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.
Signer of the Declaration of Independence from Maryland, senator; 1737—1832.
American painter, principally active in London after 1774; 1738—1815.
Philadelphia printer, writer, scientist, inventor, signer of the Declaration of Independence, diplomat to France; 1706—90.
Continental Army general, won the Battles of Saratoga; 1727—1806.
Continental Army general; key to winning the war in the South; 1742—86.
Financier, Continental congressman, U.S. senator; 1741/42—1804.
Lawyer, diplomat, Continental congressman, first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; 1745—1829.
Lawyer, architect, drafter of the Declaration of Independence, Virginia governor, diplomat, third President, founder of the University of Virginia; 1743—1826.
Merchant, planter, slave trader, president of Continental Congress; 1724—92.
Virginia revolutionary, signer of the Declaration of Independence, senator; 1732—94.
The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire (2013)