previous next

Chapter 18:

The complot of Sir Henry Clinton and Arnold.


Desultory movements of the British and Ameri-
Chap. XVIII.} 1780.
can troops in the North during the winter of 1780 were baffled by unwonted cold and deep snows. The Hudson and the East river were covered with solid ice, but Knyphausen provided for the safety of New York by forming battalions of the loyal inhabitants and refugees. Besides; the American army, whose pay was in arrear and whom congress could not provide with food, was too feeble to hazard an attack. In May the continental troops between the Chesapeake and Canada amounted only to seven thousand men; in the first week of June, those under the command of Washington, present and fit for duty, numbered but three thousand seven hundred and sixty.

On the twenty-eighth of May, the official report

May 28.
of the surrender of Charleston was received.1 The [372] refugees insisted that the men of New Jersey, weary
Chap. XVIII.} 1780. May.
of compulsory requisitions of supplies, longed to return to their old form of government; and English generals reported so great disaffection among the starved and half-clothed American officers and men, that one-half of them would desert to the English and the other half disperse. The moment seemed opportune for setting up the royal standard in New Jersey. Strengthening the post at Kingsbridge, and leaving only three regiments in New York, Knyphausen formed nineteen regiments into three divisions under Robertson, Tryon, and Stachenberg, with an advanced guard under General Matthews. Of artillery he took eight pieces.

The army of Washington was encamped at Morristown. On the east of the Passaic, the Jersey brigade under General Maxwell was stationed at Connecticut Farms, and three hundred of the Jersey militia occupied Elizabethtown. On the sixth of June, the Brit-

June 6.
ish landed at Elizabethtown Point, but very slowly, from a scarcity of boats. The brigadier who commanded the vanguard was early wounded and disabled. Seven hours were lost in bridging a marsh which stopped their way. On the morning of the seventh, the American militia, under Colonel Dayton,
having had timely warning, retired before the enemy from Elizabethtown; but with the aid of volunteers from the country people, who flew to arms, and of small patrolling parties of continental troops, they harassed the British all the way on their march of five or six miles to Connecticut Farms. James Caldwell, the presbyterian minister of that place, was known to have inspired his people with his own [373] patriotic zeal. A British soldier, putting his gun to
Chap. XVIII.} 1780 June.
the window of the house where Caldwell's wife was sitting with her children, one of them a nursling, shot her fatally through the breast. Scarcely was time allowed to remove the children and the corpse from the house when it was set on fire. The presbyterian meeting-house and the houses and barns of the village were burned down. In the winter the presbyterian church at Newark had in like manner been burned to the ground.

From Connecticut Farms, Maxwell, with the remnant of a brigade, retreated to strong ground near Springfield, where he awaited and repelled repeated attacks made by Colonel Wurmb with a Hessian regiment. Thrice did the Americans charge with fixed bayonets; and they retired only on the arrival of a British brigade, the Hessian yagers alone having lost more than fifty killed or wounded. Instead of men eager to return to their old allegiance, the British encountered a people risking all to preserve their independence; suffered losses all the day from determined troops; and at five in the afternoon found that Washington, on hearing that they were out in force, had brought in front of them a brave and faithful army, formed on ground of his own choice. Knyphausen, though his command outnumbered the Americans two to one, declined to attack, where victory must have cost dearly, and defeat would have been disastrous. Learning at this moment that Clinton with large numbers might be expected at New York within a week, he resolved to attempt nothing more; and at nine o'clock in the evening his army began a retreat to Elizabethtown [374] Point. An American detachment, sent at break of

Chap. XVIII.} 1780. June 8.
day in pursuit, drove the twenty-second English regiment out of Elizabethtown and returned without being molested. In general orders Dayton ‘received particular thanks.’ At this time a committee from congress was in the American camp, to whom Washington explained the hardships of his condition. Not only had congress accomplished nothing for the relief and re-enforcement of his army, it could not even tell how far the several states would comply with the requisitions made on them. While awarding liberal praise to the militia of New Jersey, he renewed his constant plea for regular troops: ‘Perseverance in enduring the rigors of military service is not to be expected from those who are not by profession obliged to it. Our force, from your own observation, is totally inadequate to our safety.’2

