The Jetmakers | Perry's Saints | Thrilling Incidents In American History | Prev | Next

Thrilling Incidents In American History

• Title
• Preface

Revolutionary War
• Opening Of The Revolution
• The Boston Massacre
• Affair of the Sloop Liberty
• Affair of the Gaspee
• The Tea Riot
• The Boston Port Bill
• The First Continental Congress-Consequent Parliamentary proceedings
• Organization of the Minute-Men
• Patrick Henry-Second Provincial Congress-First Military Enterprise
• Battles of Lexington and Concord
• Battle of Bunker's Hill
• Capture of Ticonderoga
• Second Continental Congress-Washington's Appointment
• Siege of Boston
• Incidents at the Evacuation of Boston
• Burning of Falmouth
• Arnold's Expedition to Quebec
• Siege of Quebec, and Death of Montgomery
• Scenes at Quebec during the Siege
• Expedition against Charleston
• The Declaration of Independence
• The Battle of Long Island
• Washington's Retreat through New Jersey-Capture of General Lee
• Battle of Trenton
• Battle of Princeton
• Capture of General Prescott
• Battle of Brandywine
• Battle of Germantown
• Battle of Red-Bank
• Attack on Fort Mifflin-Retirement of the Army to Valley Forge
• Battle of Bennington
• Murder of Miss M'Crea
• Battle of Stillwater
• Battle of Bemis' Heights, and Retreat of Burgoyne
• Capture of Forts Clinton and Montgomery
• Surrender of Burgoyne
• The Treaty with France
• Attack on Savannah, and Death of Pulaski
• Storming of Stony Point
• General Sullivan's Campaign against the Mohawks
• Tarleton's Quarters
• Battle of Camden, and Death of De Kalb
• Arnold's Treason
• The Loss of the Randolph
• The British Prison-Ships
• Capture of the Serapis
• Putnam's Feat at Horseneck
• Battle of Eutaw Springs
• Wayne's Charge at Green Spring
• Capture of the General Monk
• The Mutinies
• Battle of the Cowpens
• Capture of New London
• Massacre of Wyoming
• Surrender of Cornwallis

War With France
• Capture of L'Insurgente
• The Constellation and Vengeance

War With Tripoli
• Burning of the Philadelphia
• Bombardment of Tripoli
• Loss of the Intrepid
• Expedition of General Eaton

Second War With England
• Battle of Tippecanoe
• Capture of the Guerriere
• Tragical Affair of an Indian Chief
• Battle and Massacre at the River Raisin
• Captain Holmes's Expedition
• Capture of the Caledonia and Detroit
• The Wasp and Frolic
• Gallant Conduct of Lieutenant Allen at the Capture of the Macedonian
• Capture and Destruction of the Java
• Siege of Fort Meigs
• Capture of York, and Death of General Pike
• Defence of Sackett's Harbour
• Defence of Fort Stephenson
• Battle of Lake Erie
• Battle of the Thames
• Gallant Action of Commodore Chauncey under the guns of Kingston Citadel
• The Sacking of Hampton
• Capture of the Peacock
• Massacre at Fort Mimms
• Surrender of Weatherford
• Battle of Niagara
• BattIe of New Orleans

War With Mexico
• Battle of Palo Alto
• Battle of Resaca de la Palma
• Capture of Monterey
• Battle in the Streets of Monterey
• Thrilling Scenes in the Battle of Buena Vista
• Bombardment of Vera Cruz
• Battle of Cerro Gordo
• Battles of Contreras and Churubusco
• Storming of Chapultepec


THE most disgraceful event of the revolutionary war, and one which, but for its timely discovery, would have been productive of the most direful consequences, was the treason of General Arnold. Brave as was this officer, and capable, through his influence among the soldiers, of sweeping the hosts of a superior army like a whirlwind, he yet possessed qualities of mind that tarnished most of his actions, and stamped him as a man dangerous alike to civil and military government. Proud, ambitious, unable to control his passions, he frequently became involved in difficulties from which he found it impossible to extricate himself. His extravagance and pomp of living were far beyond his means, and consequently he was often embarrassed in pecuniary concern. These circumstances were aggravated by the neglect and ingratitude of Congress, who refused to bestow upon him that distinction which his great services merited, and which had been extended to officers inferior to him in even military accomplishment. The consequence was, deep rancour toward that body, a determination of revenge, and a discontent and heartlessness with the service.

