LIFE AND TREASON OF BENEDICT ARNOLD
By Jared Sparks.
Hilliard, Gray, And Co.
It is the chief object of the following narrative to give an account of the treason of Arnold, its causes, the plans for carrying it forward, and its final issue. In executing this design, it was necessary to touch upon the events of his previous life; and, as many of these have a real interest in themselves, and others a direct bearing on the subject, it is believed no apology for introducing them will be required.
The author has of course consulted all the printed books and documents, which he could find; and among others he acknowledges his obligation to M. de Mar-bois' Complot d'Arnold et de Sir Henry Clinton, published several years ago in Paris, and soon afterwards translated by Mr. Walsh for the second volume of the American Register. The parts of M. de Marbois' book, which he wrote from personal knowledge and observation, have a special value; some of the other parts would have been varied, if his materials had been more abundant and exact.
Besides printed sources of information, the author has been fortunate in procuring the use of a large number of original papers in manuscript, which have not before been inspected. In the public archives of London he was allowed to peruse the entire correspondence, between the British commander in America and the ministry, concerning Arnold's defection; particularly a very ample narrative of all the transactions, dated nine days after the death of André, methodically drawn up, and signed by Sir Henry Clinton. This correspondence exhibits in a clear view the British side of the question.
Among General Washington's manuscripts are also original materials, including the papers that were laid before the board of general officers to whom Andre's case was submitted, and the drafts of letters and other papers left behind by Arnold when he escaped. Arnold's letters to Congress are curious, and indicate the workings of his mind while maturing his plot. The same may be said of some of his miscellaneous letters, which have fallen into the author's hands.
For that portion of the narrative in which the agency of André is described, the principal authority has been the records of the trial of Joshua H. Smith. This person was arraigned before a court-martial, upon the charge of having been an accomplice with Arnold, but his guilt was not proved. The trial lasted for nearly a month. Numerous witnesses were examined, and among others the captors of André. All the testimony was taken down in detail, and the papers have been preserved. They are voluminous and important.
Several gentlemen now living, who were personally acquainted with circumstances attending the treason of Arnold, have made valuable communications, either written or verbal, for the present work.
The author will only add, that he has everywhere aimed at strict accuracy in his viii statements, and verified them whenever it was possible by reference to manuscript authorities. If his labors should be found to have contributed any thing to illustrate an interesting point of history, his end will be answered and his wishes gratified.
LIFE AND TREASON OF BENEDICT ARNOLD
Arnold's Birth and Early Life.
Among the first settlers and proprietors of Rhode Island was William Arnold, a name of some note in the local annals of his time. He had three sons, Benedict, Thomas, and Stephen. The eldest, that is, Benedict Arnold, succeeded Roger Williams as president of the colony under the first charter, and he was at different times governor under the second charter during a period of fifteen years; a proof of the respect in which he was held by his contemporaries.
The family spread out into several branches. One of these was established at Newport, from which place two brothers, Benedict Arnold and Oliver Arnold, emigrated to Norwich in Connecticut, the former about the year 1730, or perhaps a little earlier, the latter several years afterwards. They were coopers by trade, but Benedict discontinued that occupation soon after his removal to Norwich, and engaged in commerce. He made one or two voyages to England, but was principally concerned in navigation to the West Indies, and was owner of the vessels he commanded. Having accumulated means sufficient to enable him to change this pursuit for one which he liked better, he became a merchant, and for several years carried on an extensive business at Norwich. He was a man of suspicious integrity, little respected, and less esteemed. Prosperity deserted him, and by degrees he sank into intemperance, poverty, and contempt.
In the mean time he had married Mrs. Hannah King, a widow lady, whose name before her first marriage was Waterman. Her family connexions were highly respectable, and she is represented as having been eminent for her amiable temper, piety, and Christian virtues. The children of this second marriage were three sons and three daughters. Benedict, the eldest, died in infancy. The same name was given to the next son. Of the six children, only he and his sister Hannah survived the years of childhood.
Benedict Arnold, the second son above named, and the subject of this notice, was born at Norwich, on the 3d of January, 1740. As his father's affairs were then in a successful train, it is probable he enjoyed the advantage of as good schools as the town or its vicinity afforded.
For a time he was under the tuition of Dr. Jewett, a teacher of some celebrity at Montville. There is no evidence, however, that his acquirements reached beyond those usually attained in the common schools. While yet a lad he was apprenticed to two gentlemen by the name of Lathrop, who were partners as druggists in a large establishment at Norwich, and alike distinguished for their probity, worth, and the wide extent of their business. Being allied by a distant relationship to the mother of the young apprentice, they felt a personal interest in his welfare, especially as no benefit to him was now to be hoped from the example or guidance of his father.
It was soon made obvious to these gentlemen, that they had neither an agreeable nor an easy task before them. To an innate love of mischief, young Arnold added an obduracy of conscience, a cruelty of disposition, an irritability of temper, and a reckless indifference to the good or ill opinion of others, that left but a slender foundation upon which to erect a system of correct principles or habits. Anecdotes have been preserved illustrative of these traits. One of his earliest amusements was the robbing of birds' nests, and it was his custom to maim and mangle young birds in sight of the old ones, that he might be diverted by their cries. Near the druggist's shop was a schoolhouse, and he would scatter in the path broken pieces of glass taken from the crates, by which the children would cut their feet in coming from the school. The cracked and imperfect phials, which came in the crates, were perquisites of the apprentices. Hopkins, a fellow apprentice and an amiable youth, was in the habit of placing his share on the outside of the shop near the door, and permitting the small boys to take them away, who were pleased with this token of his good will. Arnold followed the same practice; but, when he had decoyed the boys, and they were busy in picking up the broken phials, he would rush out of the shop with a horsewhip in his hand, call them thieves, and beat them without mercy. These and similar acts afforded him pleasure. He was likewise fond of rash feats of daring, always foremost in danger, and as fearless as he was wickedly mischievous. Sometimes he took corn to a gristmill in the neighbourhood; and, while waiting for the meal, he would amuse himself and astonish his playmates, by clinging to the arms of a large water-wheel and passing with it beneath and above the water.
Weary of the monotonous duties of the shop, and smitten with the attractions of a military life, he enlisted as a soldier in the army without the knowledge of his friends when he was sixteen years old, and went off with other recruits to Hartford. This caused such deep distress to his mother, that the Reverend Dr. Lord, pastor of the church to which she belonged, and some other persons, took a lively interest in the matter, and succeeded in getting him released and brought back. Not long afterwards he ran away, enlisted a second time, and was stationed at Ticonderoga and different places on the frontiers; but being employed in garrison duty, and subjected to more restraint and discipline than were suited to his restless spirit and unyielding obstinacy, and seeing no prospect of an opportunity for gratifying his ambition and love of bold adventure, he deserted, returned to Norwich, and resumed his former employment. When a British officer passed through the town in pursuit of deserters, his friends, fearing a discovery, secreted him in a cellar till night, and then sent him several miles into the country, where he remained concealed till the officer was gone.
During the whole of his apprenticeship he gave infinite trouble to Dr. Lathrop, in whose family he resided; and his conduct was a source of perpetual anxiety and grief to his mother. He was her only surviving son, her husband was lost to himself and to the world, and it was natural that the maternal hopes and fears of a lady of her sensibility and excellence should be powerfully wrought upon, by such wayward exhibitions of character in one, to whom she was bound by the strongest and tenderest ties, and on whom she relied as the support of her declining years. Borne down with the weight of present affliction, her forebodings of the future must have been melancholy and fearful. Heaven relieved her from the anguish of witnessing her son's career of ambition without virtue, of glory tarnished with crime, and of depravity ending in infamy and ruin. She died before he reached the age of manhood.
After he had served out his apprenticeship, Arnold left Norwich and commenced business as a druggist in New Haven. He was assisted by his former masters in setting up his new establishment, which at first was on a small scale; but, by his enterprise and activity, his business was extended, and to the occupation of an apothecary he added that of a general merchant. At length he took up the profession of a navigator, shipped horses, cattle, and provisions to the West Indies, and commanded his own vessels. Turbulent, impetuous, presuming, and unprincipled, it was to be expected that he would raise up a host of enemies against him, and be involved in many difficulties. He fought a duel with a Frenchman somewhere in the West Indies, and was engaged in frequent quarrels both at home and abroad. His speculations ended in bankruptcy, and under circumstances, which, in the opinion of the world, left a stain upon his honesty and good faith. He resumed his business, and applied himself to it with his accustomed vigor and resource, and with the same obliquity of moral purpose, hazard, and disregard of public sentiment, that had always marked his conduct.
On one occasion, just after he had returned from a West India voyage, a sailor who had been with him spread a report, that he had smuggled contraband goods and got them ashore without the knowledge of a custom-house officer. Arnold sought out the sailor, beat him severely, and compelled him to leave the town and take a solemn oath, that he would never enter it again. Within two or three days, however, the sailor was found in the streets; and Arnold collected a small party, seized him, and took him to the whipping-post, where about forty lashes were inflicted upon him with a small cord, and he was conducted a second time out of town. The affair was noised abroad, and excited the indignation of the populace. The sailor came back, and the case was submitted to Colonel Wooster and another gentleman, who, as Arnold said in his public vindication, "were of opinion, that the fellow was not whipped too much, and gave him fifty shillings damages only." He grounded this summary mode of punishment on what he considered the infamous nature of the offence, and its tendency to injure the community by casting suspicion upon honest dealers and obstructing the course of trade.
An exploit is remembered, which was characteristic of his rashness and courage. While driving cattle on board a vessel, which he was freighting for a voyage, a refractory ox refused obedience. He grew furious, ran off, and set his pursuers at defiance. Arnold mounted a fleet horse, overtook the ox, seized the enraged animal by a tender part of the nostrils, and held him in that position till he was subdued and secured.
Arnold's father died about the time he settled in New Haven, and his sister, Hannah Arnold, being the only remaining individual of the family, joined him at that place. He was early married at New Haven to a lady by the name of Mansfield. They had three sons, Benedict, Richard, and Henry. The first died young in the West Indies. He was a violent, headstrong youth, and it is supposed he came to an untimely end. He had a commission in the British service after the revolution. There is a letter written by Hannah Arnold, in which, after mentioning that this nephew had gone to the West Indies, she says, "He went entirely contrary to the wishes of his father; what has been his fate, God only knows, but my prophetic heart forbodes the worst." All accounts agree in extolling the accomplishments of this lady, her rare endowments of mind, her refinement, delicacy, and other qualities of female excellence. Several of her letters, which I have seen, fully justify this tribute to her good name, which dwelt on the lips of those that knew her, and which the voice of tradition has perpetuated. Her ardent and unceasing attachment to her brother, at the same time that it proves the depth of her own feelings, may argue the existence of better traits in his domestic character, than would be inferred from his public conduct. His sister was his devoted friend, his adviser, and a watchful guardian over his family and his interests. She adhered to him through good and evil report, and never forsook him, till he proved himself unworthy even of a sister's love. She lived many years after the war, at one time in Troy on Hudson's River, and afterwards near York, in Upper Canada, where it is believed she closed her days. Her two nephews, Richard and Henry, resided with her in Troy, and were employed in mercantile affairs. They likewise removed to Canada, where they received lands from the British government. The wife of Arnold died at New Haven about the time that the war began.
He begins his Military Career.—Capture of Ticonderoga and Crown Point.
There were in Connecticut two companies of militia called the Governor's Guards, and organized in conformity to an act of the legislature. One of these companies belonged to New Haven, and in March, 1775, Arnold was chosen to be its commander. This company consisted of fifty-eight men. When the news of the battle of Lexington reached New Haven, the bells were rung, and great excitement prevailed among the people. Moved by a common impulse, they assembled on the green in the centre of the town, where the Captain of the Guards took occasion to harangue the multitude, and, after addressing himself to their patriotic feelings, and rousing their martial spirit by suitable appeals and representations, he proposed to head any number of volunteers that would join him, and march with them immediately to the scene of action. He ended his address by appointing a time and place for all such to meet, and form themselves into a company.
When the hour arrived, sixty volunteers appeared on the ground, belonging mostly to the Guards, with a few students from the College. No time was lost in preparing for their departure, and on the morning of the next day they were ready to march. The company was destitute of ammunition, which the rulers of the town refused to supply, not being satisfied as to the expediency of taking up arms, or of abetting such a movement, without the previous direction or countenance of a higher authority. This was a point, which Arnold was not in the humor to discuss. He drew out his volunteers in martial array, and despatched a message to the Selectmen, stating that, unless the keys of the magazine were delivered to him immediately, he would break it open by force. This threat was effectual, and perhaps it was not reluctantly heeded by the Selectmen themselves, as it afforded an apology for their acquiescence. A sense of responsibility often excites quicker fears, than the distant and uncertain consequences of a rash action. Being thus provided, and participating the ardor of their leader, the company hastened forward by a rapid march to Cambridge, the head-quarters of the troops, who were collecting from various parts to resist any further aggressions from the British army in Boston.
At the same time a few individuals at Hartford, in Connecticut, where the legislature of the colony was then sitting, secretly formed a plan to surprise and capture Ticonderoga. It is probable, that Arnold had received a hint of this project before he left New Haven; for, as soon as he arrived in Cambridge, he waited on the Massachusetts Committee of Safety, and proposed the same scheme, explaining its practicability, portraying in vivid colors the advantages that would result from it, and offering to take the lead of the enterprise, if they would invest him with proper authority, and furnish the means. The committee eagerly embraced his proposal, and on the 3d of May commissioned Benedict Arnold as a colonel in the service of Massachusetts, and commander-in-chief of a body of troops not to exceed four hundred, with whom he was to proceed on an expedition to subdue and take Fort Ticonderoga. The men were to be enlisted for this purpose in the western parts of Massachusetts, and the other colonies bordering on those parts. The Colonel was moreover instructed, after taking possession of Ticonderoga, to leave a small garrison there sufficient for its defence, and to bring to Cambridge such of the cannon, mortars, and stores, as he should judge would be serviceable to the army. In the siege of Boston, now begun by the Provincial forces, the cannon and mortars were extremely wanted, and the hope of obtaining them was a principal motive with the Committee for favoring the expedition.
By a vote of the Committee of Safety, the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts was likewise desired to supply Colonel Arnold with one hundred pounds in cash, two hundred pounds' weight of gun-powder, the same quantity of leaden balls, one thousand flints, and ten horses, for the use of the colony. He was authorized to procure stores and provisions for his troops, and to draw on the Committee for the sums expended in the purchase of them.
The temperament of Colonel Arnold admitted no delay after matters had been thus arranged, and he made all haste to the theatre of operations. He arrived at Stockbridge, on the frontier of Massachusetts, within three days of the time of receiving his commission. To his great disappointment he there ascertained, that a party of men from Connecticut had already gone forward, with the design of raising the Green Mountain Boys, and making an assault upon the fortress. The laurels, which he had gathered in anticipation, seemed now to be escaping from his grasp, and he waited not a moment longer on the way than was requisite to engage a few officers to enlist troops and follow him.
A small party of men from Connecticut, and another from Berkshire County under Colonel Easton, had proceeded to Bennington, and joined themselves to Ethan Allen at the head of a still larger number of his mountaineers. They had all marched towards Lake Champlain. Arnold overtook them at Castleton, about twenty-five miles from Ticonderoga. A council of war had just been held, in which the command of the combined forces was assigned to Colonel Ethan Allen, and a plan of operations was fully agreed upon. All things were in readiness for pushing forward the next morning. At this juncture Arnold made his appearance, introduced himself to the officers, drew his commission from his pocket, and in virtue of it claimed the command of the expedition.
This bold assurance in a person, with whom the troops were not acquainted, who had taken no part in calling them together, and who pretended to act under an authority, which none of them recognised, was received with equal astonishment and indignation. Arnold had come accompanied by one attendant only. It is true, there was a small body of volunteers from Massachusetts in the party; but these had turned out under Colonel Easton, at the request of the committee from Connecticut, who superintended the expedition, and by whom all the troops were to be paid. The Green Mountain Boys constituted much the larger portion of the whole number, and they were too warmly attached to their officers, and particularly to their chivalrous leader and early champion, Ethan Allen, to be prevailed upon to move a step further if Arnold's pretensions were allowed. Confusion and symptoms of mutiny among the men ensued, and seemed to threaten a defeat of the enterprise. For once the discretion of Arnold got the better of his ambition, and he yielded to a necessity, which he could not control. He assented to a compromise, and agreed to join the party as a volunteer, maintaining his rank but exercising no command.
Harmony being restored, the party advanced to Ticonderoga, took the fort by surprise on the morning of the 10th of May, and made the whole garrison prisoners. Ethan Allen, as the commander, entered the fort at the head of his men. Arnold, ever foremost in scenes of danger and feats of courage, assumed the privilege of passing through the gate at his left hand. Thus the love of glory, common to them both, was gratified; and the pride of Arnold was soothed, after the wound it had received by the disappointment of his ambitious hopes.
It soon appeared, however, that the aims of so aspiring and restless a spirit were not to be easily frustrated, and that the conciliatory acquiescence at Castleton was no more than the evidence of a truce, and not the pledge of a permanent peace. A few hours after the surrender of the garrison, Arnold again insisted on taking the command of the post and all the troops, affirming that no other person present was vested with an authority equal to that conferred by his commission. To prevent these fresh seeds of dissension from taking root, the committee from Connecticut interfered, and by a formal written instrument appointed Colonel Allen commandant of Ticonderoga and its dependencies, till further orders should be received from the colony of Connecticut or the Continental Congress. Unsustained by a single voice, and deeming it an idle show of power to issue orders, which no one would obey, Arnold again made a virtue of necessity by submission, contenting himself with a protest, and with sending a catalogue of his grievances to the legislature of Massachusetts.
But it was not in his nature to be idle. Four days after the capture of the fortress, about fifty men, who had been enlisted in compliance with the orders given by him on the road, joined him with two captains at Ticonderoga. These were properly under his command. They came by the way of Skenesborough, and brought forward the schooner taken at that place, which belonged to Major Skene. He manned this vessel, proceeded immediately down the Lake to St. John's, where he surprised the garrison, taking a sergeant and twelve men prisoners, and captured a King's sloop with seven men. After destroying five batteaux, seizing four others, and putting on board some of the valuable stores from the fort, he returned to Ticonderoga. Colonel Allen went upon the same expedition with one hundred and fifty men in batteaux from Crown Point, but, as the batteaux moved with less speed than the schooner, he met Arnold returning about fifteen miles from St. John's.
Thus, within the space of eight days, the once formidable posts of Ticonderoga and Crown Point, renowned in former wars, with all their dependencies on Lake Champlain, fell into the hands of the Americans. A reinforcement of more than four hundred British and Canadians very shortly afterwards arrived at St. John's, and it was rumored that water-craft would be brought from Montreal and Chamblee, and an expedition would proceed up the Lake to attack the forts. This gave Arnold an opportunity of separating from Allen. Having some experience in seamanship, he chose to consider himself the commander of the navy on the Lake, consisting of Major Skene's schooner, the King's sloop, and a small flotilla of batteaux. With these he left Ticonderoga and took post at Crown Point, resolved there to make a stand and meet the enemy whenever they should approach. The number of his men was now increased to about one hundred and fifty.
His first care was to arm his vessels, having previously commissioned a captain for each. In the sloop he fixed six carriage guns and twelve swivels, and in the schooner four carriage guns and eight swivels. In compliance with the orders of the Massachusetts Committee of Safety, which accompanied his commission, he likewise busied himself in sending off some of the cannon and mortars from Crown Point, with the intention that they should be transported by way of Lake George to the army at Cambridge. Abundant supplies of pork and flour were received from Albany, collected and sent forward by the committee of that town.
While these things were in train, letters were written and messages despatched from Ticonderoga to the legislatures of Massachusetts and Connecticut. Full details of all the proceedings were communicated, in which the conduct of Arnold was set forth in no favorable light. A man's enemies seldom have the acuteness to discover his merits, or the charity to overlook his faults, and are as little disposed to proclaim the former as to conceal the latter. Arnold's presumption and arrogance were themes of censure; his zeal and energy in contributing to effect the main objects of the expedition were passed over unnoticed. These representations by degrees impaired the confidence of the Massachusetts legislature in their colonel, and caused them to regard with indifference his complaints and demands.
Another reason, also, operated to the same end. When it was known that Connecticut had gone foremost in the enterprise, and when the doubtful issue of so bold a step was more calmly considered, the government of Massachusetts seemed not reluctant to relinquish both the honor and charge of maintaining the conquered posts. It was finally agreed between the parties, and approved by the Continental Congress, that Connecticut should send up troops, and an officer to take the general command, and that such forces as were on the spot from Massachusetts, or as might afterwards be enlisted for that service, should be under the same officer.
Arnold sent a messenger to Montreal and Caghnawaga, for the purpose of ascertaining the designs of the Canadians and Indians, and the actual force of General Carleton. About the middle of June he wrote to the Continental Congress, communicating all the facts he had obtained, and expressing a conviction that the whole of Canada might be taken with two thousand men. He even proposed a general plan of operations, and offered to head the expedition and be responsible for consequences. It seems he was personally acquainted with the country, and had several friends in Montreal and Quebec, which places he had probably visited in prosecuting his mercantile affairs. Certain persons in Montreal, he said, had agreed to open the gates, as soon as an American force should appear before the city; and he added, that General Carleton had under his command only five hundred and fifty effective men, who were scattered at different posts. Such were his representations, and they were, doubtless, nearly accurate; but Congress were not yet prepared to second his views or approve his counsels.
In the mean time the legislature of Massachusetts delegated three of their number as a committee to proceed to Lake Champlain, and inquire into the state of affairs in that quarter. The members of this committee were instructed to ascertain in what manner Colonel Arnold had executed his commission, and, after acquainting themselves with his "spirit, capacity, and conduct," they were authorized, should they think proper, to order his immediate return to Massachusetts, that he might render an account of the money, ammunition, and stores, which he had received, and of the debts he had contracted in behalf of the colony. If he remained, he was in any event to be subordinate to Colonel Hinman, the commanding officer from Connecticut. The committee were likewise empowered to regulate other matters, relating to the supplies and arrangements of the Massachusetts troops.
They found Colonel Arnold at Crown Point, acting in the double capacity of commandant of the fortress and admiral of his little fleet, consisting of the armed sloop, schooner, and batteaux, which he had contrived to keep together at that place. At his request, they laid before him a copy of their instructions. It may easily be imagined in what manner these would affect such a temperament as that of Arnold. He was exceedingly indignant, and complained of being treated with injustice and disrespect, in which he was perhaps not entirely in the wrong. He said that he had omitted no efforts to comply with the intentions of the Committee of Safety, signified in their commission to him; that an order to inquire into his conduct, when no charge had been exhibited against him, was unprecedented; that the assumption to judge of his capacity and spirit was an indignity; that this point ought to have been decided before they honored him with their confidence; that he had already paid out of his own pocket for the public service more than one hundred pounds, and contracted debts on his personal credit in procuring necessaries for the army, which he was bound to pay, or leave the post with dishonor; and finally, that he would not submit to the degradation of being superseded by a junior officer. After he had thus enumerated his grievances, and his warmth had a little subsided, he wrote to the committee a formal letter of resignation.
He next discharged the men, who were engaged to serve under him, which was a signal for a new scene of difficulties. Some of them, who had become attached to their leader, espoused his cause, and gave tokens of dissatisfaction, which it may be presumed he would not strive either by persuasion or authority to pacify. The pay of all the troops was in arrears, and the rumor went abroad, that, since the colonel had resigned and the troops were disbanded, their claims would not be received by the government. They began to be turbulent and mutinous; but the committee at last succeeded in quieting them, by assurances that every man should be paid, and by embodying under Colonel Easton all such as chose to reenlist. *
* A more extended account of the capture of Ticonderoga, and the subsequent operations on Lake Champlain may be found in Sparks's Life of Ethan Allen, contained in the Library of American Biography, Vol. I. pp. 270-288.
Having nothing more to do on the frontiers. Arnold made haste back to Cambridge, where he arrived early in July, uttering audible murmurs of discontent, and complaints of ill treatment against the legislature of Massachusetts. His accounts were allowed and settled, although, if we may judge from the journals, some of his drafts presented from time to time by the holders were met with a reluctance, which indicated doubt and suspicion.
Expedition through the Wilderness to Quebec.
Arnold was now unemployed, but a project was soon set on foot suited to his genius and capacity. General Washington had taken command of the army at Cambridge. The Continental Congress had resolved that an incursion into Canada should be made by the troops under General Schuyler. To facilitate this object, a plan was devised about the middle of August, by the Commander-in-chief and several members of Congress then on a visit to the army during an adjournment of that body, to send an expedition to Quebec through the eastern wilderness, by way of the Kennebec River, which should eventually cooperate with the other party, or cause a diversion of the enemy, that would be favorable to its movements. Arnold was selected to be the conductor of this expedition, and he received from Washington a commission of colonel in the Continental service. The enterprise was bold and perilous, encompassed with untried difficulties, and not less hazardous in its execution, than uncertain as to its results. These features, repelling as they were in themselves, appeared attractive in the eyes of a man, whose aliment was glory, and whose spirit was sanguine, restless, and daring. About eleven hundred effective men were detached and put under his command, being ten companies of musketmen from New England, and three companies of riflemen from Virginia and Pennsylvania. The field-officers, in addition to the chief, were Lieutenant-Colonel Christopher Greene, afterwards the hero of Red Bank, Lieutenant-Colonel Roger Enos, and Majors Bigelow and Meigs. At the head of the riflemen was Captain Daniel Morgan, renowned in the subsequent annals of the war.
These troops marched from Cambridge to Newburyport, where they embarked on board eleven transports, September 18th, and sailed the next day for the Kennebec River. Three small boats were previously despatched down the coast, to ascertain if any of the enemy's ships of war or cruisers were in sight. At the end of two days after leaving Newbury port, all the transports had entered the Kennebec, and sailed up the river to the town of Gardiner, without any material accident. Two or three of them had grounded in shoal water, but they were got off uninjured. A company of carpenters had been sent from Cambridge, several days before the detachment left that place, with orders to construct two hundred batteaux at Pittston, on the bank of the river opposite to Gardiner. These were now in readiness, and the men and provisions were transferred to them from the shipping. They all rendezvoused a few miles higher up the river at Fort Western, opposite to the present town of Augusta.
Here the hard struggles, sufferings, and dangers were to begin. Eleven hundred men, with arms, ammunition, and all the apparatus of war, burthened with the provisions for their sustenance and clothing to protect them from the inclemencies of the weather, were to pass through a region uninhabited, wild, and desolate, forcing their batteaux against a swift current, and carrying them and their contents on their own shoulders around rapids and cataracts, over craggy precipices, and through morasses, till they should reach the French settlements on the Canada frontiers, a distance of more than two hundred miles.
The commander was not ignorant of the obstacles with which he had to contend. Colonel Montresor, an officer in the British army, had passed over the same route fifteen years before, and written a journal of his tour, an imperfect copy of which had fallen into the hands of Arnold. The remarks of Montresor afforded valuable hints. He came from Quebec, ascending the Rivers Chaudière and Des Loups, crossing the highlands near the head-waters of the Penobscot, pursuing his way through Moosehead Lake, and entering the Kennebec by its eastern branch. He returned up the western branch, or Dead River, and through Lake Megantic into the Chaudière. This latter route was to be pursued by the expedition. Intelligence had likewise been derived from several St. Francis Indians, who had recently visited Washington's camp, and who were familiar with these interior regions. Two persons had been secretly despatched towards Quebec as an exploring party, from whom Arnold received a communication at Fort Western. They had proceeded no farther than the headwaters of the Dead River, being deterred by the extravagant tales of Natanis, called "the last of the Norridgewocks," who had a cabin in that quarter, and who was then probably in the interest of the enemy, though he joined the Americans in their march. Colonel Arnold had moreover been furnished with a manuscript map and a journal by Mr. Samuel Goodwin of Pownalborough, who had been a resident and surveyor in the Kennebec country for twenty-five years.
From these sources of information Colonel Arnold was as well prepared, as the nature of the case would admit, for the arduous task before him. While the preparations were making at Fort Western for the departure of the army, a small reconnoitring party of six or seven men was sent forward in two birch canoes under the command of Lieutenant Steel, with orders to go as far as Lake Megantic, or Chaudière Pond as it was sometimes called, and procure such intelligence as they could from the Indians, who were said to be in that neighborhood on a hunting excursion; and also Lieutenant Church with another party of seven men, a surveyor, and guide, to take the exact courses and distances of the Dead River. Next the army began to move in four divisions, each setting off a day before the other, and thus allowing sufficient space between them to prevent any interference in passing up the rapids and around the falls. Morgan went ahead with the riflemen; then came Greene and Bigelow with three companies of musketeers; these were followed by Meigs with four others; and last of all was Enos, who brought up the rear with the three remaining companies.
Having seen all the troops embarked, Arnold followed them in a birch canoe, and pushing forward he passed the whole line at different points, overtaking Morgan's advanced party the third day at Norridgewock Falls.
At a short distance below these falls, on the eastern bank of the river, was a wide and beautiful plain, once the site of an Indian village, belonging to a tribe from whom the falls took their name, and memorable in the annals of former days as the theatre of a tragical event, in which many of the tribe were slain in a sudden attack, and among them Father Ralle, the venerable and learned missionary, who had dwelt there twenty-six years. The foundations of a church and of an altar in ruins were still visible, the only remaining memorials of a people, whose name was once feared, and of a man who exiled himself from all the enjoyments of civilization to plant the cross in a savage wilderness, and who lost his life in its defence. Let history tell the story as it may, and let it assign such motives as it may for the conduct of the assailants, the heart of him is little to be envied, who can behold unmoved these melancholy vestiges of a race extinct, or pass by the grave of Ralle without a tear of sympathy or a sigh of regret.
But we must not detain the reader upon a theme so foreign from the purpose of our narrative. Justice claimed the tribute of this brief record. At the Norridgewock Falls was a portage, where all the batteaux were to be taken out of the river and transported a mile and a quarter by land. The task was slow and fatiguing. The banks on each side were uneven and rocky. It was found that much of the provisions, particularly the bread, was damaged. The boats had been imperfectly made, and were leaky: the men were unskilled in navigating them, and divers accidents had happened in ascending the rapids. The carpenters were set to work in repairing the most defective boats. This caused a detention, and seven days were expended in getting the whole line of the army around the falls. As soon as the last batteau was launched in the waters above, Arnold betook himself again to his birch canoe with his Indian guide, quickly shot ahead of the rear division, passed the portage at the Carratunc Falls, and in two days arrived at the Great Carrying-place, twelve miles below the junction of the Dead River with the eastern branch of the Kennebec. Here he found the two first divisions of the army.
Thus far the expedition had proceeded as successfully as could have been anticipated. The fatigue was extreme, yet one man only had been lost by death. There seem to have been desertions and sickness, as the whole number now amounted to no more than nine hundred and fifty effective men. They had passed four portages, assisted by oxen and sleds where the situation of the ground would permit. So rapid was the stream, that on an average the men waded more than half the way, forcing the batteaux against the current. Arnold wrote, in a letter to General Washington, "You would have taken the men for amphibious animals, as they were great part of the time under water." He had now twenty-five days' provisions for the whole detachment, and expressed a sanguine hope of reaching the Chaudière River in eight or ten days.
In this hope he was destined to be disappointed. Obstacles increased in number and magnitude as he advanced, which it required all his resources and energy to overcome. The Great Carrying-place extended from the Kennebec to the Dead River, being a space of fifteen miles, with three small ponds intervening. From this place the batteaux, provisions, and baggage were to be carried over the portages on the men's shoulders. With incredible toil they were taken from the waters of the Kennebec, and transported along an ascending, rugged, and precipitous path for more than three miles to the first pond. Here the batteaux were again put afloat; and thus they continued by alternate water and land carriage, through lakes, creeks, morasses, and craggy ravines, till they reached the Dead River.
As some relief to their sufferings, the men were regaled by feasting on delicious salmon-trout, which the ponds afforded in prodigious quantities. Two oxen were also slaughtered and divided among them. A block-house was built at the second portage, at which the sick were left; and another near the bank of the Kennebec, as a depository for provisions ordered up from the commissary at Norridgewock, and intended as a supply in case a retreat should be necessary.
While the army was crossing the Great Carrying-place, Arnold despatched two Indians with letters to gentlemen in Quebec and to General Schuyler. They were accompanied by a white man, named Jakins, who was to proceed down the Chaudière to the French settlements, ascertain the sentiments of the inhabitants, procure intelligence, and then return. It appeared afterwards, that the Indians betrayed their trust. The letters never reached the persons to whom they were addressed, but were doubtless put into the hands of the Lieutenant-Governor of Canada. The Indian, who had them in charge, named Eneas, was afterwards known to be in Quebec.
