All About The Surrender of Burgoyne Painting by John Trumbull

About the author

Edward St. Germain.
Edward St. Germain

Edward A. St. Germain created in 1996. He was an avid historian with a keen interest in the Revolutionary War and American culture and society in the 18th century. On this website, he created and collated a huge collection of articles, images, and other media pertaining to the American Revolution. Edward was also a Vietnam veteran, and his investigative skills led to a career as a private detective in later life.

The Surrender of General Burgoyne at Saratoga, 16 October 1777, by John Trumbull, c. 1822—32.
The Surrender of General Burgoyne at Saratoga, 16 October 1777, by John Trumbull, c. 1822—32.

Jump to key figures in this painting.

This painting represents General Burgoyne on October 16, 1777, attended by General Phillips, and followed by other officers, arriving at the field tent of General Gates with a number of the principal officers of the American army assembled nearby.

The confluence of Fish Creek and the North River, where the British left their arms, is shown in the distance, near the head of Col. Scammell; the troops are indistinctly seen crossing the creek and the meadows, under the direction of Colonel (later Governor) Lewis, then quarter-master general, and advancing towards the foreground; they disappear behind the wood, which serves as a backdrop to the three principal figures; and again appear (grenadiers, without arms or accoutrements) under the left arm of General Gates. Officers on horseback, American, British, and German, precede the head of the column, and form an interesting cavalcade, following the two dismounted generals, and connecting different parts of the picture.

Trumbull planned this picture as early as 1786, as it is in the list agreed upon in conference with Jefferson and Adams, but in his proposals to publish engravings (New York, April 2, 1790) it is stated that it had not as yet been executed.

Among Trumbulls’ effects was a finished sketch in outline and partly filled in with India ink, endorsed on the back by Trumbull “Surrender of General Burgoyne, Lebanon, August 1791”. Another was a pencil sketch endorsed with the proportions of the figures. A third was an outline sketch in pencil of General Gates’ tent, as it appears in the finished picture. A fourth was a finished sketch in sepia endorsed “Saratoga, scene from the rising ground nigh the church, on which was General Gates’s marquee, Sep. 28, 1791, J. Trumbull.” A fifth was a sketch in pencil endorsed “Maj. Gen. Gates New York Dec. 1790”; also a pencil portrait endorsed “B. Gen. Glover, Marblehead Nov. 13, 1794”

At Yale University, one can find the following miniature portraits endorsed on the back by Trumbull with the name and date when painted and the words “Capture of General Burgoyne,” evidently used in this painting:

Miniature portrait of Major Lithgow of Massachusetts, 1791.

Major Lithgow of Massachusetts, 1791 (above)

Col. John Brooks, Painted at Boston, 1790

Lieut. Col. Richard Butler, Painted at Philadelphia, 1790

Major Jonathan Haskell. Painted at Charleston, So. Carolina, 1791

Major Isaac Hull, Painted at Boston, 1790

Brigadier-General Morgan, “of the American Riflemen, distinguished at the Cow Pens, and present at the capture of General Burgoyne.” Painted at Philadelphia, 1792 from an original by C. W. Peale

Col. Rufus Putnam, Painted at New York, 1790

Major-General Philip Schuyler, Painted at Philadelphia, 1792

Portrait of Capt. Thomas Youngs Seymour, 1793.

Capt. Thomas Youngs Seymour, Painted at Hartford, 1793 (above)

Col. William Stevens, “Commander of the American Artillery at the capture of General Burgoyne.” Painted in New York, 1790.

From the general composition and evidence in the canvas itself, it is probable that Trumbull painted this picture between 1816 and 1824 after he had been commissioned by Congress to decorate the Rotunda of the Capitol with this scene. He used his early sketches and miniatures as the base, but the finished canvas entirely lacks the spirit of his early compositions planned and executed while in West’s studio, and it is only necessary to compare the heads of General Morgan and Captain Seymour, as they appear in the finished painting, with the original miniatures from which they were adapted, to realize the deterioration in Trumbull’s art.

Key figures in this painting

An illustration depicting the historical event of general burgoyne's surrender, featuring key figures and elements labeled for identification, set against a backdrop of military tents and a flag.

  1. Major Lithgow, Mass.
  2. Colonel Cilley, New Hampshire
  3. General Stark, New Hampshire
  4. Captain Seymour, Connecticut
  5. Major Hull, Mass.
  6. Col. Greaton, Mass.
  7. Major Dearborn, New Hampshire
  8. Colonel Scammell, New Hampshire
  9. Colonel Lewis, New York
  10. Maj. Gen. Phillips, British
  11. Lt. General Burgoyne
  12. General Baron Reidesel, German
  13. Colonel Wilkinson
  14. General Gates
  15. Colonel Prescott, Massachusetts
  16. Colonel Morgan, Virginia Riflemen
  17. Brigadier General Rufus Putnam
  18. Lt. Colonel John Brooks
  19. Rev Hitchcock
  20. Major R. Troup
  21. Major Haskell, Massachusetts
  22. Major Armstrong
  23. Maj General Philip Schuyler, New York
  24. Brig. Gen. Glover
  25. Brigadier General Whipple, New Hampshire
  26. Maj. M. Clarkson, New York
  27. Major Ebenezer Stevens, commanding the Artillery

Related posts