After the capture of Burgoyne, in which he acted a splendid part, he suddenly became inactive, and requested of Washington the command of West Point, a station of entire ease. This petition was urged in a manner so entirely in contrast with all his former conduct, as to excite astonishment in the commander, and even cause belief that Arnold was in jest. In order, therefore, to afford him an opportunity for military display, Washington gave him command of the left wing in the main army, during the excursion of Sir Henry Clinton up the Hudson. He continued, however, restless and dissatisfied, alleging inability for active duty on account of his wounded leg, and continued his application for West Point. His request Was then granted, and, in the summer of 1780, he took command of that important station.

Previous to this, Sir Henry Clinton had received letters through his aid, Major André, from an unknown correspondent, conveying important information relative to the American forces. After much reflection, he became convinced that the writer was no other than General Arnold. This conviction was strengthened, when, upon the latter taking command at West Point, Sir Henry received a proposal to deliver up a valuable portion of the American army to Great Britain. The affair had now assumed a complexion of the utmost importance; and though the British commander managed his part with the utmost secrecy, yet he contrived to assure himself beyond doubt that his correspondent was General Arnold.

West Point was at that time the most important military station held by the Americans. Besides containing a large amount of valuable military stores, provisions and vessels, it was the proposed depot of the French and continental armies during their intended attack upon New York, and the key of communication between the Middle and Northern States. It also commanded the navigation of the Hudson. By a surrender of this place to the British arms; a fine garrison and stores would be lost, the attack upon Sir Henry frustrated, the combination between Washington and Rochambeau rendered ineffective, and all intercourse with the north made hazardous if not impossible. Accordingly, Clinton determined to use every effort in order to accomplish events of so much magnitude.

At the suggestion of Arnold, Major André was despatched across the Hudson for the purpose of having a personal interview with him, and arranging matters which could only be hinted at under the disguise of a mercantile correspondence. On the 21st of September he was conveyed from the Vulture sloop-of-war to Arnold's presence, and the plot, together with the necessary plan of operations, was matured. The conspirators were unable to finish the conference before morning; and in the meantime the Vulture was obliged to change its position, in consequence of being fired on by the Americans. During the whole of the 22d, therefore, André remained on the American side, and at last was totally unable to obtain conveyance across the river. Arnold then furnished him with a passport and horse, in order to reach New York by land, concealing in his boots important papers intended for Sir Henry Clinton. Leaving behind him his military coat, and accompanied by one Smith, who had hitherto been the dupe of Arnold's proceedings, he rode to King's Ferry, crossed the river from Stony Point to Verplanck's Point, and pushed on toward the White Plains. After passing several parties, Smith left his companion, and the latter pursued his journey alone. Instead, however, of pursuing his original route across the White Plains, he moved off toward the Hudson river, and entered the Tarrytown road.

The region in which André was now travelling, had lately become notorious on account of the frequent plunderings from parties on both sides, which left no security to either person or property. Several young men had been on the alert to arrest some of these marauders, dividing themselves into small parties, and remaining concealed among the woods or bushes. When near Tarrytown, André. was stopped by three of these, and instead of immediately showing his pass, he commenced a hurried conversation with them, which resulted in his capture. The particulars of this affair were given in tQeir subsequent evidence during the trial of that unfortunate officer, of which the following are extracts.