The Dead River presented for many miles a smooth surface and gentle current, interrupted here and there by falls of short descent, at which were carrying-places. As the batteaux were moving along this placid stream, a bold and lofty mountain appeared in the distance, whose summit was whitened with snow. When approached, the river was discovered to pursue a very meandering course near its base; and, although the fatigue of the men was less severe than it had been, yet their actual progress was slow. In the vicinity of this mountain Arnold encamped for two or three days, and, as report says, raised the American flag over his tent. The event has been commemorated. A hamlet since planted on the spot, which ere long will swell to the dignity of a town, is at this day called the Flag Staff. The mountain has been equally honored. Tradition has told the pioneers of the forest, and repeated the marvel till it is believed, that Major Bigelow had the courage as well as the leisure to ascend to its top, with the hope of discovering from this lofty eminence the hills of Canada and the spires of Quebec. From this supposed adventure it has received the name of Mount Bigelow. Its towering peaks, looking down upon the surrounding mountains, are a beacon to the trappers and hunters, who still follow their vocation in these solitudes, notwithstanding the once-coveted beaver has fled from their domain, and the field of their enterprise has been ominously contracted by the encroaching tide of civilization.
From this encampment a party of ninety men was sent back to the rear for provisions, which were beginning to grow scarce. Morgan with his riflemen had gone forward, and Arnold followed with the second division. For three days it rained incessantly, and every man and all the baggage were drenched with water. One night, after they had landed at a late hour and were endeavouring to take a little repose, they were suddenly roused by the freshet, which came rushing upon them in a torrent, and hardly allowed them time to escape, before the ground on which they had lain down was overflowed. In nine hours the river rose perpendicularly eight feet. Embarrassments thickened at every step. The current was everywhere rapid; the stream had spread itself over the low grounds by the increase of its waters, thereby exposing the batteaux to be perpetually entangled in the drift-wood and bushes; sometimes they were led away from the main stream into smaller branches and obliged to retrace their course, and at others delayed by portages, which became more frequent as they advanced.
At length a disaster happened, which was near putting an end to the expedition. By the turbulence of the waters seven batteaux were overset, and all their contents lost. This made such a breach upon the provisions, and threw such a gloom over the future, that the bravest among them was almost ready to despond. They were now thirty miles from the head of the Chaudière River. It was ascertained, that the provisions remaining would serve for twelve or fifteen days. A council of war was called, at which it was decided that the sick and feeble should be sent back, and the others press forward.
Arnold wrote to Colonel Greene and Colonel Enos, who were in the rear, ordering them to select such a number of their strongest men as they could supply with fifteen days' provisions, and to come on with them, leaving the others to return to Norridgewock. Enos misconstrued the order, or chose not to understand it. He retreated with his whole division, consisting of three companies, and marched back to Cambridge. *
* Colonel Enos was tried by a court-martial, after his arrival at head-quarters, and acquitted on the ground of a want of provisions. But the true state of the case was not understood, as no intelligence on the subject had been received from Arnold. The trial was hastened, because Enos's commission in the army, as first organized, would expire at the end of the year, and it was supposed he could not be tried under his new commission. He certainly disobeyed the order of his commander, nor was the plea of a deficiency of provisions admissible. The same quantity of provisions, that would be consumed by three companies in returning to the settlements on the Kennebec, would have served part of them for that purpose, and another part for fifteen days in marching to the Chaudière. He was ordered to divide his men in such a manner as to accomplish both these objects. Although acquitted by the court-martial, he either imagined, or had the sagacity to perceive, that his conduct was not satisfactory to General Washington, and soon left the army.—See Washington's Writings, Vol. III. p. 164.
After despatching this order, Arnold hastened onward with about sixty men under Captain Hanchet, intending to proceed as soon as possible to the inhabitants on the Chaudière, and send back provisions to meet the main forces. The rain changed into snow, which fell two inches deep, thus adding the sufferings of cold to those of hunger and fatigue. Ice formed on the surface of the water in which the men were obliged to wade and drag the boats. Finally the highlands were reached, which separated the eastern waters from those of the St. Lawrence. A string of small lakes, choked with logs and other obstructions, had been passed through near the sources of the Dead River, and seventeen falls had been encountered in ascending its whole distance, around which were portages. The carrying-place over the highlands was a little more than four miles. A small stream then presented itself, which conducted the boats by a very crooked course into Lake Megantic, the great fountainhead of the Chaudière River.
Here were found Lieutenants Steel and Church, who had been sent forward a second time from the Great Carrying-place with a party of men to explore and clear paths at the portages. Here also was Jakins, returned from the settlements, who made a favorable report in regard to the sentiments of the people, saying they were friendly and rejoiced at the approach of the army. Lake Megantic is thirteen miles long and three or four broad, and surrounded by high mountains. The night after entering it, the party encamped on its eastern shore, where was a large Indian wigwam, that contributed to the comfort of their quarters.
Early the next morning Arnold despatched a person to the rear of the army, with instructions to the advancing troops. He then ordered Captain Hanchet and fifty-five men to march by land along the margin of the lake, and himself embarked with Captain Oswald, and Lieutenants Steel and Church with thirteen men in five batteaux and a birch canoe, resolved to proceed as soon as possible to the French inhabitants, and send back provisions to meet the army.
In three hours they reached the northern extremity of the lake, and entered the Chaudière, which carried them along with prodigious rapidity on its tide of waters boiling and foaming over a rocky bottom. The baggage was lashed to the boats, and the danger was doubly threatening, as they had no guides. At length they fell among rapids; three of the boats were overset, dashed to pieces against the rocks, and all their contents swallowed up by the waves. Happily no lives were lost, although six men struggled for some time in the water, and were saved with difficulty. This misfortune, calamitous as it was, Arnold ascribes in his Journal to a "kind interposition of Providence"; for no sooner had the men dried their clothes and reembarked, than one of them who had gone forward cried out, "A fall ahead," which had not been discovered, and over which the whole party must have been hurried to inevitable destruction.
It is needless to say, that after this experience they were more cautious. Rapids and falls succeeded each other at short intervals. The birch canoe met the fate of the three batteaux, by running upon the rocks. Sometimes the boats were retarded in their velocity by ropes extended from the stem to the bank of the river. Two Penobscot Indians assisted them over a portage of more than half a mile in length. Through its whole extent the stream, raised by the late rains, was rough, rapid, and dangerous; but the party was fortunate in losing no lives and in advancing quickly. On the third day after leaving Lake Megantic, being the 30th of October, Arnold arrived at Sertigan, the first French settlement, four miles below the junction of the River Des Loups with the Chaudière, and seventy miles from the lake by the course of the stream.
His first care was to relieve his suffering troops, some of whom were already fainting with hunger, exhausted with fatigue, and overcome with toils and privations, to which they had never been accustomed. * He immediately sent back several Canadians and Indians with flour and cattle, who met the troops marching through the woods near the bank of the river, all their boats having been destroyed by the violence of the rapids. The whole army arrived within four or five days, emerging from the forests in small and detached parties, and greeting once more with joy unspeakable the habitations of civilized men. They were received in a friendly manner by the inhabitants, who supplied their wants with hospitable abundance, and seemed favorably inclined to the objects of the expedition, not being yet heartily reconciled to the burden of a foreign yoke, however light in itself, which the adverse fortunes of war had doomed them to wear since the brilliant victory of Wolfe on the Heights of Abraham.
* So extreme was the famine for the last three or four days of the march, that dogs were killed and greedily devoured. This fact was stated by General Dearborn, who had been a captain in the expedition, in a letter to President Allen of Bowdoin College. Moose-skin moccasins were boiled to procure from them such nourishment as they afforded.
Meantime Arnold proceeded down the river to conciliate the attachment of the people, and make further preparations for the march of his army. Before leaving Cambridge, he had received ample instructions for the regulation of his conduct, drawn up with care and forethought by the Commander-in-chief, and containing express orders to treat the Canadians on all occasions as friends, to avoid every thing that should give offence or excite suspicion, to respect their religious ceremonies and national habits, to pay them liberally and promptly for supplies and assistance, to punish with severity any improper acts of the soldiery; in a word, to convince them that their interests were involved in the results of the expedition, and that its ultimate purpose was to protect their civil liberties and the rights of conscience.
He was also furnished with printed copies of a manifesto, signed by General Washington, intended for distribution among the people, explaining the grounds of the contest between Great Britain and America, and encouraging them to join their neighbors in a common cause by rallying around the standard of liberty. These instructions were strictly observed by the American troops, and had their desired influence. The impression was lasting. To this day the old men recount to their children the story of the "descent of the Bostonians," as the only great public event that has ever occurred to vary the monotonous incidents of the sequestered and beautiful valley of the Chaudière.
Ten days after reaching the upper settlements, Arnold arrived at Point Levy opposite to Quebec. His troops followed, and were all with him at that place on the 13th of November. About forty Indians had joined him at Sertigan and on the march below. He had ascertained that his approach was known in Quebec, and that all the boats had been withdrawn from the eastern side of the St. Lawrence to deprive him of the means of crossing. Eneas, the savage whom he had sent with a letter to General Schuyler, and another to a friend in Quebec, had found his way to the enemy, and given up his despatches to some of the King's officers. He pretended to have been taken prisoner; but treachery and falsehood are so nearly allied, that Eneas had the credit of both.
Between thirty and forty birch canoes having been collected, Arnold resolved to make an immediate attempt to cross the river. The first division left Point Levy at nine o'clock in the evening and landed safely on the other side, having eluded a frigate and sloop stationed in the St. Lawrence on purpose to intercept them. The canoes returned, and by four in the morning five hundred men had passed over at three separate times, and rendezvoused at Wolfe's Cove. Just as the last party landed, they were discovered by one of the enemy's guard-boats, into which they fired and killed three men. It was not safe to return again, and about one hundred and fifty men were left at Point Levy.
No time was now to be lost. Headed by their leader they clambered up the precipice at the same place, where Wolfe sixteen years before had conducted his army to the field of carnage and of victory. When the day dawned, this resolute band of Americans, few in number compared with the hosts of the British hero, but not less determined in purpose or strong in spirit, stood on the Plains of Abraham, with the walls of Quebec full in their view. They were now on the spot, to which their eager wishes had tended from the moment they left the camp of Washington; and, after encountering so many perils and enduring such extremities of toil, cold, and hunger with unparalleled fortitude, it was a mortifying reflection, that scarcely a glimmering hope of success remained. Troops had recently come to Quebec from Sorel and Newfoundland, and such preparations for defence had been made, that it would have been madness to attempt a serious assault of the town with so small a force.
The strength of the garrison, including regulars and militia within the walls, and the mariners and sailors on board the ships, was little short of eighteen hundred men. But two thirds of these were militia, many of whom were Canadians supposed to be friendly to the Americans, and ready to join with them whenever they should enter the town. This expectation, indeed, had been one of the chief encouragements for undertaking the enterprise against Quebec. To make an experiment upon the temper of the inhabitants, Arnold drew up his men within eight hundred yards of the walls, and gave three cheers, hoping by this display to bring out the regulars to an open action on the plain. The gates would thus be unclosed, and, if the people in the town were as favorably disposed as had been represented, there might thus be an opportunity of forming a junction and acting in concert, as circumstances should dictate. This has been considered as a ridiculous and unmeaning parade on the part of the American commander, but he doubtless had some good grounds for the manouvre from the intelligence brought to him by persons, whose wishes corresponded with his own. At any rate, the garrison chose not to accept the challenge in any other manner, than by discharges of cannon through the embrasures on the walls.
A specimen of military etiquette, which was next resorted to, may be looked upon in a more questionable light. By the rules of war it is customary, when a town is about to be stormed, for the assailing party to send in a summons demanding a surrender and proffering conditions. That every thing might be done in due form, Arnold wrote a letter to Lieutenant-Governor Cramahé, the British commander in Quebec, calling on him in the name of the American Congress to give up the city, and threatening him with disastrous consequences, if the surrender should be delayed. This idle piece of formality might have been spared; it could only excite the derision of the enemy, who knew the precise strength of the assailants.
The Canadians, however, and particularly the people in the surrounding country, were much alarmed. The phenomenon of an army descending from a wilderness, which had hitherto been considered impassable, except by very small parties with light birch canoes, easily transported over the portages, filled them with wonder and apprehension. Report had magnified the number of the invaders, and the imagination gave ready credence to the tales that were told of the prowess and valor of men, who had performed a feat so daring in its attempt, and extraordinary in its success. It was even said, that these men were cased in iron, and that their power of body was equal to their courage and fortitude. *
* This idea gained currency from the curious circumstance of mistaking the sound of a word. Morgan's riflemen were clothed in linen frocks, the common uniform of that description of troops. When they first appeared emerging from the woods, the Canadians said they were vêtus en toile; but, as the intelligence spread, the word toile, linen, was changed into tôle, sheet-iron.
These fears were of short duration. The reality was soon made manifest, and Arnold himself was the first to discover his weakness and danger. Three days after his formidable summons, he had leisure to examine into the state of the arms and ammunition of his troops, and to his surprise he found almost all the cartridges spoiled, there being not more than five rounds to a man, and nearly one hundred muskets unfit for use. Some of the men were invalids, and many deficient in clothing and other necessaries. At the same time he received advice from his friends in town, that a sortie was about to be made with a force considerably superior to his own. A retreat was the only expedient that remained. The men left at Point Levy had already crossed the river and joined him, and with his whole force he marched up the St. Lawrence to Point-aux-Trembles, eight leagues from Quebec, intending to wait there the approach of General Montgomery from Montreal.
Operations in Canada.—Affair of the Cedars.—Retreat from Montreal.
On the same day that Arnold made this retreat, Governor Carleton arrived at Quebec. He had escaped in the night from the British fleet, which was stopped by the American batteries at Sorel, and thence passed in a small armed vessel down the river. By an official return at Point-aux-Trembles, the entire force of the detachment, officers and privates, consisted of six hundred and seventy-five men, being somewhat more than half the number that marched from Cambridge. Arnold despatched a messenger to General Montgomery, then at Montreal, describing his necessitous condition for want of clothing, and a full supply was immediately forwarded to him. By the capture of the small fleet at Sorel under General Prescott, the Americans had gained command of the river above Quebec; and as all the British posts in Canada had been taken, except the capital, this was now the grand object to be attained. Montgomery made all haste to join Arnold for that purpose; and, leaving a small garrison at Montreal, he embarked about three hundred men, several mortars, and Captain Lamb's company of artillery, on board some of the armed vessels taken at Sorel, and went down the river to Point-aux-Trembles. The command now devolved on General Montgomery, and the two detachments marched immediately to the Heights of Abraham, where they arrived on the 4th of December. Although the effective force of the Americans was less than a thousand men, and the number bearing arms in the city, including British, militia, and Canadians, amounted to eighteen hundred, yet it was resolved to hazard an assault.
Colonel Arnold had written to General Washington from Point-aux-Trembles, that it would require twenty-five hundred men to reduce Quebec. Calmly viewed through the medium of historical evidence, with a full knowledge of collateral facts and subsequent events, a resolution for an immediate assault may now seem rash and ill advised. But General Montgomery relied on the lukewarmness of the inhabitants, and their readiness to abandon the British standard whenever they should see a reasonable hope of protection from the assailants. He likewise believed, that the large extent of the works rendered them incapable of being defended at all points, and that in this respect the seeming strength of the enemy was in reality an element of weakness. He moreover derived a renovated confidence from the disposition of his officers and troops, who seconded with promptness and zeal the views of their leader. Notwithstanding the weight of these motives, and of others that might have had their influence, it must ever be lamented, that a spirit so elevated and generous, fraught with the noblest principles of honor and chivalrous feeling, was doomed to be sacrificed in a conflict so utterly unequal and hopeless of success. Leonidas died not a braver death, nor with a self-devotion more worthy to place him among the first of heroes and of patriots.
But we are not now concerned with the history of events, any farther than to sketch very briefly the part acted in them by the subject of the present narrative. General Montgomery found Arnold, as he said, "active, intelligent, and enterprising." A quarrel happened between Arnold and one of his captains, which drew three companies into a mutinous combination; but the danger was checked by the decision and firmness of the commander, who discovered the captain to be in the wrong, and maintained subordination. Several attempts were made to send a summons into the town; but Governor Carleton forbade all communication, and no flag was suffered to approach the walls. Meantime preparations for an attack were carried on. A battery was opened, from which five cannon and a howitzer were brought to bear upon the town, but with very little effect. There were slight skirmishes in the suburbs, houses were burnt, and a few men killed.
Different plans of attack had been meditated, and it was at last resolved to make a general assault upon the lower town. Montgomery was to proceed with one division of the army along the margin of the St. Lawrence around the base of Cape Diamond, and Arnold with his detachment by the way of St. Roque. Each commander was to act according to circumstances, and both parties were to unite if possible at the eastern extremity of the town. At five o'clock in the morning of the 31st of December they began their march. Arnold had already passed through the suburb of St. Roque, and approached unperceived a picketed two-gun battery or barrier across the street. It was attacked by Captain Lamb's artillery, but was bravely defended for about an hour, when it was carried, and the Americans pushed forward in the midst of a violent snow-storm, till they arrived at a second barrier. Several lives had been lost at the first barrier. Arnold was shot through the leg. The bone was fractured, and he was obliged to be taken to the general hospital; where he learned that Montgomery had been killed in forcing a barrier at Cape Diamond, and that his troops had retreated. A very severe contest was kept up by his own party at the second barrier for three hours, without being able to force their way beyond it. While yet in the heat of action, they were surrounded by a party, that issued from one of the gates of the city in their rear, by which their retreat was cut off, and between three and four hundred were taken prisoners. The killed and wounded were about sixty.
This affair being thus unhappily terminated, the command fell again upon Colonel Arnold. By an exact return two days after the action, the whole number of troops under him was a little short of eight hundred, including Colonel Livingston's regiment of Canadians, which amounted to about two hundred. With this mere shadow of an army he resolved to maintain a blockade of the city, till reinforcements should arrive. The winter had now set in with its usual-severity, and a scene of long and dismal suffering from cold and privations appeared in prospect. "Many of the troops are dejected," he said in a letter to General Wooster, "and anxious to get home, and some have actually set off; but I shall endeavour to continue the blockade, while there are any hopes of success." Fortunately the besieged were nowise inclined to make excursions beyond the walls, being contented to wait the opening of spring for a relief from England, which might then certainly be expected. Nor was the investiture at any time so complete, as not to admit occasional intercourse with the country, by which the most pressing want, that of wood, was supplied. Pickets and guards, it is true, were stationed in every direction; but, with a force so feeble and scattered, little more could be done, than to keep up the formality of a blockade. Why the enemy did not sally, and attack the American camp, has never been explained. It is probable the governor did not think it prudent to put the loyalty of the inhabitants to a test, which the contingencies of events might turn to a disadvantage, especially as he felt secure in remaining quiet.
As soon as the news of the storming of Quebec reached Congress, they promoted Arnold to the rank of brigadier-general, as a reward not less of his gallant conduct on that occasion, than of his extraordinary enterprise and military address in conducting his army through the wilderness. Additional troops were likewise immediately ordered to Canada. During the winter a few companies, and fragments of companies, from New-Hampshire and Massachusetts, and part of Warner's regiment from Vermont, arrived at the encampment, having walked on snow-shoes, carried their own provisions, and braved all the perils of frost and exposure incident to such a march in so rigorous a climate.
With these means the Americans kept their ground, undisturbed by the enemy, till spring. Breastworks and fortifications were constructed of snow, which, by being rolled into a mass and saturated with water, immediately congealed into solid ramparts of ice. The prisoners within the city were kindly treated by Governor Carle-ton. He sent out Major Meigs for their clothes and baggage, allowed them to be supplied with money and other conveniences by their friends, and, after they were released, they bore a unanimous testimony to the humanity and good usage extended to them by the British commander. The remains of General Montgomery were interred with suitable marks of respect. * In a journal kept by an English officer during the siege, it is said that ninety-four of the prisoners were Europeans, who petitioned in a body to join a regiment of Royal Emigrants in the British service.
* When General Montgomery was killed, he had in his pocket a watch, which Mrs. Montgomery was very desirous to obtain. This was made known to General Arnold, and he applied to Governor Carleton, offering any price for the watch, which he might choose to demand. Carleton immediately sent it out, but would suffer nothing to be received in return.
After several of them had deserted, by leaping from the walls and sliding down the precipice on the surface of the snow, the remainder were put in confinement and retained as prisoners. *
* This journal is curious, and may be found in the second volume of Smith's History of Canada.
General Wooster had passed the winter at Montreal in a state of repose, which his countrymen were not prepared to expect from a man, who had gained the reputation of a bold and active officer in the last war. On the 1st of April he appeared at Quebec, and, being superior in rank, succeeded to the command. At this time the number of troops had increased to two thousand eight hundred and fifty-five, of whom about eight hundred were sick, mostly of the small-pox. A cannonade was opened upon the city from a battery of six guns, two howitzers, and two small mortars, on the Heights of Abraham, and another of three guns and one howitzer, at Point Levy. Preparations were begun for pushing the siege with vigor, but at this time an accident happened to General Arnold by the falling of his horse upon his wounded leg, which bruised it so badly, that he was laid up for a fortnight. He likewise complained of the coldness and reserve of General Wooster, who neither asked his advice nor took his counsel; and his temper was not formed to brook neglect, nor indeed patiently to act a second part. It is moreover to be considered, that he and General Wooster were townsmen and neighbors, and with that class of his fellow-citizens he had commonly found means to be at points. The condition of his wound was an apology for asking leave of absence, which was readily granted, and he retired to Montreal.
Here again he was at the head of affairs. Montreal was in the hands of the Americans under a military government; and, there being no officer present equal to himself in rank, he of course assumed the command. For the first six weeks he had little to do; but the catastrophe at the Cedars, in which nearly four hundred men surrendered to the enemy by a disgraceful capitulation, and a hundred more were killed or taken in a brave encounter, called him out to meet the approaching foe, and avenge the barbarous murders and other cruelties, which had been committed by the savages on the prisoners. He hastened to St. Anne's, at the western part of the Island of Montreal, with about eight hundred men, where he arrived in the afternoon of the 26th of May. At this moment the enemy's batteaux were seen taking the American prisoners from an island about a league distant from St. Anne's, and proceeding with them to the main land on the opposite side of the St. Lawrence. Arnold's batteaux were still three or four miles behind, making their way slowly up the rapids, having fallen in the rear of the troops, who marched along the shore. They did not reach St. Anne's till nearly sunset. Meantime a small party of Caghnawaga Indians returned, whom Arnold had sent over the river in the morning with a message to the hostile savages, demanding a surrender of the American prisoners, and threatening in case of a refusal, or if any murders were committed, that he would sacrifice every Indian that should fall into his hands, and follow them to their towns, which he would destroy by fire and sword. The Indians sent back an answer by the Caghnawagas, that they had five hundred prisoners in their power, and that if Arnold presumed to land and attempt a rescue, they would immediately put them all to death, and give no quarter to any that should be captured.
This threat, however, did not deter Arnold from pursuing his object. He filled the boats with his men, and ordered them to row to the island, where the prisoners had been confined. He there found five American soldiers, naked and almost famished, who informed him that all the other prisoners had been taken to Quinze Chiens except two, who, having been unwell, were inhumanly butchered. From this island he advanced towards Quinze Chiens about four miles below; but, when the boats came within three quarters of a mile of the shore, the enemy began to fire upon them with two brass field-pieces, and soon afterwards with small arms. The boats rowed near the shore, but without returning a shot; and, as it was now become dark, and Arnold was unacquainted with the ground, and his men were much fatigued, he thought it prudent to return to St. Anne's.
He immediately called a council of war, and it was unanimously determined, that an attack should be made early the next morning. The enemy's forces, consisting of forty British troops, one hundred Canadians, and five hundred Indians, were commanded by Captain Forster; and the principal officer among the American prisoners was Major Sherburne. A little after midnight Lieutenant Park arrived at St. Anne's with a flag, bringing articles for an exchange of prisoners, which had been entered into between Major Sherburne and Captain Forster. This commander had assured Major Sherburne and the other American officers, that he could not control the Indians, and that all the prisoners would inevitably be murdered as soon as an attack should begin. The prisoners were crowded together in the church of Quinze Chiens, where they were guarded, and would fall an easy prey to the fury of the savages. In this distressing dilemma, revolting as it was to every principle of honor and justice, the dictates of humanity pointed to but one course. Major Sherburne accepted such terms as were imposed upon him; and the treaty was sent to be confirmed by General Arnold, with the positive declaration on the part of Captain Forster, that the fate of his companions in arms depended on his acquiescence. By the terms of the capitulation, it was agreed that the prisoners should be released on parole, in exchange for British prisoners of equal rank taken by the Americans. Six days were allowed for sending the prisoners to St. John's within the American lines. Four American captains were to go to Quebec and remain as hostages, till the exchange should be effected. Reparation was to be made for all property, that had been destroyed by the Continental troops. Such was the tenor of the articles as modified and approved by General Arnold. The British commander had at first insisted, that the American prisoners should not again take up arms, and that they should pledge themselves not to give any information by words, writing, or signs, which should be prejudicial to his Majesty's service. These terms were rejected without discussion. Fifteen Canadians, who were with the American troops at the Cedars, were not included in the treaty, as Captain Forster declared that he had positive orders to that effect. *
* A different account of this affair is given by General Wilkinson, (Memoirs, Vol. I. p. 46,) but the above narrative is taken from a letter written by General Arnold a few hours after the capitulation was signed, and directed to the Commissioners from Congress then at Montreal. These circumstances invest it with every claim to be considered strictly accurate.
Congress refused to ratify this convention, except on such conditions as the British government would never assent to; and a general indignation was expressed at the subterfuge of barbarity by which it was extorted, so contrary to the rules of civilized warfare, and so abhorrent to the common sympathies of human nature. Since the compact was executed in due form, however, and by officers invested with proper authority, General Washington considered it binding, and expressed that opinion in decided language to Congress. In a military sense this may be presumed to have been a right view of the matter, and perhaps in the long run it was politic. The stain of ignominy, which must for ever adhere to the transaction, may be regarded as a punishment in full measure to the aggressing party, and as holding up an example, which all who value a good name, or have any respect for the universal sentiments of mankind, will take care not to imitate. General Howe wrote a complaining and reproachful letter to Washington on the proceedings of Congress; but the actual sense of the British authorities may be inferred from the fact, that the subject was allowed to drop into silence, and the hostages were sent home on parole.
Arnold returned with his detachment to Montreal. Disasters began to thicken in every part of Canada. The small-pox had made frightful ravages among the troops and was still increasing, provisions and every kind of supplies were wanting, the inhabitants were disgusted and alienated, having suffered from the exactions, irregularities, and misconduct of the Americans, who seized their property for the public service, and paid them in certificates and bills, which were worthless; reinforcements had come in so sparingly, that it was now impossible to withstand the force of the enemy, augmented by a large body of veteran troops recently arrived from Europe; confusion reigned every where, and a heavy gloom hung over the future. At this crisis, Franklin, Chase, and Carroll, arrived at Montreal as a committee from Congress. The state of affairs was already too desperate to be relieved by the counsels of wisdom, or the arm of strength. The American troops under General Thomas, driven from Quebec and pursued up the St. Lawrence, took post at Sorel. General Sullivan succeeded to the command; a last attempt was made to hold the ground, but it was more resolute in purpose than successful in the execution; the whole army was compelled precipitately to evacuate Canada, and retire over the Lake to Crown Point.
Montreal was held till the last moment. Arnold then drew off his detachment, with no small risk of being intercepted by Sir Guy Carle-ton, and proceeded to St. John's, making, as General Sullivan wrote, "a very prudent and judicious retreat, with an enemy close at his heels." He had two days before been at St. John's, directed an encampment to be enclosed, and ordered the frame of a vessel then on the stocks to be taken to pieces, the timbers numbered, and the whole to be sent to Crown Point. General Sullivan soon arrived with the rear of his retreating army, and preparations were made for an immediate embarkation. To this work Arnold applied himself with his usual activity and vigilance, remaining behind till he had seen every boat leave the shore but his own. He then mounted his horse, attended by Wilkinson his aid-de-camp, and rode back two miles, when they discovered the enemy's advanced division in full march under General Burgoyne. They gazed at it, or, in military phrase, reconnoitred it, for a short time, and then hastened back to St. John's. A boat being in readiness to receive them, the horses were stripped and shot, the men were ordered on board, and Arnold, refusing all assistance, pushed off the boat with his own hands; thus, says Wilkinson, "indulging the vanity of being the last man, who embarked from the shores of the enemy." The sun was now down, and darkness followed, but the boat overtook the army in the night at Isle-aux-Noix.
Arnold censured for the Seizure of Goods at Montreal.—Appointed to the Command of a Fleet on Lake Champlain.—Naval Combat.
It being necessary that General Schuyler should be made acquainted, as soon as possible, with the present condition of the army, and the progress of the enemy, General Arnold consented to go forward for that purpose. His knowledge of all that had passed in Canada, during the last seven months, enabled him to communicate the requisite intelligence in a more satisfactory manner than it could be done in writing, and to add full explanations to the despatches of the commander. He found General Schuyler in Albany, at which place General Gates arrived in a few days, proceeding by order of Congress to take command of the northern army. Meantime General Sullivan retreated to Crown Point. Schuyler, Gates, and Arnold repaired together to that post.
It was expected that Sir Guy Carleton, as soon as he could provide water-craft sufficient, would make all haste up the Lake and commence an attack. A council of general officers was convened, who, after mature deliberation, resolved to abandon Crown Point, retire to Ticonde-roga, strengthen that post, and make it the principal station of defence. This measure was thought extraordinary by General Washington and by Congress. It was looked upon as giving up a position, formidable in itself and by artificial works, which afforded advantages at least for checking the enemy, if not for repelling their farther approach. The members of the council were unanimous; but many of the field-officers partook of the prevailing sentiment, although on the spot, and signed a remonstrance against the decision of their superiors. A proceeding so unmilitary, and so little in accordance with sound discipline, was of course disregarded, but dissatisfaction and ill feelings were excited on both sides. Schuyler and Gates defended the resolve of the council in letters to Washington and Congress, and in the end no one doubted its wisdom. Crown Point had from circumstances acquired a name in former wars, which had magnified it in public opinion much beyond its real importance as a military post. It was moreover impolitic to divide the troops, few in number compared with those of the enemy, by attempting to fortify and defend two positions within fifteen miles of each other.
The army was accordingly withdrawn to Ticonderoga, and every preparation was there begun for meeting the enemy, whenever they should make their appearance.
While these things were going on, General Arnold brought up another matter, which scattered new seeds of dissension in the camp. Colonel Hazen had been his second in command at Montreal, and, from the elements of Arnold's character, this fact might perhaps lead to a natural inference, that a quarrel would not be an unlikely event. The particulars are these. When it became evident that Canada would be evacuated, Arnold seized goods belonging to merchants in Montreal, which he said were intended for the public service. Certificates were given to the owners, who were to be paid according to their invoices by the United States. In many cases, however, they were taken away in such a hurry, that there was no time for making out a list of the articles, and the only form of delivery was the owner's name written on each parcel. Arnold sent the goods across the country to Chamblee, with the intention of having them forwarded to St. John's, and thence by water to Ticonderoga. He instructed Colonel Hazen, who then commanded at Chamblee, to take charge of them, and prevent their being damaged. Hazen, either not liking the manner in which the goods had been obtained, or from personal hostility to Arnold, refused for some time to meddle with them, and left them exposed to the weather, piled in heaps on the bank of the river; and at last, when he took them in charge, they were guarded in so negligent a manner, that the packages were broken open and many of them plundered.
