In 1776, Sir Guy Carleton, Governor of Quebec, led an invasion force to secure Lake Champlain while William Howe, Commander-in-Chief of the British Forces, landed a fleet on Staten Island. Howe successfully gained a foothold on New York Harbor, but Carleton encountered significant delays assembling his fleet on Lake Champlain and met resistance from Benedict Arnold’s makeshift Navy in Plattsburgh. These delays, coupled with the lateness of the campaign season and false rumors of a sizable enemy force at Ticonderoga, were reason enough for Carleton to turn back in late 1776. This was not the swift and forceful action the British command anticipated, and they criticized Carleton for taking early winter quarters in Quebec without holding any part of Lake Champlain.
This left the opportunity for the headstrong Lieutenant General John Burgoyne to return to England to layout his invasion plan called “Thoughts for Conducting War on the Side of Canada,” which he presented to Lord George Germain, Secretary of State for the American Department. The plan called for William Howe, Commander-in-chief of the British forces, to sail up the Hudson River from New York, while a second army was to proceed south on Lake Champlain to Albany. Burgoyne, nominating himself for command, would relieve his army to Howe once they joined up in Albany. As the plan evolved, a third army, led by Brevetted Brigadier-General Barry St Leger, was to sail down the St. Lawrence and the Mohawk Rivers to create a diversion. The goal was to cut off New England, the seedbed of the Revolution, from the rest of the continent. The British command believed that Burgoyne had the fire and conviction to get the job done.