"Myself (John Paulding), Isaac Yan Wert, and David Williams, were lying by the side of the road about half a mile above Tarrytown, and about fifteen miles above King's Bridge, on Saturday morning between nine and ten o'clock, the 23d of September. We had lain there about an hour and a half, as near as I can recollect, and saw several persons we were acquainted with, whom we let pass. Presently one of the young men who were with me said, 'There comes a gentlemanly-looking man, who appears to be well dressed, and has boots on, and whom you had better step out and stop, if you don't know him.' On that I got up, and presented my firelock at the breast of the person, and told him to stand. Then I asked him which way he was going. 'Gentlemen,' said he, 'I hope you belong to our party.' I asked him what party; and he replied, 'The lower.' I told him I did, and he said, 'I am a British officer out of the country on particular business, and I hope you will not detain me a minute.' To show he was a British officer, he pulled out his watch, when I told him to dismount. He then said, 'My God, I must do anything to get along,' and seemed to make a kind of laugh of it, and pulled out General Arnold's pass, which was to John Anderson, to pass all guards to White Plains, and below. Upon that he dismounted. Said he, 'Gentlemen, you had best let me go, or you will bring yourselves into trouble; for your stopping me will detain the general's business. I. am going to Dobb's Ferry, to meet a person there, and get intelligence for General Arnold.' Upon that I told him not to be offended, that we did not mean to take anything from him; and I told him there were many bad people going along the road, and I did not know but perhaps he might be one."

"We took him into the bushes," said David Williams, in his evidence, "and ordered him to pull off his clothes, which he did; but, on searching him narrowly, we could not find any sort of writings. We told him to pull off his boots, which he seemed to be indifferent about; but we got one boot off, and searched in that boot, and could find nothing; but we found that there were some papers in the bottom of his stocking, next to his foot, on which we made him pull his stocking off, and found three papers wrapped up. Mr. Paulding looked at the contents, and said he was a spy. We then made him pull off his other boot, and there we found three more papers at the bottom of his foot, within his stocking.

"Upon this, we made him dress himself, and I asked him what he would give us to let him go. He said he would give us any sum of money. I asked him whether he would give us his horse, saddle, bridle, watch, and one hundred guineas. He said, 'Yes;' and told us he would direct them to any place that we might pitch upon, so that we might get it. Mr. Paulding answered, 'No! if you would give us ten thousand guineas, you shall not stir one step.' I then asked the person who had called himself John Anderson, if he would not get away if it lay in his power, and he answered that he would. I told him that I did not intend he should. While~aking him along, we asked him a few questions, and we stopped under a shade. He begged us not to ask him questions, and said when he would come to any commander he would reveal all."

There can be little doubt that, had André showed his pass immediately on being arrested, he would have been permitted to continue his journey. His neglect to do so will appear the more excusable, when we remember that he was now near Clinton's head-quarters, and that he had been informed on the previous evening of a large party of British marauders being near Tarrytown; and, in consequence of this very information, he had changed his route in the morning.

André was conveyed by his captors to North Castle, where a party of dragoons was stationed under Lieutenant-Colonel Jameson. The six papers found about his person were also delivered to that officer. These were writings of the utmost importance, defining the force and positions of the garrison; a return of the different forts, batteries, &c.; detached sketches of Washington's designs during the remainder of the campaign; with other valuable information.

Lieutenant-Colonel Jameson acted in a manner both foolish and reprehensible. The captured papers were in Arnold's hand-writing, with which he was well acquainted, and contained most indubitable marks of treachery; yet he determined to send his prisoner to Arnold, together with a letter, detailing the circumstances of his arrest. Washington observed subsequently that, in consequence either of his "egregious folly, or bewildered conception, he seemed lost in astonishment, and not to know what he was doing."

André was accordingly despatched towards West Point; while the papers found about his person, were sent by express to General Washington. Immediately after the departure of the prisoner, Major Tallmadge, second in command, arrived at North Castle, from an excursion to White Plains; and on being informed of what had transpired, expressed his utter astonishment at the conduct of his superior. The representations of the major had no other effect with Jameson, than the obtaining of an order for André's return to North Castle; yet the notice to Arnold was still permitted to proceed.