On the nineteenth of June, two days after his

arrival in New York, Clinton repaired to New Jersey. He had now at his disposition nearly four times as many regular troops as were opposed to him; but he fretted at ‘the move in Jersey as premature,’ and what he ‘least expected.’3 With civil words to the German officers, he resolved to give up the expedition; but he chose to mask his retreat by a feint, and to give it the air of a military manoeuvre. Troops sent up the Hudson river as if to take the Americans in the rear induced Washington to move his camp to Rockaway bridge, confiding the post at Short Hills to two brigades under the command of [375] Greene. Early on the twenty-third, the British
Chap. XVIII.} 1780. June 23.
advanced in two compact divisions from Elizabethtown Point to Springfield. The column on the right had to ford the river before they could drive Major Lee from one of the bridges over the Passaic. At the other, Colonel Angel with his regiment held the left column in check for about forty minutes. Greene prepared for action; but the British army, though it was drawn up and began a heavy cannonade, had no design to engage; and at four in the afternoon, after burning the houses in Springfield, it began its return. All the way back to Elizabethtown, it was annoyed by an incessant fire from American skirmishers and militia. Its total loss is not known; once more the Hessian yagers lost fifty in killed or wounded, among the latter one colonel, two captains, and a lieutenant. From Elizabethtown Point the fruitless expedition crossed to Staten Island by a bridge of boats, which at midnight was taken away. Clinton was never again to have so good an opportunity for offensive operations as that which he had now rejected.

On the return of d'estaing from America, he urged the French ministry to send twelve thousand men to the United States, as the best way of pursuing the war actively; and Lafayette had of his own motion given the like advice to Vergennes, with whom he had formed relations of friendship. The cabinet adopted the measure in its principle, but vacillated as to the number of the French contingent. For the command Count de Rochambeau was selected, not by court favor, but from the consideration in which he was held by the troops.4 On the tenth [376] of July, Admiral de Ternay with a squadron of ten

Chap. XVIII.} 1780. July 10.
ships of war, three of them ships of the line, convoyed the detachment of about six thousand men with Rochambeau into the harbor of Newport. To an address from the general assembly of Rhode Island, then sitting in Newport, the count answered: ‘The French troops are restrained by the strictest discipline; and, acting under General Washington, will live with the Americans as their brethren. I assure the general assembly that, as brethren, not only my life, but the lives of the troops under my command, are entirely devoted to their service.’ Washington in general orders desired the American officers to wear white and black cockades as a symbol of affection for their allies.

The British fleet at New York having received a large re-enforcement, so that it had now a great superiority, Sir Henry Clinton embarked about eight thousand men for an expedition against the French in Rhode Island. Supported by militia from Massachusetts and Connecticut, the French longed for the threatened attack; but the expedition proceeded no further than Huntington Bay in Long Island, where it idled away several days, and then returned to New York. Of the incapacity of Arbuthnot, the admiral, Clinton sent home bitter complaints, which were little heeded. There were those who censured the general as equally wanting energy. The sixth summer during which the British had vainly endeavored to reduce the United States was passing away, and after the arrival of French auxiliaries the British commander-in-chief was more than ever disheartened.

On the twenty-fifth of August, 1780, Clinton,

Aug 25.
[377] knowing well that he had in Cornwallis a favored
Chap. XVIII.} 1780. Aug. 25.
rival eager to supplant him, reported officially from New York: ‘At this new epoch in the war, when a foreign force has already landed and an addition to it is expected, I owe to my country, and I must in justice to my own fame declare to your lordship, that I become every day more sensible of the utter impossibility of prosecuting the war in this country without re-enforcements. The revolutions fondly looked for by means of friends to the British government I must represent as visionary. These, I well know, are numerous, but they are fettered. An inroad is no countenance, and to possess territory demands garrisons. The accession of friends, without we occupy the country they inhabit, is but the addition of unhappy exiles to the list of pensioned refugees. A glance at the returns of the army divided into garrisons and reduced by casualties on the one part, with the consideration of the task yet before us on the other, would, I fear, renew the too just reflection, that we are by some thousands too weak to subdue this formidable rebellion.’ Yet for the moment the only regiments sent to the United States were three to re-enforce Lord Cornwallis.

Hopeless of success in honorable warfare, Clinton stooped to fraud and corruption. From the time when officers who stood below Arnold were promoted over his head, discontent rankled in his breast and found expression in threats of revenge. After the northern campaign, he complained more than ever that his services had not been sufficiently rewarded. While he held the command in Philadelphia, his extravagant mode of living tempted [378] him to peculation and treasonable connections; and

Chap. XVIII.} 1780.
towards the end of February, 1779, he let it be known to the British commander-in-chief that he was desirous of exchanging the American service for that of Great Britain. His open preference for the friends of the English in Pennsylvania disgusted the patriots. The council of that state, after bearing with him for more than half a year, very justly desired his removal from the command; and, having early in 1779 given information of his conduct, against their intention they became his accusers. The court-martial before which he was arraigned, on charges that touched his honor and integrity, dealt with him leniently, and sentenced him only to be reprimanded by the commander-in-chief. The reprimand was marked with the greatest forbearance. The French minister, to whom Arnold applied for money, put aside his request and added wise and friendly advice. In the course of the winter of 1778-1779, he was taken into the pay of Clinton, to whom he gave on every occasion most material intelligence.