The owners, not contented to part with their goods upon terms so vague and uncertain, followed the army to Crown Point. When they found what ravages had been committed on their property, they presented invoices and claimed pay for the full amount. The blame fell upon General Arnold, as the first mover in the business, and he threw it back upon Hazen, who had refused to obey his order and take care of the goods. The result was a court-martial, by which Colonel Hazen was tried for disobedience of orders. While the trial was in progress, the court declined accepting the testimony of Major Scott, one of Arnold's principal witnesses, on the ground of his being a party concerned, since he was the agent, who received the goods at Montreal and conducted them to Chamblee. This slight was too much for the hot blood of Arnold, and he wrote a disrespectful letter to the court in the form of a protest. To save their honor, the court demanded an apology, which was promptly refused in a tone of insult by their antagonist, with a broad intimation, that he should be ready at a proper time to give any or all of the gentlemen of the court satisfaction on that score; or, in other words, the letter was a sort of challenge to the whole court, either in the corporate or individual capacity of the members. This was so gross a violation of military rule, that the court had now no other resort than an appeal to General Gates, the commander-in-chief. The case presented difficulties which seemed to embarrass him, as Arnold was much in his favor, and he had resolved to appoint him to the command of the fleet then preparing to meet the enemy on the Lake. In short, he dissolved the court-martial, and thus abetted the conduct of Arnold. In explaining this step to Congress, he said that he had been obliged to act "dictatorially" when the court demanded the arrest of General Arnold, adding, "The United States must not be deprived of that excellent officer's services at this important moment." Justice might well complain, when policy could content itself with such a reason for an arbitrary act.
The court passed judgment before they separated, although informally, and acquitted Colonel Hazen with honor. This was an implied censure upon Arnold; but, protected as he was by his superior, the affair received no further investigation. His military popularity sustained him as an officer, but his character suffered essentially in the public estimation. It was more than suspected, that his private interest was chiefly consulted in seizing the goods, and it seems to have been supposed, that the seizure was upon his own authority. In these respects it is probable he was too harshly judged. He wrote a letter to General Schuyler from Montreal, while in the act of taking the goods, acquainting him with the fact, and adding that he was thus directed by the commissioners from Congress. He also wrote to General Sullivan from Chamblee, informing him of the damaged condition in which he found the packages at that place, and complaining of the disobedience and neglect of Colonel Hazen. These letters are now extant, and evidently prove, that he was not practising any secret manouvre in the removal of the goods, or for retaining them in his own possession.
It must nevertheless be conceded, that his mode of taking the property without leaving in the owner's hands invoices of the different articles, and certificates of having received them, could not be justified, nor could it have been intended by the commissioners. They could mean nothing more, than such things as would serve to Supply the army either with provisions or clothing, and these upon a fair security to the owners; for, by the articles of capitulation entered into with General Montgomery, the citizens were to be maintained in a free possession of their goods and effects of every kind, whereas packages containing silks, and other articles equally inapplicable to the object in view, were carried off indiscriminately. These circumstances, and his conduct to the court-martial, produced impressions, which the subsequent developements of his character contributed nothing to efface or diminish; and, viewed in the most favorable light, his honesty can be screened only at the expense of his judgment and delicacy.
I have dwelt the longer on this transaction, because it was the first important link in the chain of incidents, which led to his final ruin. Another, somewhat akin to it, occurred nearly at the same time. There had been a quarrel at Quebec between Arnold and Major Brown, who had marched to that place with General Montgomery. This enmity had its origin as early as the capture of Ticonderoga by Ethan Allen, when Brown was an officer under Colonel Easton, and of course opposed to the pretensions of Arnold on that occasion. From Quebec letters were written by Arnold to some of the members of Congress, containing severe reflections on his conduct, and open charges against him of having plundered the baggage and property of prisoners taken in Canada. When these particulars were made known to Brown by his friends, he demanded from General Wooster, and afterwards from General Thomas, a court of inquiry; but through the machinations of Arnold he was defeated in his purpose, till after the evacuation of Canada. He then applied in person to Congress for redress, and directions were sent to the commander in the northern department to grant a court of inquiry. Colonel Brown, for such was now his title, renewed his application to General Gates at Ticonderoga, but with no better success than before. As in the case of the court-martial, Gates chose to exercise a dictatorial authority, and protect his favorite.
Nothing more was done till the end of the campaign, when Colonel Brown presented his application in another form, demanding an arrest of General Arnold on a series of charges, in which he was accused of numerous misdemeanors and criminal acts during the course of his command. General Gates replied, that he would lay the petition before Congress. Being thus baffled in his attempts to obtain justice through the proper channel, Colonel Brown published a narrative of the whole affair, introducing his charges against Arnold, and commenting upon his conduct with much severity, and indeed with a warmth that indicated too great a degree of excited feeling. The result will be seen hereafter. It is a little remarkable, that, in the midst of all these censures, Arnold never solicited a court of inquiry on his own part, by which, if they were unjust and without foundation, he might at once have silenced his enemies, and which it would be natural to expect under such circumstances from a man, possessing a quick sense of honor, who was conscious of his innocence.
As soon as the army had retreated to Crown Point and Ticonderoga, no time was lost and no efforts were spared in pressing forward preparations for defence, both by land and water. The British would of course pursue their way over the Lake, the moment they could construct or collect at St. John's suitable vessels for the purpose. To baffle such a movement, or at least to embarrass it as much as possible, it was extremely important that the marine force should be put on the most respectable footing, and increased to the utmost limit, which the resources in hand would admit. Great inconveniences were to be encountered in effecting this object; few materials for ship-building were in readiness; shipwrights, carpenters, and many essential articles for fitting out the vessels were to be obtained from the seaports. Such was the promptness and energy, however, with which the work was prosecuted, that by the middle of August a little squadron was prepared to sail, consisting of one sloop, three schooners, and five gondolas. The sloop carried twelve guns, one schooner the same number, the others eight, and the gondolas three each. These vessels rendezvoused at Crown Point under the the command of Arnold, and before the end of the month he sailed with his whole armament down the Lake.
By his instructions from General Gates, he was to take his station at the Isle-aux-Têtes, where there was a narrow pass in the Lake, and beyond that point he was ordered in positive terms not to advance. The order stated, that, as the present operations were designed to be wholly on the defensive, the business of the fleet was to prevent or repel a hostile invasion, but not to run any wanton risks or seek an encounter within the enemy's territory. In all other respects the discretion of the commander was to be his guide. On his arrival at Windmill Point, four miles from Isle-aux-Têtes, he discovered the island to be occupied by the enemy, numbers of whom were likewise encamped on the shores of the Lake. This induced him to stop at Windmill Point, and moor his vessels in a line across the Lake, so as to prevent any of the enemy's boats from passing * Crown Point. Hence he charges Arnold with disobedience of orders at the outset, in having gone beyond that place. But the actual site of Isle-aux-Têtes was at the lower end of the Lake, almost in contact with the Canada line, and in the vicinity of what is now called Rouse's Point. It was intended that the fleet should be stationed as near the line as prudence would admit, and the orders were strictly obeyed.—Wilkinson's Memoirs, Vol. I. p. 81.
* General Wilkinson, by mistaking the position of Isle-aux-Têtes, has bestowed much unmerited censure upon Arnold. He supposes it to be at a place called Split Rock, which is but about twenty-five miles from Crown Point
The decks of his vessels were so low, that he thought it necessary to erect around them barricades of fascines, which should protect them from being boarded by superior numbers in small craft. While his men were on shore cutting fascines, they were attacked by a party of British and Indians, and before they could reach their boat three were killed and six wounded. This circumstance proved to him the inexpediency of remaining in a position, where he was exposed to perpetual annoyance from the enemy, without having an adequate force to act by land. In a few days he returned eight or ten miles to Isle-la-Motte, and took a station more advantageous and secure, as the island was beyond the reach of an attack from the main land, and his guard-boats would discover any approach by water.
Small scouting parties were sent down on each side of the Lake, from whom intelligence was from time to time obtained, but not with such accuracy as to enable Arnold to judge of the extent of the enemy's naval preparations at St. John's. Being so well informed, nevertheless, as to deem it unadvisable to hazard an action in a part of the Lake, where he would be obliged to engage a superior force in an open encounter, he withdrew his fleet still farther back, and anchored it in a line between Valcour Island and the western shore of the Lake.
Since leaving Crown Point his armament had been reinforced, so that it now consisted of three schooners, two sloops, three galleys and eight gondolas. Early in the morning of the 11th of October, the guard-boats gave notice, that the enemy's fleet was in sight, off Cumberland Head, moving up the Lake. It soon appeared advancing around the southern point of Valcour Island, and presented a formidable aspect, there being one ship with three masts, two schooners, a radeau, one gondola, twenty gunboats, four longboats, and forty-four boats with provisions and troops. The armed vessels were manned by seven hundred chosen seamen. Such an array was enough to convince the Americans, that they must rely mainly on their bravery and the advantages of their position. The wind was likewise in their favor, as some of the larger vessels could not beat up sufficiently near to engage in the attack. While the enemy's fleet was coming round the island, Arnold had ordered his three galleys, and a schooner called the Royal Savage, to get under way and advance upon the enemy. On their return to the line the schooner grounded and was afterwards destroyed, but the men were saved. At half past twelve the action became general and very warm, the British having brought all their gunboats and one schooner within musket-shot of the American line. They kept up a heavy fire of round and grape shot, till five o'clock, when they withdrew from the contest and joined the ship and schooner, which a head wind had prevented from coming into action.
During the contest Arnold was on board the Congress galley, which suffered severely. It received seven shot between wind and water, was hulled twelve times, the main mast was wounded in two places, the rigging cut in pieces, and the proportion of killed and wounded was unusually great. So deficient was the fleet in gunners, that Arnold himself pointed almost every gun that was fired from his vessel. The Washington galley was equally shattered; the first lieutenant was killed, and the captain and master wounded. All the officers of one of the gondolas, except the captain, were lost; and another gondola sunk soon after the engagement. The whole number of killed and wounded was about sixty. The enemy landed a large body of Indians, who kept up an incessant fire of musketry from the island and the opposite shore, but without effecting much injury.
A consultation was held by the officers as soon as the engagement was over; and they agreed, that, considering the exhausted state of their ammunition, and the great superiority of the enemy's force both in ships and men, prudence required them to return to Crown Point, and if possible without risking another attack. The British had anchored their vessels in a line within a few hundred yards of the Americans, stretching from the island to the main, apparently to frustrate any such design. The night was dark, but a favoring breeze blew from the north, and before morning Arnold had passed with his whole fleet through the British line entirely undiscovered. This manoeuvre was not less bold in its execution, than extraordinary in its success. Arnold himself brought up the rear in his crippled galley, and, before their departure was known to the enemy, they had ascended the Lake ten or twelve miles to Schuyler's Island. Here they were obliged to cast anchor for half a day, in order to stop the leaks and repair their sails. Two of the gondolas were abandoned and sunk. In the afternoon they set sail again, but the wind had died away in the morning, and it now sprung up from the south, equally retarding the pursuit of the enemy and their own progress.
On the morning of the second day the scene was changed. The Congress and Washington galleys, with four gondolas, had fallen in the rear, all being too much disabled to sail freely. The advanced ships of the enemy's fleet, in one of which was General Carleton, were found to be gaining upon them, under a press of sail, and in a short time were along-side. After receiving a few broadsides the Washington struck, having been extremely weakened by the loss of men and injury received in the first engagement. The whole force of the attack now fell upon Arnold in the Congress galley. A ship of eighteen guns, a schooner of fourteen, and another of twelve, poured forth an unceasing fire within musket shot. The contest was kept up with unparalleled resolution for four hours, when the gal-? ley was reduced almost to a wreck, and was surrounded by seven sail of the enemy. In this situation Arnold ran the galley and the four gondolas into a small creek, on the east side of the Lake, about ten miles from Crown Point; and as soon as they were aground, and were set on fire, he ordered the marines to leap into the water armed with muskets, wade to the beach, and station themselves in such a manner on the bank, as to prevent the approach of the enemy's small boats. He was the last man, that remained on board, nor did he leave his galley, till the fire had made such progress, that it could not be extinguished. The flags were kept flying, and he maintained his attitude of defence on the shore, till he saw them consumed, and the whole of his flotilla enveloped in flames. There are few instances on record of more deliberate courage and gallantry, than were displayed by him from the beginning to the end of this action.
Being no longer in a condition to oppose the enemy, he proceeded immediately through the woods with his men to Crown Point, and fortunately escaped an attack from the Indians, who waylaid the path two hours after he had passed. The same night he arrived at Ticonderoga. All his clothes, papers, and baggage had been burnt in the Royal Savage at Valcour Island. He found at Ticonderoga the remnant of his fleet, being two schooners, two galleys, one sloop, and one gondola. General Waterbury, who commanded the Washington galley, and one hundred and ten prisoners were returned on parole by General Carleton the day after the last action. The whole American loss in killed and wounded was between eighty and ninety. The enemy reported theirs to be about forty.
Notwithstanding the signal failure of this enterprise, the valor and good conduct of the commander and his officers were themes of applause throughout the country. Arnold's popularity was prodigiously increased by it; and, although he was disliked in the army, as well from the spirit of jealousy commonly excited by an aspiring rival, as from the innate and irredeemable defects of his character, yet with the people at large these motives, if they existed at all, were swallowed up in an admiration of those imposing qualities and daring achievements, which are so apt to captivate the multitude, and which indeed in every stage of society are found to produce so strong an influence upon the mind. Some writers have commented on the execution of this enterprise in a tone of captious criticism, which can by no means be sustained on an impartial view of the subject. It is perhaps difficult to speak of the deeds of such a man as Arnold, without remembering the deplorable issue to which he was finally brought by his folly and wickedness; yet the historian should never forget, that he commits a crime little less flagrant in its nature, if inferior in its magnitude, when he allows himself to be so far moved by his feelings, as to depart from the strict line of truth and justice, or, by such an obliquity, to lead his readers to form a false and harsh judgment.
Arnold was sent out to meet the enemy. Whether he should fight or not, it is true, was left to his discretion. He chose the former and was beaten, but not till he had maintained a combat for half a day against a force nearly double his own, and caused the enemy to retire. This fact is enough to prove, that his position was judiciously chosen, and that the action on his part was skilfully fought. With consummate address he then penetrated the enemy's line, and brought off his whole fleet, shattered and disabled as it was, and succeeded at last in saving six of his vessels. Let it be supposed, that he had retreated before the British fleet, and left it to proceed unmolested. What would have been the consequence? There was a chance, at least, that he would be overtaken somewhere, and perhaps under circumstances of greater disadvantage. Even if he had escaped and moored his vessels under the guns of the fort at Ticonderoga, would the public have been satisfied with such a measure? Would not murmurs of complaint have been heard, that such expensive preparations should be made without any effect, or an attempt to repel the invaders? And would not a corresponding depression of public enthusiasm and spirit have followed? Whereas the event, as it turned out, was so gallant a demonstration of the courage and resolute ardor of the American troops, that it inspired universal confidence and hope at a very gloomy crisis of the revolution. It needs only be added, as a guide to a correct historical estimate of the transaction, that the conduct of Arnold was at the time approved by his military superiors, by Congress, and by the whole nation.
Stationed in Rhode Island.—Superseded in his Rank by Congress.—? Complains of Injustice and ill Treatment.—His Bravery in the Affair of Danbury.—Commands at Philadelphia.
General Carleton took possession of Crown Point, and for a few days menaced Ticonderoga; but, being convinced of his inability so late in the season to accomplish his main purpose of penetrating to Albany, he retired with his fleet and army down the Lake to seek winter-quarters in Canada. It was no longer necessary to keep up a formidable force in the northern department, and a large part of the troops was ordered from Ticonderoga to reinforce General Washington in Jersey, then retreating before a victorious enemy. Arnold was in this division, and he joined Washington's camp on the west side of the Delaware, a week preceding the memorable battle of Trenton. A letter had already been despatched to him, which had missed him in his route, containing directions to proceed immediately to Rhode Island, and, in conjunction with General Spencer, who commanded on that station, to rally the New England militia, and be prepared to resist the enemy, then hovering on the coast with a large number of ships.
He remained three days with the Commander-in-chief, and hastened to Providence, the headquarters of the eastern army. The British landed and took possession of Newport. The winter was passed by Spencer and Arnold in forming plans, and making preparations, to attack the garrison on Rhode Island; but these were all defeated by the impossibility of procuring troops sufficient for such an enterprise. Arnold spent some time in Boston, for the purpose of consulting with the principal persons of Massachusetts on this project, and of engaging the legislature of that State to call out an adequate force of the militia to secure its success. The attempt failed. All the States of New England were equally interested in driving the enemy from this new lodgment within their borders, all were equally disposed to do it; but the exhaustion of the last campaign could not be repaired in a moment, nor was the ardor of the people at so high a pitch as to induce them in the depth of winter to seek an enemy, contented to remain on an island, and from whom no immediate danger was apprehended. It is moreover to be kept in mind, that every effort was now making to fill up the Continental regiments, and reinforce the dwindled army under Washington at Morristown, as well as to prepare for the expected invasion from the north in the spring.
While Arnold was engaged in this service, an incident happened, which made him begin to talk of the ingratitude of his country, and which had an important bearing on his future destiny. In February, 1777, Congress appointed five new major-generals, without including him in the list, all of whom were his juniors in rank, and one of them, General Lincoln, was promoted from the militia. It may well be imagined what effect this tacit censure and public slight would have on a person so sensitive to military glory, and whose reputation and prospects rested on that basis alone. He was totally unprepared for such a testimony of the sense of Congress, and his astonishment was not less than his indignation; but he had the self-command to conceal his emotions, and to demean himself with more moderation, than might have been expected. Washington was surprised and concerned, as he feared the ill effects, which such a practice might have upon the officers, knowing the extreme jealousy with which military men regard the subject of rank and promotion, and considering this feeling as essential to the vital interests of the army. He wrote to Arnold a soothing letter, begging him to take no hasty steps, and expressing his conviction that there was some mistake, which would in due time be rectified. He added assurances of his own endeavors to promote what he deemed in this case the claim of justice as well as of policy.
Arnold replied in a subdued tone, but not without symptoms of strong feeling. "Congress undoubtedly have a right," said he, "of promoting those, whom, from their abilities and their long and arduous services, they esteem most deserving. Their promoting junior officers to the rank of major-generals, I view as a very civil way of requesting my resignation, as unqualified for the office I hold. My commission was conferred unsolicited, and received with pleasure only as a means of serving my country. With equal pleasure I resign it, when I can no longer serve my country with honor. The person, who, void of the nice feelings of honor, will tamely condescend to give up his right, and retain a commission at the expense of his reputation, I hold as a disgrace to the army and unworthy of the glorious cause in which we are engaged. When I entered the service of my country, my character was unimpeached. I have sacrificed my interest, ease, and happiness in her cause. It is rather a misfortune than a fault, that my exertions have not been crowned with success. I am conscious of the rectitude of my intentions. In justice, therefore, to my own character, and for the satisfaction of my friends, I must request a court of inquiry into my conduct; and, though I sensibly feel the ingratitude of my countrymen, yet every personal injury shall be buried in my zeal for the safety and happiness of my country, in whose cause I have repeatedly fought and bled, and am ready at all times to risk my life." No man certainly could talk in a more patriotic strain, and perhaps it is not too great a tax upon our faith to believe, that he was at this time as sincere as most patriots, who are reduced to the extremity of enumerating their disinterested sacrifices and services, as a vindication of their character, and a proof that the public have done them wrong.
General Washington was prompt to render the aid he had promised. He wrote to some of his friends in Congress on the subject, and requested General Greene, who was then at Philadelphia, to make particular inquiries. The avowed reason was, that the members from each State insisted upon having general officers proportioned to the number of troops furnished by it, and, as Connecticut had already two major-generals, there was no vacancy for another. "I confess," said General Washington, "this is a strange mode of reasoning, but it may show you that the promotion, which was due to your seniority, was not overlooked for want of merit in you." To the request for a court of inquiry he replied, that, as no specific charge had been alleged, he did not see on what ground such a court could be instituted; and, as public bodies were not responsible for their acts, all the satisfaction which an individual could obtain, if overlooked, was a consciousness that he did not deserve such treatment for his honest exertions.
This was kind and friendly, and might have afforded consolation to a philosopher; but Arnold had never been imbued with those maxims of wisdom which teach humility, nor learned the useful art of self-control to such an extent as to resist the impulse of a craving ambition, or endure the corrodings of wounded pride. He was well aware, also, that the ostensible motives of the majority of Congress were not the real ones; and this fact pressed upon him the unwelcome conviction, that his enemies were more numerous and active than he had ever imagined. Looking for the support of his reputation to the splendor of his military fame, and the prevailing power of popular applause over the opinions of all ranks of society, he had never prepared himself for such an expression of public sentiment, and his chagrin was in proportion to his disappointment.
At length he resolved to visit head-quarters, and obtain permission to proceed in person to Philadelphia, and demand of Congress an investigation into his conduct. On his journey from Providence, he happened to be in Connecticut at the time when the British expedition, consisting of two thousand troops, under Governor Tryon, landed at Compo, near Fairfield, penetrated the country, and burnt the town of Danbury, with the public stores at that place. Generals Silliman and Wooster had succeeded in collecting suddenly about six hundred men, of whom one hundred were Continental troops, and the others militia, and pushed forward in pursuit of the enemy. Arnold joined them at a short distance from Reading, and they all marched to Bethel, about four miles from Danbury, where they arrived in the middle of the night, and learned that the town was destroyed, and the British preparing to retire. They halted at Bethel to refresh the troops till morning, and then separated their party into two divisions. At daylight two hundred men under General Wooster marched to harass the enemy in their rear. Arnold and Silliman headed the other division, amounting to four hundred, and took a different route, with the design of intercepting their retreat. It was at first uncertain whether Governor Tryon would go to the North River, and embark in the vessels then lying near Tarrytown, or return to the ships, which he had left in the Sound. All doubts were soon removed, however, by intelligence of his being in full march towards Compo.
General Wooster overtook the enemy's rear guard, and commenced a spirited attack. It was repelled by discharges of artillery and musketry, which seemed at first to stagger his men, unaccustomed to scenes of battle. He had placed himself in their front, to encourage them forward, and had just called out, "Come on, my boys; never mind such random shot," when he received a wound in his side, which proved mortal. He fell from his horse, and was carried back to Danbury where he died.
By eleven o'clock in the morning, Arnold's division had reached Ridgefield, having been augmented on the way to about five hundred men. He took a position at the northern extremity of the village, and erected a barricade of carts, logs, and earth across the road by which the British were to pass. The post was well chosen, the road was narrow, his right flank was covered by a house and barn, and his left by a ledge of rocks. At three o'clock the enemy appeared, marching in a solid column, and they commenced a heavy fire as they advanced towards the breast-work. It was briskly returned. For nearly a quarter of an hour the action was warm, and the Americans maintained their ground by the aid of their barricade against four times their number, until the British column began to extend itself, and to stretch around their flanks. This was a signal for a retreat. Arnold was the last man that remained behind. While alone in this situation, a platoon of British troops, who had clambered up the rocks on the left flank, discharged their muskets at him. His horse dropped lifeless, and when it was perceived that the rider did not fall, one of the soldiers rushed forward with a fixed bayonet intending to run him through. Arnold sat unmoved on his struggling horse, watched the soldier's approach till he was near enough to make sure his aim, then drew a pistol from the holsters and shot him dead. Seizing this critical opportunity, he sprang upon his feet and escaped unharmed. So remarkable an exhibition of cool and steady courage, in a moment of extreme danger, has rarely been witnessed.
He rallied his men, and continued to annoy the enemy in their progress. Being reinforced the next day, he hung upon their flanks and rear throughout the whole march to their ships, attacking them at every assailable point. In a skirmish near Cornpo, just before the British embarked, the horse which he rode was shot through the neck, and on all occasions he exposed himself with his accustomed intrepidity.
The news of these exploits passed quickly to Congress, and without delay Arnold was promoted to the rank of major-general. But, with an inconsistency not easily accounted for, his relative rank was not restored, and he was still left by the date of his commission below the five major-generals, who had been raised over him. If his merit as an officer now required his advancement, notwithstanding the former objections, it would seem to have been a proper act of magnanimity to place him where the reproach upon his military honor would be removed, and his sense of justice satisfied. To degrade and promote at the same time was a singular mode of bestowing reward, or expressing approbation. Arnold regarded it in that light, and was by no means at ease with his new appointment thus grudgingly conferred, or rather extorted by the fresh laurels he had won on the field of battle.
General Washington, sensible of the delicacy of his situation, and valuing highly his services, hastened to make the best amends in his power for the neglect of Congress, by appointing him to the command on the North River, which, at that juncture was as honorable a post as any officer in the army could hold. He declined the offer, however, and obtained the consent of the Commander-in-chief to go to Philadelphia, and prosecute his first design of applying in person to Congress for an examination into his conduct. He soon discovered, what he before had sufficient reason to apprehend, that the unfavorable reports of his behavior at Montreal and Ticonderoga, added to a conviction of the inherent defects of his private character, which every body was ready to acknowledge, were the prevailing causes of the disrepute in which he was held by a majority of that body. These stern patriots, regarding virtue as essential to true honor, did not consider great examples of valor, resource, and energy, even in arousing and sustaining the military ardor of a country, as an adequate counterpoise to a dereliction of principle and a compromising integrity. How far a judicious policy and pure patriotism were combined on this occasion, or to what extent party zeal contributed to warp the judgment, we need not now inquire. It is enough to know, that impressions were fixed and their influence was felt. To remove the former and weaken the latter was the task, which Arnold set himself to perform.
His complaints were loud, and expressed with a show of sensibility, which from any other man might seem to be sincere. "I am exceedingly unhappy," said he, in writing to Congress, "to find, that, after having made every sacrifice of fortune, ease, and domestic happiness to serve my country, I am publicly impeached (in particular by Lieutenant-Colonel Brown) of a catalogue of crimes, which, if true, ought to subject me to disgrace, infamy, and the just resentment of my countrymen. Conscious of the rectitude of my intentions, however I may have erred in judgment, I must request the favor of Congress to point out some mode, by which my conduct and that of my accusers may be inquired into, and justice done to the innocent and injured." This letter was referred to the Board of War. As a proof, that the poison of party was then rankling in the national councils, and that it was not inoperative in this affair, we may cite a letter written by Richard Henry Lee, on the day that the above complaint, or petition, was presented. "One plan," he observes, "now in frequent use, is to assassinate the characters of the friends of America, in every place and by every means; at this moment they are reading in Congress a bold and audacious attempt of this kind against the brave General Arnold."
After examining all the papers in their possession, and holding a conference with General Arnold, and with Mr. Carroll (one of the commissioners from Congress at Montreal when the former commanded there), the Board of War reported, that they were entirely satisfied as to the character and conduct of General Arnold, which, in the language of the Board, had been "so cruelly and groundlessly aspersed." The report was confirmed by Congress; yet, strange as it may appear, his rank was not restored, nor was any resolution adopted on that head; and he was thus left with all his griefs bearing as heavily upon him as before; and indeed more so, since their burden was increased by this unexpected but convincing proof of the deep-rooted hostility of his opponents, and of their being influenced by motives, which he had not anticipated. His disappointment was the greater at this moment, as Congress had two days before complimented him with the gift of a horse, properly caparisoned, being a token of their approbation of his recent gallant conduct against the enemy. It was no wonder, that this giving with one hand and taking away with the other, exciting hope and defeating expectation with the same breath, should worry and disgust a man, who had a right to look for consistency if not for favor. This duty Congress owed to themselves, for the sake of their own dignity; and they certainly owed it to every officer, whom they deemed worthy of a commission in the army.
Another circumstance now occurred, which involved the case in new difficulties. General Arnold presented his accounts to Congress, and requested an examination of them by a committee. For the want of proper regulations in the various military departments at the beginning of the war, the business of purchases, payments, and other money concerns, rested mainly with the commanders of detachments. This system prevailed in the Canada expedition as a matter of necessity. By the peculiarity of his situation, from the time he left Cambridge until the evacuation of Canada, Arnold was compelled on many occasions to act in the triple capacity of commander, commissary, and paymaster. Hence his accounts were voluminous and extremely complicated, and in many parts without vouchers or proper certificates. This irregularity was to be expected from the nature of the case; but it was soon discovered, that he had introduced a series of extravagant charges in his own favor, some of them dubious in their character, and others manifestly unreasonable, even if the items could be proved, which in the aggregate swelled his personal claims upon the government to an enormous amount.
As there was no pretence of his having carried his own money into the service in any considerable quantity, and as his credit was not of a kind to command large resources upon his individual responsibility, the inquiry very naturally arose, how he could in the space of a few months, while discharging an active and arduous military duty, accumulate property to such an amount, as appeared in the balance of his accounts. In short, every one perceived, that there was a fallacy, a deception, or an impudent attempt to overreach and defraud the public. His enemies in Congress gained new strength to their cause by these developements, and his friends were vexed at the hard task they had undertaken, of vindicating and sustaining a man, whose merits as an officer were of the highest order, and whose services they deemed invaluable to the country, but who, by the deplorable perversion of his moral qualities, was using the ascendency he had acquired as a means of robbing that very public, which, under the guise of a hypocritical patriotism, he pretended to serve from disinterested motives, and at a great sacrifice.
While the committee were engaged in examining the accounts, Arnold was appointed to the command of the army then convening in the neighborhood of Philadelphia, and awaiting the movements of General Howe, who, it was supposed, would open the campaign by a renewal of his attempt to cross the Delaware, and march into Pennsylvania. When this officer made a demonstration from Brunswic towards Washington's encampment, with a view of bringing that cautious commander to a general action, it was thought his design was against Philadelphia, and Arnold was sent forward by Congress to take post on the Delaware above Trenton, to examine the passes, secure the boats, and cooperate with General Washington in opposing the enemy's advance. This duty he discharged with his usual promptness and energy, and, when the British general retired to Brunswic, he returned to his head-quarters at Philadelphia.
Meantime his accounts lingered in the hands of the Committee, who had delayed making a report, and seemed not inclined to hasten it; nor had any notice been taken of his reiterated demands to have his rank adjusted. His impetuous temper could not brook this neglect, and his patience was exhausted. He wrote a letter to Congress, tendering a resignation of his commission, declaring at the same time, that he was driven to this step only by a sense of the injustice he had suffered, and professing an ardent love of his country, and his readiness to risk his life in its cause; but, he added, "honor is a sacrifice no man ought to make; as I received, so I wish to transmit it inviolate to posterity." Just at this crisis came the intelligence of the disasters on the northern frontiers, the unexpected evacuation of Ticonderoga, and the approach of the formidable army under Burgoyne; and it so happened, that, on the same day that the above letter of resignation was communicated to Congress, they received a letter from General Washington, recommending that General Arnold should be immediately sent to join the northern army. "He is active, judicious, and brave," said Washington, "and an officer in whom the militia will repose great confidence."
Flattered by this preference, and looking forward to a scene of action in which he always delighted, he did not hesitate to comply with the order, and suspend his demand of permission to resign, adding only, that he should leave it with Congress, and made no doubt they would listen to it when the service now before him should be accomplished. He went still farther and volunteered an act of magnanimity, which certainly must extort praise, if it cannot win esteem. General St. Clair was in the northern army, and he was one of the five major-generals, who had been promoted over Arnold. With his keen sensibilities on this subject, it might be presumed that he would insist on his rights, and refuse to be commanded by an officer thus situated; but he generously waved all considerations of that kind, declaring that he would do his duty faithfully in the rank he then held, and trust to the justice of his claims for a future reparation. This pacific overture, it is true, was owing in no small degree to the solicitude of Washington, whom he knew to be his sincere friend, and whose judgment was compromised in recommending him to this appointment.
Joins the northern Army.—The tragical Death of Jane M'Crea near Fort Edward.—Arnold commands an Expedition to Fort Schuyler.—Rejoins the main Army on the Hudson.—The Battles of Behmus's Heights.
Arnold arrived at Fort Edward and joined General Schuyler in the latter part of July. The array was then preparing to move five miles lower down the Hudson, and form an encampment on the high grounds near Moses Creek, which had been selected for the purpose by Kosciuszko. At the time of this movement the army was separated into two divisions, one of which was put under the command of Arnold, whose headquarters were between Moses Creek and Fort Edward. Four days after he had taken this station, a tragical event happened within the limits of his command, which, from its singular barbarity and the circumstances attending it, has been commemorated by historians, and will be perpetuated as a memento of the melancholy fate of suffering innocence, and an affecting record of the horrors of savage warfare.
The murder of Jane M'Crea has been a theme, which eloquence and sensibility have alike contributed to dignify, and which has kindled in many a breast the emotions of a responsive sympathy. General Gates's description, in his letter to Burgoyne, although more ornate than forcible, and abounding more in bad taste than simplicity or pathos, was suited to the feelings of the moment, and produced a lively impression in every part of America; and the glowing language of Burke, in one of his most celebrated speeches in the British Parliament, made the story of Jane M'Crea familiar to the European world.
This young lady was the daughter of a clergyman, who died in New Jersey before the Revolution. Upon her father's death she sought a home in the house of her brother, a respectable gentleman residing on the western bank of Hudson's River, about four miles below Fort Edward. Here she formed an intimacy with a young man, named David Jones, to whom it was understood she was engaged to be married. When the war broke out, Jones took the side of the royalists, went to Canada, received a commission, and was a captain or lieutenant among the provincials in Burgoyne's army.
Fort Edward was situate on the eastern margin of Hudson's River, within a few yards of the water, and surrounded by a plain of considerable extent, which was cleared of wood and cultivated. On the road leading to the north, and near the foot of a hill about one third of a mile from the fort, stood a house occupied by Mrs. McNiel, a widow lady and an acquaintance of Miss McCrea, with whom she was staying as a visitor at the time the American army was in that neighborhood. The side of the hill was covered with a growth of bushes, and on its top, a quarter of a mile from the house, stood a large pine tree, near the root of which gushed out a perennial spring of water. A guard of one hundred men had been left at the fort, and a picket under Lieutenant Van Vechten was stationed in the woods on the hill a little beyond the pine tree.
Early one morning this picket guard was attacked by a party of Indians, rushing through the woods from different points at the same moment, and rending the air with hideous yells. Lieutenant Van Vechten and five others were killed and scalped, and four were wounded. Samuel Standish, one of the guard, whose post was near the pine tree, discharged his musket at the first Indian he saw, and ran down the hill towards the fort; but he had no sooner reached the plain, than three Indians, who had pursued him to cut off his retreat, darted out of the bushes, fired, and wounded him in the foot. One of them sprang upon him, threw him to the ground, pinioned his arms, and then pushed him violently forward up the hill. He naturally made as much haste as he could, and in a short time they came to the spring, where several Indians were assembled.
Here Standish was left to himself, at a little distance from the spring and the pine tree, expecting every moment to share the fate of his comrades, whose scalps were conspicuously displayed. A few minutes only had elapsed, when he saw a small party of Indians ascending the hill, and with them Mrs. McNiel and Miss McCrea on foot. He knew them both, having often been at Mrs. McNiel's house. The party had hardly joined the other Indians, when he perceived much agitation among them, high words and violent gestures, till at length they engaged in a furious quarrel, and beat one another with their muskets. In the midst of this fray, one of the chiefs, apparently in a paroxysm of rage, shot Miss McCrea in the breast. She instantly fell and expired. Her hair was long and flowing. The same chief grasped it in his hand, seized his knife, and took off the scalp in such a manner as to include nearly the whole of the hair; then springing from the ground, he tossed it in the face of a young warrior, who stood near him watching the operation, brandished it in the air, and uttered a yell of savage exultation. When this was done the quarrel ceased; and, as the fort had already been alarmed, the Indians hurried away as quickly as possible to General Fraser's encampment on the road to Fort Anne, taking with them Mrs. McNiel and Samuel Standish.
The bodies of the slain were found by a party, that went in pursuit, and were carried across the river. They had been stripped of their clothing, and the body of Miss McCrea was wounded in nine places, either by a scalping knife or a tomahawk. A messenger was despatched to convey the afflicting intelligence to her brother, who arrived soon afterwards, took charge of his sister's remains, and had them interred on the east side of the river about three miles below the fort. The body of Lieutenant Van Vechten was buried at the same time and on the same spot.
History has preserved no facts by which we can at this day ascertain the reason, why Miss McCrea should remain as she did in so exposed and unprotected a situation. She had been reminded of her danger by the people at the fort. Tradition relates, however, and with seeming truth, that through some medium of communication she had promised her lover, probably by his advice, to remain in this place, until the approach of the British troops should afford her an opportunity to join him, in company with her hostess and friend. It is said, that, when they saw the Indians coming to the house, they were at first frightened and attempted to escape; but, as the Indians made signs of a pacific intention, and one of them held up a letter intimating that it was to be opened, their fears were calmed and the letter was read. It was from Jones, and contained a request that they would put themselves under the charge of the Indians, whom he had sent for the purpose, and who would guard them in safety to the British camp. Unfortunately two separate parties of Indians, or at least two chiefs acting independently of each other, had united in this enterprise, combining with it an attack of the picket guard. It is incredible that Jones should have known this part of the arrangement, or he would have foreseen the danger it threatened. When the prize was in their hands, the two chiefs quarrelled about the mode of dividing the reward they were to receive; and, according to the Indian rule of settling disputes in the case of captives, one of them in a wild fit of passion killed the victim and secured the scalp. Nor is it the least shocking feature of the transaction, that the savage seemed not aware of the nature of his mission. Uninformed as to the motive of his employer for obtaining the person of the lady, or not comprehending it, he regarded her in the light of a prisoner, and supposed the scalp would be an acceptable trophy. Let it be imagined what were the feelings of the anxious lover, waiting with joyful anticipation the arrival of his intended bride, when this appalling proof of her death was presented to him. The innocent had suffered by the hand of cruelty and violence, which he had unconsciously armed; his most fondly cherished hopes were blasted, and a sting was planted in his soul, which time and forgetfulness could never eradicate. His spirit was scathed and his heart broken. He lived but a few years, a prey to his sad recollections, and sunk into the grave under the burden of his grief.
The remembrance of this melancholy tale is still cherished with a lively sympathy by the people, who dwell near the scene of its principal incidents. The inhabitants of the village of Fort Edward have lately removed the remains of Miss McCrea from their obscure resting-place, and deposited them in the public burial-ground. The ceremony was solemn and impressive. A procession of young men and maidens followed the relics, and wept in silence when the earth was again closed over them, thus exhibiting an honorable proof of sensibility and of respect for the dead. The little fountain still pours out its clear waters near the brow of the hill, and the venerable pine is yet standing in its ancient majesty, broken at the top and shorn of its branches by the winds and storms of half a century, but revered as marking the spot where youth and innocence were sacrificed in the tragical death of Jane McCrea. *
* The circumstances attending the murder of Miss McCrea have been variously represented. Samuel Standish himself related to me the above particulars, as far as they came under his own observation. When he arrived at the British camp he was taken before General Fraser, who asked him many questions and treated him kindly. He was then sent a prisoner to Ticonderoga, whence he contrived to make his escape two months afterwards. Miles Standish, the famous military leader of the first Pilgrims at Plymouth, was his ancestor in a direct line.
The first report of the attack upon the picket guard, which was brought to Arnold, magnified the number of the assailants so much, that he detached a thousand men, with orders to march in two divisions, one to fall upon their rear, and the other to gain their front. The attempt was defeated by a heavy shower of rain, which wet the arms of the troops and damaged their powder. It is not likely, indeed, that in any event they would have overtaken the enemy, who moved off without delay, and were not inclined to wait an attack.
The day after this affair an advanced party of the British troops took possession of Fort Edward, and General Schuyler soon retreated with his whole army to Stillwater. In the mean time the question of Arnold's rank was again brought up in Congress, and decided against him by a majority of nearly three to one. It was the first occasion on which the yeas and nays were entered in the journals. Arnold had previously received a letter from one of his friends in Congress, who assured him, that, in the present temper of the members, he could have no hope of the restoration of his rank. Piqued and mortified at this obstinate determination to withhold from him what he deemed to be a right, and from the refusal of which his reputation was suffering, he asked leave of General Schuyler to retire; but by the persuasion of that officer, and a representation of the absolute necessity of his services at so critical a moment, he was induced again to suspend his purpose.
While the army was at Stillwater, intelligence arrived of the defeat of General Herkimer at the bloody battle of Oriskany, the investiture of Fort Schuyler by St. Leger with a large body of British troops, Canadians, and Indians, and the imminent danger to which the garrison was exposed. Eight hundred men under General Learned were immediately detached to the relief of the garrison. Arnold volunteered to command the expedition, and set off with instructions to call out as many of the militia as he could, and to adopt the most effectual measures to repel the enemy, and protect the settlements on the Mohawk River.
Washington had already advised his being sent into that quarter, but General Schuyler was reluctant to spare him from the main army.
When the detachment reached Fort Dayton at the German Flats, where there was a guard of Continental troops, it appeared by the adjutant's return, that the whole force then assembled was nine hundred and forty-six regulars, and less than one hundred militia. It was ascertained at the same time, that the number of the enemy besieging Fort Schuyler amounted to at least seventeen hundred, including one thousand Indians. In the opinion of a council of war, with these facts before them, it was imprudent to hazard an attack until a reinforcement could be obtained. Arnold accordingly sent an express to General Gates, who had superseded General Schuyler and was then at Van Schaick's Island, at the mouth of the Mohawk, soliciting an additional detachment of one thousand light troops. He likewise issued a tumid proclamation, after the example of Burgoyne and St. Leger, and, according to the fashion of those times, offering pardon to Indians, Germans, Americans, or Britons, if within ten days they would sue for protection and take the oath of allegiance to the United States, but threatening direful vengeance upon those, who should neglect this proffer of mercy, and be captured in prosecuting their hostile designs.
Stratagems in war are sometimes more effectual than arms or military skill. A singular instance of this kind occurred on the present occasion. A man by the name of Cuyler was seized as a spy. * There was little doubt of his guilt, or at least of his coming under the heavy penalties of the proclamation. Cuyler was a refugee, an inhabitant of that region, a man of some consideration among the people, and known in the enemy's camp, whence he had lately come out with a flag to entice the settlers to rally under the standard of St. Leger. It is said to have been first suggested by Lieutenant-Colonel Brooks, of the Massachusetts line, to employ him as a messenger of deceptive intelligence to the enemy. He was brought before Arnold, who questioned him, and promised a pardon of all past offences and the security of his property, if he would return to St. Leger's camp, and make so exaggerated a report of the number of Americans approaching, as to alarm the Indians and cause them to despair of success. To this he assented, and his brother was retained in confinement as a hostage for the faithful fulfilment of his promise.
* In some accounts he is called Hanyost Schuyler, which I am inclined to think was the true name; but historians have adopted the other.
A friendly Indian, wily by nature and skilled in artifice from habit, proposed that bullets should be shot through Cuyler's coat, which would give the greater plausibility to his story. Thus prepared he entered the forest, and in a little time fell in with one of the enemy's scouts, to whom he related the disaster of his having been taken and condemned as a spy, adding that he was about to be executed when he found means to elude his guards, but was pursued so closely as to be shot several times through his clothes, and had escaped with the utmost peril of his life. The same account he repeated to St. Leger, as soon as he came to the camp, and said that Arnold was advancing by rapid marches at the head of two thousand men. A second messenger followed close upon his heels, who magnified the number to three thousand, with the additional embellishment of their being very near at hand. The success of the stratagem was complete. A panic spread among the Indians, and two or three hundred decamped immediately. The chiefs insisted on a general retreat, and no arguments could prevail on them to remain. In a short time the whole camp was in confusion, and St. Leger was obliged to move off so precipitately, that fifty-nine tents were left standing, and various articles of baggage and camp equipage were scattered in every direction. The faithless savages, not contented to desert their friends, seized the opportunity to steal and plunder whatever came in their way.
Cuyler concealed himself and got safely into the fort.
Thus was raised the siege of Fort Schuyler, and thus terminated St. Leger's expedition, from which great advantages had been expected by the British government in aid of General Bur-goyne. Almost immediately after sending to Gates for a reinforcement, Arnold resolved to march forward with such troops as he had; and the news of St. Leger's retreat met him twenty-two miles from the fort. This movement, which was reported by the scouts, gave credit to the exaggerated statements of the messengers. He advanced to the fort, where he continued but a short time, and then returned to General Gates's army, having been absent twenty days. Colonel Gansevoort, who commanded at Fort Schuyler, sustained the siege with firmness and bravery. Lieutenant-Colonel Willett, the second in command, distinguished himself in a sortie from the garrison, and by other acts of military enterprise, which, the British Annual Register said, merited the praise even of an enemy.
The left wing of Gates's army was now at Loudon's Ferry, on the south bank of the Mohawk River, five miles above its confluence with the Hudson. The command at that post was assigned to Arnold. Two brigades and Morgan's battalion of riflemen were stationed there, to prevent General Burgoyne from crossing the Mohawk, should his march be continued thus far towards Albany. This event, however, was not destined to happen. The fatal defeat at Bennington, and the entire failure of the western expedition, had weakened his strength, depressed his hopes, and taught him caution. He lingered at Saratoga, and the American army, elated by their good fortune and encouraged by the reviving spirit of the country, retraced their steps and encamped on Behmus's Heights.
In this encampment Arnold still retained the left division of the army, consisting of the same regiments as at Loudon's Ferry. On the morning of the 19th of September, seven days after the camp had been formed, intelligence was brought that parties of the enemy were advancing within two or three miles of the lines. Arnold expressed his opinion to General Gates, that troops should march out and attack them; and he accordingly received orders to send Morgan's riflemen and Dearborn's light infantry, and to support them if necessary. An action was brought on, which lasted from half past twelve o'clock till night, and was fought wholly by detachments from Arnold's division, except one regiment only from another brigade. Wilkinson says, that no general officer was on the field of battle during the day; but when, towards evening, Gates and Arnold were together in the front of the camp, and Colonel Lewis came in from the scene of action and stated that its progress was undecisive, Arnold exclaimed, "I will soon put an end to it," and set off in a full gallop from the camp. Under the apprehension that he would do some rash thing, as Wilkinson goes on to say, Gates despatched an officer after him and ordered him back. It thus appears, that he was neither ordered out, nor permitted to go out, to take any part in the action. To a man, whose element was fighting, and whose ambition for military glory was equalled only by his bravery in acquiring it, this check upon his aspirations must have been keenly felt, whatever motives for imposing it may have actuated his superior in command.
A serious misunderstanding arose at this time between Gates and Arnold, which several circumstances conspired to foment. In the first place, a part of Arnold's division was withdrawn without his knowledge, and he was put in the ridiculous light, as he called it, of presuming to give orders, which were contravened by the general orders of the commander-in-chief. This is supposed to have been owing to the officious interference of Wilkinson, who was adjutant-general to the army, and who insisted on the returns of a part of Arnold's division being made directly to him, and influenced Gates to sustain his demand, which was done in general orders, without giving notice to Arnold. Again, it was ascertained, that in his official communication to Congress, respecting the battle, Gates had said nothing of Arnold or his division, but merely stated that the action was fought by detachments from the army. Arnold complained of this neglect as ungenerous, not more in regard to himself than to the troops under his immediate command. "Had my division behaved ill," said he, "the other division of the army would have thought it extremely hard to have been amenable for their conduct." High words and harsh language passed between the two generals, and Gates went so far as to tell Arnold, that he thought him of little consequence in the army, that when General Lincoln arrived he should take away his command of a division, and that he was ready to give him a pass to leave the camp whenever he pleased.
A correspondence followed; haughty and arrogant on the part of Gates, intemperate and indiscreet on that of Arnold. The latter demanded a pass for himself and suite to join General Washington. It was granted; but he changed his mind when he had taken time for reflection, rightly perceiving the hazard to which he would subject his reputation by voluntarily retiring from the army when another action might be hourly expected. He remained, although deprived of his command, and without any employment in the camp. Gates took the division under his own immediate charge, General Lincoln in the meantime being put in command of the right wing.
Which party in the dispute was the most blamable, it would be difficult now to decide. That Gates was overbearing is certain; that Arnold was Impetuous and presuming may as little be doubted. He probably relied too much on the professions of friendship, and acts of indulgence, which the same commander had manifested in his favor the year before at Ticonderoga. There is room to believe, also, that a spice of jealousy mingled with Gates's feelings on this occasion. Colonel Varick, writing from camp to General Schuyler, three days after the action, said, "He seems to be piqued, that Arnold's division had the honor of beating the enemy on the 19th. This I am certain of, that Arnold has all the credit of the action. And this I further know, that Gates asked where the troops were going, when Scammell's battalion marched out, and, upon being told, he declared no more troops should go; he would not suffer the camp to be exposed. Had Gates complied with Arnold's repeated desires, he would have obtained a general and complete victory over the enemy. But it is evident to me, he never intended to fight Bur-goyne, till Arnold urged, begged, and entreated him to do it." After the convention of Saratoga, Colonel Varick again wrote as follows in a letter from Albany. "During Burgoyne's stay here, he gave Arnold great credit for his bravery and military abilities, especially in the action of the 19th, whenever he spoke of him, and once in the presence of Gates." From this testimony it may be inferred, that the causes of the quarrel did not grow altogether out of the relations of rank in which the two parties stood to each other. Personal motives had their full share of influence at least with one, and perhaps with both.
When the second battle of Behmus's Heights commenced, on the 7th of October, Arnold, having no command, was discovered to be in a state of high excitement and apparent irritation. He continued in camp for some time, but at length, without instructions or permission, rode off in a full gallop to the field of battle. This being told to Gates, he sent Major Armstrong after him with orders. As soon as Arnold saw Armstrong, anticipating the purport of his message, and doubtless remembering the peremptory order to return while on his way out to the former action, he put spurs to his horse and quickened his speed. Armstrong pursued, tracing the erratic movements of Arnold, and keeping up the chase for half an hour, without being able to approach near enough to speak to him. And in fact, Arnold received no orders during the day, but rode about the field in every direction, seeking the hottest parts of the action, and issuing his commands wherever he went.
Being the highest officer in rank, that appeared on the field, his orders were obeyed when practicable; but all accounts agree, that his conduct was rash in the extreme, indicating rather the frenzy of a madman, than the considerate wisdom of an experienced general. He threw himself heedlessly into the most exposed situations, brandishing his sword in the air, animating his troops, and urging them forward. But the brilliant manouvre with which the engagement was closed, the assault of the enemy's works and driving the Hessians from their encampment, was undoubtedly owing in the first case to Arnold. He gave the order, and by his personal bravery set an example to the troops, which inspired them with ardor and hurried them onward. He was shot through the leg whilst riding gallantly into the sally-port, and his horse fell dead under him. The success of the assault was complete, and crowned the day with victory.
It is a curious fact, that an officer, who really had no command in the army, was the leader in one of the most spirited and important battles of the revolution. His madness, or rashness, or whatever it may be called, resulted most fortunately for himself. The wound he received, at the moment of rushing into the very arms of danger and of death, added fresh lustre to his military glory, and was a new claim to public favor and applause. In the heat of the action he struck an officer on the head with his sword, an indignity and offence, which might justly have been retaliated on the spot in the most fatal manner. The officer forbore; and the next day, when he demanded redress, Arnold declared his entire ignorance of the act, and expressed his regret. Some persons ascribed his wild temerity to intoxication, but Major Armstrong, who assisted in removing him from the field, was satisfied that this was not true. Others said he took opium. This is conjecture, unsustained by proofs of any kind, and consequently improbable. His vagaries may perhaps be sufficiently explained by the extraordinary circumstances of wounded pride, anger, and desperation, in which he was placed. Gates was not on the field, nor indeed did he leave his encampment during either of the battles of Behmus's Heights.
Disabled by his wound, the bone of the leg being fractured, General Arnold was removed to Albany, where he stayed throughout the winter confined to his room. Congress relented, though with an ill grace at so late an hour, and authorized General Washington to send him a commission giving him the full rank he had claimed. This was accompanied with a letter in which Washington said, "As soon as your situation will permit, I request you will repair to this army, it being my earnest wish to have your services the ensuing campaign. In hopes of this, I have set you down in an arrangement now under consideration, and for a command, which, I trust, will be agreeable to yourself and of great advantage to the public." Early in the spring he went to Middletown in Connecticut, where he spent a month or two, and then proceeded to New Haven. His entrance into that town was marked with honorable demonstrations of respect for his military character. Several Continental and militia officers, a company under arms, and many of the citizens, went out to meet him on the road, and his arrival was announced by thirteen discharges of cannon.
While at New Haven he received from General Washington a set of epaulettes and a sword-knot, with a letter stating that they were presented "as a testimony of sincere regard and approbation of his conduct." A gentleman in France had sent to General Washington three sets of epaulettes and sword-knots, requesting him to retain one for himself, and bestow the others on any gentlemen he might choose. The third set was given to General Lincoln.
Takes Command in Philadelphia.—Proposes joining the Navy.—Charges against him by the Council of Pennsylvania.—His Plan for a new Settlement in the western Part of New York.—His Trial by a Court-martial.
Before the end of May, Arnold joined the army at Valley Forge. It was daily expected, that the enemy would evacuate Philadelphia; and, as the condition of his wound did not permit him to perform an active part during the campaign, Washington had determined to appoint him to the command of that city, as soon as the British troops should leave it. This event occurred in a few days, and when the main army crossed the Delaware in pursuit of the retreating enemy, Arnold established his head-quarters in Philadelphia.
A small regiment only of Continental troops with a few militia was attached to his command, and although in a military point of view the post had little responsibility, yet in other respects its duties were delicate and difficult. The enemy had held possession of the city for more than eight months, and in that period it had been the resort of many persons disaffected to the American cause; and indeed not a few of the most respectable inhabitants were known to be of very doubtful patriotism, if not wholly inclined to the interests of the King. Again, there was much merchandise in the city belonging to this description of persons, or at least possessing an equivocal character as to ownership, which would naturally open a door to disputes, if not to covert and fraudulent transactions.
But a still greater source of perplexity, and of ultimate mischief, was the indefinable nature of the powers, with which the commandant of the city was invested. How far did the military authority extend? What objects did it embrace, and in what particulars was it to take cognizance of the civil rights, condition, and acts of the people? Where was the line to be drawn between the control of the military commander, and that of the government of Pennsylvania, whose laws and orders the citizens were bound to obey? These questions could not be answered by precedent or rule; and the practical difficulties could be avoided only by a degree of prudence, which was not to be expected from the habits and temperament of Arnold.
The instructions to him from the Commander-in-chief were expressed in general terms, and the mode of discharging the duties of his new appointment was left mainly to his own discretion. By a resolve of Congress, the removal, transfer, and sale of all goods in the city were to be prevented, till a joint committee of that body and of the Council of Pennsylvania should ascertain whether any of the property belonged to the King of Great Britain or to his subjects. With the design of carrying this resolve into effect, Arnold, as soon as he entered the city, issued a proclamation prohibiting the sale of goods until the inquiry should be made according to the order of Congress. Although this measure was advised by the principal persons of the city, and was indeed necessary for the strict discharge of his duty, yet it appeared so arbitrary in its principles, and bore upon so large a portion of the community, that it was unpopular, and brought some degree of odium on its immediate author. It infused a prejudice and dislike into the minds of the people, which neither his disposition, the weight of his personal character, nor his manners, would be likely to remove. It was, to say the least, an unpropitious beginning of his command, and led the way to the unfortunate train of events that followed.
Arnold had been a month at Philadelphia, when he conceived the project of quitting the army, and entering into the naval service.
"My wounds," said he, in writing to General Washington, "are in a fair way, and less painful than usual, though there is little prospect of my being able to take the field for a considerable time; which consideration, together with that of being obliged entirely to neglect my private affairs since I have been in the service, has induced me to wish to retire from public business, unless an offer, which my friends have mentioned, should be made to me of the command of the navy, to which my being wounded would not be so great an objection as it would to remaining in the army. I must beg leave to request your sentiments respecting a command in the navy. I am sensible of my inability, and of the great hazard and fatigue attending the office, and that I should enjoy much greater happiness in a retired life; but still my wishes to serve my country have a greater weight with me, than domestic happiness or ease."
General Washington's reply was brief and cautious. He declined expressing an opinion or giving advice, saying that his ignorance of naval concerns rendered him an incompetent judge.
Whether there was a serious intention in any quarter to appoint Arnold to the command of the navy, or whether the idea originated with himself, and he wished to obtain the countenance of Washington in aid of his object, it would not be easy at this time to ascertain. The above extract from his own letter is probably the only record relative to the subject that can be found. His pecuniary embarrassments were now beginning to press upon him, at the moment when his extravagant habits of living made new demands, and his fondness for display was pampered by the adventitious consequence to which he was raised as commandant of Philadelphia. He soon discovered, that his means bore no proportion to his wants, and that his situation afforded him no facilities to increase the former, while it presented many temptations to multiply the latter. It may be presumed, therefore, that motives of gain, rather than of patriotism or honorable ambition, induced him to think of deserting the theatre of action, in which he had acquired so remarkable a celebrity, and of commencing a new career in another department, where his experience was limited, and his professional prospects were doubtful. In the command of the navy his ruling passion would be flattered with the alluring hope of profitable captures. This conjecture is strengthened by the fact, that he afterwards formed a resolution to take the command of a privateer, although he abandoned the scheme before he attempted to carry it into effect.
Amidst so much that was mercenary, and so many derelictions of principle and faults of conduct, it is refreshing to discover some alleviating incidents. The lively interest expressed by Arnold in the orphan children of the lamented General Warren, who fell at Bunker's Hill, and the substantial tokens of kindness, which from time to time he rendered to them, would in any other person be regarded as noble proofs of disinterested benevolence and goodness of heart. Let them be placed in the scale, and allowed the weight they deserve. In what relation these two persons had stood to each other before the war is not known, but it is evident they were such as to inspire grateful recollections in the breast of Arnold.
A name, made illustrious by patriotic ardor in the cause of his country and the sacrifice of his life on the altar of liberty, was the only inheritance left by Warren to four young children. Through the instrumentality of Samuel Adams, a resolve of Congress was passed, that the eldest son should be educated at the expense of the United States. It was presumed that the State of Massachusetts would provide for the other children. This latter expectation, however, was disappointed. The three younger children were put under the charge of Miss Mercy Scollay, of Boston, to whom Arnold wrote in the following terms, a few days after he took the command at Philadelphia.
"About three months ago I was informed, said he, "that my late worthy friend General Warren left his affairs unsettled, and that, after paying his debts, a very small matter, if any thing, would remain for the education of his children, who, to my great surprise, I find have been entirely neglected by the State. Permit me to beg your continuing your care of the daughter, and that you will at present take charge of the education of the son. I make no doubt that his relations will consent that he shall be under your care. My intention is to use my interest with Congress to provide for the family. If they decline it, I make no doubt of a handsome collection by private subscription. At all events, I will provide for them in a manner suitable to their birth, and the grateful sentiments I shall ever feel for the memory of my friend. I have sent to you by Mr. Hancock five hundred dollars for the present. I wish you to have Richard clothed handsomely, and sent to the best school in Boston. Any expense you are at, please call on me for, and it shall be paid with thanks."
These generous sentiments were steadily maintained, and occasional supplies of money were forwarded according to the promise in this letter. He obtained private subscriptions, but apparently to no great amount. He made an application to Congress, which was referred to a committee, who reported, that the three younger children of General Warren should be maintained at the public expense in a manner suitable to their rank in life, till they should come of age, and at that time one thousand pounds should be given to each as a portion. If this report was ever called up, it did not receive the sanction of Congress. Arnold persevered, however, in his solicitation, and at last the point was carried to allow for the support of these children the half-pay of a major-general from the date of their father's death, till the youngest should be of age.
General Warren had been dead five years, and the annual amount of half-pay was somewhat more than thirteen hundred dollars, making the sum due nearly seven thousand dollars besides the future stipend. In the congratulatory letter, which Arnold wrote to Miss Scollay on this event, only six weeks before the consummation of his treachery, he reiterated his ardent concern for the welfare of the children, but complained that his application to Congress had been opposed from the beginning by all the Massachusetts delegates except one. They looked upon the case as appertaining only to the State of Massachusetts, and as not coming within the jurisdiction of Congress. Others had the same opinion. The success of the measure, which every benevolent mind must heartily approve, may be fairly ascribed to the zeal and perseverance of Arnold.
On various occasions, from the first week of his arrival in Philadelphia, he had contrived to involve himself in difficulties with the President and Council of Pennsylvania, which, at the end of seven months, had become so formidable and aggravated as to draw from that body a severe public censure upon his conduct. At a meeting of the board it was unanimously resolved, that the tenor and course of his military command in the city had been "in many respects oppressive, unworthy of his rank and station, highly discouraging to those who had manifested an attachment to the liberties and interests of America, and disrespectful to the supreme executive authority of the State." At the same time the attorney-general was authorized to prosecute him for such "illegal and oppressive acts, as were cognizable in the courts of law." To show the grounds of these proceedings, and to present the subject in a tangible form, the Council issued eight articles, or charges, containing an enumeration of his offensive acts. Some of these were set forth as of a criminal nature, and they all implied a wilful abuse of power, disregard of the rights of the people, or an unjustifiable interference with the government of Pennsylvania.
General Arnold being a United States' officer, it was deemed proper to make an appeal to Congress; and accordingly a list of the charges, accompanied by a letter from the President of Pennsylvania and divers other papers, was laid before that assembly. In the usual course of business these documents were referred to a committee of inquiry. The result was a vindication of General Arnold from any criminality in the matters charged against him. It appeared, however, that a misunderstanding existed between the committee and the Council, which prevented the latter from furnishing such testimony as was necessary to sustain their articles of censure. For this reason, probably, the report of the committee was not acted upon by Congress; but, in accordance with an agreement between the parties, the subject was referred anew to a joint committee of Congress and of the Assembly and Council of Pennsylvania.
After some progress had been made in the investigation, and the business was found to be clogged with many embarrassments, it was proposed by the Council, that the affair should be put into the hands of the Commander-in-chief, and submitted to a military tribunal. This arrangement, having been agreed to by the joint committee, was approved by Congress; but it was decided that four of the charges only were cognizable by a court-martial. These were transmitted to General Washington, who ordered a court to be convened, appointed the time of trial, and gave notice of the same to the respective parties.
With this course Arnold was highly displeased, and he expressed himself in no measured terms of dissatisfaction, both in his letters to Congress and to General Washington. He affected to regard this disposition of the matter as a compromise between Congress and the authorities of Pennsylvania, and insinuated that he was sacrificed by the former to prevent a serious breach or collision with the latter. He complained of the injustice and partiality of Congress, in throwing aside the report of their own committee, by which he had been fully acquitted, and listening to the proposals of men, who, he said, were moved by personal enmity, and had practised unworthy artifices to cause delay. He acquiesced, however, and desired that the trial might be brought on as soon as possible, declaring his conviction, that justice would be rendered to him by a court-martial.
The Council of Pennsylvania were not ready for the trial at the time first appointed by General Washington, and it was put off at their request to give them time to collect evidence. Arnold considered this a subterfuge and an additional grievance. More than three months had elapsed since the charges were presented to Congress, a space of time amply sufficient in his opinion for making every necessary preparation. The demand of a longer period he represented as a pretence to delay the trial, and to keep him under the odium of a public accusation.
The form of the trial, as notified by the Commander-in-chief, was not acceptable to the Council. They were called on as the accusing party to defend their charges before the court-martial.
President Reed wrote a letter to General Washington, in the name of the Council, expressing surprise that such a turn should be given to the affair, and that they should be looked upon in the light of the prosecuting party. He said it had never been their intention to exhibit charges, but only to convey their sense of the conduct of General Arnold, and to state their reasons. It was no part of their purpose to become prosecutors. Duty required them to make known their opinion to General Arnold's superiors and to the public, but farther than this they did not consider themselves bound to go. And, indeed, they conceived it to be inconsistent with the dignity of the executive authority of a state to appear before a military tribunal and prosecute an individual, who was amenable to another power for his conduct. They thought it the business of Congress, or of the Commander-in-chief, to institute a form of trial, which should put the prosecution upon a different footing. That the course of justice might not be obstructed, however, by points of etiquette or punctilious scruples, they professed a willingness to proceed with the trial, according to the mode appointed by the Commander-inchief, requesting only such delay as would enable them to procure the proper testimony.
As soon as the committee of Congress had reported on the charges submitted by the Council of Pennsylvania, General Arnold resigned his command in Philadelphia. This occurred on the 18th of March, 1779. He had obtained permission of the Commander-in-chief to resign in January, but had deferred it, as he said in his letter to Congress, till the charges should be examined by that body, lest his enemies should misrepresent his motives, and ascribe his resignation to the fear of a disgraceful suspension in consequence of those charges. He was the more disappointed and vexed, therefore, that Congress, instead of calling up and sanctioning the report, yielded to the solicitation of his enemies for a military trial.
The day finally agreed upon for the assembling of the court-martial was the 1st of June. Head-quarters were then at Middlebrook. Unfortunately just at that time the enemy in New York gave indications of a sudden movement, either into New Jersey, or up the North River; and a council of war decided, that the exigency of the service required every officer to be at his post, and rendered it necessary to defer the courtmartial, till, in the judgment of the Commander-in-chief, the state of affairs would permit the members to be assembled. This renewed disappointment was severely felt by Arnold, as there was now but a slender hope, that the trial could take place during the campaign; while he in the mean time would be destitute of employment, and his character must suffer from the suspicions excited in the public mind by the charges, which had been promulgated against him. Patience was his only resource; and, while practising this virtue so adverse to his habits, he had ample leisure to brood over his ills, cherish the bitter recollections of the past, and mature schemes for the future, which opened the way and hurried him onward to his ruin.
