st Brunswick Brigade: Lieutenant Colonel Ludwig Wilhelm von Speth, 3 Regts.
2nd Brigade: Lieutenant Colonel von Gall, 2 Regts.

Artillery (500)
42 Guns - 6-pounders, 12-pounders, howitzers

Reserve: Dragoon Regiment (250, dismounted)

Loyalists, Canadians, Indians (500)

Principal Commanders

The British

Lt. General John Burgoyne

Note on the Reynolds portrait: "Best remembered as the British commander who in 1777 surrendered to American forces at Saratoga, John Burgoyne (1722–92) was also known in his day as a dandy, gambler, actor, amateur playwright, and Member of Parliament. This portrait may have been commissioned by his senior officer, Count La Lippe, as a memento of their Portuguese campaign of 1762. It is presumably the portrait that resulted from a sitting by General Burgoyne noted in Reynolds’ ledger for May of 1766; Burgoyne’s uniform is that of the 16th Light Dragoons as it was worn until that month. The composition, with the dashing figure silhouetted before a low horizon and cloudy sky, was to become a classic type in Romantic portraiture" (The Frick Collection, Abrams, 1996)

Army officer, politician, poet, and playwright, he was baptised at St Margaret's Church, Westminster, on 5 February 1723, as the son of Capt. John Burgoyne and Anna Maria (Burneston). It was rumored, however, that his real father was Lord Robert Bingley. He was educated at Westminster School and joined the army in 1737. He was a witness to the battle of Bunker Hill. His coffin-plate described him as "the Right Honourable John Burgoyne, Lieut. General of His Majesty's Forces, Colonel of the Fourth Regiment of Foot, and one of His Majesty's most honourable Privy Council of the Kingdom of Ireland". (Source: Westminster Abbey)

Primary Sources

Brig. General Simon Fraser, MW, October 7, 1777

LTC 24th Regiment of Foot, with rank of "Brigadier General, in America only" in 1776. Commander, Advance Corps in the Burgoyne Campaign, including the grenadier battalion, light infantry battalion, 24th Regiment, company of British marksmen (commanded by his nephew, Captain Alexander Fraser), Indians, Tpories, Canadian militia and artillery. He was mortally wounded at Saratoga, October 7, 1777, reputedly by Pvt. Timothy Murphy, Morgan's Rifles. Baroness Frederika von Riedesel witnessing his death, later wrote, "I heard him often exclaim, between moans, 'Oh, fatal ambition! Poor General Burgoyne! My poor wife.'" He was buried in the Great Redoubt, overlooking the Hudson."

Maj. General Friedrich von Riesedel

Educated in law at Marburg, at 18 became an ensign in a Hessian battalion in English service. Aide to Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick in the Seven Years' War and rapidly promoted. Captain of the Hessian Hussars (1760), Col. of the Black Hussars (1762), adjutant-general of the Prussian Army (1767), and Colonel of carbineers (1772). Advanced to the rank of major-general and given command of the Brunswickers on the left of Burgoyne's Expedition. Steady, cool-headed, professional.

Baroness Friederike Charlotte Luise von Riedesel

The Baroness with her 3 daughters accompanied her husband to Canada in 1777, and was with him during the entire Burgoyne campaign and afterwards. She tenderly nursed Gen. Simon Fraser on his death-bed and while the British army were besieged by Gen. Horatio Gates ministered to the wounded and dying after sharing her own scanty rations with the half-starved soldiers and their wives. Her letters to her husband and to her mother are dramatic eyewitness testimony. Madame Riedesel's letters were published in Berlin in 1800 and in English in New York in 1867 (text available below).

Burgoyne's Surrender

Burgoyne surrendered his army just a few miles north of the battlefield on 17 October 1777. Of the 10,000 British and German soldiers who had marched from Canada only 3,500 were fit for duty at the surrender. The list of famed regiments who surrendered their colors was long and reached back to the beginning of the British Army. The same was true for the German regiments who laid down their colors.

For most, the ordeal had just begun.

The Americans

Maj. General Horatio Gates

Note on Gilbert Stuart portrait: "This portrait, representing Revolutionary War hero General Horatio Gates (1728–1806), was painted long after he led his troops to victory at the Battle of Saratoga in 1777. Although his military career was turbulent, the English-born Gates is represented in the uniform of a brigadier general, decorated with the medal that Congress ordered struck to commemorate his triumph at Saratoga. In his hand is a copy of the Saratoga Convention. The painting descended in the family of Gates' good friend, Colonel Ebenezer Stevens. The work is a blend of Stuart's more painterly English style and the Copleyesque forthrightness that defined American high style." (MMA Website, 1/8/13)

Brigadier-General and Adjutant-General Continental Army, 17th June, 1775; Major-General Continental Army, 16th May, 1776. By the act of 4th November, 1777, it was "Resolved, that the thanks of Congress, in their own name, and in behalf of the thirteen United States, be presented to Major-General Gates, Commander-in- Chief of the Northern Department, and to Major-Generals Lincoln and Arnold, and the rest of the officers and troops under his command, for their brave and successful efforts in support of the independence of their country, whereby an army of the enemy of 10,000 men has been totally defeated, one large detachment of it, strongly posted and entrenched, having been conquered at Bennington, another repulsed with loss and disgrace from Fort Schuyler, and the main army under General Burgoyne, after being beaten in different actions and driven from a formidable post and strong entrenchments, reduced to the necessity of surrendering themselves, upon terms honorable and advantageous to these States on the 17th Day of October last to Major-General Gates; and that a medal of gold be struck under the direction of the Board of War, in commemoration of this great event, and in the name of these United States, presented by the President to Major-General Gates." (Heitman)