The plot received the warmest encouragement from Lord George Germain, who, towards the end of

September, wrote to Clinton: ‘Next to the destruction of Washington's army, the gaining over officers of influence and reputation among the troops would be the speediest means of subduing the rebellion and restoring the tranquillity of America. Your commission authorizes you to avail yourself of such opportunities, and there can be no doubt that the expense will be cheerfully submitted to.’5 [379]

In 1780, the command at West Point needed to be

Chap. XVIII.} 1780.
changed. Acting in concert with Clinton, and supported by the New York delegation in congress, Arnold, pleading his wounds as an excuse for declining active service, solicited and obtained orders to that post, which included all the American forts in the Highlands. Clinton entered with all his soul into the ignoble plot which, as he believed, was to end the war. After a correspondence of two months between him and the British commander-in-chief, through Major John Andre, adjutant-general of the army in North America, on the thirtieth of August, Arnold,
Aug. 30.
insisting that the advantages which he expected to gain for himself by his surrender were ‘by no means unreasonable,’ and requiring that his conditions should ‘be clearly understood,’ laid a plan for an interview at which a person ‘fully authorized’ was to ‘close with’ his proposals.

The rendezvous was given by him within the American lines, where Colonel Sheldon held the command; and that officer was instructed to expect the arrival ‘at his quarters of a person in New York to open a channel of intelligence.’ On the same day, [380] Andre, disguising his name, wrote to Sheldon from

Chap. XVIII.} 1780.
New York by order of Clinton: ‘A flag will be sent to Dobbs Ferry on Monday next, the eleventh, at twelve o'clock. Let me entreat you, sir, to favor a matter which is of so private a nature that the public on neither side can be injured by it. I trust I shall not be detained, but I would rather risk that than neglect the business in question, or assume a mysterious character to carry on an innocent affair and get to your lines by stealth.’ To this degree could the British commander-in-chief prostitute his word and a flag of truce, and lull the suspicions of the American officer by statements the most false. The letter of Andre being forwarded to Arnold, he ‘determined to go as far as Dobbs Ferry and meet the flag.’ As he was approaching the vessel in which Andre came up the river, the British guard-boats whose officers were not in the secret fired upon his barge and prevented the interview.

Clinton became only more interested in the project, for of a sudden he gained a great fellow-helper. At the breaking out of the war between France and England, Sir George Rodney, a British naval officer, chanced to be detained in Paris by debt. But the aged Marshal de Biron advanced him money to set himself free, and he hastened to England to ask employment of the king. He was not a member of parliament, and was devoted to no political party; he reverenced the memory of Chatham, and yet held the war against the United States to be just. A man of action, quick-sighted, great in power of execution, he was just the officer whom a wise government would employ, and whom by luck the British admiralty of [381] that day, tired of the Keppels and the Palisers, the

Chap. XVIII.} 1780.
mutinous and the incompetent, put in command of the expedition that was to relieve Gibraltar and rule the seas of the West Indies. One of the king's younger sons served on board his fleet as midshipman. He took his squadron to sea on the twenty-ninth of December, 1779. On the eighth of January, 1780,
Jan. 8.
he captured seven vessels of war and fifteen sail of merchantmen. On the sixteenth, he encountered off
Cape St. Vincent, the Spanish squadron of Languara, very inferior to his own, and easily took or destroyed a great part of it. Having victualled the garrison of Gibraltar, and relieved Minorca, on the thirteenth
Feb. 13.
of February he set sail for the West Indies. At St. Lucie he received letters from his wife, saying: ‘Everybody is beyond measure delighted as well as astonished at your success;’ from his daughter: “Everybody almost adores you, and every mouth is full of your praise; come back when you have done some more things in that part of the world you are in now.”

The thanks of both houses of parliament reached

April and May.
him at Barbadoes. In April and May, Rodney had twice or thrice encounters with the French fleet of Admiral Guichen, and with such success that in a grateful mood the British parliament thanked him once more. Yet he did not obtain a decided superiority in the West Indian seas, and he reported to the admiralty as the reason, that his flag had not been properly supported by some of his officers.

With indifference to neutral rights, he sent frigates to seize or destroy all American vessels in St. Eustatius. In June, he received a check by a Junc-

[382] tion of the Spanish squadron under Solano with the
Chap. XVIII.} 1780.
French. But the two admirals could not agree how their forces should be employed. Contagious fever attacked the Spaniards, and reached the French. Solano returned to Havana; Guichen, whose squadron was anxiously awaited in the north, sailed for France. Rodney alone, passing to the north and recapturing a ship from Charleston, anchored off Sandy Hook, where he vexed the weak Admiral Arbuthnot by taking command of the station of New York during his short stay. To the vast superiority of the British on land, was now added the undisputed dominion of the water. In aid of the enterprise by which Sir Henry Clinton expected to bring the war to an immediate close, Rodney contributed his own rare powers; and perfect harmony prevailed between the two branches of the service.

