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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Capture of André
By Richard Hildreth (1807–1865)
From the ‘History of the United States’

DURING Washington’s absence at Hartford [for his interview with Rochambeau in September 1780], a plot came to light for betraying the important fortress of West Point and the other posts of the Highlands into the hands of the enemy; the traitor being no other than Arnold, the most brilliant officer and one of the most honored in the American army. The qualities of a brilliant soldier are unfortunately often quite distinct from those of a virtuous man and a good citizen. Arnold’s arrogant, overbearing, reckless spirit, his disregard of the rights of others, and his doubtful integrity, had made him many enemies; but his desperate valor at Behmus’s Heights, covering up all his blemishes, had restored him to the rank in the army which he coveted. Placed in command at Philadelphia, his disposition to favor the disaffected of that city had involved him, as has been mentioned already, in disputes with Governor Reed and the Pennsylvania Council.  1
  Arnold’s vanity and love of display overwhelmed him with debts. He had taken the best house in the city, that formerly occupied by Governor Penn. He lived in a style of extravagance far beyond his means, and he endeavored to sustain it by entering into privateering and mercantile speculations, most of which proved unsuccessful. He was even accused of perverting his military authority to purposes of private gain. The complaints on this point made to Congress by the authorities of Pennsylvania had been at first unheeded; but being presently brought forward in a solemn manner, and with some appearance of offended dignity on the part of the Pennsylvania Council, an interview took place between a committee of that body and a committee of Congress, which had resulted in Arnold’s trial by a court-martial. Though acquitted of the more serious charges, on two points he had been found guilty, and had been sentenced to be reprimanded by the commander-in-chief.  2
  Arnold claimed against the United States a large balance, growing out of the unsettled accounts of his Canada expedition. This claim was greatly cut down by the treasury officers, and when Arnold appealed to Congress, a committee reported that more had been allowed him than was actually due.  3
  Mortified and soured, and complaining of public ingratitude, Arnold attempted, but without success, to get a loan from the French minister. Some months before, he had opened a correspondence with Sir Henry Clinton under a feigned name, carried on through Major André, adjutant-general of the British army. Having at length made himself known to his correspondents, to give importance to his treachery he solicited and obtained from Washington, who had every confidence in him, the command in the Highlands, with the very view of betraying that important position into the hands of the enemy.  4
  To arrange the terms of the bargain, an interview was necessary with some confidential British agent; and André, though not without reluctance, finally volunteered for that purpose. Several previous attempts having failed, the British sloop-of-war Vulture, with André on board, ascended the Hudson as far as the mouth of Croton River, some miles below King’s Ferry. Information being sent to Arnold under a flag, the evening after Washington left West Point for Hartford he dispatched a boat to the Vulture, which took André on shore for an interview on the west side of the river, just below the American lines. Morning appeared before the arrangements for the betrayal of the fortress could be definitely completed, and André was reluctantly persuaded to come within the American lines, and to remain till the next night at the house of one Smith, a dupe or tool of Arnold’s, the same who had been employed to bring André from the ship. For some reason not very clearly explained, Smith declined to convey André back to the Vulture, which had attracted the attention of the American gunners, and in consequence of a piece of artillery brought to bear upon her had changed her position, though she had afterward returned to her former anchorage.  5
  Driven thus to the necessity of returning by land, André laid aside his uniform, assumed a citizen’s dress, and with a pass from Arnold in the name of John Anderson, a name which André had often used in their previous correspondence, he set off toward sunset on horseback, with Smith for a guide. They crossed King’s Ferry, passed all the American guards in safety, and spent the night near Crom Pond with an acquaintance of Smith’s. The next morning, having passed Pine’s Bridge across Croton River, Smith left André to pursue his way alone. The road led through a district extending some thirty miles above the island of New York, not included in the lines of either army, and thence known as the “Neutral Ground”; a populous and fertile region, but very much infested by bands of plunderers called “Cow-Boys” and “Skinners.” The “Cow-Boys” lived within the British lines, and stole or bought cattle for the supply of the British army. The rendezvous of the “Skinners” was within the American lines. They professed to be great patriots, making it their ostensible business to plunder those who refused to take the oath of allegiance to the State of New York. But they were ready in fact to rob anybody, and the cattle thus obtained were often sold to the Cow-Boys in exchange for dry-goods brought from New York. By a State law, all cattle driven toward the city were lawful plunder when beyond a certain line; and a general authority was given to anybody to arrest suspicious travelers.  6
  The road to Tarrytown, on which André was traveling, was watched that morning by a small party on the lookout for cattle or travelers; and just as André approached the village, while passing a small brook a man sprang from among the bushes and seized the bridle of his horse. He was immediately joined by two others; and André, in the confusion of the moment, deceived by the answers of his captors, who professed to belong to the “Lower” or British party, instead of producing his pass avowed himself a British officer, on business of the highest importance. Discovering his mistake, he offered his watch, his purse, anything they might name, if they would suffer him to proceed. His offers were rejected; he was searched, suspicious papers were found in his stockings, and he was carried before Colonel Jameson, the commanding officer on the lines.  7
  Jameson recognized in the papers, which contained a full description of West Point and a return of the forces, the handwriting of Arnold; but unable to realize that his commanding officer was a traitor, while he forwarded the papers by express to Washington at Hartford, he directed the prisoner to be sent to Arnold, with a letter mentioning his assumed name, his pass, the circumstances of his arrest, and that papers of “a very suspicious character” had been found on his person. Major Talmadge, the second in command, had been absent while this was doing. Informed of it on his return, with much difficulty he procured the recall of the prisoner; but Jameson persisted in sending forward the letter to Arnold. Washington, then on his return from Hartford, missed the express with the documents; his aides-de-camp, who preceded him, were breakfasting at Arnold’s house when Jameson’s letter arrived. Pretending an immediate call to visit one of the forts on the opposite side of the river, Arnold rose from table, called his wife up-stairs, left her in a fainting-fit, mounted a horse which stood saddled at the door, rode to the river-side, threw himself into his barge, passed the forts waving a handkerchief by way of flag, and ordered his boatman to row for the Vulture. Safe on board, he wrote a letter to Washington, asking protection for his wife, whom he declared ignorant and innocent of what he had done.  8
  Informed of Arnold’s safety, and perceiving that no hope of escape existed, André in a letter to Washington avowed his name and true character. A board of officers was constituted to consider his case, of which Greene was president and Lafayette and Steuben were members. Though cautioned to say nothing to criminate himself, André frankly told the whole story, declaring however that he had been induced to enter the American lines contrary to his intention, and by the misrepresentations of Arnold. Upon his own statements, without examining a single witness, the board pronounced him a spy, and as such doomed him to speedy death.  9
  Clinton, who loved André, made every effort to save him. As a last resource, Arnold wrote to Washington, stating his view of the matter, threatening retaliation, and referring particularly to the case of Gadsden and the other South Carolina prisoners at St. Augustine. The manly and open behavior of André, and his highly amiable private character, created no little sympathy in his behalf; but martial policy was thought to demand his execution. He was even denied his last request to be shot instead of hanged. Though in strict accordance with the laws of war, Andrews execution was denounced in England as inexorable and cruel. It certainly tended to aggravate feelings already sufficiently bitter on both sides.  10

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