Whether weary of a military life, or impelled by his pecuniary necessities, or from whatever cause, it appears that Arnold had actually meditated leaving the army before the difficulties with the Pennsylvania government had assumed the shape of a public censure upon his character. He had formed a project of obtaining a grant of land in the western part of New York, and of establishing a settlement for the officers and soldiers, who had served under him, and for such other persons as might choose to unite in the enterprise. The New York delegation in Congress approved his plan, and wrote a joint letter on the subject to Governor Clinton, soliciting his aid and counsel to obtain suitable patronage from the legislature. "To you, Sir," say they in the letter, "or to our State, General Arnold can require no recommendation; a series of distinguished services entitle him to respect and favor." They likewise represented, on general grounds, the policy of strengthening and guarding the frontier, by such a settlement as was contemplated.
Mr. Jay, then President of Congress, enforced the same application in a private letter to Governor Clinton, "How far his plan may coincide with the views of the legislature," he wrote, "I am at a loss to say. I wish, however, that in treating with him they may recollect the services he has rendered to his country, and the value of such a citizen to any state that may gain him. Several other general officers have thoughts of settling in our state, and the prevailing reason they assign for it is the preference of our constitution to that of other states. They consider it as having the principles of stability and vigor, as well as of liberty; advantages which the loose and less guarded kinds of government cannot promise. It certainly is our interest to encourage these predilections, by attention to those who hold them; and I have no doubt but that generosity to Arnold will be justice to the State." These testimonies show, that there was a division of opinion in Congress, and that Arnold numbered among his friends some of the ablest and best members. The spirit of party never raged with more violence within the walls of the old Congress, than at this period. Arnold's case was doubtless made worse, and his feelings irritated, by this circumstance.
He visited General Washington's camp in February, and it is supposed he extended his journey to the State of New York, and consulted Governor Clinton; but we hear no more of his project. It was absorbed at the time in the more engrossing concerns of his trial, and there was no subsequent opportunity for reviving it.
After resigning his command at Philadelphia, he continued to reside in that city, holding his commission in the army, but filling no public office. Either by the unpopularity of his character, or by his disagreeable manners, he rendered himself odious to the inhabitants, and one day when abroad he was assaulted by the populace. He immediately complained to Congress. "A mob of lawless ruffians," said he, "have attacked me in the street; and they threaten my life, now I am in my house, for defending myself when attacked. As there is no protection to be expected from the authority of the State for an honest man, I am under the necessity of requesting Congress to order me a guard of Continental troops. This request I presume will not be denied to a man, who has so often fought and bled in the defence of the liberties of his country." He asked for a guard of twenty men. Congress declined interfering, and referred him to the executive authority of Pennsylvania, not without a hint of displeasure at the insinuation in his note against the government of that State.
In reply he modified his meaning, and said he did not doubt the disposition of the executive of Pennsylvania to protect honest citizens, but he had no confidence in their ability to do it; since several persons had already been killed and wounded in an affray, notwithstanding the attempts of the civil authority to quell the disturbance. He renewed his request for a guard, and declared his belief, that his life was in danger from a mad, ignorant, and deluded rabble, whose rage and infatuation would drive them to any extreme of violence. As usual, he reminded Congress of his rank and services, and claimed to be protected by the troops, whom it had formerly been his happiness to command. This second application was unavailing, and he was left to such protection as he could obtain from the civil power of Pennsylvania.
The summer and autumn passed away, and his trial was still in suspense. At length, when the campaign was closed, and the army had retired into winter-quarters, General Washington gave notice to the parties concerned, that a court-martial would be assembled on the 20th of December in the vicinity of Morristown. The trial was commenced at that place accordingly, and it continued, with some short intermissions, till the 26th of January, 1780, when the court pronounced their verdict.
Several witnesses and much written testimony were patiently examined. Considering the grave purport of the charges, it must be allowed that the proofs, as they appear in the published proceedings, are not so clear and strong as might have been expected. Arnold's defence was studied, elaborate, and characteristic. He took up, one by one, the eight charges of the Council of Pennsylvania, although four of them only had been referred to the court, and attempted to refute them in detail. On some points he was successful, but, unfortunately for his cause, he weakened the force of his arguments and diminished the value of his facts, by making a parade of his patriotism, services, sacrifices, and wounds, and by enumerating his wrongs imaginary and real. He introduced letters from General Washington and resolves of Congress to show, that his conduct in the war had not only been approved but applauded, and thus aimed to draw the attention of the court aside from the true merits of the case by a series of particulars, which had no connexion with it.
"When the present necessary war against Great Britain commenced," said he, "I was in easy circumstances, and enjoyed a fair prospect of improving them. I was happy in domestic connexions, and blessed with a rising family, who claimed my care and attention. The liberties of my country were in danger. The voice of my country called on all her faithful sons to join in her defence. With cheerfulness I obeyed the call. I sacrificed domestic ease and happiness to the service of my country, and in her service have I sacrificed a great part of a handsome fortune. I was one of the first that appeared in the field, and from that time to the present hour I have not abandoned her service.
"When one is charged with practices, which his soul abhors, and which conscious innocence tells him he has never committed, an honest indignation will draw from him expressions in his own favor, which, on other occasions, might be ascribed to an ostentatious turn of mind. The part which I have acted in the American cause has been acknowledged by our friends and by our enemies to have been far from an indifferent one. My time, my fortune, and my person have been devoted to my country in this war; and, if the sentiments of those, who are supreme in the United States in civil and military affairs, are allowed to have any weight, my time, my fortune, and my person have not been devoted in vain." Again, in another part of his address to the court, after censuring his opponents, he added;—"On this occasion I think I may be allowed to say without vanity, that my conduct from the earliest period of the war to the present time has been steady and uniform. I have ever obeyed the calls of my country and stepped forth in her defence in every hour of danger, when many were deserting her cause, which appeared desperate. I have often bled in it; the marks that I bear are sufficient evidence of my conduct. The impartial public will judge of my services, and whether the returns I have met with are not tinctured with the basest ingratitude. Conscious of my own innocence, and the unworthy methods taken to injure me, I can with boldness say to my persecutors in general, and to the chief of them in particular, that in the hour of danger, when the affairs of America wore a gloomy aspect, when our illustrious General was retreating through New Jersey with a handful of men, I did not propose to my associates basely to quit the General and sacrifice the cause of my country to my personal safety, by going over to the enemy and making my peace."
The boastfulness and malignity of these declarations are obvious enough, but their consummate hypocrisy can be understood only by knowing the fact, that, at the moment they were uttered, he had been eight months in secret correspondence with the enemy, and was prepared, if not resolved, when the first opportunity should offer, to desert and betray his country. No suspicions of such a purpose being entertained, these effusions were regarded as the offspring of vanity and the natural acerbity of his temper. They now afford a remarkable evidence of the duplicity of his character, and of the art with which he concealed the blackest schemes of wickedness under the guise of pretended virtue, and boast of immaculate innocence.
After the trial was finished, the court took due time to consider the testimony, and decided apparently without passion or bias. Of two charges he was wholly acquitted. The two others were sustained in part, but not so far as to imply, in the opinion of the court, a criminal intention. When Arnold was at Valley Forge, a short time before the evacuation of Philadelphia, he gave a written protection for a vessel then at that city to proceed to sea and enter any port within the United States. The vessel belonged to persons, who had taken the oath of allegiance to the State of Pennsylvania. Considering the circumstances of the case, and especially that the vessel was in a port held by the enemy, and that the protection was granted without the knowledge of the Commander-in-chief, who was then in camp, the proceeding was deemed irregular and at variance with one of the articles of war.
Again, while acting in his official station, General Arnold had employed the public wagons of Pennsylvania for the transportation of private property from Egg Harbor. This was looked upon as a serious offence by the Council, and as of a very dangerous tendency, since the demands for this kind of service in transporting supplies for the army were so constant and pressing, as to excite a good deal of repugnance to it in the minds of the people, by whom it must be performed; and, should they receive the impression that their efforts, ostensibly solicited for public objects, were secretly diverted to private purposes, it would be extremely difficult to secure them in times of necessity. On the other hand it was proved to the court, that, although the wagons had been employed for transporting private property, they were nevertheless used at private expense, without any design to defraud the public, or impede the military service. The court were of the opinion, however, that, considering the high station in which General Arnold acted at the time, and the effect of his requests under the circumstances in which he was placed, the transaction was imprudent and improper.
On these grounds, and with reference to these two charges only, the Court sentenced him to be reprimanded by the Commander-in-chief.
His expensive Style of Living and pecuniary Embarrassments.—First Ideas of betraying his Country.—Application to the French Ambassador.—Marriage.—Tales Command at West Point.
The decision of the court-martial was received with an ill grace by General Arnold, and with concealed emotions of deep resentment. He had loudly expressed a conviction, and perhaps he had actually persuaded himself into a belief, that a military tribunal would acquit him honorably of all the charges. In the same degree, that he had allowed himself to be flattered with this sanguine anticipation, was the rankling of the wound now inflicted on his self-complacency and pride. He submitted to the reprimand, however, in sullen reserve and with a pretended acquiescence.
General Washington, in performing the duty imposed on him as the head of the army, exercised all the delicacy, which he thought due to an officer so highly distinguished by his rank and bravery, and which was likewise conformable to his own character and feelings. The language employed on the occasion, as preserved by M. de Marbois, was as follows. "Our profession is the chastest of all. The shadow of a fault tarnishes our most brilliant actions. The least inadvertence may cause us to lose that public favor, which is so hard to be gained. I reprimand you for having forgotten, that, in proportion as you had rendered yourself formidable to our enemies, you should have shown moderation towards our citizens. Exhibit again those splendid qualities, which have placed you in the rank of our most distinguished generals. As far as it shall be in my power, I will myself furnish you with opportunities for regaining the esteem, which you have formerly enjoyed." Terms more soothing, or better suited to operate on a noble and generous mind, could hardly be chosen. But they had no effect on the irritated and relentless temper of Arnold. He was equally deaf to the counsels of wisdom, the admonitions of friendship, and the appeals of honor. He had already made secret advances to the enemy under a feigned name, intending to square his future conduct according to circumstances, and prepared, should the court decide against him, to seek revenge at any hazard. From the moment he harbored such a thought in his breast he was a lost man. Honor, virtue, sincerity, love of country, love of fame, all were gone. His companionship was with despair and guilt.
Dissembling his real motives, after being restored to his former standing in the army, he asked permission of absence during the summer, assigning as a reason, that his private affairs were deranged and required his attention, that there was little prospect of an active campaign, and that his wounds were not yet in a condition to enable him to endure the fatigues of the field. Washington readily granted his request, and he returned to Philadelphia.
From the time he took the command in that city he had lived in a style of splendor and extravagance, which was wholly unsuited to his fortune or any reasonable expectancy. He established himself in a magnificent house, formerly occupied by the Penn family, furnished it expensively, drove his coach and four, and indulged in every kind of ostentatious profusion, which could gratify his vanity and his passion for luxury and parade. When M. Gerard, the French ambassador, first arrived in Philadelphia, he was entertained at a public dinner given by General Arnold; and, for several days afterwards, the ambassador and his suite occupied apartments as guests in his house.
This style of living could not be maintained without funds. Debts were contracted, and temporary supplies were thus procured; but a declining credit soon produced a conviction of improvidence, and excited forebodings, which even Arnold could not contemplate with unconcern. Too proud to acknowledge his folly by abandoning it, and too desperate to be governed by the plain rules of integrity or prudence, he resorted to all the methods for acquiring money, which his ingenuity could devise or his high station put in his power. Among these were some by no means creditable to his principles, or consistent with his rank as an officer. He entered into petty speculations and practised unworthy artifices for gain in small matters as well as great. He united with others in privateering enterprises and various commercial projects of hazard. The results were frequently unfortunate, and the losses outweighed the profits. On one occasion, when Count d'Estaing approached the American coast, and it was supposed the British would be driven from New York, he formed a copartnership with two other individuals for purchasing goods within the enemy's lines, to the amount of thirty thousand pounds sterling. Although there was nothing positively wrong in this transaction, yet it was one in which a major-general of the American service, holding at that time an important command, could not be reputably engaged.
In the midst of his embarrassments, about a month after his trial, he renewed a petition to Congress for a settlement of his accounts. These had already been referred to commissioners, who made a report; and the accounts were then sent to the Treasury Board for settlement. The original difficulties, however, were not removed. Arnold insisted on his old claims, quarrelled with the members of Congress who doubted them, and wearied the others with his importunities and complaints, till his enemies were provoked and disgusted at his effrontery, and the patience of his friends was worn out. Indeed, the affair had grown into such a state of perplexity, that the prospect of a satisfactory termination was more clouded, and seemed more distant, than ever.
Already abandoned to the impulse of passion, disappointed, chagrined, and pressed by his wants, he resolved to unburden his griefs to the French envoy, M. de la Luzerne, and apply to him for pecuniary aid. That minister, having an admiration of his bravery and military talents, and believing generous usage the best means of reclaiming such a man from his errors, was accustomed to treat him with marked civility, and had shown no change in his deportment after the censure of the court-martial and the disgrace of a reprimand. Encouraged by this amenity and kindness, Arnold approached him with confidence, and expressed his sentiments and wishes without reserve.
The interview has been described with graphic minuteness by M. de Marbois, who was then secretary to the French legation, and who, if he was not present, must have learned the particulars from the minister himself. Arnold spoke of his disinterested services, his sacrifices, his wounds; he complained of the ingratitude of his country, the injustice of Congress, and the persecuting malice of his enemies. The war, he said, in which he had borne so large a share, had ruined his private affairs; and he added, that, unless he could borrow money to the amount of his debts, he should be obliged to go into retirement, and quit a profession, which rewarded him only with poverty. He intimated, in short, that it would be for the interest of the French King to secure the attachment and gratitude of an American general so high in rank, and that these might be purchased by the favor of such a loan as he desired.
The minister listened to this discourse with pain, but he answered with the frankness of a true friend, and the firmness of an honorable and honest mind. "You desire of me a service," said he, "which it would be easy for me to render, but which would degrade us both. When the envoy of a foreign power gives, or, if you will, lends money, it is ordinarily to corrupt those who receive it, and to make them the creatures of the sovereign, whom he serves; or rather he corrupts without persuading; he buys and does not secure. But the firm league entered into between the King and the United States is the work of justice and of the wisest policy. It has for its basis a reciprocal interest and good-will. In the mission, with which I am charged, my true glory consists in fulfilling it without intrigue or cabal, without resorting to any secret practices, and by the force alone of the conditions of the alliance." The effect of this plainness of speech upon the haughty and irritable temper of Arnold may be imagined.
But M. de la Luzerne did not content himself with refusing to give the bribe, and condemning the principles from which such a request emanated. He hoped to do more, and to win back to the path of duty and rectitude a man, who, by the force of his own resources and talents, had built up a reputation that had gained the applause of the world, and who was still capable of rendering important services to his country. With this view he addressed him in the language of expostulation and advice, reminding him that murmurs and resentments at the acts of public bodies, and the persecutions of political opponents, were the evidences of a weak rather than of a great mind resting on its own dignity and power; that a consciousness of innocence was his best support; and that a generous disregard of the artifices of his enemies, when his country's interests were at stake, was one of the strongest proofs he could give, that he deserved the respect and confidence of that portion of his fellow citizens, whose good opinion was most to be valued. He recurred to the renown of his former exploits, appealed to his sense of patriotism and honor, his love of glory, and represented in the most attractive colors the wide field of action yet before him, if he would suppress his anger, rise above misfortune, bear his troubles with fortitude, and unite, heart and hand, with his compatriots to finish the great work, in which he had already labored with so much credit to himself and benefit to his country.
These counsels had no weight with Arnold; he wanted money and not advice. He went away from the French minister indignant at the rebuff he had met with, mortified at his ill success, and, if his sensibility was not callous, oppressed with shame at so unguarded and ineffectual an exposure of his meanness. From that moment his purpose was fixed. Hitherto his intercourse with the enemy, though of several months' continuance, had been without a definite aim; clothed in such a shape, that it might be consummated or dropped according to the complexion of future events. The point was now reached, at which it was hopeless to deliberate, and pusillanimous to waver. Pride, vexation, revenge, hurried him to the fatal determination of betraying his country, as the last refuge of despair. It only remained for him to settle in his mind the manner in which this could so be done, as to produce the greatest advantage to himself, and injury to the cause he was about to desert. It was obvious, that the favor he might expect from his new friends would be in proportion to the harm he should do to their enemies.
In this train of reflection he thought of the command at West Point, as presenting the fairest opportunity for accomplishing his ends. It was a separate command, a very important post, and accessible to the enemy by water. His resolution being taken, all his views and efforts thenceforward were directed to that single object.
Another circumstance should be mentioned, which probably had a large share among the original causes of the defection of Arnold. When the British evacuated Philadelphia, many families remained behind, who had kept up close intimacies with the British officers, and who were known to be disaffected to the American cause. Prominent in this class, both for respectability and attachment to the old order of things, was the family of Mr. Edward Shippen, afterwards Chief Justice of the State of Pennsylvania. His youngest daughter, at that time under the age of eighteen, was beautiful, gay, attractive, and ambitious. She had been admired and flattered by the British officers, and was a conspicuous personage at the gorgeous festival of the Mischianza, an entertainment given by them in honor of Sir William Howe, on the occasion of his resigning the command of the army and departing for Europe. Her acquaintance with André was on so familiar a footing, that she corresponded with him after the British army had retired to New York.
Arnold had not been many weeks in Philadelphia, before he was smitten with the charms of this lady, and sought her hand. Captivated with the splendor in which he lived, with his equipage and military display, her heart yielded to the impulse of youthful vanity and an aspiring ambition. His addresses were favorably received, and he married her. In addition to the biases of his wife, this alliance brought him into perpetual contact with persons, who had no sympathy with the friends of liberty, the advocates of independence, the defenders of their country's rights, but who, on the contrary, condemned their acts, and secretly hoped, that the power of the British King would crush all opposition and again predominate.
People of this stamp were ready enough to minister fuel to the flame, that burned in the breast of a passionate, soured, and discontented man, who had attained to so high a degree of consequence in the ranks of the opposite party.
They would not fail to encourage his discontent by aggravating its causes, by persuading him that he was neglected and ill-treated, that his services were undervalued, and that he had good reason for his complaints of ingratitude, injustice, and persecution. Such discourse, often repeated in his ears, and harmonizing with his impressions, would gradually give a current to his thoughts, and help to undermine the tottering fabric of his good resolutions.
Having formed his plan, he applied himself assiduously to the means of putting it in execution. As he had requested permission of absence from the army during the campaign, at the time of his trial, it was necessary to give some plausible reason for changing his mind. Hitherto he had not ceased to talk about his wounds, and to represent that these disabled him from taking an active part; but now he said his wounds were fast recovering, and, although he could not endure the fatigues of the field on horseback, yet a command requiring little bodily action, like that at West Point, he thought he could very well sustain; and his eagerness to rejoin his companions in arms, and render his country all the service in his power, prompted him to make every sacrifice of ease and comfort, which was not absolutely forbidden by the state of his health. Such was the language with which he approached his friends in Congress, who had adhered to him through all his troubles, and whom he knew to have influence with the Commander-in-chief, particularly General Schuyler and the other New York delegates.
When it was known, by the arrival of the Marquis de Lafayette in Philadelphia, about the middle of May, that a French army of cooperation was coming to the United States, the quick foresight of Arnold pointed out to him the facilities, which this circumstance might afford for the execution of his project. He became the more anxious to have the affair in a proper train. General Schuyler was then shortly to proceed to camp, as one of a committee from Congress to consult and act in matters relating to the army; and Arnold intimated to him, that the command at West Point would be the best suited to his present condition. General Schuyler likewise received a letter from him a few days after his arrival in camp, stating a determination to join the army, and hinting at West Point, but not in such a manner as to betray solicitude; on the contrary, he said that he supposed General Heath would command there, unless some other arrangement should be made agreeable to him.
In the further progress of this design, and upon the same principles of caution, he prevailed on Mr. Robert R. Livingston, then a member of Congress from New York, to write to Washington, and suggest the expediency of appointing him to West Point. Mr. Livingston stated, that he stood high in the estimation of the people of New York, was very popular with the militia, whose services would probably be wanted in the course of the campaign, and was moreover an officer of tried courage and ability. His application had no appearance of being made at the instance of General Arnold, but seemed to flow from Mr. Livingston's own views of the importance of the post and the wisdom of such an appointment.
Thus far every thing had gone on as smoothly as could be desired. The way was fairly open; no undue concern had been shown, and no suspicions excited. Mr. Livingston's letter was followed immediately by Arnold in person, who, under pretence of having private business in Connecticut, passed through the camp on his route, and called at the quarters of the Commander-inchief. By his manner and conversation he seemed to have no special object, but that of paying his respects, and incidentally expressed his desire of joining the army. Washington replied, that the campaign would probably be active, and that, if the condition of his wounds would permit, he should be extremely glad of his services. Arnold then said, that he did not think the state of his wounds such as to allow him to perform a very active part, yet he repeated his wish to be united again with the army. From the beginning to the end of the interview no allusion was made to West Point.
He pursued his journey to Connecticut, and when returning he again called on General Washington. The same subject was introduced, and to the same effect; till Arnold at last intimated, that, as he was disabled to do active duty, the command at West Point would probably be better adapted to him than any other. Washington was a little surprised, that a man so remarkable for energy and action should seek a post, in which there was comparatively so little to be done, and told him frankly, that he could hardly believe the place would suit him, for it would be covered by the main army towards New York, and thus would need only a small garrison. Nothing more was said on the subject. Arnold left the camp, and, after visiting West Point, and examining every part of the works in company with General Howe, who then commanded there, he went back to Philadelphia.
He had no sooner arrived, than he wrote to Congress reminding them that four years' pay was due to him, and requesting the amount of four months' pay to be furnished, with which he might purchase horses and camp-equipage, and thereby be enabled to take the field. Whether Congress ever paid any part of this claim, or took any notice of the request, I know not, as the journals are silent concerning the matter. There is a private letter, however, written by him after he had joined the army, in which he complained, that the public were indebted to him for four years' pay and a considerable sum of money advanced by him in Canada. This was only a repetition of the old grievance; and whatever may have been the extent or justice of his accounts, as represented by himself, it does not appear that they were ever settled.
When it was known to Sir Henry Clinton, that the French troops had arrived at Newport, he formed a plan for attacking them before they could land and fortify themselves. Intelligence of the preparatory movements for this enterprise was instantly communicated to General Washington by his spies in New York. His army was then encamped on the west side of Hudson's River, and he immediately put it in motion to cross the river, with the intention to march down the east side, menace New York in the absence of Sir Henry Clinton, and even attack it, should his force prove sufficient. Arnold reached the camp on the last day of July, while the army was crossing the river at King's Ferry. He first met General Washington riding to see the last division over, and asked if any place had been assigned to him. The General replied, that he was to command the left wing, which was a post of honor and to which he was entitled by his rank. At these words his countenance fell, and he showed a manifest disappointment, but said nothing. The General desired him to go to his quarters, where he would soon meet him, and have further conversation.
On arriving there he ascertained from Colonel Tilghman, one of his aids, that Arnold had been talking with him on the subject, and seemed dissatisfied and uneasy, alleging his inability to perform proper service in the field, or to remain long on horseback, in consequence of his wounded leg, and speaking of West Point as the only post at which he could do justice to himself or be useful to the army. This behavior, so inconsistent with all that was known of the character of the man, struck Washington as strange and unaccountable. He had appointed him to the left wing of the army, because it was a responsible station, requiring an able and efficient officer, and he believed no one could fill it better, especially as there was a prospect of fighting, in which branch of the service Arnold stood preeminent for courage, skill, and good conduct. He could not conceive, therefore, how such a man, in the heat of a stirring campaign, could wish to be confined to a garrison, where there was little scope for his military talents, no room for enterprise, no chance for action; and it would seem all along as if he did not regard the hints about the command at West Point as uttered in sober earnest.
He was now convinced, however, that Arnold really wished for that command; and, as the news of Sir Henry Clinton's having abandoned his plan and debarked his troops quickly arrived, and the further march of the army was thereby rendered unnecessary, and the time of active operations uncertain, he resolved to comply with his request, and to appoint another officer to the place designed for him in the main army. The instructions were dated at Peekskill, on the 3d of August; and Arnold repaired without delay to the Highlands and established his head-quarters at Robinson's House, two or three miles below West Point on the opposite or eastern bank of the river.
Meantime the army retraced its steps, and, crossing the Hudson again at King's Ferry, moved down towards Hackensac, and encamped with the centre at Orangetowm, or Tappan, the left wing resting on the river near Dobbs's Ferry, and the right extending into the country. In this position the army remained for several weeks. The right was commanded by General Greene, the left by Lord Stirling; and the Light Infantry, a body of selected troops consisting of six battalions, was stationed in advance of the main army under the command of the Marquis de Lafayette.
A characteristic incident occurred, when Arnold was about leaving the army to proceed to the Highlands. He went to Lafayette and suggested that, as he had spies in New York employed at his own expense, their intelligence might often reach him more expeditiously by the way of West Point; and requested that the names and address of those spies might be entrusted to him, by which means he should be enabled to facilitate the intercourse. Lafayette objected to the proposal upon the principle, that he was bound in honor and conscience not to reveal the names of his spies to any person; but it was not till after the developement of Arnold's treachery, that he perceived his drift in making the request.
Progress of the Conspiracy on the Part of the British Commander.—Major John André.
Although the correspondence with the enemy had been kept up nearly eighteen months, it had always been under fictitious names by both parties. The epistolary intercourse between Major André and Mrs. Arnold, begun before her marriage and continued after that event, afforded a convenient medium of communication, which Arnold could turn to his purpose without exciting the suspicions even of his wife. His advances were made directly to Sir Henry Clinton, through the hands of Major André; and in this channel the correspondence was conducted to the end. André had the entire confidence of his commander, and was for a time his aid-de-camp, till raised to a higher station. He affixed to his letters the signature of John Anderson, and Arnold assumed the name of Gustavus. They also wrote in a disguised hand, and used other devices to prevent detection.
Without giving any certain clew to his name, rank, or character, Arnold expressed in his first letters a dissatisfaction with the French alliance, and touched upon other topics in such a manner as he thought would please the British commander and attract his attention. He likewise sent intelligence, which proved to be correct and important. The same was repeated at different times, till at length General Clinton's curiosity was awakened, and he employed every method in his power to ascertain the identity of the person, who was opening himself thus freely, and furnishing information of the greatest value. It was obvious, from the nature of his communications, that he was a person of consequence, who had a knowledge of the secret springs of American affairs, and was on terms of intimacy with the leaders. To prevent the possibility of detection, however, should his letters fall into other hands than those for which they were intended, the language was extremely guarded in every thing that related to the situation or person of the writer.
At length, after putting together and weighing a variety of circumstances, Sir Henry Clinton was satisfied, that his hidden correspondent was General Arnold. He had no positive proof, but the evidence was so conclusive in his own mind, that the correspondence was continued upon that supposition. This discovery was not made, or rather this conviction was not settled till subsequently to Arnold's trial by a court-martial; and being then under a sort of disgrace, and not likely again to be employed, the British commander did not look upon him to be of so much importance, whatever might have been his military merits, that it was an object worthy of his attention to bring him over merely as an officer of rank. On the contrary, believing him to be more useful as a correspondent where he was, than he would be when joined to the British army, no tempting encouragements were held out to hasten his desertion.
Things remained in this posture for some time, when the person wrote, that he should certainly be soon employed again in the American service, and made a direct offer to surrender himself, and in such a manner as to contribute every possible advantage to his Majesty's arms. In a few days Arnold took the command at West Point, and the affair then assumed a magnitude and an interest, which it had not hitherto possessed.
General Clinton now saw a prospect before him, and an opening for a successful operation, which claimed his immediate and assiduous care. To get possession of West Point and its dependent posts, with their garrisons, military stores, cannon, vessels, boats, and provisions, appeared to him an object of such vast importance, that in attaining it no reasonable hazard or expense ought to be spared. In the first place, it would bring under his control the navigable waters of Hudson's River, and in some degree facilitate his intercourse with the army in Canada, as well as essentially derange the communication of the Americans between the eastern and middle States. But other results, of much greater consequence, might be anticipated by taking into view the condition of affairs at the present stage of the campaign.
A French fleet and army, under the command of the Chevalier de Ternay and Count de Rochambeau, had recently arrived in Rhode Island, and were ready to cooperate with the Americans in an attack upon the British, whenever a favorable opportunity should offer. Washington's army had been augmented, and was gaining strength daily by new enlistments and the temporary service of the militia. Many reasons induced Sir Henry Clinton to believe, that an attempt was intended against New York, as soon as a union could be concerted between the commanders of the two allied forces. The information derived from his spies and the Tories confirmed this belief. It was rumored, that Washington would move upon Kingsbridge and Morrisania, while a detachment would menace or perhaps attack Staten Island, and the French invade Long Island and approach the city in that direction.
To execute such a scheme, it would be necessary for the Americans to collect and deposit in some place large magazines of provisions and military stores. Both from its position and its strength, West Point would undoubtedly be chosen for the depot of these supplies. On this ground alone, therefore, it was an object of the greatest importance with the British commander to pursue any plan, which held out a promise to put him in possession of that post. Such an event would not only defeat the project of a combined attack, but distress both the opposing armies to such a degree, by depriving them of supplies, that it would cause disaffection and desertion in the American ranks, and excite a spirit of discontent if not disgust among the French. When these bearings of the subject are taken into view, it is no wonder that Sir Henry Clinton should be extremely desirous to effect a purpose, which would crown the campaign with triumphant success, and be of such immense advantage to the King's service.
His original idea for executing the plan was, that every thing should be in readiness to act when the two allied armies should begin their movements towards New York, and after the magazines had all been gathered into the depots on Hudson's River. If the posts and garrisons had been surrendered at this moment, it would have deranged and frustrated the operations of the allies. Washington must have instantly retreated from Kingsbridge. The French troops on Long Island would have been left unsupported, and must either have retired precipitately to their ships, or more probably have fallen into the hands of the British.
Although Sir Henry Clinton kept the affair a profound secret to himself and two or three officers, yet all the requisite preparations were made. The troops were so posted that they could be put in motion at the shortest notice, and vessels of suitable dimensions and properly manned were ready. While things were in this train, the important news of the defeat of General Gates in South Carolina reached New York. It was questionable at first what course Washington would pursue in consequence of this intelligence. It was supposed, that he would detach a part of his army to the south, and thus change the aspect of the campaign at the north. He was carefully watched by the spies; and it was ascertained, that he did not send a man to the southward, nor make any apparent alteration in his previous plans. It was inferred, that New York was still his object, and this inference was rendered certain by communications from General Arnold. The events, which immediately followed, will be best described in the words of Sir Henry Clinton, as contained in one of his letters to Lord George Germain.
"At this period," said he, "Sir George Rodney arrived with a fleet at New York, which made it highly probable, that Washington would lay aside all thoughts against this place. It became therefore proper for me no longer to defer the execution of a project, which would lead to such considerable advantages, nor to lose so fair an opportunity as was presented, and under so good a mask as an expedition to the Chesapeake, which every body imagined would of course take place. Under this feint I prepared for a movement up the North River. I laid my plan before Sir George Rodney and General Knyphausen, when Sir George, with that zeal for his Majesty's service, which marks his character, most handsomely promised to give me every naval assistance in his power.
"It became necessary at this instant, that the secret correspondence under feigned names, which had been so long carried on, should be rendered into certainty, both as to the person being General Arnold commanding at West Point, and that in the manner in which he was to surrender himself, the forts, and troops to me, it should be so conducted under a concerted plan between us, as that the King's troops sent upon this expedition should be under no risk of surprise or counterplot; and I was determined not to make the attempt but under such particular security.
"I knew the ground on which the forts were placed, and the contiguous country, tolerably well, having been there in 1777; and I had received many hints respecting both from General Arnold. But it was certainly necessary that a meeting should be held with that officer for settling the whole plan. My reasons, as I have described them, will, I trust, prove the propriety of such a measure on my part. General Arnold had also his reasons, which must be so very obvious, as to make it unnecessary for me to explain them.
"Many projects for a meeting were formed, and consequently several attempts made, in all of which General Arnold seemed extremely desirous, that some person, who had my particular confidence, might be sent to him; some man, as he described it in writing, of his own mensuration.