On the eighteenth of September, Washington

Sept. 18.
crossed the North River on his way from headquarters near Tappan to Hartford, where, attended by Lafayette and Hamilton, he was to hold his first interview with General Rochambeau. He was joined on the river by Arnold, who accompanied him as far as Peekskill, and endeavored, though in vain, to obtain his consent for the reception of an agent on pretended business relating to confiscated property. Had the consent been given, the interview with Andre would have taken place under a flag of truce, seemingly authorized by the American commanderin-chief.

Time pressed on. Besides; Sir George Rodney had only looked in upon New York, and would soon return to the West Indies. On the evening of the [383] eighteenth, Arnold, giving information that Washing-

Chap. XVIII.} 1780. Sept. 18.
ton on the following Saturday night was expected to be his guest at West Point, proposed that Andre should immediately come up to the ‘Vulture,’ ship of war, which rode at anchor just above Teller's point, in Haverstraw bay, promising on Wednesday evening ‘to send a person on board with a boat and a flag of truce.’

This letter of Arnold reached Clinton on Tuesday

evening, and he took his measures without delay. Troops were embarked on the Hudson river under the superintendence of Sir George Rodney, and the embarkation disguised by a rumor of an intended expedition into the Chesapeake.

On the morning of the twentieth, the British ad-

jutant-general, taking his life in his hand, prepared to carry out his orders. To diminish the dangers to which the service exposed him, ‘the commanderin-chief, before his departure, cautioned him not to change his dress, and not to take papers.’ At Dobbs Ferry, he embarked on the river, and, as the tide was favorable, reached the ‘Vulture’ at about an hour after sunset, and declared to its captain ‘that he was ready to attend General Arnold's summons when and where he pleased.’

‘The night the flag was first expected, he ex-

pressed much anxiety for its arrival,’ and, as it did not come, on the morning of the twenty-first by an ingenious artifice he let Arnold know where he was. On the ensuing night one Smith, in a boat with
muffled oars, went off from the western shore of the Hudson to the ‘Vulture.’ ‘The instant Andre learned that he was wanted, he started out of bed [384] and discovered the greatest impatience to be gone.
Chap. XVIII.} 1780. Sept. 22.
Nor did he in any instance betray the least doubt of his safety and success.’ The moon, which had just passed into the third quarter, shone in a clear sky when the boat pushed for the landing-place near the upper edge of the Haverstraw mountains. It was very near the time for day to appear, when Andre, dressed in regimentals, which a large blue cloak concealed, landed at the point of the Long Clove, where Arnold was waiting in the bushes to receive him. The general had brought with him a spare horse; and the two rode through the village of Haverstraw within the American lines to the house of Smith, which lay a few miles from the river. At the dawn of day, the noise of artillery was heard. An American party had brought field-pieces to bear on the ‘Vulture;’ and Arnold, as he looked out from the window, saw her compelled to shift her anchorage. The negotiations of the two parties continued for several hours. Clinton was in person to bring his army to the siege of Fort Defiance, which enclosed about seven acres of land. The garrison was to be so distributed as to destroy its efficiency. Arnold was to send immediately to Washington for aid, and to surrender the place in time for Sir Henry Clinton to make arrangements for surprising the re-enforcement, which it was believed Washington would conduct in person.6 It was no part of the plan to risk surprising Washington while a guest at West Point. The promises to Arnold were indemnities in money and the rank of brigadier in the British service. The [385] American general returned to his quarters. Late in
Chap. XVIII.} 1780. Sept. 22.
the afternoon Andre, changing his dress for the disguise of a citizen, provided with passes from Arnold and attended by Smith, set off by land for New York.

Four years before, Washington had sailed between the Highlands, where nature blends mountains and valleys and the deep river in exceeding beauty; and he had selected for fortification the points best adapted to command the passage. In 1778, it was still a desert, nearly inaccessible; now it was covered with fortresses and artillery. Fort Defiance alone was defended by a hundred and twenty pieces of cannon, and was believed to be impregnable. Here were magazines of powder and ammunition, completely filled, for the use not of the post only, but of the whole army. The fortifications built by a nation just rising into notice, seemingly represented a vast outlay in money. With prodigious labor, huge trunks of trees and enormous hewn stones were piled up on steep rocks. All this had been done without cost to the state by the hands of the American soldiers, who were pervaded by a spirit as enthusiastic and as determined as that of the bravest and most cultivated of their leaders; and who received for their work not the smallest gratification, even when their stated pay remained in arrear.7 And these works, of which every stone was a monument of humble, disinterested patriotism, were to be betrayed to the enemy with all their garrison.

