John Burgoyne was born in Bedfordshire, England, received a public school education, and entered the army at age 15. He went into private life briefly before reentering the service in 1756, for the Seven Years' War. He was elected to House of Commons and became a critic of British imperial policy.
Burgoyne was a handsome, intelligent, and supremely confident man. Before returning to America in 1777, to serve under Thomas Gage, Burgoyne placed a 50-guinea bet with a colleague that America would be defeated within a year. Always popular with the soldiers, Burgoyne was affectionately dubbed by them "Gentleman Johnny."
History has burdened Burgoyne with responsibility for the British failure at Saratoga. In some ways such criticism is unduly harsh. Some historians assign some blame to Howe; if he had progressed up the Hudson, rather than into Pennsylvania, things might have turned out much differently.
Following the war, Burgoyne found himself the object of intense criticism from his fellow countrymen for the failure at Saratoga. He withdrew into private life and devoted much of his remaining years to writing, receiving acclaim for the play The Heiress in 1786.