"I had thought of a person under this important description, who would gladly have undertaken it, but that his peculiar situation at the time, from which I could not release him, prevented him from engaging in it. General Arnold finally insisted, that the person sent to confer with him should be Adjutant-General Major André, who indeed had been the person on my part, who managed and carried on the secret correspondence."
From these facts it appears, that André did not himself propose to undertake this mission, nor engage in it voluntarily, but yielded to the wishes of Sir Henry Clinton in conformity with the express solicitation of Arnold. Although this circumstance does not affect the nature of subsequent transactions, yet in its bearing on the character and motives of André it is worthy of remembrance.
The parents of André were originally of Geneva. From that place they removed to London, where this son was born. He was sent early in life to Geneva for his education, but he returned to London before he was eighteen years old. Being designed for the mercantile profession, he entered the counting-house of a respectable establishment in London, where he continued at least three or four years. During this period he formed an ardent attachment for a young lady, which was reciprocated; but the marriage was defeated by the opposition of the lady's father. The strength of his passion for her is described in glowing colors, and with much enthusiasm of feeling, in his interesting letters written at the time to Miss Seward. She is there called Honora. Four years after the engagement had been dissolved by parental authority, she was married to another person. Till that time André had cherished the delusive fancy, that some propitious event would change the current of his fortunes, and crown his wishes with success. Despair had now shut the door of hope. The following lines, from Miss Seward's poetical tribute to his memory, allude to this incident.
"While the fair-one's sighs
Disperse, like April storms in sunny skies,
The firmer lover, with unswerving truth,
To his first passion consecrates his youth;
Though four long years a night of absence prove,
Yet Hope's soft star shone trembling on his love;
Till hovering Rumor chased the pleasing dream,
And veiled with raven-wing the silver beam."
From that moment André became disgusted with his pursuits, and resolved to seek relief from his bitter associations, and dissipate the memory of his sorrows, in the turmoil and dangers of war. He joined the British army in Canada, with a lieutenant's commission, and was taken prisoner at the capture of St. John's by General Montgomery in the autumn of 1775. He was sent with other prisoners to Lancaster, in Pennsylvania, where he remained a few months till he was exchanged. Not long afterwards he said, in a letter to a friend, "I have been taken prisoner by the Americans, and stripped of every thing except the picture of Honora, which I concealed in my mouth. Preserving that, I yet think myself fortunate." The picture had been delineated from the living features of the object of his affection by his own hand.
To a graceful and handsome person, André added many accomplishments of mind and manners. He was passionately fond of the fine arts, and had attained very considerable skill in drawing and painting. A journal of his travels and campaigns in America, which he kept from the time of his first arrival in Canada, contained lively and picturesque sketches of the people, their dresses, houses, and other objects, illustrating the habits of life, customs, and amusements of the Canadians, Americans, and Indians; and also drawings of animals, birds, insects, trees, and plants, each in its appropriate colors. Landscapes, views, and plans of places were interspersed, and connected by a narrative and written descriptions. This journal was seen and perused in Philadelphia, while the British had possession of that city. To a taste for poetry he united a love of elegant letters, and his attainments in the various branches of literature were extensive.
His epistolary writings, so far as specimens of them have been preserved, show a delicacy of sentiment, a playfulness of imagination, and an ease of style, which could proceed only from native refinement and a high degree of culture.
These attractions, connected with an affable deportment, and the address of a perfect gentleman, gained him ready access to all circles, and won the hearts of numerous friends. A favorite in the army, and everywhere admired in the walks of social life, his merits were soon discovered by those, who had power to reward them. Unaided by any other recommendation, than that of his own character, he was received into the military family of Major General Grey as aid-de-camp, soon after his release from captivity. In this station he remained till General Grey returned to Europe, when he was transferred to the same post in the family of Sir Henry Clinton.
Such was the confidence, and the respect for his talents, which he inspired in Sir Henry Clinton, that, when a vacancy occurred in the office of adjutant-general by the resignation of Lord Raw-don, he appointed André to fill the place at the head of the department. André was now only a captain in the service, and, the rank of major being requisite for an adjutant-general, Sir Henry Clinton wrote to the minister on the subject, and requested that he might accordingly be promoted. The minister declined complying with the solicitation, on the ground that André was too young an officer for such an elevation. In reply, General Clinton intimated surprise and a little displeasure, that his request should be thus turned aside; and said he could not fix his choice on any other person so suitable for the office, and therefore he should continue to employ André to discharge its duties, and should forbear for the present to make any other appointment.
This representation was successful. The rank of major was conferred on André, and Sir Henry Clinton then applied in form to have him commissioned by the King, as adjutant-general of the army in America. The letter containing his application was dated only three weeks preceding the capture of André. Hence he did not receive the commission before his death, although he had for nearly a year filled the office of adjutant-general.
Various Schemes for effecting an Interview between Arnold and André.—Their Meeting within the American Lines.
After it had been decided, that André should go out and meet Arnold, various plans were devised for bringing about the interview in a manner, which should not excite suspicion. As Arnold had no associate, but kept his designs closely concealed within his own breast, the management of the affair on his part was extremely delicate and difficult, and required consummate address. It was absolutely necessary that there should be intermediate agents, ignorant not only of his purposes, but of the tendency of their own acts. Every thing must seem to be done openly and for the public good, and the actors must at least suppose themselves to be engaged in an honorable service.
In writing to André under the fictitious name of Gustavus, on the 30th of August, Arnold told him that he expected soon to procure an interview, when, said he, "you will be able to settle your commercial plan I hope agreeably to both parties." Alluding to himself in the third person, he went on to say, "He is still of opinion, that his first proposal is by no means unreasonable, and makes no doubt, when he has a conference with you, that you will close with it. He expects when you meet, that you will be fully authorized from your house; that the risks and profits of the copartnership may be fully and clearly understood. A speculation might at this time be easily made to some advantage with ready money." In this disguise of a pretended mercantile transaction he escaped the chance of detection, and made known by hints, that could not be mistaken, what he expected as the reward of his perfidy. As Sir Henry Clinton determined to risk nothing, till he should have all the security which the nature of the case admitted, so Arnold resolved to keep the matter in his own hands, till a definite sum of money should be agreed upon and promised, and all the preliminaries on that head settled. This could be done only by a personal arrangement between Arnold himself, and some individual deputed for the purpose by the British commander.
Arnold's first plan was to receive André within the lines, and even at his own head-quarters, as a person devoted to the American interests, who had the means of procuring important intelligence from the enemy, and was disposed from patriotic motives to take some hazards in promoting so valuable an end. And here it may be observed, that this was a ground on which Arnold might proceed with safety, inasmuch as it was well known in the army, that the commanders resorted to every practicable mode of procuring intelligence, and employed secret agents in that service. Under this guise, therefore, all the preliminaries of a meeting with André were conducted as far as it was necessary to use the intermediate assistance of persons within the American lines.
At this time a detachment of cavalry, commanded by Colonel Sheldon, was stationed at the outposts on the west side of Hudson's River. Colonel Sheldon's quarters, with a part of the detachment, were at Salem. Lieutenant Colonel Jameson and Major Tallmage, with the remainder, were at North Castle. Notice had been given to Sheldon by Arnold, that he expected a person from New York, whom he designed to meet at Sheldon's quarters, with the prospect of opening through the agency of that person an important channel for procuring intelligence. Should such a person arrive, he requested Sheldon to show him proper civilities, and send information of the same to head-quarters at Robinson's House.
A letter was then immediately despatched to André, acquainting him with this arrangement, and telling him that if he could contrive to make his way to the American outposts above White Plains, he would meet with no obstacles afterwards, and would be secure under the protection of Colonel Sheldon, who was prepared to receive him. Whether André was deterred by the hazard of the undertaking, or any other cause, is not known, but he did not choose to pursue this course. He wrote a letter to Colonel Sheldon, however, dated at New York on the 7th of September, in which he said; "I am told my name is made known to you, and that I may hope your indulgence in permitting me to meet a friend near your outposts. I will endeavor to obtain permission to go out with a flag, which will be sent to Dobbs's Ferry on Monday next, the 11th instant, at twelve o'clock, where I shall be happy to meet Mr. G———— Should I not be allowed to go, the officer who is to command the escort, between whom and myself no distinction need be made, can speak on the affair. Let me entreat you, Sir, to favor a matter so interesting to the parties concerned, and which is of so private a nature, that the public on neither side can be injured by it."
This letter was signed John Anderson, and was in some sort an enigma to Sheldon, who had not heard the name of the person expected from New York. Supposing it probable, however, that the letter came from the same person, he enclosed it to Arnold, telling him that his own health was such as not to allow him to ride to Dobbs's Ferry by the time appointed, and expressing a hope that Arnold would either go himself or employ some other trusty messenger.
Arnold replied to Sheldon in a very plausible way, but seemed a little embarrassed in clearing up the mystical parts of the letter, especially the passage about an escort, which appeared not to tally with the idea of a person coming out on such a mission as that, which was pretended to be the object of Anderson's visit. He said to Sheldon, that he had been obliged to write with great caution, and had signed his letter Gustavus, to prevent any discovery in case it should fall into the enemy's hands; that since there were several things in Anderson's letter, which appeared mysterious, and as Sheldon was unwell, and he had himself business at Verplanck's Point, he would proceed to Dobbs's Ferry and meet the flag. He added, that, if any occurrence should, prevent the expected meeting at Dobbs's Ferry, and Anderson should still come within the outposts, he wished Sheldon to send him word by an express, and also to permit Anderson to follow with an escort of two or three horsemen, giving as a reason that it was difficult for him to ride so far as Sheldon's quarters. As a farther cover, he requested Colonel Sheldon himself to accompany Anderson, if his health would permit; and even desired that his letters might be shown to General Parsons, who was expected daily to come from Connecticut, and take command of a body of troops in the neighborhood of Sheldon's station. All these particulars were artfully contrived to blind the eyes of such persons, as might become acquainted with the business, and to give it the air of a transaction for public objects.
André's letter to Sheldon, when divested of its disguise, will be seen to have had no other object, than to communicate the intelligence, that he should be at Dobbs's Ferry at a certain time. He presumed the letter would be sent to Arnold, who would understand its meaning, and conduct his plans accordingly. So it turned out. Arnold left home in the afternoon of the 10th, went down the river in his barge to King's Ferry, and passed the night at the house of Joshua H. Smith, who resided about two miles and a half from the Ferry near the road leading to Haver-straw. Early the next morning he proceeded to Dobbs's Ferry, at which place André had arrived according to his appointment, accompanied by Colonel Beverly Robinson, to whom the secret had already been entrusted by Sir Henry Clinton, probably at the suggestion or at least with the knowledge of Arnold. An accident occurred, which prevented the interview, and was near putting an end to the plot itself. When Arnold was approaching the point of destination by water, he was fired upon by the British gunboats stationed in that part of the river, and so closely pursued that his life was in danger and he was on the point of being taken prisoner. By some oversight the boats had not been withdrawn, or it may have been expected that Arnold would come with a flag, which appears not to have been the case.
Having landed on the west side of the river, he went down to the Ferry, where he remained till night. Whether André and Robinson were at the landing-place on the opposite side, or whether they came up from New York in a vessel and remained on board, has not been ascertained; but at any rate no meeting took place.
Not forgetting his accustomed caution, Arnold wrote a letter to General Washington while at Dobbs's Ferry. His passage down the river had been in so public a manner, that it could not fail to be known; and he feared suspicions might be raised concerning his motives and objects. Filling up the principal part of his letter with matters of some importance appertaining to his command, he said, as if incidentally, that he had come down to that place in order to establish signals, which were to be observed in case the enemy ascended the river, and also to give additional directions respecting the guard-boats, and to have a beacon fixed on a hill about five miles below King's Ferry, which would be necessary to alarm the country. These reasons were plausible, and afforded apparent proofs of his vigilance, rather than grounds for suspecting any sinister designs.
Being foiled in this attempt to mature his scheme of treachery, he left Dobbs's Ferry a little after sunset, went up the river in the night, and reached his quarters at Robinson's House before morning. André and Colonel Robinson returned to New York. Another appointment for an interview was now to be made, and the time and place to be fixed upon by the two parties; and in this a double circumspection was necessary, since it was known to Arnold that within a few days General Washington would cross the river at King's Ferry on his way to meet Count de Rochambeau at Hartford. It was essential, therefore, so to manage the business, that no suspicious intercourse should be carried on at that time between the lines, which should attract his notice or come to his knowledge.
Guarding himself on this point, Arnold found an opportunity of writing to André two days after he returned from Dobbs's Ferry, clothing his meaning in his usual ambiguous style of a mercantile correspondence. The first object of this communication was to caution André not to reveal any thing to Colonel Sheldon or any other person, intimating that André's former letter to that officer had been a little too free. "I have no confidant," said he; "I have made one too many already, who has prevented some profitable speculations." He then said, that a person, in whom confidence might be placed, would be at the landing on the east side of Dobbs's Ferry, on Wednesday evening the 20th instant; and, if André would be there, this person would conduct him to a place of safety, where Arnold promised to meet him. He added, "It will be necessary for you to be in disguise. I cannot be more explicit at present. Meet me if possible. You may rest assured, that, if there is no danger in passing your lines, you will be perfectly safe where I propose a meeting." As it was possible that André might pursue the original plan of coming into the lines, Arnold provided for this contingency by writing to Major Tallmage, who was at one of the extreme outposts at North Castle, and instructing him, if a person by the name of John Anderson arrived at his station, to send him without delay to head-quarters escorted by two dragoons.
Being anxious to press the matter forward with all possible despatch, Sir Henry Clinton had sent Colonel Robinson up the river on board the Vulture sloop-of-war, before the above letter to André reached New York, with orders to proceed as high as Teller's Point, and thus afford the means of a more easy intercourse.
When arrived there, the first thing requisite was to acquaint Arnold with the fact of his being on board. This was done in the following manner. He wrote a letter to General Putnam, pretending a belief that he was then in the Highlands, and expressing a wish to have a conference with him on an affair of private business. This letter he enclosed in another to General Arnold, requesting him to hand it to General Putnam, or, if Putnam had gone away, to return it to him; and subjoining, that in such case he was persuaded General Arnold, "from the humane and generous character he bore," would grant him the same favor that he asked of General Putnam. These letters were sent by a flag to the officer commanding at Verplanck's Point, the Vulture being then in sight of that post and only six or seven miles below. So much care and art were used in wording the letters, that, had they by any accident fallen into other hands, no one could have imagined them to contain a hidden meaning, or to be intended to promote an improper purpose.
A large amount of Colonel Beverly Robinson's property, in consequence of his adhering to the royal cause, had been confiscated by the State of New York. The house in which Arnold resided and had his head-quarters, and also an extensive tract of land in the neighborhood, belonged to Robinson. It was natural, therefore, that he should take measures to retain or recover this property, and a correspondence on the subject could not in itself be looked upon as extraordinary or suspicious. This was probably the reason why Arnold selected him to be a partner in the management of his plot, especially since it was necessary that some third person should act in an intermediate capacity.
An occurrence, unforeseen by Colonel Robinson at the time of his writing, interposed new embarrassments. It happened that General Washington commenced his journey to Hartford on that very day, and crossed the Hudson at King's Ferry but a few hours after the flag-boat from the Vulture had brought the letters to Verplanck's Point. Arnold came down the river in his barge the same afternoon to meet General Washington at that place, as a mark of respect to the Commander-in-chief, and doubtless as a precautionary step on his own part. He had received Robinson's letter just before he left home. Several persons were then with him, and he mentioned to Colonel Lamb the nature of its contents, and the name of the person from whom it came. Lamb seemed a little surprised that Beverly Robinson should open a correspondence of that sort, and told Arnold that the civil authority was alone competent to act on such a subject.
Washington and the officers of his suite crossed the river in Arnold's barge. The Vulture was in full view, and while Washington was looking at it through his glass, and speaking in a low tone of voice to the persons near him, it was recollected afterwards that Arnold manifested uneasiness and emotion. Another incident made a still stronger impression. There was a daily expectation of the appearance of a French squadron on the coast under Count de Guichen, whose arrival was anxiously desired. The conversation turned upon that topic, and Lafayette said in a tone of pleasantry, "General Arnold, since you have a correspondence with the enemy, you must ascertain as soon as possible what has become of Guichen." This was in allusion to the freedom of intercourse between New York and West Point, by means of the water communication, and the frequent exchange of newspapers, which was kept up through that channel during the war. Arnold seemed confused, and hastily demanded what he meant, but immediately controlled himself, and the boat came to the shore. At a future day these things were brought to the minds of the officers; and it was evident to them, that for the moment Arnold thought his plot was detected, and that this occasion had been chosen for seizing and securing his person.
This happened on Monday, the 18th of September. Arnold accompanied Washington to Peekskill, where the whole party passed the night. Early the next morning Washington and his retinue pursued their route to Hartford, and Arnold returned to West Point. In the mean time, however, he had shown to General Washington the letter received the day before from Colonel Robinson, and asked his advice as to its contents. This step he was prompted to take, in consequence of General Washington's having been informed, that a flag had come up from the Vulture with a letter addressed to him. It would, moreover, give an air of frankness to his conduct, and tend to remove any lurking distrust to which circumstances might have administered encouragement.
To all appearance the letter related only to Robinson's private affair, and merely contained a request for an interview respecting that matter. Washington did not approve the proposal, and told Arnold that such a conference would afford grounds for suspicion in the minds of some people, and advised him to avoid it; saying further, that the subject in which Colonel Robinson was interested did not come within the powers of a military officer, and that the civil government of the State was the only authority to which he could properly apply.
After this decision it would have been too hazardous to prosecute Robinson's project for a meeting; and being now able to make use of Washington's name, Arnold wrote an answer to Robinson's letter, which he despatched openly by an officer in a flag-boat to the Vulture. This answer consisted of two letters separately sealed, one enclosed within the other, and both directed to Colonel Robinson. The outer envelope stated in general terms, that he had consulted the Commander-in-chief, who disapproved the proposition, and said it was a business wholly belonging to the civil authority. The enclosed letter was more explicit, giving notice that he should in the night of the 20th instant send a person to Dobbs's Ferry, or on board the Vulture, who would be furnished with a boat and a flag of truce, and whose secrecy and honor might be depended upon. He likewise advised, that the Vulture should remain where she then was, till the time appointed. In a postscript he added; "I expect General Washington to lodge here on Saturday night next, and I will lay before him any matter you may wish to communicate." This hint had the double aim of giving the letter an appearance of being written on public business, and of making known the time when General Washington would return from Hartford.
Within this second letter was enclosed a copy of the one heretofore mentioned as having been sent to André, appointing a place and time of meeting at Dobbs's Ferry. The three letters were immediately forwarded to Sir Henry Clinton, who received them the same night. With his consent André accordingly set off the next morning, that is, on the 20th of September, and went to Dobbs's Ferry. It was his first intention to write to Captain Sutherland, the commander of the Vulture, and request him to drop down the river with the vessel to that place, but, it being late when he arrived at the Ferry, he resolved to push forward to the Vulture: and to this he was the more inclined, as Arnold in his letter to Robinson had said, that he should either send a person to Dobbs's Ferry, or on board the Vulture. André reached the vessel at seven o'clock the same evening.
When he left New York, he was positively instructed by Sir Henry Clinton not to change his dress, as proposed by General Arnold, nor to go within the American posts, nor on any account to take papers. It was his expectation, indeed, that Arnold would himself come off to the Vulture, notwithstanding his intimation about sending a third person, and that the business between them would be there transacted.
It appears, however, that Arnold had contrived a different scheme, which could not be explained in his disguised correspondence without running too great a risk, and which perhaps he did not care to explain. His particular reasons can only be conjectured. Probably he had no other end in view than his own safety. However this may be, it was his design to induce André to cross the river, and hold the interview on the western side near the American lines, if not within them.
Preparations for executing this scheme had already been ingeniously contrived. General Howe, the immediate predecessor of Arnold as commandant at West Point, had been in the habit of employing Joshua H. Smith to procure intelligence from New York. Mr. Smith's respectable standing in society, the zeal he had shown in the American cause, his extensive acquaintance with people in different ranks of life, and the place of his residence on the confines of the American posts, all conspired to render his services important. He could select agents, and embrace opportunities, not within the power of any other person. General Howe had recommended him as a gentleman in whom confidence might be placed, and whose aid would be valuable.
These hints were enough for Arnold, and his quick perception of character enabled him to discover in Smith an instrument well suited to his purpose. He began by flattering him with particular civilities, asking him to head-quarters, visiting him often at his own house, and consulting him on subjects of some moment. He continued, as General Howe had done, to solicit his agency in keeping up a chain of intelligence and watching the movements of the enemy on the river, and furnished him with a written permission to pass the guards at all times. Arnold at length told Smith, that he expected a man from New York, who would be the bearer of very important intelligence, and with whom it was essential for him to have a personal conference, but for obvious reasons the affair must be kept a profound secret; intimating at the same time, that he might want Smith's assistance in conducting the man within the lines.
Things were in this train, when Mrs. Arnold with her infant child came from Philadelphia to join her husband at West Point. On account of the heat of the weather, and the fatigue of the journey, she travelled by short stages each day, in her own carriage, and it was previously agreed that she should pass the last night at the house of Mr. Smith. Here Arnold met her, and she went up the river with him in his barge to head-quarters only two days before General Washington commenced his tour to Hartford.
Arnold having resolved, that André should be brought on shore from the Vulture, it became necessary to provide a place for concealing him, in case the length of time required to finish the business in hand, or any accident, should prevent his prompt and safe return. While on this visit he persuaded Smith to permit the rendezvous to be held at his house. To prepare the way, all the persons residing in the house except the domestics, were to be removed. Under pretence of paying a visit to his connexions in Fishkill, more than thirty miles distant, Smith went with his wife and family the next day to that town. Leaving his family at Fishkill he immediately returned, and, as Robinson's house was near the road, he called on General Arnold according to his previous request.
Here it was arranged, that Smith should go on board the Vulture, or down to Dobbs's Ferry, in the night of the next day, and bring on shore the person, who was expected to be there. Orders had been given to Major Kierse, the quartermaster at Stony Point, to supply Smith with a boat whenever he should want one, and Arnold took care to give him the customary pass for a flag of truce, and such letters as would be understood on board the Vulture. With these papers Smith went back to his own house the same evening.
For some reason, which cannot now be explained, he did not go on board the next night, as was at first intended. It is probable, that he was disappointed in his attempt to procure a boat, and also to find boatmen who were willing to accompany him. Samuel Colquhoun, one of his tenants, to whom he applied for the purpose in the course of the day, refused to go with him, alleging a fear of being taken up by the guard-boats. Thus defeated in his object, he hastened to inform General Arnold as soon as possible, and sent Colquhoun as an express, who rode all night and got to Robinson's House just before sunrise. The General was not up, but the messenger sent in the letter he had brought from Smith, and was told that no answer was required, and he might go back as quick as he could. In the early part of the day Arnold himself went down the river to Verplanck's Point, and thence to Smith's House.
Let us now return to the Vulture. André had remained on board all night anxiously expecting to meet General Arnold there, according to the tenor of his letter. He was greatly disappointed that no person appeared, and he wrote the next morning to Sir Henry Clinton in somewhat of a desponding tone, saying that this was the second excursion he had made without any ostensible reason, and a third would infallibly fix suspicions. He thought it best, therefore, to stay where he was for a short time at least, under pretence of sickness, and try further expedients. It was also in his opinion possible, that Arnold, uninformed of his having come up to the vessel, might have sought to meet him at Dobbs's Ferry as first proposed.
An opportunity presented itself by which he was enabled to communicate the knowledge of his being on board. During the day of his arrival a flag of truce had been exhibited at Teller's Point, inviting, as it was supposed, a pacific intercourse for some object with the ship. The captain sent off a boat with another flag, but as soon as it approached the shore it was fired upon by several armed men hitherto concealed. This treacherous violation of the laws of war was deemed a proper subject for a remonstrance, and a sufficient reason for an open transmission of a flag with a letter to the American commanding officer. Such a despatch was indited and signed by Captain Sutherland, but it was in the handwriting of André, and countersigned John Anderson as secretary. The letter was dated on the morning of the 21st of September.
In consequence of Smith's express the night before, Arnold arrived at Verplanck's Point just as the flag-boat had returned to the Vulture, and he received the letter from Colonel Livingston, the officer commanding at that post. Knowing the handwriting, he understood its design, and hastened to prepare for sending Smith on board the ensuing night. Crossing over to Stony Point and finding no boat in readiness, he despatched an officer in his own barge to the Continental Village, which stood near a creek that emptied itself into the Hudson above Stony Point, with orders to bring down a row-boat from that place. Then directing Major Kierse, the quartermaster at Stony Point, to send the boat to a certain place in Haverstraw Creek the moment it should arrive, he proceeded to Smith's House.
The affair was now reduced within a definite compass. André was to be brought on shore from the Vulture. All the preparations had been made, Smith was ready, and nothing was wanting but two boatmen, who would voluntarily engage in the enterprise. To remove all obstacles on this score, Smith had previously agreed upon a countersign with the commanders of the guard-boats, who had been ordered by Colonel Livingston not to stop him, should he pass them in the night, as he was employed by the General to obtain intelligence of an important nature within the enemy's lines. These guard-boats were stationed in the river, whenever a British vessel of war came up, for the double purpose of preventing an intercourse with the shore, and obstructing the conveyance of supplies by the Tories and disaffected persons. The countersign or watchword, adopted on the present occasion, was Congress.
Towards evening, Smith called Samuel Colquhoun, and told him that General Arnold wished to speak with him. Colquhoun went into the house, where he found Arnold, who requested him to accompany Mr. Smith in a boat to the Vulture. He at once declined, and gave as a reason, that having been deprived of his rest all the preceding night by riding express, he was fatigued, and could not endure the labor and want of sleep. He hinted likewise his fears of being out in the night on such a mission, and the danger to which he would be exposed if taken up by the guard-boats; and said he should always be willing to render any service to the General when he could do it with propriety, intimating that he should not object to go in the morning with a flag by daylight. Arnold replied, that the morning would be too late; that there was a gentleman on board the vessel whom he must see in the night, and who must be brought on shore; that it was a business of the utmost importance to the country, and that if he was a friend to his country he would not hesitate a moment in complying with the request. Smith joined in the same strain, and asked the man if he would not do what the General desired for the public good, and if he did not think it his duty, especially as he was himself to go with him and run an equal risk.
Colquhoun wavered a little at these representations, but still he was reluctant, and started new objections, and could not understand why it was necessary to go in the dark on such an errand, which he knew to be irregular and hazardous. Arnold assured him, that the matter was not a secret, but well known to the officers; that Major Kierse had provided a boat; that the commanders of the guard-boats were acquainted with the business, knew the countersign, and would let the boat pass without molestation; and that it was necessary to go in the night and bring the man on shore secretly, in order to prevent the transaction from becoming generally divulged to the inhabitants, thus making a noise and spreading; rumors, which would obstruct if not defeat the great object he had in view for the public benefit.
At last Colquhoun said, apparently to get rid of further importunity, that he could not manage the boat alone. Smith told him to call his brother, Joseph Colquhoun, which he did; but while absent he and his brother agreed, that they would not go. When they returned, Joseph Colquhoun was first met by Smith, who used the same arguments that had been applied to his brother, but with little apparent success. Arnold tried anew the force of persuasion and of appeals to their patriotism. It was all in vain. The brothers seemed resolute and immovable. Arnold then resorted to another mode of carrying his point, which proved more effectual. He declared to them, that if they persisted in their obstinacy, and refused to give their assistance when required for the good of the country, he should look upon them as disaffected to the common cause, and put them under arrest. It was no wonder, that a menace of this sort, from a person so high in rank, should quiet the scruples or at least secure the acquiescence of these simple laborers. They consented to comply with his request, or rather to obey his orders. As an encouragement, and a reward for their services, he promised to give each of them fifty pounds of flour; but the promise was never fulfilled.
It was past eleven o'clock in the night when Smith and the two boatmen arrived at the landing, near the mouth of Haverstraw Creek, to which place Major Kierse had sent the boat. They muffled the oars by General Arnold's directions. The night was tranquil and serene, the stars shone brightly, the water was unruffled except by the gentle current, which was hardly perceptible in that wide part of the river, and the boat glided along silently, without being discovered or meeting with any hindrance, till they were hailed by a hoarse seaman's voice from the Vulture, inquiring who they were and whither bound. Smith answered, that they were from King's Ferry and on their way to Dobbs's Ferry. The boat was immediately ordered alongside, and a torrent of uncourtly epithets, peculiar to the sailor's vocabulary, was poured out upon them for presuming to approach one of his Majesty's ships under the cover of darkness. While the officer of the watch was uttering this nautical salutation, Smith clambered up the ship's side. It is to be understood, of course, that no person in the vessel had any knowledge of the matter in hand except Captain Sutherland, Robinson, and André. The noise was heard below, and a boy came on deck with orders from the captain, that the man should be shown into the cabin.
When Smith entered the captain's apartment, he there found Beverly Robinson, whom he knew, having previously been acquainted with him. A letter from Arnold was then presented to Robinson, in which Arnold said; "This will be delivered to you by Mr. Smith, who will conduct you to a place of safety. Neither Mr. Smith nor any other person shall be made acquainted with your proposals. If they (which I doubt not) are of such a nature, that I can officially take notice of them, I shall do it with pleasure. I take it for granted Colonel Robinson will not propose any thing, that is not for the interest of the United States as well as of himself." It was the object of this letter to guard against accidents, in case any occurrence should prevent Smith's getting on board, and his papers should be examined. It might also be intended as a blind to Smith himself, who supposed Beverly Robinson to be the person he was to bring on shore, as he informs us in his narrative; although it is manifest from one of Smith's passports, that he at least supposed Beverly Robinson might possibly depute a person by the name of John Anderson to take his place.
Smith had two papers signed by Arnold; one authorizing him "to go to Dobbs's Ferry, with three men and a boy in a boat with a flag, to carry some letters of a private nature for a gentleman in New York, and to return immediately, he having permission to go at such hours and times as the tide and his business suit;" the other, granting "permission to Joshua Smith, Mr. John Anderson, and two servants, to pass and repass the guards near King's Ferry at all times."
These papers were shown to Robinson, by whom they were understood; or rather they had no other meaning, than to communicate the idea, that the writer expected André to come on shore (and not Robinson as he had held out to Smith), and to secure the boat against being detained by the water-guards, should it happen that by any mistake they had not been furnished with the private countersign.
After Smith had sat a few minutes in the cabin, Robinson left him in conversation with Captain Sutherland, and in about a quarter of an hour returned with another person, whom he introduced as Mr. Anderson. Assigning ill health as a reason why he could not himself go on shore, he said this gentleman would go in his stead, who, being perfectly acquainted with the business upon which the consultation was to be held, would be able to give all the information and make all the arrangements desired.
As Arnold was expected on board in person, it was doubtless a subject of deliberation whether any one should leave the ship and run the hazard of going on shore, with no other pledge of protection, than the word of a man, who was seeking to betray his country. It has been said, that Robinson was decidedly opposed to such a step, but was overruled by André, whose eagerness to accomplish the enterprise he had undertaken made him regardless of danger. Although clothed in his uniform, he was so completely enveloped with a blue great-coat, that no part of his dress could be seen; and Smith always affirmed, that he had no surmise of his real name or character, but looked upon him as a private individual acting an intermediate part between Robinson and Arnold.
The boat in which Smith came down the river was large, and being rowed by two men only, the Captain of the Vulture proposed that one of his boats should go out armed and tow the other; but this was strongly objected to by Smith and André. It was easy to discover, that the less noise the more safety. The reason assigned by Sir Henry Clinton in his despatch, for their declining this aid was, that it would be inconsistent with a flag of truce. As there was no pretence of a flag of truce, except in the formality of Arnold's passport, this reason was supposititious.
André and Smith descended into the boat together. The watermen had not left it. Few words were spoken as they moved slowly towards the shore. They landed at the foot of a mountain, called the Long Clove, on the western margin of the river, about six miles below Stony Point.
To this place Arnold had ridden on horseback from Smith's House, attended by one of Smith's servants on another horse. The exact spot for the rendezvous had been agreed upon, and, as soon as the boat landed, Smith went up the bank, groping his way in darkness, and found Arnold not only shrouded in the shades of night, but concealed among thick bushes and trees. He then returned and conducted André to the same place. At Arnold's request he left them together, and joined the men again at the boat.