On that same evening Washington, free from suspicion, was returning to his army. He had met [386] General Rochambeau and Admiral de Ternay at

Chap. XVIII.} 1780. Sept. 22.
Hartford. ‘The interview was a genuine festival for the French, who were impatient to see the hero of liberty. His noble mien, the simplicity of his manners, his mild gravity, surpassed their expectations and gained for him their hearts.’ All agreed that, for want of a superiority at sea, active operations could not be begun; so that the meeting served only to establish friendship and confidence between the officers of the two nations. Washington on his return was accompanied a day's journey by Count Dumas, one of the aids of Rochambeau. The population of the town where he was to spend the night went out to meet him. A crowd of children, repeating the acclamations of their elders, gathered around him, stopping his way, all wishing to touch him and with loud cries calling him their father. Pressing the hand of Dumas, he said to him: ‘We may be beaten by the English in the field; it is the lot of arms: but see there the army which they will never conquer.’

At this very time Andre, conducted by Smith, crossed the Hudson river at King's ferry. It was already dark before they passed the American post at Verplanck's point under the excuse that they were going up the river, and to keep up that pretence they turned in for the night near Crompond. Very

early on the twenty-third, they were in the saddle. Two miles and a half north of Pine's Bridge, over the Croton, Smith, assuring Andre that the rest of the way he would meet only British parties, or cow boys as they were called, and having charged him to take the inner route to New York through the valley of the Bronx by way of White Plains, near which the British [387] had an outpost, bade him farewell and rode up to
Chap. XVIII.} 1780. Sept. 23.
dine with Arnold at his quarters. At a fork in the road about six miles below the Croton, Andre, quitting the road to White Plains, took that which led over the hills and entered the highway from Albany to New York at a short distance above Tarrytown. He now thought himself beyond all danger, and according to his own account he believed himself to be the bearer of a plan that would bring the civil war to an immediate end. The British troops, embarked by Sir George Rodney, lay waiting for Clinton to give the word and to lead them in person.

It happened that John Paulding, a poor man, then about forty-six years old, a zealous patriot who had served his country from the breaking out of the war, and had twice suffered captivity, had lately escaped from New York and had formed a little corps of partisans to annoy roving parties, taking provisions to New York, or otherwise doing service to the British. On that morning, after setting a reserve of four to keep watch in the rear, he and David Williams of Tarrytown and Isaac van Wart of Greenburg seated themselves in the thicket by the wayside, just above Tarrytown, and whiled away the time by playing cards. At an hour before noon, Andre was just rising the hill out of Sleepy Hollow, within fifteen miles of the strong British post at King's Bridge, when Paulding got up, presented a firelock at his breast, and asked which way he was going. Full of the idea that he could meet none but friends to the English, he answered: ‘Gentlemen, I hope you belong to our party?’ ‘Which party?’ asked Paulding. ‘The lower party,’ said Andre. Paulding answered that [388] he did. Then said Andre: ‘I am a British officer,

Chap. XVIII.} 1780. Sept. 23.
out on particular business, and I hope you will not detain me a minute.’ Upon this Paulding ordered him to dismount. Seeing his mistake, Andre showed his pass from Arnold, saying: ‘By your stopping me, you will detain the general's business.’ ‘I hope,’ answered Paulding, ‘you will not be offended; we do not mean to take anything from you. There are many bad people going along the road; perhaps you may be one of them;’ and he asked if he had any letters about him. Andre answered: ‘No.’8 I They took him into the bushes to search for papers, and at last discovered three parcels under each stocking. Among these were a plan of the fortifications of West Point; a memorial from the engineer on the attack and defence of the place; returns of the garrison, cannon, and stores, all in the handwriting of Arnold. ‘This is a spy,’ said Paulding. Andre offered a hundred guineas, any sum of money, if they would but let him go. ‘No,’ cried Paulding, ‘not for ten thousand guineas.’ They then led him off, and, arriving in the evening at North Castle, they delivered him with his papers to Lieutenant Colonel Jameson, who commanded the post, and then went their way, not asking a reward for their services, nor leaving their names. What passed between Andre and Jameson is not known. The result of the interview was, that on the twenty-fourth the prisoner was ordered by Jameson
to be taken to Arnold; but on the sharp remonstrance of Major Tallmadge, the next in rank, the order was countermanded, and he was confined at [389] Old Salem, yet with permission to inform Arnold by
Chap. XVIII.} 1780. Sept. 25.
letter of his arrest.

