The Battle of Saratoga fought in the fall of 1777; it proved to be a turning point in the American struggle for independence. Saratoga was unquestionably the greatest victory yet won by the Continental Army in terms of prisoners and captured arms and equipment. Nearly 6,000 enemy soldiers were taken, along with 42 cannon and massive quantities of stores. (Army-mil)
Following the American victory, morale among American troops was high. With General John Burgoyne’s surrender of his army to General Horatio Gates, the Americans scored a decisive victory that finally persuaded the French to sign a treaty allying with the United States against Britain, France’s traditional enemy.
The entrance of France into the war, along with its financial and military support, in particular its navy, was in the end crucial to Washington’s victory at the Battle of Yorktown in October 1781, which effectively ended the war.
It also had a direct impact on the career of General George Washington. Without the victory at Saratoga, American forces would likely not have received critical assistance from the French, and faith in the war effort would have been weakened.
But the victory of General Gates at Saratoga also led to a serious but ultimately unsuccessful effort to replace Washington with Gates as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. (Mount Vernon)
The cabal …
A ‘Cabal’ is the “contrived schemes of a group of persons secretly united in a plot (as to overturn a government).” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
The Conway Cabal refers to a loosely organized attempt by a group of military officers and members of Congress to remove General George Washington from command of the Continental Army and replace him with Major General Horatio Gates.
The supposed leader of this movement was Brigadier General Thomas Conway, an Irish member of the French army who commanded a brigade in Washington’s army.
Conway was critical of Washington’s performance in the Battle of Brandywine and boastful about his own feats at the same engagement. Shortly after Brandywine, Conway wrote Congress requesting a promotion to the rank of major general. Washington protested Conway’s promotion and was irritated by the request, believing it would have disastrous effects on the morale of more senior officers.
In October 1777, Conway wrote a letter to encourage Gates’ ambitions.
Washington learned the details of the letter from a drunken James Wilkinson, Gates’ aide-de-camp. In response, Washington informed Conway that he was aware of the contents of the letter, to which Conway replied that he never penned the phrase “weak general.” Conway added that he believed Washington was influenced by men not equal to him in experience.
On November 14, Conway offered his resignation to Congress. However, instead of accepting the resignation Congress promoted Conway to the newly created position of Inspector General and to the rank of Major General.
In addition, a Board of War was created to oversee Washington after some members of Congress, including Samuel Adams, Thomas Mifflin, and Richard Henry Lee, began to question whether Washington could lead the Americans to victory.
Conway served with Washington at Valley Forge, and reported to the Board of War, which appointed Gates as its president on November 27, 1777.
In response to these developments, Washington distanced himself from Conway. Nonetheless, Washington maintained that his personal dislike for Conway never interfered with their professional relationship.
One object of the scheme was to detach the Marquis de Lafayette from Washington, to whom he was devotedly attached, and bring him into the interests of the cabal.
For this purpose he was to have the command of the expedition; an appointment which it was thought would tempt his military ambition. Conway was to be second in command, and it was trusted that his address and superior intelligence would virtually make him the leader.
The cabal, however, had overshot their mark. Lafayette, who was aware of their intrigues, was so disgusted by the want of deference and respect to the commander-in-chief evinced in the whole proceeding, that he would at once have declined the appointment, had not Washington himself advised him strongly to accept it. (Life of George Washington)
As winter wore on, the so-called cabal dissolved, bringing disgrace to and ending the careers of several of its leaders. Washington’s authority was strengthened, as loyal supporters rallied to defend and exalt the commander in chief. (Valley Forge, NPS)
Click the following link to a general summary about the Conway Cabal: