New Market 1864/Saratoga 1777


Apr 7, 2017
Eastern Shore, Maryland
Apologies if this is in the wrong forum or improperly formatted- I've commented previously but this is my first post beyond introducing myself.

I've been reading David Powell's Command Failure in the Shenandoah, and it has me thinking about the mini-campaign culminating at New Market. Even tough I've been there a few times, starting around age 8, I'd not thought about it on its ownself, always as part of the whole in the valley in 1864.

I think Mr. Powell does an excellent job describing the geography, terrain, opposing forces and various side expeditions sanctioned by or designed to support Sigel's move. In pulling it all together in my mind I'm struck how similar it is to Burgoyne's Saratoga Campaign of 1777. In no real order:

1. Both Burgoyne and Sigel were moving down (or up) a river valley bounded by difficult terrain. Although each had superior traditional forces, each mile advanced towards the goal lengthened the supply line, encouraged partisan raids, and diminished the overall fighting capacity of the expedition.

2. Both Burgoyne and Sigel had supporting columns to add to the main thrust that came to grief, either taking themselves out of the campaign or stumbling into locally superior enemy forces. Burgoyne's chief strategic support was Barry St. Leger, and while the strategy of St. Leger's move seemed sound, he failed in his goals even if he won at Oriskany and was not able to get back to Burgoyne before the surrender. Crook won at Cloyd's Mountain, but decided not to press on towards Staunton and Sigel, taking himself out of the campaign. That both the British, and the Union military planners overlooked the geographic and terrain difficulties their secondary columns would face is hard to fathom given both had fought extensively over the same terrain in the years prior to their respective expeditions and faced similar difficulties.

3. Both Burgoyne and Sigel had an inferior mounted arm, and neither seemed too bothered by it. Burgoyne had a horrible time finding horses, but no issue with wagons full of his personal effects coming along. His idea to send Baum to find horses and protect his flank didn't account for John Stark, and he saw the possibility of an effective mounted force evaporate at Bennington. When the culminating battles came around, Burgoyne likely would have killed for even Jeb Stuart at Gettysburg level intelligence. Sigel likewise sent undermanned side expeditions (Boyd and a similar expedition to the west) that Imboden was able to deal with from a position of numerical superiority. Sigel further cannibalized what organized cavalry regiments he had, and decided to entrust them to Colonels while retaining Gen. Stahel around his headquarters.

Has anyone else considered it this way, or am I crazy? Sigel's reputation seems to be worse that Burgoyne's, even though he didn't surrender (convention) his army at the end of the campaign. It also seems odd to me that Sigel himself, or one of the many trained officers in his column, did not realize they were reenacting a campaign that had to be familiar to them.

James N.

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Asst. Regtl. Quartermaster Antietam 2021
Feb 23, 2013
East Texas

Site of Burgoyne's headquarters tents at Saratoga National Battlefield, N.Y.

Congratulations on successfully making your first post, Rupert! For one, I'm also very interested in the Saratoga Campaign and have visited the area on a couple of occasions, as well as Oriskany, Bennington, Ft.'s Clinton, Montgomery, Stanwix, Ticonderoga, Crown Point, Edward, and William Henry. (If you haven't read it, I think Richard Ketchum's account is the best.) Although I hadn't considered similarities between the two, one big difference was the resilience of Sigel's force. In only a month's time under the new command of David Hunter it managed to rebound, utterly smashing and routing Grumble Jones' Rebels at Piedmont and penetrating as far as Lexington and Lynchburg before being turned back by the timely arrival of Jubal Early. I can't easily imagine Burgoyne's demoralized redcoats and Riedesel's Hessians pulling off the same gambit!

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