His letter was received on the twenty-fifth, too late for an order to be given for his release, and only in time for Arnold himself to escape down the river to the ‘Vulture.’ Washington, who had turned aside to examine the condition of the works at West Point, arrived a few hours after his flight.

The first care of the commander-in-chief was for the safety of the post. The extent of the danger appeared from a letter of the twenty-fourth, in which Andre avowed himself to be the adjutant-general of the British army, and offered excuses for having been ‘betrayed into the vile condition of an enemy in disguise’ within his posts. He added: ‘The request I have to make to your Excellency, and I am conscious I address myself well, is, that, in any rigor policy may dictate, a decency of conduct towards me may mark, that, though unfortunate, I am branded with nothing dishonorable, as no motive could be mine but the service of my king, and as I was unvoluntarily an impostor.’ This request was granted in its full extent, and in the whole progress of the affair he was treated with the most scrupulous delicacy.9 Andre further wrote: ‘Gentlemen at Charleston on parole were engaged in a conspiracy against us; they are objects who may be set in exchange for me, or are persons whom the treatment I receive might affect.’ The charge of conspiracy against Gadsden and his fellow-sufferers was groundless; and had been brought forward only as an excuse for shipping them away from the city, where their mere presence [390] kept the love of independence alive. To seek

Chap. XVIII.} 1780. Sept. 25.
security by a threat of retaliation on innocent men was an unworthy act which received no support from Sir Henry Clinton. Andre was without loss of time conducted to the headquarters of the army at Tappan. His offence was so clear that it would have justified the promptest action; but, to prevent all possibility of complaint from any quarter, he was, on the twenty-ninth, brought before a numerous and very able board of
officers. On his own confession and without the examination of a witness, the board, on which sat Greene, second only to Washington in the service; St. Clair, afterwards president of congress; Lafayette, of the French army; Steuben, from the staff of Frederic the Second; Parsons, Clinton, Glover, Knox, Huntingdon, and others, all well known for their uprightness,—made their unanimous report that Major Andre, adjutant-general of the British army, ought to be considered as a spy from the enemy and to suffer death. Throughout the inquiry Andre was penetrated with the liberality of the members of the court, who showed him every mark of indulgence, and required him to answer no interrogatory which could even embarrass his feelings.10 He acknowledged their generosity in the strongest terms of manly gratitude, and afterwards remarked to one who visited him, that if there were any remains in his mind of prejudice against the Americans, his present experience must obliterate them.11

On the thirtieth the sentence was approved by Washington, and ordered to be carried into effect [391] the next day. Clinton had already in a note to

Chap. XVIII.} 1780 Sept. 30.
Washington asked Andreas release, as one who had been protected by ‘a flag of truce and passports granted for his return.’ Andre had himself, in his examination before the board of officers, repelled the excuse which Clinton made for him; and indeed to have used a flag of truce for his purposes would have aggravated his offence. Washington replied by enclosing to the British commander-in-chief the report of the board of inquiry, and observed ‘that Major Andre was employed in the execution of measures very foreign to flags of truce, and such as they were never meant to authorize.’

At the request of Clinton, who promised to present ‘a true state of facts,’ the execution was delayed till

Oct. 2.
the second day of October, and General Robertson, attended by two civilians, came up the river for a conference. The civilians were not allowed to land; but Greene was deputed to meet the officer. Instead of presenting facts, Robertson, after compliments to the character of Greene, announced that he had come to treat with him. Greene answered: ‘The case of an acknowledged spy admits no official discussion.’ Robertson then proposed to free Andre by an exchange. Greene answered: ‘If Andre is set free, Arnold must be given up;’ for the liberation of Andre could not be asked for except in exchange for one who was equally implicated in the complot. Robertson then forgot himself so far as to deliver an open letter from Arnold to Washington, in which, in the event Andre should suffer the penalty of death, he used these threats: ‘I shall think myself bound by every tie of duty and honor to retaliate on such [392] unhappy persons of your army as may fall within my
Chap. XVIII.} 1780.
power. Forty of the principal inhabitants of South Carolina have justly forfeited their lives; Sir Henry Clinton cannot in justice extend his mercy to them any longer, if Major Andre suffers.’

Meantime Andre entreated with touching earnestness that he might not die ‘on the gibbet.’ Washington and every other officer in the American army were moved to the deepest compassion; and Hamilton, who has left his opinion that no one ever suffered death with more justice and that there was in truth no way of saving him, wished that in the mode of his death his feelings as an officer and a man might be respected. But the English themselves had established the exclusive usage of the gallows. At the beginning of the war, their officers in America threatened the highest American officers and statesmen with the cord. It was the only mode of execution authorized by them. Under the orders of Clinton, Lord Cornwallis in South Carolina had set up the gallows for those whom he styled deserters, without regard to rank. Neither the sentence of the court nor the order of Washington names death on the gallows; the execution took place in the manner that was alone in use on both sides.

In going to the place of execution, a constrained smile hid the emotions of Andre. Arrived at the fatal spot, the struggle in his mind was visible; but he preserved his self-control. ‘I am reconciled,’ he said, ‘to my fate, but not to the mode.’ Being asked at the last moment if he had any thing to say, he answered: ‘Nothing but to request you to witness to the world that I die like a brave man.’ [393]

Tried by the laws of morals, it is one of the worst

Chap. XVIII.} 1780.
forms of dissimulation to achieve by corruption and treachery what cannot be gained by honorable arms. If we confine our judgment within the limits of the laws of war, it is a blemish on the character of Andre that he was willing to prostitute a flag, to pledge his word, even under the orders of his chief, for the innocence and private nature of his design, and to have made the lives of faultless prisoners hostages for his own. About these things a man of honor and humanity ought to have had a scruple; ‘but the temptation was great, let his misfortunes cast a veil over his errors.’ The last words of Andre committed to the Americans the care of his reputation; and they faithfully fulfilled his request. The firmness and delicacy observed in his case was exceedingly admired on the continent of Europe.12 His king did right in offering honorable rank to his brother, and in granting pensions to his mother and sisters; but not in raising a memorial to his name in Westminster Abbey. Such honor belongs to other enterprises and deeds. The tablet has no fit place in a sanctuary, dear from its monuments to every friend to genius and mankind.

As for Arnold he had not feeling enough to undergo mental torments, and his coarse nature was not sensitive to shame. He suffered only when he found that baffled treason, is paid grudgingly; when employment was refused him; when he could neither stay in England nor get orders for service in America; when, despised and neglected, he was pinched by want. [394] But the king would not suffer his children to stave,

Chap. XVIII.} 1780.
and eventually their names were placed on the pension list.

Sir George Rodney returned to the West Indies, and, so far as related to himself, let the unsuccessful conspiracy sink into oblivion. For Clinton, the cup of humiliation was filled to the brim. ‘Thus ended,’ so he wrote in his anguish to Germain, ‘this proposed plan from which I had conceived such great hopes and imagined such great consequences.’ He was, moreover, obliged to introduce into high rank in the British army, and receive at his council table, a man who had shown himself so sordid that British officers of honor hated to serve under him, or with him, or over him. Bankrupt and escaping from his creditors, Arnold preferred claims for indemnity, and received between six and seven thousand pounds. Moreover he had the effrontery to make addresses to the American people respecting their alliance with France; to write insolent letters to Washington; to invite all Americans to desert the colors of their country like himself; to advise the breaking up of the American army by wholesale bribery. Nay, he even turned against his patron as wanting activity, assuring Germain that the American posts in the Highlands might be carried in a few days by a regular attack. No one knew better than Clinton that Andre was punished justly; yet in his private journal he aimed a stab at the fair fame of his signally humane adversary, whom he had been able to overcome neither in the field nor by intrigue; and attributed an act of public duty to personal ‘rancor,’ for which no cause [395] whatever existed. The false accusation proves not

Chap. XVIII.} 1780.
so much malignity in its author as feebleness.13

Washington sought out the three young men who, ‘leaning only on their virtue and an honest sense of their duty,’ could not be tempted by gold; and on his report congress voted them annuities in words of respect and honor.

1 Journal desjenigen: was sich unter dem an den Generallieutenant von Kniephausen übertrage nen Commando ereignet hat.

2 Washington to the committee in camp in Marshall, i. 362.

3 Ms. note of Clinton to Stedman's History, II. 213.

4 Goltz to Frederic, 3 March, 1780.

5 Lord George Germain to Clinton, 27 Sept., 1779. Extract. ‘It will not, I am persuaded, escape your sagacity that the gaining over some of the most respectable members of that body [congress], or officers of influence and reputation among the troops, would, next to the destruction of Washington's army, be the speediest means of subduing the rebellion and restoring the tranquillity of America. Your commission authorizes you to avail yourself of such opportunities and there can be no doubt that the expense will be cheerfully submitted to.’ I understand this letter as having been written after receiving from an officer returning to England some verbal information from Clinton of the having gained over Arnold. Otherwise, the letter would be a most marvellous instance of harmony. Germain was, no doubt, cognizant of the plot; for Clinton, who was too prudent to communicate it in official letters, referred him to a returning officer for information which he did not choose to write. There was always danger that his despatches might be intercepted. There were, in England, the greatest expectations from the complot up to the moment of its discovery.