André was brought back to Jameson's quarters before daylight of the following morning. It was determined to send him to Lower Salem, a place of greater security than North Castle, and the head-quarters of Colonel Sheldon. He was escorted by Major Tallmadge, and on arriving at the colonel's station, requested permission to write a letter to General Washington. In this he declared his real name and station, gave the reasons of his being within the American lines, with the circumstances of his capture, and asked permission to write to Sir Henry Clinton. Not a word was said of Arnold, or that could in the least involve anyone in the conspiracy. Before folding the letter, he presented it to Major Tallmadge, who perused it with the strongest emotion. The first sight of André had convinced him of his being a military man; but he had not imagined him to be an officer of such high rank. His former suspicions of Arnold's fidelity were now strengthened, and the folly of Colonel Jameson rendered more inexplicable than ever. Jameson's want of sagacity was the the first cause of Arnold's escape; but there were several others, and indeed, so fortunately did circumstances combine in his favour, as to appear little less than miraculous. On the 24th of September, General Washington arrived within eighteen miles of West Point, and after stopping to partake of some refreshment, rode forward until within three miles of Arnold's head-quarters. Here he unexpectedly met with the French minister, Monsieur de la Luzerne, who prevailed on him to return to his place of stoppage (Fishkill), for the purpose of laying before him matters of importance. This prevented him from reaching West Point that evening, as he had intended.

On the following morning, Washington, accompanied by La Fayette, and other officers, set out for Arnold's quarters; but on the road the commander seems to have changed his mind, and turned his horse toward the river. Thinking this to be a mistake, La Fayette said, "General, you are going in a wrong direction; you know Mrs. Arnold is waiting breakfast for us, and that road will take us out of our way." Washington replied in a playful manner, stating that he wished to see the redoubts on the river, but gave the party permission to proceed to Arnold's station. This they declined, and accompanied the general, after sending two aids to apprise their host of the change of intention.

Slight as was this incident, it probably saved Arnold. While his family and the two aids were at breakfast, Jameson's letter arrived, giving the stunning intelligence of André's capture. It was a moment of terrible feeling; yet, so perfectly was Arnold master of himself, that while reading it he betrayed no unusual excitement. Informing the aids that a sudden and unexpected event required his presence at West Point, he rose hastily from the table, ordered a horse, and retired to Mrs. Arnold's apartment. He then sent for her, and revealed the plot, telling her they must part for ever, since his life depended on his escape to the enemy. She immediately fainted; but, reckless of everything in the wild hurry for life, he left her senseless, rushed from the house, mounted his horse, and dashed toward the Hudson. Here he found a boat containing six men, whom he ordered to row as for life, telling them that he was bearing a flag of truce, and wished to get back in time to meet General Washington. By displaying it white handkerchief, Arnold escaped the suspicions of both British and Americans, and reached the Vulture in safety. He was mean and cruel enough to detain as prisoners the men to whom he owed his life; but on their arrival at New York, they were set at liberty by Sir Henry Clinton.

Meanwhile, Washington arrived at Arnold's house; and ascertaining that he had gone to West Point, he hurried breakfast, and, accompanied by all the officers except Hamilton, set out for the fort. As he drew near the shore with his barge, the officers expected to hear Arnold's cannon by way of salute; but aU was silent. Their astonishment was increased when the commandant hurried to the shore and began to apologize for not making any preparations to receive such distinguished visiters, as he had been totally ignorant of their approach. "How is this, sir?" replied Washington; "is not General Arnold here ?" " No, sir; he has not been here these two days, nor have I heard from him within that time." Astonished at this unexpected intel1igence, Washington entered the fort, and though evidently waiting for Arnold, commenced a review of the works. After spending more than an hour in this manner, he reentered the barge, and set out for Robinson's house. On the way they were met by Hamilton, who took the commander aside, and spoke to him in a quick hurried tone. Those few hurried words were of fearful power, fraught with the news of Arnold's treason.

