Trouble With Trumbull

By Jae You, Sun Ho Kim, Michael Gordon, Steven Rogers

"The Surrender of General Burgoyne at the Battle of Saratoga" by John Trumbell - 1821

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Story Truth By: Sun Ho Kim

It was September 19, 1777, the day of our glorious victory at Saratoga. I was but a soldier during that climatic battle. The sounds of cannon shots still ring through my ears, the deafening roars that had pierced through the battlefield alarming friends and foe alike. Our great and merciful general Washington had gained victory and General Burgoyne’s surrender. As our glorious leader George Washington stepped forth to receive the British surrender; the clouds above parted slowly as if the scene was an unveiling of heaven itself upon this glorious and momentous event. Then as the light of the heavens shone forth from the now unveiled azure sky, our flag of freedom whipped in the gentle breeze, and with it our own pride and joy grew, rising upon the wind along with the breeze and gentle rippling of our flag, our pride, our joy, and our destiny. I gazed upon Washington and the throng of men around me and gazed upon their faces. The men had a relaxed air, of men who believed that they would win, and in their eyes and faces I saw fierce determination, the kind that would not dwindle nor ever quell. Our leader Washington who had commanded and ordered us so efficiently and effectively entered the throng of men and met with the British and with their surrender, our flames burned brighter and our determination grew once more as we saw our glorious leader, under the rays of heaven and the whipping of our flag, proclaim our victory with Burgoyne’s surrender.

Happening Truth By: Michael Gordon

After the Americans captured the Breymann redoubt and General Burgoyne’s army retreated to The Great redoubt river fort. After burying a beloved General Simon Fraser, mortally wounded in a previous skirmish, and gathering supplies Burgoyne’s retreated north low on rations through cold rain and mud. Arriving at the village of Saratoga, they hastily set up a fortified camp. On the morning of October the 13th General Burgoyne’s army was surrounded, and, having lost 1000 men between the first and second battle of Saratoga, was advised by his council to negotiate peace. Terms that British troops would return to England after a parole (meaning an agreement by POW not to take up arms against that country for the remainder of the war) were agreed upon the 16th of October in what General Burgoyne refused to call a surrender but instead a “convention.” The next day General Burgoyne ceremoniously gave his sword to General Gates who promptly returned it to him. Afterward Burgoyne's army of almost 6000 marched to the tune of "Yankee Doodle”(played by American musicians) to surrender their arms to the Americans.

Art Critique By: Steven Rogers

John Trumbull’s The Surrender of General Burgoyne at Saratoga supports the American cause and is from the point of view of someone removed from the group. Trumbull paints this from a removed position in order to encompass more of what is going on and it is noticeable because no one is looking towards the viewer. The location of George Washington is important as well. Washington stands in the center of the painting, arms apart in a peaceful gesture as he negotiates the terms of surrender with the British General Burgoyne. Washington is also emphasized by the lighting in the painting and the clouds are beginning to clear, allowing light to reach the ground. All of this is used in Trumbull’s argument that the Americans, especially George Washington, are emissaries of God and, because of this, their cause is holy and pure. The idea that the Americans are God’s emissaries is shown by the parting clouds (as mentioned earlier) which are allowing the beauty of the day to be fully shown and by the important position of George Washington in the center of a circle of light from, what seems to be, heaven. On top of this, the idea of American Exceptionalsim is prevalent in the painting because of this relationship with God and because the British surrendered without a fight. The latter is portrayed in the painting because no one is lying, dead on the ground nor is anyone hurt from any fighting that might have occurred. Additionally, there are only two British troops who have willingly come into the American camp to negotiate the surrender. Consequently, the power and, potentially God’s will, associated with the Americans is shown. All in all, this support of the American cause has an air of victory and determination mixed with passion for America.

Artist Bio By: Jae You

John Trumbull was born in Lebanon, Connecticut in 1756. Both his mother and his father were descended from early Puritan settlers in the state. He served as an officer in the Continental Army of similar rank to British Major John André, during the Battle of Saratoga on September 19, 1777. He sketched the plans of the British Army and sent them to Boston. Trumbull was arrested in 1780 after Britain heard word of André’s hanging as a spy. He was imprisoned for 7 months in Tothill Fields Prison.

After the British recognized the United States as independent, Trumbull returned to London and then traveled to Paris in 1785 to develop his painting skills. He painted several paintings related to the Revolution, four of which were bought by the United States Congress.

War Story By: Steven Rogers

Every good man supports a cause he believes to be righteous and true; otherwise, what is the point of life? To stay, living oppressed without making a change? No, there needs to be change or life is pointless. This is exemplified well by the American Revolution. The colonists of North America were tired of being oppressed by taxation without having a voice in government; they didn’t want British troops in their towns; and they wanted their problems to be solved quickly, not after the months it took for news to travel over the Atlantic Ocean. Consequently, when the British attempted to take the guns at Concord there was a conflict in which untrained men stood and fought against the expert British army. Suddenly, the revolution had begun. George Washington was soon put in charge of the under-equipped Continental Army and suffered many defeats at the hand of the British. However, there was soon a change in fortune. William Howe, the leader of the British troops, moved to attack Philadelphia without warning his reinforcements (under General Burgoyne) of his decision. Consequently, the Americans were able to surround Burgoyne and force him to surrender with almost no fight. Washington negotiated the surrender with British and the tide of war began to change. After hearing about the victory, the French and Spanish agreed to help the revolting colonies and the American troops had a significant boost in moral which was immensely important for the upcoming winter in Valley Forge. All of this lead to the eventual freedom for America. A freedom willed by God.