Primary Sources

Maj. General Benedict Arnold

Captain in the Lexington Alarm, April, 1775; at Ticonderoga and at Crown Point, 10th May, 1775; appointed by General Washington Colonel of the Continental Army, 1st September, 1775; wounded at Quebec, 31 December, 1775; Colonel 20th Continental Infantry, 1st January, 1776, to rank from 1st September, 1775; Brigadier-General Continental Army, 10th January, 1776, and Major-General 17th February, 1777. By the resolve of Congress of 20th May, 1777, it was "Resolved, that the Quartermaster-General be directed to procure a horse and present the same, properly caparisoned, to Major-General Arnold, in the name of this Congress, as a token of their approbation of his gallant conduct in the action against the enemy in their late enterprise to Danbury, in which General Arnold had one horse killed under him and another wounded". (Heitman)

Colonel Thaddeus Kosciuszko

"Thaddeus Kosciuszko", Peale, Oil on canvas, Independence Hall, Philadelphia

Born Poland. Colonel-Engineer, 18th October, 1776; "brevet Brigadier-General, 13th October, 1783, to signify that Congress entertain a high sense of his long, faithful and meritorius services." Died 16th October, 1817. (Heitman)

Colonel Daniel Morgan

Note on the Charles Wilson Peale Portrait: Peale probably painted his museum portrait of Morgan when the hero of Cowpens passed through Philadelphia in 1794 on his way to the western frontier at the time of the Whiskey Rebellion. This painting was thought to be a copy until recent conservation removed earlier overpaint, uncovering the distinctive scar on Morgan's upper lip. Another Peale portrait of the subject (in uniform, but posed differently, and possibly by the artist's son Rembrandt) is now owned by the Virginia Historical Society.

Captain Company of Virginia Riflemen, July, 1775; taken prisoner at Quebec, 31st December, 1775; Colonel llth Virginia, 12th November, 1776; regiment designated 7th Virginia, 14th September, 1778; Brigadier General Continental Army, 13th October, 1780. By the act of 9th March, 1781, "The United States in Congress assembled, considering it as a tribute due to distinguished merit to give a public approbation of the conduct of Brigadier-General Morgan, and of the officers and men under his command on the 17th day of January last, when ... he obtained a complete and important victory over troops commanded by Lt. Colonel Tarleton, do therefore resolve, that the thanks of the United States in Congress assembled be given to Brigadier-General Morgan, and the officers and men under his command, for their fortitude and good conduct displayed in the action at the Cowpens ... that a medal of gold be presented to Brigadier-General Morgan, with emblems and mottoes descriptive of his conduct on that memorable day." Served to close of war. (Died 6th July, 1802.) (Heitman)

Lt. Colonel James Wilkinson

Note on the Peale Portrait: In late 1796 or early 1797, Charles Willson Peale painted Wilkinson's portrait for the Philadelphia Museum. The subject had come to Philadelphia in order to testify before Congress about his unofficial trade relations with Native Americans in the Ohio Territory. While Wilkinson was there, he succeeded his territorial commander, Anthony Wayne, who had suddenly died en route to his post. Wilkinson's new assignment, initially a popular one, probably influenced Peale's consideration of him as an appropriate subject for the museum

Served as a volunteer in Thompsons Pennsylvania Rifle Battalion, 9th September, 1775, to March, 1776; Captain 2d Continental Infantry, March, 1776, to rank from 9th September, 1775; served on staff of General Greene, November, 1775, to April, 1776; Aide-de-Camp to General Arnold, 2d June to 17th July, 1776; Brigade-Major, 20th July, 1776, and as such on staff of General Gates from 13th December, 1776; Lieutenant-Colonel of Hartley's Continental Regiment, 12th January, 1777 ; Deputy Adjutant-General Northern Department, 24th May, 1777, to 6th March, 1778; Brevet Brigadier-General Continental Army, 6th November, 1777; resigned 6th March, 1778; Secretary to Board of War, 6th January, 1778; resigned 31st March, 1778; Clothier-General Continental Army, 24th July, 1779 ; resigned 27th March, 1781 ; Brigadier-General Pennsylvania Militia, 1782; Lieutenant-Colonel Commandant 2d United States Infantry, 22d October, 1791; Brigadier-General, 5th March, 1792; Major-General, 2d March, 1813; honorably discharged 15th June, 1815. Died 28th December, 1825. (Heitman)

Sources for Visiting Saratoga & Other Sites of the Campaign

Personal Note: John R. Elting is the gold standard for historical research concerning the Battle of Saratoga. Elting was a US Army Colonel and military historian who specialized in the organization of the 18th and 19th century military of the American, British, and other European nations. He thoroughly researched the Battle of Saratoga as well as the events leading up to it using primary sources such as written orders, correspondence between key figures, memoirs, journals, and written troop returns. The last source, troop returns, provides the most accurate estimations of unit sizes at the various battles by providing the numbers fit for service, sick, and even those on furlough. These figures are conveniently organized in the appendices of his book. In addition, Elting devoted a significant amount of time on the battlefield to compare the historical accounts to his own observations of the terrain.

ELTING, JOHN R, "The Battles of Saratoga;" Philip Freneau Press, Monmouth Beach, NJ, 1977

Updated: October 19, 2022