The bearer of Jameson's despatches had missed Washington, in consequence of the latter changing his route. On reaching Robinson's house he handed them to Colonel Hamilton, with the remark that they contained intelligence of the utmost importance. That officer opened them, and, on discovering their contents, rode immediately to meet the commander.

On perusing the papers, Washington' ordered Hamilton to ride with all haste to Verplanck's Point, to arrest Arnold, if possible, before he could cross the river; and then calling La Fayette and Knox, he calmly disclosed to them the conspiracy, merely remarking -"Whom can we trust now?" The same dignity and forbearance characterized him throughout the day. When dinner was announced, he took the head of the table, and said -"Come, gentlemen; since Mrs. Arnold is unwell, and the general is absent, let us sit down without ceremony."

Meanwhile, the situation of Mrs. Arnold was truly deplorable. "For a considerable time," says Hamilton, "she entirely lost herself. The general (Washington) went to see her, and she upbraided him with being in a plot to murder her child. One moment she raved, and then she melted into tears. Sometimes she pressed her infant to her bosom, and lamented its fate, occasioned by the imprudence of its father, in a manner that would have pierced insensibility itself. All the sweetness of beauty, all the loveliness of innocence, all the tenderness of a wife, and all the fondness of a mother, showed themselves in her appearance and conduct. We have every reason to believe that she was entirely unacquainted with the plan, and that the first knowledge of it was when Arnold went to tell her he must banish himself from his country, and from her, for ever. She instantly fell into convulsions, and he left her in that situation."

The arrest of André entirely frustrated the conspiracy; and though Arnold made good his escape, and everything was in readiness for an immediate attack upon West Point, yet far from attempting it, the British commander turned his whole attention to the safety of his friend. Hamilton received a letter from Arnold to Washington, boasting bf his rectitude of intention, and requesting that Mrs. Arnold might be attended to. It was accompanied by another from one Beverly Robinson, on board the Vulture, requesting the release of André.

After writing to Greene to advance with the left wing of the army, and taking other precautionary measures, orders were sent to Colonel Jameson to despatch André to Robinson's house. He arrived there on the 26th of September, under the care of Major Tallmadge, having travelled all night through a heavy rain. He was subsequently removed to Tappan.

On the 29th, Washington summoned a court of inquiry, to investigate the subject of André's capture, and report their opinion concerning him. It was composed of six major-generals, eight brigadiers, and General Greene as president. All necessary documents were laid before them, and every effort made by the commander-in-chief to insure a correct and unbiassed verdict.

After the names of the officers had been read to him, André was informed that it was optional with him to answer any question which might be asked, and that he might have his own time to reflect upon them. After having acknowledged the identity of certain papers with those found about his person when captured, and also given the board a short account of the circumstances attending his landing from the Vulture, he was asked whether he considered himself as having acted under a flag. He replied that it was "impossible for him to suppose, that he came on shore under the sanction of a flag," adding, "that if he came on shore under that sanction, he might certainly have returned under it." His whole behaviour throughout the investigation was open, dignified, and manly; he offered no excuse, not even a palliating remark for his conduct; and on being asked at the close if he had anything to remark, he replied in the negative. The hearing was long and tedious, and after a careful summary of all the facts presented to them, the board arrived at the conclusion "that Major André, adjutant-general, to the British army, ought to be considered as a spy from the enemy, and that agreeably to the laws and usages of nations, it is their opinion he ought to suffer death." In this opinion Washington concurred, and appointed five o'clock, P. M., October 1st, as the time of execution.

On that day, however, a last effort was made by Sir Henry Clinton to save his friend. He informed Washington that a committee of gentlemen would be sent from the army to confer with him, and present facts toprove the major's innocence. Only one of these deputies (General Robertson), was permitted to come on shore. He was met by General Greene on the part of Washington, every exertion was made to prove that André was not a spy, and to influence the feelings of the American commissioner in his behalf. A letter was presented from Arnold to General Washington, and Robertson further offered to refer the decision of André's true position to General Knyphausen and Count Rochambeau. Greene listened with the deepest attention, promising to lay these views before General Washington; and Robertson seems to have believed that he had effected his purpose, as he immediately wrote to Clinton that André would not be harmed. In the morning he was stunned by the intelligence from Greenes that after weighing the facts presented during the conversation, Washington's opinion was still unchanged.

