NPS Saratoga National Park
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  • 110. Wilkinson Trail --Station J

    A trail marker post labeled Station J, Wilkinson Trail.

    Track 11: Station J --British Encampment

    After the first Battle of Saratoga on September 19th, Burgoyne's army occupied this area for three weeks waiting for reinforcements that never came. How were thousands of men, women, and children organized into an encampment and what where their living conditions like? 

    There were standard British military regulations for the layout of field camps. In "An Essay on Castrametation" by Lewis Lochée in 1778 gave detailed descriptions. For example, the camps had parade grounds in the front for troop formations. Near this were rows of wedge-shaped tents for soldiers. Women and children, sutlers, wagons and equipment would have been at the rear of the camp. 

    The same style of linen canvas tent the soldiers occupied was typically assigned to men, women and children as well. These tents, with no bottoms, had a supporting frame of two upright wooden poles and a cross pole, and were staked to the ground. To carry away rain, small trenches were sometimes dug around tent rows. The size of those tents would be comparable to a two person tent by today’s standards. Imagine how crowded those tents were with four to six soldiers each! 

    Of course, no cooking, defecating, or garbage in or near the tents was permitted. Latrines, or "necessaries" as they were called, would be located on the edge of a gully or cliff if such existed. Otherwise, they were essentially pit toilets, with regimental necessaries being dug every four days or less and located no nearer than 300 feet from the nearest occupied tent. 

    Just to your left is the area where the 9th Regiment of Foot, consisting mostly of men from Ireland, was encamped. In line next to them was the 21st Regiment of Foot, consisting mostly of men from Scotland. These were just part of the nearly 8000 troops composing Burgoyne's army, that arrived in this general area in September of 1777. 

    Can you imagine so many people in these tranquil woods today?