6 Journal of General Matthews cited in Balch's ‘Les Francais en Amerique,’ 110.

7 Chastellux, Travels. Am. ed. 46 and 50.

8 Testimony of Paulding and Williams in Smith's trial, 53 and 57.

9 Hamilton's Account of Arnold's Affair, in Works, i. 176.

10 Hamilton, i. 178.

11 Hamilton, i. 178.

12 Jay to Washington, 29 March, 1781, in Jay's Jay, II. 75.

13 In my narrative I have followed only contemporary documents, which are abundant and of the surest character, and which, taken collectively, solve every question. The most important are: The proceedings of the American court of inquiry; Clinton's elaborate letters to Lord George Germain of 11 and 12 Oct., 1780; Narrative of correspondence and transactions respecting General Arnold in Sir Henry Clinton's letter of 11 Oct., 1780; Two letters of Clinton to Germain of 12 Oct., 1780; Clinton's secret letter of 30 Oct., 1780; Clinton's report to Lord Amherst of 16 Oct., 1780; Extract from Clinton's Journal in Mahon's England, VII., Appendix VII. to XI.; Journal of General Matthews; Trial of Joshua Hett Smith, edited by Henry B. Dawson, New York, 1866; and especially Hamilton's Account of Andreas Affair in Works, i. 172-182. This last is particularly valuable, as Hamilton had the best opportunities to be well informed; and in his narrative, if there are any traces of partiality, it is towards Andre that he leaned. The reminiscences of men who wrote in later days are so mixed up with errors of memory and fable that they offer no sure foothold.

The letter of Hamilton to Miss Schuyler, as repeatedly printed with the date of 2 Oct., contains interpolations and omissions. I took a copy of it from the original. It has no date: since it enclosed his account of Arnold's affair, sent in compliance with a promise, it must have been written many days later than 2 Oct. It begins as follows: ‘No. 11. Since my last to you, I have received your letters Nos. 3 and 4. The others are yet on the way. Though it is too late to have the advantage of novelty, to comply with my promise I send you my account of Arnold's affair; and to justify myself to your sentiments I must inform you that I urged a compliance with Andreas request to be shot.’

It has been said that, as a return for clemency, Andre should have been spared. Here is an extract of an order of the subordinate of Clinton, which met his acquiescent approval, and which he forwarded to Lord George Germain: ‘I have ordered in the most positive manner that every militia-man who has borne arms with us and afterwards joined the enemy shall be immediately hanged.’ By militiamen were meant alike officers and privates, of whatever merit or station, and the order was rigorously executed without regard to military rank. What was thought of the order by the British government appears from Lord George Germain's answer, of which an extract follows: ‘The most disaffected will now be convinced that we are not afraid to punish.’

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Clinton, N. Y. (New York, United States) (9)
West Point (New York, United States) (5)
West Indies (4)
United States (United States) (4)
New Jersey (New Jersey, United States) (4)
Tarrytown (New York, United States) (3)
Springfield, Mo. (Missouri, United States) (3)
France (France) (3)
Dobbs Ferry (New York, United States) (3)
White Plains (New York, United States) (2)
Tappan (New York, United States) (2)
South Carolina (South Carolina, United States) (2)
Rhode Island (Rhode Island, United States) (2)
Newport (Rhode Island, United States) (2)
Hudson River (Maryland, United States) (2)
Hartford (Connecticut, United States) (2)
Hamilton, N. Y. (New York, United States) (2)
Gibraltar (Pennsylvania, United States) (2)
Fort Defiance (Arizona, United States) (2)
Staten Island (New York, United States) (1)
St. Clair, Mich. (Michigan, United States) (1)
Short Hills (New Jersey, United States) (1)
Sandy Hook, Md. (Maryland, United States) (1)
Petersburg, Va. (Virginia, United States) (1)
Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania, United States) (1)
Peekskill (New York, United States) (1)
Paris, Ky. (Kentucky, United States) (1)
North River (Virginia, United States) (1)
North America (1)
Morristown (New Jersey, United States) (1)
Milford (New Jersey, United States) (1)
Massachusetts (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Long Island City (New York, United States) (1)
Kingsbridge (Wisconsin, United States) (1)
King's Bridge (Alabama, United States) (1)
Huntington Bay (New York, United States) (1)
Huntingdon, Pa. (Pennsylvania, United States) (1)
Hudson River (United States) (1)
Hudson (New Jersey, United States) (1)
Haverstraw Bay (New York, United States) (1)
Haverstraw (New York, United States) (1)
Havana, N. Y. (New York, United States) (1)
Greensburg (Missouri, United States) (1)
England (United Kingdom) (1)
Crompond (New York, United States) (1)
Connecticut (Connecticut, United States) (1)
Cape St. Vincent (Portugal) (1)
Barbados (Barbados) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: