There is a symmetry between the folly of Burgoyne’s march south to Saratoga and that of Cornwallis’s march north to Yorktown. Military historians debate why Burgoyne risked marching south from Fort Edward in the same way that they question why Cornwallis advanced north beyond North Carolina into Virginia. Although Cornwallis had none of the outward vanity of Burgoyne, the two men were similar in that they were both junior generals and neither of them was commander in chief of the British army in America. Both blamed their subsequent failures on rigid orders and insufficient latitude. They both expected to march through predominantly friendly territory. They both ignored the chain of command and went over the heads of their superiors to communicate independently with Lord George Germain. They both allowed their supply lines to become overextended and their forces suffered harassment by enemy militia. They presided over the two most decisive defeats of the American Revolutionary War.
Continental Army general — one of Washington’s best; 1726—1783.
Talented Continental Army general who defected to the British; 1741—1801.
British playwright, politician; general who lost the Battles of Saratoga; 1722—92.
Governor of Quebec; British commander-in-chief, 1782 - 83; 1724—1808.
French general, liaison between Rochambeau and Washington; 1734—88.
Soldier, politician, New York governor, vice president under Jefferson and Madison; 1739—1812.
British general; commander-in-chief, 1778—82; 1730—95.
British general, surrendered with troops at Yorktown; 1738—1805.
German general; died at the Battle of Fort Mercer.
British general, Royal Governor of Massachusetts, ordered troops to Concord; 1719/20—87.
The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire (2013)