The War Up North
The British didn't use their time wisely, for they spent the first six months of 1777 on skirmishes in northern New Jersey. General John Burgoyne felt that by striking down the Hudson River, he would cut off New England and New York from the rest of the colonies and end the colonial rebellion. After recapturing Fort Ticonderoga, Burgoyne headed toward Fort Edward. When the patriots saw them approaching, they scattered into the woods for cover, but continued to attack from behind their shield of trees. The end result was British losses of close to 1,000 men. This slowed the British down, and by the time they reached Saratoga, New York, the Americans were ready. American general Horatio Gates positioned his troops to overlook the road to Albany so that when Burgoyne came along, he pretty much had to fight. After losing even more soldiers, Burgoyne did what he swore he'd never do — he surrendered on October 17, 1777.
Though Saratoga had turned the war in America's favor, Washington still had his struggles. Trying to protect the capital of Philadelphia, he lost the Battles of Brandywine and Germantown, and he withdrew his besieged forces to nearby Valley Forge, the site of his winter encampment.
On the positive side, the 11,000 soldiers who spent the winter of 1777–78 here were positioned high enough to have a grand view of anyone approaching (including General Howe). However, the conditions at Valley Forge were dismal. An estimated 2,500 troops died from exposure or disease, further reducing Washington's fighting force. The men needed everything from food and soap to blankets and warm clothing. Many deserted the Continental army. Making matters worse, discontented officers tried to oust Washington and replace him with General Horatio Gates. When this attempt failed it ended up doing more to solidify Washington's influence than break it.
The commander refused to take more comfortable quarters until his men were provided for. With the few tools they had, the troops erected shelters of logs and clay. Thanks to Washington's leadership and the efforts of drillmaster Baron Augustus von Steuben, a Prussian officer who volunteered for the American cause, they restored discipline, morale, and training at Valley Forge that winter. Spring's approach brought brighter spirits, as did the heartening news that France had allied itself with the Americans. Within six months, the Continental army was ready once more. The last major battle in the northeast occurred at Monmouth in June 1778, when the British general Sir Henry Clinton, who took over as commander-in-chief after Howe retired, pulled troops out of Philadelphia and moved them north toward New York. Washington's army caught up with them at Monmouth, New Jersey, where General Washington ordered his second in command, Charles Lee, to attack the rear of the British forces. Lee, disliking Washington's plan, fought halfheartedly and ordered retreat. This infuriated General Washington. He rallied the troops to follow his command, and Clinton's army fell back some before withdrawing to New York. Washington had once again restored sagging morale, and Lee, while trying to clear his name of wrongdoing, was court-martialed and suspended from command. When he refused to accept this, Lee was removed from the Continental army altogether.