All efforts to ameliorate André's fate having failed, he was executed on the 2d of October, 1780. In the morning he received the communication of his fate without emotion, and while all present were affected with gloom, his mind was composed, and his countenance firm. When his servant entered in tears, he exclaimed, "Leave me, till you can show yourself more manly." His breakfast being sent him from Washington's table, as had been done every day of his confinement, he partook of it as usual, and having shaved and dressed himself he said to the guard officers, "I am ready at any moment, gentlemen, to wait on you." He then walked from the house, arm in arm with two subaltern officers. A large detachment of troops was paraded, amid ap immense concourse of people.

Nearly all the general and field-officers were present on horseback, except General Washington and staff. Gloom and melancholy pervaded all ranks, and the scene was deeply affecting. The major betrayed no want of fortitude, retaining a complacent countenance, and occasionally bowing to gentlemen whom he knew. The method of his death had been concealed from him until the last moment; for although in a touching letter he had requested to be shot, yet Washington wished not to wound his feelings by informing him the request could not be granted. When in sight of the gallows, he involuntarily started; but recovered himself, with the remark -"I am reconciled to my death, but I detest the mode." While stepping into the wagon, he appeared to falter for a moment; but suddenly rallying himself, he exclaimed, "It will be but a momentary pang;" and taking from his pocket two white handkerchiefs, he tied one over his eyes, and permitted his hands to be pinioned with the other. The rope being appended to the gallows, he slipped the noose over his head, and adjusted it to his neck without the aid of the executioner. Colonel Scammel now informed him that he had an opportunity to speak; when, raising the bandage from his eyes, he said -" I pray you to bear me witness, that I meet my fate like a brave man!" -then, readjusting the handkerchief, the wagon was removed, and after a momentary pang the gallant and accomplished André was no more.

At his death Major André was about twenty-nine years of age, well-proportioned, tall, and graceful, with a countenance indicative of amiability and intelligence. His talents were of a highly respectable order, and being cultivated in early life, he pad become proficient in literary and other attainments. As an officer he was skilful, brave, and enterprising, and is reported to have been humane to the American prisoners in New York. The main spring of his actions, the sole object of his youthful aspirations, was military glory; and he was advancing rapidly in the gratification of his ambitious views, when a misguided zeal blasted all prospects, and stained him as the victim of a traitor's guile. The heart of sensibility mourns when a life of so much worth is sacrificed on a gibbet; yet was it in strict accordance with the laws of war, by which every spy is doomed to the gallows.

The circumstances attending the entrance of André into the army, heightens the sympathy occasioned by his fate. In early life he had become enamoured of a young lady, who returned his affection, and agreed upon marriage. This, however, was frustrated by the opposition of her father, and four years afterward she married with another gentleman. This was a terrible blow to André. He had ever kept her picture about his person, and hoped that time would at length unite them; but now his happiness was blasted for ever, and he resolved to join the army. In 1775 he was taken prisoner by Montgomery, at St. John's, and deprived of everything except the picture of his Honora, executed by his own hand, and which he concealed in his mouth. He met with various adventures, until exchanged, when he joined the family of Sir Henry Clinton, by whom he was greatly esteemed. While awaiting execution, he requested of Sir Henry Clinton that his commission might be sold for the benefit of his mother and sisters. This was immediately done by his friend, who also petitioned the king in the most faithful manner, that something further might be granted to these bereaved relatives. The monarch granted a pension to his parent, and the order of knighthood to his mother.

Arnold received the stipulated reward of his treachery, being appointed colonel of a regiment in the British service with the rank of brigadier-general, and receiving six thousand three hundred and fifty pounds sterling.