Overcome with fatigue, and unconscious of any heavier burden upon their spirits, the watermen found relief from their toils in sleep. Smith was wakeful and little at ease. Mortified and displeased, as he says, at not being permitted to be present at the interview, after all the pains he had taken and sacrifices he had made to bring it about, he was not in a humor to draw solace from tranquillity and meditation; and the damps of an autumnal night, piercing a frame that had been for some time shivering under the discipline of a tertian ague, were not likely to communicate soothing influences. No wonder that the hours seemed to move on leaden wings, and his stock of patience was soon exhausted. He went into the bushes and reminded the plotters of treason, that the night was far spent, and the boat must depart from its present station before daylight should appear.
Roused by this intimation, and not yet having entirely effected the object of their meeting, the conspirators consented, that he and the boatmen should return up the river. Meantime André mounted the servant's horse, and accompanied Arnold to Smith's House, being a distance of three or four miles along the road leading through the village of Haverstraw. It was dark, and the voice of the sentinel demanding the countersign was the first indication to André, that he was within the American lines. This circumstance was unexpected, and he now felt the real danger of his situation. It was too late to change his purpose, and he could only nerve himself with fortitude to meet whatever peril might await him. Just as the day dawned, they came to Smith's House; and in a little time Smith arrived, having brought the boat to Crom Island in Haverstraw Creek, where it was left. The boatmen retired to their homes.
Should the question be asked, why André did not return on board from the Long Clove, in the same way he came on shore, the true answer undoubtedly is, that his business with Arnold was not finished, and could not be brought to a close soon enough to allow the boat to go and come again during the night. Since Arnold himself went down to meet André at the Clove, it may be inferred, that he thought everything might possibly be completed there; otherwise he would have been more likely to wait for him at Smith's House, and have him conducted thither through the safest and most expeditious channel, which would have been by water up Haverstraw Creek to the place where the boat was ultimately left, which was but a short distance from the house. It is equally certain, however, that he had anticipated a want of time for doing at the landing-place all that was requisite; as he had provided for such a contingency, first, by having Smith's family removed, secondly, by taking a spare horse with him to the Clove. Smith had said, while on board the Vulture, that a horse would be ready on the bank of the river for the purpose of conducting the person to his house, who should go with him in the boat.
In his narrative Smith states, that Arnold pressed him and the boatmen very hard to return to the Vulture that night, but they all refused on account of the lateness of the hour. This statement does not agree with the testimony of the watermen at Smith's trial; from which it appears, that they did not see Arnold at the landing-place; they only heard a man in the bushes. One of them testified, that Smith said nothing to him about returning, and the other, that he asked him, soon after they landed, if he would assist to row the boat back to the ship, but he declined, and Smith did not urge it. In short, the proof is sufficiently clear, that more time was necessary for maturing the plans in agitation, and that this was the reason why no attempt was made to send André back to the Vulture before morning.
Outlines of the Plan for surrendering West Point.—Major André passes in Disguise through the American Posts.—His Capture at Tarrytown.
No sooner had the parties arrived at Smith's House, than a cannonade was heard down the river. It was discovered to be against the Vulture, which, although distant several miles, was in full view, and for a time seemed to be on fire. It had been reported to Colonel Livingston by messengers from Teller's Point, that the vessel was so near the shore as to be within reach of cannon-shot, and that the inhabitants were likewise apprehensive boats would land and commit depredations. Colonel Livingston accordingly sent from Verplanck's Point a party with cannon, who fired upon the Vulture and compelled her to remove from the position she had held during the night, and drop farther down the river, till she was beyond the reach of the shot.
André beheld this scene from the windows of Smith's House with anxious emotion. At length the firing ceased, and he resumed his wonted spirits and composure. He was in an upper apartment of the house, where he remained through the day. After breakfast Smith left André and Arnold together, and here the plot of treachery was finished, the conditions settled, and the modes of future action explained and determined.
As all this was done in secret, the details have never been fully brought to light. It is well ascertained, however, that, in case of success, Arnold was to be paid a very large amount of money. In his letter to the ministry on the subject, Sir Henry Clinton said he thought the plan of such vast importance, that it ought to be pursued "at every risk and at any expense." Arnold well knew the nature of the posts, which he was about to surrender, and, money being with him the stimulating motive in the transaction, it may be presumed his demands were in proportion to the advantages expected from his guilt. Nor is it probable, that he consented without a price to barter the brilliant reputation he then possessed for a name of ever-enduring infamy.
The arrangements being agreed upon for the execution of the plot, it is understood that the day was also fixed. André was to return to New York, and the British troops, already embarked under the pretext of an expedition to the Chesapeake, were to be ready to ascend the river at a moment's warning. The post at West Point was to be weakened by such a disposition of the troops, as would leave but a small force for its defence. As soon as it should be known, that the British were coming up the river, parties were to be sent out from the garrison to the gorges in the hills, and other distant points, under pretence of meeting the enemy as they approached; and here they were to remain, while the British troops landed and marched to the garrison through different routes in which they would meet no opposition.
With an accurate plan of West Point and its environs, these details were easily settled. The general principle, which served as a basis of the whole manouvre, was, that the troops should be so scattered, and divided into such small detachments, that they could not act in force, and would be obliged to surrender without any effectual resistance. By previous movements Arnold had in fact prepared the way for this scheme. Sir Henry Clinton, and many other British officers, were acquainted with the localities at West Point and in its neighborhood, they having been there for several days after the storming of Fort Montgomery. Hence it was not difficult to concert a plan of operations, which should be equally intelligible to both parties, and hold out the fairest prospect of a successful result.
These preliminaries being finished, and André supplied with certain papers explanatory of the military condition of West Point, the next topic for deliberation was how he should get back to New York. André insisted that he should be put on board the Vulture, to which Arnold assented, but at the same time mentioned obstacles, and suggested a return by land as more safe and expeditious. The precise nature of these obstacles is not known, but they probably arose from Smith's disinclination to go out again with the boat, and the impossibility at that time of finding any other person as his substitute. When Arnold went away, however, which was before ten o'clock, André supposed he was to be sent on board the Vulture, as will appear by the following extract from a paper which he wrote after his capture.
"Arnold quitted me," said he, "having himself made me put the papers I bore between my stockings and feet. Whilst he did it he expressed a wish, in case of any accident befalling me, that they should be destroyed; which I said of course would be the case, as when I went into the boat I should have them tied about with a string and a stone. Before we parted, some mention had been made of my crossing the river and going another route; but I objected much against it, and thought it was settled, that in the way I came I was to return."
Arnold left him and went up the river in his own barge to head-quarters. Before he departed from Smith's House, he urged Smith to go back with André to the Vulture as soon as it should be dark; yet the matter seems to have been undecided, for he wrote and gave to Smith two passports (dating them "Head-Quarters"), one authorizing him to go by water, and the other by land. The former was in these words. "Joshua Smith has permission to pass with a boat and three hands and a flag to Dobbs's Ferry, on public business, and to return immediately." The latter said, "Joshua Smith has permission to pass the guards to the White Plains and to return, he being on public business by my direction." To this was added a third, as follows. "Permit Mr. John Anderson to pass the guards to the White Plains, or below if he chooses, he being on public business by my direction." This last was the paper presented by André to his captors when he was taken. All these passports were in the handwriting of Arnold and signed by him.
André passed the day in solitude, and as it drew near to a close, he was impatient to be ready for his departure. On consulting Smith, he found him obstinately determined not to return to the Vulture, and that he had neither spoken to the watermen nor made any other preparation.
The reason he gave afterwards for this refusal was, that his ague had attacked him severely, and the state of his health would not admit of an exposure in the boat. But the fact of his agreeing to accompany André on horseback, and to travel with him several hours in the night, was a proof that this was not the true ground of his objection. It was absurd to talk of being too ill to sit in a boat, and the next moment to mount a horse and ride a dozen miles. Smith's motives cannot now be ascertained, he never having explained them himself, either in the course of his trial, or in his Narrative; but he was probably alarmed at the firing upon the Vulture in the morning, and, as the vessel had resumed her original station, he was fearful it might be repeated, and thus endanger his personal safety, should he attempt to go on board. This is the only plausible way in which we can account for his resisting the strong solicitations of both Arnold and André, when he was sure of having the same protection as the night before. There is, after all, something mysterious in the affair; for, if this was the true and only cause of his reluctance, it was one, which might very properly have been urged, and would at least have relieved him from the subterfuge of the ague, which was too shallow to gain credit.
Any inquiry on this head would be fruitless. Indeed it is of little importance. It is enough to know, that, having no means of getting to the vessel, André was compelled to seek his way back by land. The safest route was supposed to be across the river and in the direction of White Plains. Smith agreed to attend him on the way, till he should be out of danger from the American posts. Thus far Arnold's passports would protect them.
All his entreaties being without avail, and having no other resort, André submitted to the necessity of his situation, and resolved to pursue the route by land. Arnold had prevailed upon him, in case he took this course, to exchange his military coat for a citizen's dress. It was feared, that, if he was discovered in the uniform of a British officer, he might be stopped, and perhaps meet with trouble. And here again Smith was made the dupe of Arnold's artifices. When he expressed surprise, that a man in a civil capacity, and on an errand of business, should come from New York in such a dress, Arnold told him that it was owing to the pride and vanity of Anderson, who wished to make a figure as a man of consequence, and had borrowed a coat from a military acquaintance. Upon this representation Smith gave one of his coats in exchange, which André put on, leaving his own behind. Thus clad, and covered as before with his dark greatcoat, which had a wide cape buttoned close in the neck, and the appearance of having been much worn, André was equipped for the journey.
A little before sunset he and Smith set off, accompanied by a negro servant belonging to the latter. They proceeded to King's Ferry, and crossed the river from Stony Point to Verplanck's Point. On their way to the Ferry, they met several persons who were known to Smith, and with whom he conversed, accosting them in a gay and jocular humor, and assuming an air of ease and unconcern. He even stopped at a sutler's tent near the Ferry, and contributed to the merriment of a party of loungers, by assisting them in drinking a bowl of punch. André said nothing, but walked his horse slowly along, and was waiting at the Ferry when his companion overtook him. Smith had tried, while on the road, to draw him into conversation about the taking of Stony Point the year before, and such other topics as he thought would interest him; but he was reserved and thoughtful, uttering brief replies, and showing no inclination to be interrogated, or to talk upon any subject.
It was in the dusk of the evening when they ascended from the Ferry, and passed through the works at Verplanck's Point. Smith rode up to Colonel Livingston's tent, at a short distance from the road, but André and the servant went along without stopping. Smith told Colonel Livingston, that he was going up the country, and took charge of two letters, one to General Arnold and the other to Governor Clinton, which he promised to deliver. He declined staying to supper, alleging as a reason that a gentleman had just rode along, who was waiting for him, and whose business was urgent. He then joined André on the way.
They met with no further interruption till between eight and nine o'clock at night, when they were hailed by the sentinel of a patrolling party. This was near Crompond, and about eight miles from Verplanck's Point. The sentinel ordered them to stop, and Smith dismounted, gave the bridle of his horse to his servant, walked forward, and inquired who commanded the party. He was answered "Captain Boyd," who, overhearing the conversation, immediately appeared. The captain was unusually inquisitive, and demanded of him who he was, where he belonged, and what was his business. Smith answered these questions promptly, adding that he had a pass from General Arnold, and desired not to be detained. The captain was not yet satisfied, but inquired how far he meant to go that night; to which he replied, as far as Major Strang's or Colonel Drake's; but this only increased the embarrassment, for the captain informed him, that Major Strang was not at home, and Colonel Drake had removed to another part of the country.
Captain Boyd then said, that he must see the passport, and, it being dark, they went to a house at a small distance to procure a light. André began to be a little alarmed, and advanced with reluctance towards the house, till he was encouraged by Smith, who assured him that Arnold's pass would certainly protect them. And so it proved; for the pass was expressed in positive terms, and there was no room to doubt its genuineness or its authority.
The captain was afterwards more bland in his manners, but the ardor of his curiosity was not diminished. He took Smith aside, and begged to be informed of the important business, which carried him down so near the enemy's lines, and induced him and his companion to travel so dangerous a road in the night. As an apology for this inquiry he manifested a good deal of concern for their safety, telling him that the Cow-boys had recently been out, and were believed then to be far up the country, and he advised him by all means not to proceed till morning. Smith prevaricated as well as he could, saying to Captain Boyd, that he and his fellow-traveller, whom he called Mr. Anderson, were employed by General Arnold to procure intelligence, that they expected to meet a person near White Plains for that purpose, and that it was necessary for them to go forward as expeditiously as possible.
Upon this statement Captain Boyd seemed more anxious than ever, magnified the perils to which they would be exposed by travelling in the night, and recommended anew that they should turn back to one Andreas Miller's, who lived but a little way off, and at whose house they might lodge. Smith's courage was somewhat damped by these representations, and he went and told the tale to André, and counselled with him, as to the steps they ought to take. It is probable, also, that he had fears of exciting suspicion, if he persevered in resisting the captain's zeal expressed so earnestly in their behalf. André, as it may well be imagined, not being very easy in his present situation, was for going on at all events. When Smith found his fears unheeded and his eloquence unavailing, he called in the aid of Captain Boyd, and inquired of him which was the safest road to White Plains. Boyd considered both roads perilous, but believed the one through North Castle the least so, for the Lower Party, or Cow-boys, infested the Tarrytown road, and had lately done mischief in that quarter. He used various arguments to dissuade them from going farther that night, to which Smith listened with open ears, and he resolved, against the will of André, to trespass on the hospitality of Andreas Miller.
They met with a welcome reception, but, coming at a late hour to an humble dwelling, their accommodations were narrow, and the two travelers were obliged to sleep in the same bed. According to Smith's account, it was a weary and restless night to his companion. The burden on his thoughts was not of a kind to lull them to repose; and the place of his retreat, so near the watchful Captain Boyd and his guards, was hardly such as would impress upon him a conviction of perfect security. At the first dawn of light he roused himself from his troubled slumbers, waked the servant, and ordered the horses to be prepared for an early departure.
Having solicited their host in vain to receive a compensation for the civilities he had rendered, they mounted and took the road leading to Pine's Bridge. The countenance of André brightened when he was fairly beyond the reach of the patrolling party, and, as he thought, had left behind him the principal difficulties in his route. His cheerfulness revived, and he conversed in the most animated and agreeable strain upon a great variety of topics. Smith professes to have been astonished at the sudden and extraordinary change which appeared in him, from a gloomy taciturnity to an exuberant flow of spirits, pleasantry, and gay discourse. He talked upon poetry, the arts, and literature, lamented the war, and hoped for a speedy peace. In this manner they passed along, without being accosted by any person, till they came within two miles and a half of Pine's Bridge.
At this place Smith had determined to end his journey in the direction towards White Plains. The Cow-boys, whom he seemed anxious to avoid, had recently been above the Bridge; and the territory below was considered their appropriate domain. The travellers partook of a frugal breakfast together at the house of a good Dutch woman, who had been plundered by the marauders, but who was yet enabled to set before them a repast of hasty-pudding and milk. This being despatched, Smith divided his small stock of paper money with André, took a final leave, and with his servant hastened back to Peekskill, and the same evening to Fishkill, where he had left his family four days before at the house of his brother-inlaw. On his way he took the road leading by Robinson's House, where he called on General Arnold and dined. He gave an account of André's progress, and mentioned the place where he left him, with which Arnold appeared well pleased. It is to be understood, however, that Smith had not at this time, as he always affirmed, any knowledge of André's true character, and that he supposed his name to be John Anderson.
The Cow-boys were a set of people, mostly if not wholly refugees, belonging to the British side, and engaged in plundering cattle near the lines and driving them to New York. The name indicates their vocation. There was another description of banditti, called Skinners, who lived for the most part within the American lines, and professed attachment to the American cause; but in reality they were more unprincipled, perfidious, and inhuman, than the Cow-boys themselves; for these latter exhibited some symptoms of fellow-feeling for their friends, whereas the Skinners committed their depredations equally upon friends and foes.
By a law of the State of New York, every person refusing to take an oath of fidelity to the State was considered as forfeiting his property. The large territory between the American and British lines, extending nearly thirty miles from north to south, and embracing Westchester county, was populous and highly cultivated. A person living within that space, who took the oath of fidelity, was sure to be plundered by the Cowboys; and if he did not take it, the Skinners would come down upon him, call him a Tory, and seize his property as confiscated by the State. Thus the execution of the laws was assumed by robbers, and the innocent and guilty were involved in a common ruin.
It is true, the civil authority endeavored to guard against these outrages, as far as it could, by legislative enactments and executive proclamations; but, from the nature of the case, this formidable conspiracy against the rights and claims of humanity could be crushed only by a military arm. The detachments of Continental troops and militia, stationed near the lines, did something to lessen the evil; yet they were not adequate to its suppression, and frequently this force was so feeble as not to afford any barrier to the inroads of the banditti. The Skinners and Cow-boys often leagued together. The former would sell their plunder to the latter, taking in exchange contraband articles brought from New York. It was not uncommon for the farce of a skirmish to be acted near the American lines, in which the Skinners never failed to come off victorious; and then they would go boldly to the interior with their booty, pretending it had been captured from the enemy, while attempting to smuggle it across the lines.
Such was the social condition of that part of the country, through which André was now to pass alone, for nearly thirty miles, before he could be perfectly secure from danger; for, although every step diminished the chances of untoward accidents, yet there was no absolute safety till he was beyond the limits of this ill-famed neutral ground.
When he and Smith separated, it seems to have been understood, that André would pursue the route through White Plains, and thence to New York; but after crossing Pine's Bridge, he changed his mind, turned off towards Hudson's River, and took what was called the Tarrytown road. He was probably induced to this step by the remarks he had heard the evening before from Captain Boyd, who said the Lower Party had been far up the Tarrytown road, and it was dangerous to proceed that way. As the Lower Party belonged to the British, and André would of course be safe in their hands, it was natural for him to infer, that he should be among friends sooner in that direction than in the other.
A law of the State of New York authorized any person to seize and convert to his own use all cattle or beef, that should be driven or removed from the country in the direction of the city beyond a certain line in Westchester county. By military custom, also, the personal effects of prisoners, taken by small parties, were assigned to the captors as a prize.
It happened that, the same morning on which André crossed Pine's Bridge, seven persons, who resided near Hudson's River, on the neutral ground, agreed voluntarily to go out in company armed, watch the road, and intercept any suspicious stragglers, or droves of cattle, that might be seen passing towards New York. Four of this party were stationed on a hill, where they had a view of the road for a considerable distance. The three others, named John Paulding, David Williams, and Isaac Van Wart, were concealed in the bushes at another place and very near the road.
About half a mile north of the village of Tarrytown, and a few hundred yards from the bank of Hudson's River, the road crosses a small brook, from each side of which the ground rises into a hill, and it was at that time covered over with trees and underbrush. Eight or ten rods south of this brook, and on the west side of the road, these men were hidden; and at that point André was stopped, after having travelled from Pine's Bridge without interruption.
The particulars of this event I shall here introduce, as they are narrated in the testimony given by Paulding and Williams at Smith's trial, written down at the time by the judge-advocate, and preserved in manuscript among the other papers. This testimony having been taken only eleven days after the capture of André, when every circumstance must have been fresh in the recollection of his captors, it may be regarded as exhibiting a greater exactness in its details, than any account hitherto published. In answer to the question of the court, Paulding said; "Myself, Isaac Van Wart, and David Williams were lying by the side of the road about half a mile above Tarrytown, and about fifteen miles above Kingsbridge, 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 gentlemanlike-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; and then I asked him which way he was going. 'Gentlemen,' said he, 'I hope you belong to our party.' I asked him what party. He said, 'The Lower Party.' Upon that I told him I did. Then he said, 'I am a British officer out of the country on particular business, and I hope you will not detain me a minute;' and to show that he was a British officer he pulled out his watch. Upon which I told him to dismount. He then said, 'My God, I must do any thing 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;' and said he was going to Dobbs's Ferry to meet a person there and get intelligence for General Arnold. Upon that I told him I hoped he would not be offended, that we did not mean to take any thing from him; and I told him there were many bad people, who were going along the road, and I did not know but perhaps he might be one."
When further questioned, Paulding replied, that he asked the person his name, who told him it was John Anderson; and that, when Anderson produced General Arnold's pass, he should have let him go, if he had not before called himself a British officer. Paulding also said, that when the person pulled out his watch, he understood it as a signal that he was a British officer, and not that he meant to offer it to him as a present.
All these particulars were substantially confirmed by David Williams, whose testimony in regard to the searching of André, being more minute than Paulding's, is here inserted.
"We took him into the bushes," said Williams, "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 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, even if it was that very spot, so that we could get them. I asked him whether he would not give us more. He said he would give us any quantity of dry goods, or any sum of money, and bring it 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 should 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. He answered, 'Yes, I would.' I told him I did not intend he should. While taking 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 came to any commander he would reveal all.
"He was dressed in a blue over-coat, and a tight body-coat, that was of a kind of claret color, though a rather deeper red than claret. The button-holes were laced with gold tinsel, and the buttons drawn over with the same kind of lace. He had on a round hat, and nankeen waistcoat and breeches, with a flannel waistcoat and drawers, boots, and thread stockings."
The nearest military post was at North Castle, where Lieutenant Colonel Jameson was stationed with a part of Sheldon's regiment of dragoons. To that place it was resolved to take the prisoner; and within a few hours he was delivered up to Jameson, with all the papers that had been taken from his boots.
André makes known his true Character.—His Letter to Washington.—Escape of Arnold to the Enemy.—Washington arrives at West Point.
The course pursued by Jameson was extraordinary and inexplicable. On examining the papers, he found them to be in the undisguised handwriting of General Arnold, with which he was perfectly acquainted. Their contents and the manner of their being found were such, as, one would think, could not fail to excite suspicion in the most obtuse mind, whatever might be the rank or character of the party concerned.
There were six separate papers, as follows. First, artillery orders, which had recently been published at West Point, giving directions how each corps should dispose of itself in case of an alarm. This paper was of the utmost importance, as it would enable the enemy, when they should make an attack, to know the precise condition of every part of the garrison. Secondly, an estimate of the force at West Point and its dependencies. Thirdly, an estimate of the number of men requisite to man the works. Fourthly, a return of the ordnance in the different forts, redoubts, and batteries. Fifthly, remarks on the works at West Point, describing the construction of each, and its strength or weakness. Sixthly, a report of a council of war lately held at headquarters, which contained hints respecting the probable operations of the campaign, and which General Washington had sent to Arnold a few days before, requesting his opinion on the subjects to which it referred.
Considering the extreme caution, which Arnold had practised on every other occasion, particularly in disguising his letters, it is not the least remarkable incident in his conspiracy, that papers of this character, by far the most important and hazardous that he had communicated, should, in his own handwriting, be entrusted to a channel so much exposed to accident. *
* All these original papers, as they came from André's boots, have been carefully preserved, and are now before me. They are copied throughout in Arnold's usual handwriting, and their contents are endorsed on the back of each in the same hand. To those, who are fond of tracing coincidences, it may be a curious fact, that the last canto of André's humorous satire, called the "Cow Chace," was first printed on the very day of his capture. It will be found in Rivington's Royal Gazette for September 23d, 1780. It ends with the following prophetic stanza.
"And now I've closed my epic strain,
I tremble as I show it,
Lest this same warrior-drover, Wayne,
Should ever catch the poet."
With these papers in his hands, bearing incontestable marks of their origin, and procured in a way that indicated most unequivocally the designs of the person with whom they were found, Jameson resolved to send the prisoner immediately to Arnold! How far he was influenced by the persuasion or advice of André is uncertain; but it cannot be doubted, that all the address of the latter was used to advance a purpose, which opened the only possible door for their escape. Could he proceed to Arnold at West Point before the report of his capture should go abroad, it might be practicable for them both to get within the British lines, or to take such other steps for saving themselves as the extremity of their affairs should make necessary. It has been represented, that André's magnanimity was the principal motive by which he was actuated in concealing the agency of Arnold. His subsequent conduct gives him every claim to the praise of honor and nobleness of mind; yet on the present occasion it is obvious, that his own personal safety was as much consulted, to say the least, as his sentiments of generosity towards his associate.
Jameson penned a hasty line to Arnold, saying merely that he sent forward, under the charge of Lieutenant Allen and a guard, a certain John Anderson, who had been taken while going towards New York. "He had a passport," said Jameson, "signed in your name; and a parcel of papers taken from under his stockings, which I think of a very dangerous tendency." He then described these papers, and added that he had sent them to General Washington. *
* Andre's watch, horse, saddle, and bridle, were claimed by his captors, and given up to them. The watch was afterwards bought by Colonel William S. Smith for thirty guineas, which, with the money received for the horse, saddle, and bridle, were divided equally among the three captors and their four companions, who were watching in another place when André was taken.
There appears to have been some misgiving in the mind of Jameson, although he was not prepared to suspect the patriotism and political fidelity of his commanding general. Washington said afterwards, that, either on account of his "egregious folly, or bewildered conception, he seemed lost in astonishment, and not to know what he was doing." This is as lenient a judgment, perhaps, as can be passed on his conduct. No one ever doubted the purity of his intention. Perceiving the mischievous tendency of the papers, and knowing them to have been copied by Arnold, at the same moment that he sent André under guard to West Point, he despatched an express with the papers to meet General Washington, then supposed to be on the road returning from his interview with the French commanders at Hartford. Two reasons were subsequently assigned by Jameson for a course, which seemed so extraordinary to every body else; first, that he thought the affair was an imposition by the British, intended to destroy the confidence of the Americans in Arnold; secondly, that, not knowing the Vulture was up the river, he supposed Arnold could not get to the enemy without passing through the American outposts on the lines, where he would be taken.
Major Tallmadge, next in command under Jameson, was absent on duty below White Plains when André was brought in, and did not return till evening. He was filled with astonishment when Jameson related what had happened, and could not refrain from expressing his surprise at the course that had been pursued. To his mind the case was so clear, or at all events was attended by such peculiar circumstances, as not only to justify but require prompt, bold, and energetic measures on the part of Jameson. In short, he declared his suspicions of Arnold, and offered to take on himself the entire responsibility of proceeding upon that ground. To this idea Jameson would not listen. He was agitated and irresolute at first, but finally refused to sanction any measures, which should imply a distrust of Arnold.
Failing in this object, Tallmadge earnestly requested that the prisoner might be brought back, to which Jameson with some reluctance consented. As the parties from below had been higher up the country than the post at North Castle, there was room to apprehend that he might be recaptured, and this was probably the prevailing reason with Jameson for countermanding his order. Strange as it may seem, however, (if any thing can seem strange in such a string of blunders,) he would insist on sending forward the letter he had written to Arnold, as will appear by his order of countermand to Lieutenant Allen.
"From some circumstances, which I have just discovered," said he to that officer, "I have reason to fear that a party of the enemy is above; and as I would not have Anderson retaken, or get away, I desire that you will proceed to Lower Salem with him, and deliver him to Captain Hoogland. You will leave the guard with Captain Hoogland, also, except one man, whom you may take along. You may proceed to West Point, and deliver the letter to General Arnold. You may also show him this, that he may know the reason why the prisoner is not sent on. You will please to return as soon as you can."
The messenger with this letter overtook Lieutenant Allen, and he came back with his charge to North Castle late at night, or early the next morning, although from the tenor of the letter it might be inferred, that Colonel Jameson supposed he would proceed by some other route to Lower Salem. As soon as Major Tallmadge saw the prisoner, and especially when he observed his manner of walking to and fro on the floor, and turning on his heel to retrace his steps, he was struck with his military deportment, and convinced that he had been bred to arms. Jameson gradually came into the same way of thinking, though there is no proof of his confidence in Arnold having been shaken: but he agreed with Tallmadge, that it was best to keep Anderson in close custody, till something more should be known about him, or till orders should be received from Arnold or General Washington. As Lower Salem was farther within the American lines than North Castle, and as Colonel Sheldon's quarters were there, it was thought advisable for him to be removed to that place. Major Tallmadge commanded the escort, and continued with the prisoner from that time till he arrived at Tappan.
It will be remembered, that, eight or nine days previous to the taking of André, a letter had been received by Major Tallmadge from Arnold, in which he requested Tallmadge, if a man by the name of Anderson should come within the lines, to send him to head-quarters with two horsemen, and to bear him company in person if his business would permit. This incident, connected with the circumstances of the capture of the prisoner, who called himself Anderson, and with the obvious disguise he now assumed, confirmed Tallmadge's suspicions, though the nature and extent of the plans in agitation he could only conjecture, as Anderson revealed nothing and mentioned no names.
On the arrival of André at Lower Salem, about eight o'clock in the morning, he was introduced to Mr. Bronson, who was attached to Sheldon's regiment, and who occupied a small apartment, which he consented to share with the prisoner. The room could be easily guarded, as it had but one door and one window. André appeared much fatigued, and at first was little inclined to talk. His clothes were soiled, and he accepted a change from Mr. Bronson, while his linen and nankeen under-dress were sent to the washerwoman. Becoming refreshed and more at ease, he relaxed into familiar conversation, which, with his agreeable and courteous manners, excited the interest and secured the good-will of his room-mate.
He resorted to his favorite resource for amusement, and sketched with a pencil a group of ludicrous figures, representing himself and his escort under march. He presented the sketch to Bronson, saying, "This will give you an idea of the style in which I have had the honor to be conducted to my present abode." In diversions of this kind the morning passed away.
As it was known to André, that the papers found on his person had been transmitted to General Washington, who must soon receive them, and it being now evident that he would not himself be sent to Arnold, he perceived that any further attempts at concealment would be unavailing, and resolved to stand forth in his true character, seeking no other mitigation of his case, than such as could be granted on the strict principles of honor and military usage. With this view he wrote, in Bronson's room, his first letter to General Washington, which may properly be recorded in this place.
"Salem, 24 September, 1780.
"What I have as yet said concerning myself was in the justifiable attempt to be extricated; I am too little accustomed to duplicity to have succeeded.
"I beg your Excellency will be persuaded, that no alteration in the temper of my mind, or apprehension for my safety, induces me to take the step of addressing you; but that it is to rescue myself from an imputation of having assumed a mean character for treacherous purposes or self-interest; a conduct incompatible with the principles that actuate me, as well as with my condition in life.
"It is to vindicate my fame that I speak, and not to solicit security.
"The person in your possession is Major John André, Adjutant-General to the British army.
"The influence of one commander in the army of his adversary is an advantage taken in war. A correspondence for this purpose I held; as confidential (in the present instance) with his Excellency Sir Henry Clinton.
"To favor it, I agreed to meet upon ground not within the posts of either army a person, who was to give me intelligence; I came up in the Vulture man-of-war for this effect, and was fetched by a boat from the ship to the beach. Being there, I was told that the approach of day would prevent my return, and that I must be concealed until the next night. I was in my regimentals, and had fairly risked my person.
"Against my stipulation, my intention, and without my knowledge beforehand, I was conducted within one of your posts. Your Excellency may conceive my sensation on this occasion, and will imagine how much more must I have been affected by a refusal to reconduct me back the next night as I had been brought. Thus become a prisoner, I had to concert my escape. I quitted my uniform, and was passed another way in the night, without the American posts, to neutral ground, and informed I was beyond all armed parties and left to press for New York. I was taken at Tarry town by some volunteers.
"Thus, as I have had the honor to relate, was I betrayed (being Adjutant General of the British army) into the vile condition of an enemy in disguise within your posts.
"Having avowed myself a British officer, I have nothing to reveal but what relates to myself, which is true on the honor of an officer and a gentleman.
"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 involuntarily an impostor.
"Another request is, that I may be permitted to write an open letter to Sir Henry Clinton, and another to a friend for clothes and linen.
"I take the liberty to mention the condition of some gentlemen at Charleston, who, being either on parole or under protection, were engaged in a conspiracy against us. Though their situation is not similar, they are objects who may be set in exchange for me, or are persons whom the treatment I receive might affect.
"It is no less, Sir, in a confidence of the generosity of your mind, than on account of your superior station, that I have chosen to importune you with this letter. I have the honor to be, with great respect, Sir, your Excellency's most obedient and most humble servant,
"JOHN ANDRÉ, Adjutant-General."
When he had finished this letter, he handed it open to Major Tallmadge, who perused it with astonishment and strong emotion; for, although he believed the writer to be a military man, yet he had not supposed him a person of such rank, nor dreamed of the dangerous plot in which he had been acting a part. The letter was sealed and sent to General Washington. From that moment André's mind seemed relieved. He became cheerful, and his good humor, affable address, and attractive powers of conversation, gained upon the hearts of the officers, and won from them reciprocal kindness and civilities.
In this situation let us leave the prisoner for a time, and pursue the chain of events in another quarter.
