Burgoyne, John (1722–1792), a British army officer in the American Revolution. His defeat at Saratoga was the first great American military victory. It sparked the Americans' spirits and led France to join them against England.
Burgoyne entered the army in 1740. In private life he was extravagant and a gambler, but he was an able and daring officer. His men called him “Gentleman Johnny.” Burgoyne was commended for distinguished action in Portugal in 1762 in the Seven Years' War. He was elected to Parliament in 1761 and 1768.
When the American Revolution broke out in 1775, Burgoyne joined the British garrison in Boston. He was not given a command, however, and soon returned to England to present a plan for the invasion of the colonies through Canada. His proposal was accepted, and in 1777 his forces invaded New York from Canada. The plan called for supporting armies under General William Howe and General Barry St. Leger to meet Burgoyne at Albany. Both of these forces were delayed, however, and Burgoyne's army was surrounded. Outnumbered and with his supplier exhausted, Burgoyne surrendered near Saratoga, October 17, 1777, to General Horatio Gates.
After his surrender, Burgoyne was allowed to return to England, where he was strongly criticized for his actions in the battle. In later years, however, many felt that the defeat was not his fault. He became commander in chief of Ireland in 1782.
Burgoyne was also a successful playwright. He wrote The Maid of the Oaks (1775) and The Heiress (1786).