Lesson Plan

The Crucial Hour


Understanding the Battles of Saratoga can be challenging, with two days of fighting separated by 2+ weeks, much of it happening on the same ground.  This lesson condenses and simplifies the details.


 Students will be able to:

  1. read a small, basic map
  2. identify several map features
  3. understand how geographic features affected the outcome of the Battles of Saratoga


The activity is designed to be reviewed by a teacher, photocopied, and distributed to students.  Intended to be a simple exercise in analyzing and understanding how geography influenced decision making by both American and British armies in the Battles of Saratoga.  The activity was originally planned for class use while visiting the battlefield, but it could also be used pre-visit in conjunction with the Saratoga National Historical Park virtual tour, or as a stand-alone activity.


 PDF documents:

"The Crucial Hour" student worksheet

Teacher's answer key


Distribute worksheets to students. Explain how geography can have major influences on human activity, such as building roads along level ground when possible, building bridges over streams, or establishing farms near rivers or other water sources.

Explain to students that geography also influenced decision making in the American Revolution and the Battles of Saratoga.  American forces had used geography to their advantage.  They expected the British invasion south into New York State in 1777 would use the Hudson Valley--the river and the road beside it-- to travel to and capture Albany.  As seen in the activity "Why Here?", the American army built formidable defenses on Bemis Heights, the bluffs overlooking the Hudson.  

As the British tried sweeping inland (west) over a 2-mile area, around where they thought the Americans might be, they encountered American soldiers on John Freeman's Farm, the starting point for this activity.


 Answer key available as a downloadable PDF document.

Park Connections

 American use of geography was a crucial factor in their victory in the Battles of Saratoga.


 In season, school groups are able to sign up for free, self-guiding battlefield tours. 

Additional Resources

 Have students make their own maps of their school, community, or even Saratoga National Historical Park.


fortifications, artillery, redoubt