The route travelled by General Washington and his suite to Hartford was called the lower road, passing from Peekskill through Danbury. It was supposed he would come back the same way; but, without making his intention publicly known beforehand, he returned by the upper road, which brought him to West Point through the northern parts of the Highlands. He arrived at Fishkill, eighteen miles from Arnold's headquarters as the road then ran, in the afternoon of the 24th of September. After stopping a short time for rest and refreshment, he proceeded onward, and within two or three miles of the town met the French minister, M. de la Luzerne, on a journey to visit Count de Rochambeau at Newport. As this was an unexpected meeting, and the minister expressed an earnest desire to converse with General Washington on matters of importance, and urged his return to Fishkill for that purpose, he could not with propriety or politeness decline the proposal. It had been his design to reach West Point the same evening; but this detention left him too little time to attain that object, and he remained during the night at Fishkill with the Chevalier de la Luzerne.
Very early in the morning he sent off his baggage, with orders to the men who had it in charge to go on with it as quick as they could to General Arnold's head-quarters, and give notice that the whole party might be expected there to breakfast.
General Washington and the officers, all being on horseback, followed immediately, and went on without delay till they came opposite to West Point, when Washington's horse was discovered to be turning into a narrow road, that led towards the river. Lafayette said to him; "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 answered good-naturedly; "Ah, I know you young men are all in love with Mrs. Arnold, and wish to get where she is as soon as possible. You may go and take your breakfast with her, and tell her not to wait for me. I must ride down and examine the redoubts on this side of the river, and will be there in a short time." The officers did not choose, however, to take advantage of this permission, but continued with the Commander, except two of the aids-de-camp, who rode on at the General's request to make known the cause of his being detained.
When the aids arrived at Arnold's house, they found breakfast waiting, as had been supposed. It being now ascertained, that Washington and the other gentlemen would not be there, General Arnold, his family, and the aids-de-camp, sat down to breakfast. Before they arose from the table, a messenger came in with a letter for Arnold, which he broke open and read in presence of the company. It was the letter which Colonel Jameson had written two days before, and despatched by Lieutenant Allen, and it contained the first intelligence received by Arnold of the capture of André. His emotion can be more easily imagined than described. So great was his control over himself, however, that he concealed it from the persons present; and, although he seemed a little agitated for the moment, yet not to such a degree as to excite a suspicion, that any thing extraordinary had happened. He told the aids-de-camp, that his immediate attendance was required at West Point, and desired them to say to General Washington when he arrived, that he was unexpectedly called over the river and should very soon return. He ordered a horse to be ready, and then, leaving the table hastily, he went up to Mrs. Arnold's chamber and sent for her. With a brevity demanded by the occasion, he told her that they must instantly part, perhaps to meet no more, and that his life depended on his reaching the enemy's lines without detection. Struck with horror at this intelligence, so abruptly divulged, she swooned and fell senseless. In that state he left her, hurried down stairs, mounted a horse belonging to one of his aids that stood saddled at the door, and rode alone with all speed to the bank of the river. He there entered a boat, and directed the oarsmen to push out to the middle of the stream.
The boat was rowed by six men, who, having no knowledge of Arnold's intentions, promptly obeyed his orders. He quickened their activity by saying, that he was going down the river and on board the Vulture with a flag, and that he was in great haste, as he expected General Washington at his house, and wished to return as expeditiously as possible to meet him there. He also added another stimulating motive, by promising them two gallons of rum, if they would exert themselves with all their strength. As they approached King's Ferry, Arnold exposed to view a white handkerchief, and ordered the men to row directly to the Vulture, which was now in sight, a little below the place it had occupied when André left it. The signal held out by Arnold, while the boat was passing Verplanck's Point, caused Colonel Livingston to regard it as a flag-boat, and prevented him from ordering it to be stopped and examined.
The boat reached the Vulture unobstructed in its passage; and after Arnold had gone on board and introduced himself to Captain Sutherland, he called the leader of the boatmen into the cabin, and informed him that he and his companions were prisoners. The boatman, who had capacity and spirit, said they were not prisoners, that they came on board with a flag of truce, and under the same sanction they would return. He then appealed to the captain, demanding justice and a proper respect for the rules of honor. Arnold replied, that all this was nothing to the purpose, that they were prisoners and must remain on board. Captain Sutherland, disdaining so pitiful an action, though he did not interfere with the positive command of Arnold, told the man that he would take his parol, and he might go on shore and procure clothes and whatever else was wanted for himself and his companions. This was accordingly done the same day. When these men arrived in New York, Sir Henry Clinton, holding in just contempt such a wanton act of meanness, set them all at liberty.
Having finished his inspection at the redoubts, Washington arrived with his suite at Arnold's house soon after his precipitate flight to the river. When Washington was told, that Arnold had been called over to the garrison upon some urgent business, he took a hasty breakfast, and concluded not to wait, but to cross immediately to West Point and meet him at that place. The officers attended him, except Hamilton, who remained behind at the house. It was their arrangement to return to dinner.
As the whole party were seated in the barge, moving smoothly over the water, with the majestic scenery of the Highlands around them, Washington said; "Well, Gentlemen, I am glad, on the whole, that General Arnold has gone before us, for we shall now have a salute, and the roaring of the cannon will have a fine effect among these mountains." The boat drew nearer to the beach. No cannon was heard, no appearance of any preparation to receive them was visible. "What?" said Washington, "do they not intend to salute us?" At this moment an officer was seen winding his way among the rocks down the side of the hill, who met the barge as it touched the shore, and seemed confused and astonished at the presence of the Commander-inchief and the other officers, who were about to honor him with a visit. He apologized, and said, if he had expected such visitors, he should have been prepared to receive them in a proper manner; but, being taken by surprise, he hoped he should be excused for an apparent neglect, and for not having put the garrison into a suitable condition for a military inspection and review.
General Washington was scarcely less surprised, than the commandant himself. "How is this, Sir," he inquired; "is not General Arnold here?"
"No, Sir," replied the officer; "he has not been here these two days, nor have I heard from him within that time."
"This is extraordinary," said Washington; "we were told he had crossed the river, and that we should find him here. However, our visit must not be in vain. Since we have come, although unexpectedly, we must look round a little, and see in what state things are with you." Thus saying he went up the hill, and was followed by the other officers. They walked to the different forts and redoubts, and inspected the garrison in all its parts. After completing this task, which took an hour or two, they descended to the barge, and were reconducted to the landing-place near Robinson's House, from which they had departed.
Detection of Arnold's Treason.—André removed to West Point and thence to Tappan.—His Examination by a Board of Officers.
While the party were on their way from the river to the house, Hamilton was seen walking towards them with a quick step and anxious countenance. He came directly to Washington, and spoke to him in a low voice, and they retired together into the house.
During the absence of Washington at West Point, the express had arrived with the letter and papers from Jameson, and also with André's letter written the day before at Salem. This express had followed the route towards Hartford, till he ascertained that General Washington was returning by the upper road. He then turned back, and took the shortest way to West Point, which passed through Lower Salem; and he thus became the bearer of Andre's letter. When the despatches came to Robinson's House, as they were represented to be of the utmost importance, Hamilton opened them and discovered their contents. These papers he now laid before Washington, without hinting the facts they contained to any other person.
The mystery was here solved, and the whole extent of the plot was made manifest. No uncertainty now existed as to the course Arnold had taken. It was clear that he had gone to the enemy. Hamilton was immediately ordered to mount a horse and ride to Verplanck's Point, that preparation might be made for stopping him, should he not already have passed that post. Washington called Lafayette and Knox, to whom he told what had happened, and showed the papers. He was perfectly calm, and only said to Lafayette, "Whom can we trust now?" For a considerable time no other persons were acquainted with the secret, nor did Washington betray in his actions or countenance any symptoms of anxiety or excitement. When dinner was announced, he said to those around him, "Come, Gentlemen; since Mrs. Arnold is unwell, and the General is absent, let us sit down without ceremony." The same self-possession and apparent unconcern continued through the dinner.
In the mean time his feelings had been severely tried by the afflicting situation of Mrs. Arnold. She was frantic with distress, and seemed on the verge of distraction. The scene was vividly described by Hamilton, in a letter written the next day. "She, for a considerable time, entirely lost herself. The General went up to see her, and she upbraided him with being in a plot to murder her child. One moment she raved, another 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." It may here be added, that Mrs. Arnold had been only the last ten days at West Point, during her husband's command at the post, and that nothing was afterwards brought to light, from which it could be inferred that she had any knowledge of his traitorous designs.
Colonel Hamilton's mission to Verplanck's Point proved much too late. It could hardly have been otherwise, for Arnold had got the start by six hours. He left his house about ten o'clock in the morning, and his treachery was not known to Washington till nearly four o'clock in the afternoon. When Hamilton arrived at Verplanck's Point, a flag of truce was coming or had come from the Vulture to that post with a letter from Arnold to Washington. This was immediately forwarded, with a note from Hamilton, stating that his pursuit had not been successful, and that he should write to General Greene advising him to be in readiness to march, and make some other arrangements as precautionary measures, although he did not believe the project would go on. Nor in truth did it; for the capture of André had kept the enemy in ignorance and suspense, till Arnold himself carried the news on board the Vulture. Sir Henry Clinton probably knew nothing of the matter before the next morning, when the Vulture arrived in New York. Hence the plan of an attack was totally frustrated, although every thing was prepared for carrying it instantly into effect.
The principal object of Arnold's letter to Washington, written on board the Vulture, was to solicit protection for his wife, who he said was "as good and as innocent as an angel, and incapable of doing wrong." He desired that she might be permitted to go to her friends in Philadelphia, or to join him, as she should choose. For himself he asked no favor, having "too often experienced the ingratitude of his country to attempt it;" and moreover he averred, that "the heart conscious of its own rectitude" could not descend to palliate an act, which the world might think wrong. He talked of his love to his country, and of being actuated by that principle in his present conduct. In short, the malignant spirit, impudence, and blunted moral feeling, shown in this letter, were consistent with his character. Attachment to his wife was the only redeeming quality, which seemed not to be extinguished. *
* In a postscript to this letter, he said he "thought himself bound in honor to declare," that his two aids-de-camp, Major Varick and Major Franks, were ignorant of any transactions of his, which they had reason to believe were injurious to the public. He included Joshua H. Smith in the same exculpatory declaration. Varick and Franks requested a court of inquiry to sit for the investigation of their conduct. This was granted by the Commander-in-chief, and the result was in every respect most honorable to them both.
Enclosed in the same letter was one for Mrs. Arnold, who appeared relieved and more tranquil after knowing her husband was safe.
There came, also, a letter from Beverly Robinson to Washington, dated on board the Vulture. This related to André. It was, in fact, a sort of demand for his release. According to Colonel Robinson's conception of the affair, André went on shore with a flag of truce, at the request of General Arnold, on public business, and had his permit to return to New York. "Under these circumstances," said he, "Major André cannot be detained by you without the greatest violation of flags, and contrary to the custom and usages of all nations." Upon the strength of this argument he requested that André might be forthwith set at liberty, and allowed to return. He fortified his request by reminding Washington of their "former acquaintance"; and, he might have added, an early friendship, for in their younger days a close intimacy subsisted between them, which, indeed, was severed only by the harsh and uncompromising decrees of war. But however faithful in his friendships, Washington never suffered them for a moment to influence his stern sense of public duty, to stifle the voice of truth, or avert the awards of justice.
Being wholly ignorant of the extent of Arnold's plans, and not knowing the degree of maturity to which they had been brought, or what persons might be involved with him, Washington's first steps were to provide for the security of the garrison and its dependencies. He wrote immediately to the principal officer at West Point, and to others commanding detachments in the neighborhood, giving them explicit orders, and making the best arrangements for resistance in case of an attack. He sent an express to General Greene, who commanded the army near Tappan in the absence of the Commander-in-chief, and directed him to put the left wing in motion as soon as possible, and march towards King's Ferry, where, or on the way, he would be met with further orders. The express reached General Greene's quarters at midnight. The left division was instantly called to arms, and the march commenced.
It was necessary for Washington to exercise much delicacy on this occasion, as well as great decision and energy. He knew not who were friends or foes. Having no clew as yet, which could lead him to a discovery of the secret designs and acts of the traitor, prudence required him to be on his guard and sparing of his confidence to persons, whose situation and recent intimacy with Arnold would give countenance to the supposition, that they might be in this plot. But, on the contrary, to show distrust of those, who did not deserve it, would be cruel in itself, and might have injurious consequences. He pursued a course, which was the most agreeable to his own feelings, and fortunately it was the best that could have been adopted. Apparently he put an unreserved confidence in all the officers, and in no instance manifested the least symptom of doubt as to their fidelity or patriotism.
The case of Colonel Livingston is worthy of notice. He commanded at Verplanck's Point, and from the proximity of his post to the enemy, and several concurring circumstances, might be very fairly presumed to have been either directly or indirectly concerned in Arnold's manoeuvres. By a very laconic letter, Washington ordered that officer to come to him immediately. Livingston expected, at least, a severe scrutiny into his conduct, being fully aware, though conscious of his innocence, that circumstances were unfavorable. But Washington made no inquiries into the past, nor uttered a syllable that implied distrust. He told Colonel Livingston, that he had sent for him to give him very special orders, to impress upon him the danger of his post and the necessity of vigilance, and to communicate other particulars, which could only be done in a personal interview. In conclusion he said it was a source of gratification to him, that the post was in the hands of an officer, whose courage and devotedness to the cause of his country afforded a pledge of a faithful and honorable discharge of duty. Let the reader imagine the grateful emotions of Colonel Livingston, his increased esteem for his commander, and the alacrity with which, under such an impulse, he went back to his station of high trust and danger.
At the same time that these preparations were making for the security of West Point, an order was despatched to Colonel Jameson, directing him to send André under a strong guard to Robinson's House. The express arrived about midnight at Lower Salem, and at that hour an officer came with the message to André. He started up quickly from his bed, and obeyed the summons. The rain fell in torrents, and the night was dark and dismal. Mr. Bronson says, that, on taking leave, he expressed a deep sense of the obligations he was under, for the delicate and courteous treatment he had received from the officers of the regiment with whom he had become acquainted, and declared that, whatever might be his future destiny, he could never meet them as enemies.
The guard marched all night, and in the morning of the next day, September 26th, André arrived at Robinson's House, in the custody of Major Tallmadge. Many inquiries were made by Washington; but he declined having the prisoner brought into his presence, and Major Tallmadge believes, that Washington never saw him while he was in the hands of the Americans. André was taken over to West Point the same evening, where he remained till the morning of the 28th, when he was removed down the river in a barge to Stony Point, and thence under an escort of cavalry to Tappan. *
* Joshua H. Smith was arrested at Fishkill, in the night of the 25th of September, by Colonel Gouvion, a French officer, whom Washington sent for that purpose. Smith was conducted under guard to West Point, and from that place to Tappan, where he was kept in confinement till he was tried by a court-martial.
The events of this day's march have been narrated in a manner so impressive and so interesting by Major Tallmadge, that they ought not to be presented in any other language than his own.
"From the moment," says Major Tallmadge, "that André made the disclosure of his name and true character, in his letter to the Commander-in-chief, which he handed to me as soon as he had written it, down to the moment of his execution, I was almost constantly with him. I walked with him to the place of execution, and parted with him under the gallows, overwhelmed with grief, that so gallant an officer and so accomplished a gentleman should come to such an ignominious end. The ease and affability of his manners, polished by the refinement of good society and a finished education, made him a most delightful companion. It often drew tears from my eyes to find him so agreeable in conversation on different subjects, when I reflected on his future fate, and that too, as I believed, so near at hand.
"Since you ask for private anecdotes, I would remark, that, soon after our first acquaintance, being mutually disposed to indulge in the most unreserved and free conversation, and both being soldiers of equal rank in the two armies, we agreed on a cartel, by the terms of which each one was permitted to put any question to the other, not involving a third person. This opened a wide field for two inquisitive young officers, and we amused ourselves not a little on the march to head-quarters. Many anecdotes doubtless were related, which the lapse of more than fifty-three years has consigned to oblivion, and which I have no desire again to recollect. My principal object was to learn the course of the late plot. On every point that I inquired about, where any other person was concerned, he maintained most rigidly the rule; so that when that most infamous traitor, Arnold, was concerned and he out of our control, so nice was Andre's sense of honor, that he would disclose nothing.
"When we left West Point for Tappan, early in the morning, as we passed down the Hudson River to King's Ferry, I placed André by my side, on the after seat of the barge. I soon began to make inquiries about the expected capture of our fortress then in full view, and begged him to inform me whether he was to have taken a part in the military attack, if Arnold's plan had succeeded. He instantly replied in the affirmative, and pointed me to a table of land on the west shore, which he said was the spot where he should have landed, at the head of a select corps. He then traversed in idea the course up the mountain into the rear of Fort Putnam, which overlooks the whole parade of West Point. And this he did with much greater exactness, than I could have done; and, as Arnold had so disposed of the garrison, that little or no opposition could be made by our troops, Major André supposed he should have reached that commanding eminence without difficulty. In such case that important key of our country would have been theirs (the enemy's), and the glory of so splendid an achievement would have been his. The animation with which he gave the account, I recollect, perfectly delighted me, for he seemed as if he was entering the fort sword in hand. To complete the climax, I next inquired what was to have been his reward, if he had succeeded. He replied that military glory was all he sought; and that the thanks of his general, and the approbation of his King, were a rich reward for such an undertaking. I think he further remarked, that, if he had succeeded, (and, with the aid of the opposing general, who could doubt of success?) he was to have been promoted to the rank of a brigadier-general.
"After we disembarked at King's Ferry, near Haverstraw, we took up our line of march, with a fine body of horse for Tappan. Before we reached the Clove, Major André became very inquisitive to know my opinion as to the result of his capture. In other words, he wished me to give him candidly my opinion, as to the light in which he would be viewed by General Washington, and a military tribunal, if one should be ordered. This was the most unpleasant question that had been propounded to me, and I endeavored to evade it, unwilling to give him a true answer. When I could no longer evade his importunity, or put off a full reply, I remarked to him as follows. 'I had a much loved class-mate in Yale College, by the name of Nathan Hale, who entered the army in the year 1775. Immediately after the battle of Long Island, General Washington wanted information respecting the strength, position, and probable movements of the enemy. Captain Hale tendered his services, went over to Brooklyn, and was taken just as he was passing the outposts of the enemy on his return.' Said I with emphasis, 'Do you remember the sequel of this story?' 'Yes,' said André, 'he was hanged as a spy. But you surely do not consider his case and mine alike?' I replied, 'Yes, precisely similar, and similar will be your fate.' He endeavored to answer my remarks, but it was manifest he was more troubled in spirit than I had ever seen him before.
"We stopped at the Clove to dine, and to let the horse-guard refresh. While there, André kept reviewing his shabby dress, and finally remarked to me, that he was positively ashamed to go to the head-quarters of the American army in such a plight. I called my servant, and directed him to bring my dragoon cloak, which I presented to Major André. This he refused to take for some time; but I insisted on it, and he finally put it on, and rode in it to Tappan."
In Washington's letter to General Greene, informing him that the prisoners would be sent to camp, and giving instructions as to the manner in which they were to be guarded, he said, "I wish the room for Major André to be a decent one, and that he may be treated with civility." And even Smith, who writes with much asperity against Washington and nearly all the American officers, confesses, that "Major André was comfortably lodged, and every attention was paid to him suitable to his rank and character." Indeed, such was the sympathy already excited everywhere for this accomplished young man, heightened by a detestation of Arnold, that even his enemies, whom he had sought to ruin by leaguing with a traitor, regarded him rather in the light of a martyr, than as a victim of his own imprudence, ambition, and love of glory.
All necessary arrangements having been made for the security of West Point, Washington hastened to the army. The next day after his arrival, September 29th, he summoned a board of general officers, directing them to examine into the case of Major André, report a precise state of the same, and give their opinion, as to the light in which he ought to be regarded, and the punishment that should be inflicted. This board consisted of six major-generals, and eight brigadiers. General Greene was the President. Let it be observed, that the board was not a court-martial, but merely a court of inquiry, instructed to examine and report facts, and to express an opinion.
Sundry papers were laid before the board, particularly those already mentioned as relating to this subject. There were also two other letters. One was written to Washington by Sir Henry Clinton, as soon as he heard of André's capture, on the return of the Vulture to New York. It contained a brief request, that the King's adjutant-general might have permission to return immediately to his orders. This request was sustained by a letter from Arnold to him, a copy of which was forwarded, and in which Arnold said, that André had acted in all respects conformably to his directions, and was under his protection during the whole time he was within the American lines; that he had sent a flag of truce to bring him on shore, had given him papers in his own handwriting, directed him to assume a feigned name, and furnished him with passports to go by the way of White Plains to New York. As all these acts were done while he had command, Arnold inferred, that he had a right to do them, and that, if any thing was wrong, the responsibility rested with him, and not with Major André.
The board assembled, and the prisoner was brought before them. The names of the officers constituting the board were read to him. Before the examination commenced, General Greene told him that various questions would be asked, but the board desired him to feel at perfect liberty to answer them or not, as he might choose, and to take his own time for recollection and for weighing what he said. André then proceeded to give a brief narrative of what occurred between the time of his coming on shore and that of his capture, which agreed in every point with his letter to General Washington. He also confessed that certain papers, which were shown to him, were the same that had been concealed in his boots, and that a pass for John Anderson, in the handwriting of Arnold, was the one he had exhibited to his captors.
Being interrogated as to his conception of the manner in which he came on shore, and whether he considered himself under a flag, he answered, that "it was impossible for him to suppose he came on shore under the sanction of a flag, and added, that, if he came on shore under that sanction, he might certainly have returned under it." Throughout his examination Major André maintained a manly, dignified, and respectful deportment, replied to every question promptly, discovered no embarrassment, sought no disguise, stated with frankness and truth every thing that related to himself, and used no words to explain, palliate, or defend any part of his conduct. So delicate was he in regard to other persons, that he scrupulously avoided mentioning names, or alluding to any particulars except such as concerned himself. General Greene spoke of Smith's House, in reference to the place of meeting between André and Arnold. "I said a house, Sir," replied André, "but I did not say whose house."
"True," answered Greene, "nor have we any right to demand this of you, after the conditions we have allowed."
The examination being closed, Major André was asked whether he had any remarks to make on the statements that had been presented. He replied in the negative, and said he should leave them to operate with the board. He was then remanded to the place of his confinement.
After a full consideration of the subject, taking into view the papers that had been laid before them, and the voluntary confessions of Major André, the board reported the following facts;
"First, that he came on shore from the Vulture sloop-of-war, in the night, on an interview with General Arnold, in a private and secret manner.
"Secondly, that he changed his dress within our lines, and, under a feigned name and in a disguised habit, passed our works at Stony and Verplanck's Points; was taken at Tarrytown in a disguised habit, being then on his way to New York; and, when taken, he had in his possession several papers, which contained intelligence for the enemy."
Believing these facts to be established, the board further reported it as their opinion, that Major André ought to be considered as a spy, and, according to the law and usage of nations, to suffer death.
This decision was communicated to the prisoner, who, at his request, was permitted to write a letter to Sir Henry Clinton, which follows.
"Tappan, 29 September, 1780.
"Your Excellency is doubtless already apprized of the manner in which I was taken, and possibly of the serious light in which my conduct is considered, and the rigorous determination that is impending.
"Under these circumstances, I have obtained General Washington's permission to send you this letter; the object of which is, to remove from your breast any suspicion, that I could imagine I was bound by your Excellency's orders to expose myself to what has happened. The events of coming within an enemy's posts, and of changing my dress, which led me to my present situation, were contrary to my own intentions, as they were to your orders; and the circuitous route, which I took to return, was imposed (perhaps unavoidably) without alternative upon me.
"I am perfectly tranquil in mind, and prepared for any fate, to which an honest zeal for my King's service may have devoted me.
"In addressing myself to your Excellency on this occasion, the force of all my obligations to you, and of the attachment and gratitude I bear you, recurs to me. With all the warmth of my heart, I give you thanks for your Excellency's profuse kindness to me; and I send you the most earnest wishes for your welfare, which a faithful, affectionate, and respectful attendant can frame.
"I have a mother and two sisters, to whom the value of my commission would be an object, as the loss of Grenada has much affected their income. It is needless to be more explicit on this subject; I am persuaded of your Excellency's goodness.
"I receive the greatest attention from his Excellency General Washington, and from every person under whose charge I happen to be placed. I have the honor to be, with the most respectful attachment, your Excellency's most obedient and most humble servant,
"JOHN ANDRÉ, Adjutant-General."
This letter was accompanied by one from General Washington to Sir Henry Clinton, and by a copy of the proceedings of the board of officers. Washington's letter was short, stating, in reply to the British commander's request respecting his adjutant-general, that, although he was taken under circumstances, which warranted the most summary mode of treatment, yet great moderation had been exercised towards him, and his case had been referred to a board of general officers, whose report was then transmitted for Sir Henry's inspection; from which it would be seen, that Major André was engaged in executing measures very different from the objects of a flag of truce, and such as a flag could not by any possible construction ever have been intended to authorize or countenance.
Ineffectual Attempts to procure the Release of Major André.—His Execution.—The Captors of André.—Joshua H. Smith.—Captain Nathan Hale.
Notwithstanding the equity of the sentence against André, and the irresistible testimony upon which it was founded, his rank and character excited so lively an interest in every breast, and there were so many extenuating circumstances connected with the manner in which he had been seduced into the snare, that the voice of humanity pleaded loudly in his behalf, and the sternest advocate for justice could not regard his impending fate without regret, or a wish that it might be averted. No one was more deeply impressed with these feelings than Washington; and his anxiety was the greater, as the final determination of punishment or acquittal must rest with him. Washington never shrunk from a public duty, yet his heart was humane, and his mind revolted at the thought of being the agent in an act, which wounded his sensibility, although impelled by the laws of war, a sense of right, and an approving conscience. The treachery of Arnold had been so atrocious, so unexpected and artfully contrived, and the example was so dangerous, that the most signal punishment was necessary, not more as a retribution due to the crime, and a terror to others, who might harbor similar designs, than as a proof to the people, that their cause was not to be left to the mercy of traitors, nor sacrificed with impunity.
In this view of the subject, the only one in which it could be regarded by wisdom, prudence, or patriotism, there was but one possible mode of saving André; and that was to exchange him for Arnold, who should himself be held responsible for the criminal transactions, which had originated with him, and in which he had been the chief actor. That the enemy would give him up was hardly to be expected, nor could a formal proposition of that kind be advanced; yet there was no reason why the opportunity should not be offered, or at least why it should not be intimated to them, that in such an event André would be released. To effect this object the following plan was adopted.
Washington sent for Captain Aaron Ogden, whom he informed that he had selected him to carry despatches to the British post at Paulus Hook, which were to be conveyed thence across the river to New York. After putting the packet of papers into his hands, and giving him some general directions as to the mode of arranging the escort, so that it should consist of men whose fidelity could be relied upon, and who should make a good appearance, he told Ogden to call on the Marquis de Lafayette for additional instructions.
This was on the 30th of September, the day after the examination of André, and the packet intrusted to Ogden contained his letter to Sir Henry Clinton, and that mentioned above from Washington to the same commander. Lafayette was at the head of the Light Infantry, who were stationed in advance of the army towards the enemy's lines. He instructed Ogden so to contrive his march, that he should arrive at Paulus Hook so late in the day, that he would be asked to stay all night. He was then to seek a favorable moment to communicate to the commandant of the post, or some of the principal officers, as if incidentally, the idea about exchanging André for Arnold.
Thus prepared, Ogden set off with a suitable escort, and at a convenient hour arrived at the outposts near Paulus Hook. He was there stopped, and the officer proposed to detain him, till the despatches were sent in and an answer returned. Captain Ogden assured him, that he had express orders to deliver the packet into the hands of the principal officer of the post, and upon this representation he was allowed to pass. The commandant was courteous, received the packet, and immediately sent it by an express across the river to New York.
Captain Ogden was politely asked to take supper with the officers; and when the evening was far advanced and the boat did not come back, he was invited to remain through the night. The conversation turned upon André, and the commandant inquired whether he thought Washington would consent to his execution. Ogden replied, that he undoubtedly would, that the army expected it, and the nature of the offence rendered it necessary; and, whatever might be his private feelings, and however painful the task, he would not hesitate to do his duty promptly, when required by justice and the laws of war, and when the vital interests of his country were at stake. The commandant asked, if there was no way of preventing such a catastrophe. "Yes," replied Ogden, "it is in the power of Sir Henry Clinton to do it. If he will deliver up Arnold into the hands of the Americans, and take André in exchange, the prisoner may have a speedy rescue." Ogden was then asked whether he had authority for such a declaration. "I have no such assurance from General Washington," said he, "but I am prepared to say, that if such a proposal were to be made, I believe it would be accepted, and Major André set at liberty." Upon this hint the officer left the company, crossed the river, had an interview with Sir Henry Clinton, and returned before morning. He told Captain Ogden, that such a thing could not be done; that to give up a man, who had deserted from the enemy, and openly espoused the King's cause, was such a violation of honor and every military principle, that Sir Henry Clinton would not listen to the idea for a moment.
The despatch-boat came back, and Ogden prepared at the dawn of day for his departure. On mustering his men, it was discovered, that the sergeant of the escort was missing, and it was supposed he had deserted to the enemy during the night. Having no time for search, Ogden hastened to General Washington's camp, and delivered the packet he had brought. *
* This desertion of the sergeant was a stratagem of Washington unknown to Captain Ogden at the time. A paper had been intercepted, in which was found the name of one of the American major-generals, connected in such a manner with other particulars, as to excite a suspicion, that he was concerned in Arnold's treason. It was extremely important, that this point should be ascertained; and the sergeant was prevailed upon to desert, and act as a spy in New York to gain intelligence of a certain kind, and from certain sources. The stratagem was successful, and the intelligence sent out by the sergeant, in a very short time, proved incontestably that the suspicion was entirely groundless. The intercepted paper was probably designed by the enemy to fall into General Washington's hands, and to create jealousy and discord among the American officers.
The letters from André and General Washington, and the proceedings of the board of examination, were perused with much concern by Sir Henry Clinton. He immediately assembled a council of general officers, and laid these papers before them. After maturely considering their contents, it was resolved that a deputation of three persons should proceed to the nearest American outpost, furnished with evidence to prove Major André's innocence, and to impart information, which Sir Henry Clinton thought would place the question in a different light from that in which it had been viewed by the American board.
The persons delegated on this mission were General Robertson, Andrew Elliot, and William Smith. They were accompanied by Beverly Robinson as a witness in the case, and were fortified in their estimation, but weakened in reality, by a long explanatory and threatening letter from Arnold to General Washington. The commissioners went up the river in the Greyhound Schooner, with a flag of truce, on the 1st of October. Notice of the intended visit and its objects had been already communicated by Sir Henry Clinton to Washington; and when the vessel anchored at Dobbs's Ferry, General Greene was there, having been deputed by Washington to hold the interview in his behalf. The person sent on shore by the British commissioners brought word back, that General Robertson only would be permitted to land, and that General Greene was then in readiness to receive him.
The conference was opened by Robertson, who paid some compliments to the American general, and expressed the satisfaction he had in treating with him on an occasion so interesting to the two armies and to humanity. Greene replied, that it was necessary for them to know at the outset on what ground they stood; that he was not there in the character of an officer; that he was allowed by General Washington to meet him as a private gentleman, but that the case of an acknowledged spy admitted of no discussion. Robertson said his design was to state facts, which he hoped would have their due weight, in whatever character he might be supposed to speak.
He then entered largely into the subject, endeavoring to show, first, that André landed under the sanction of a flag; secondly, that he acted wholly by the directions of Arnold; from both of which positions it was inferred, that he could not in any just sense of the word be regarded as a spy. The facts having all been examined by the board of officers, and been well understood, this new statement of them made no change in Greene's opinion or impressions; and when Arnold's testimony was introduced, he said the Americans would believe André in preference to Arnold. General Robertson said, that no military tribunal in Europe would decide the case of André to be that of a spy, and he proposed to refer the question to Count de Rochambeau and General Knyphausen. Other considerations were urged by him, not so much in the way of argument, as on the score of reciprocal benefits and humanity. He added, that he should confide in General Greene's candor to represent in the fairest light to General Washington the arguments he had used; that he should stay on board all night, and hoped in the morning to take back with him Major André, or an assurance of his safety.
In Robertson's despatch to Sir Henry Clinton, containing the particulars of the conference, he said it was intimated to him by Greene, that, if André were set free, it would be expected that Arnold should be given up. Robertson professed to have replied to this intimation only by a look of indignant rebuke.
The letter from Arnold to General Washington, written to aid the negotiation of the commissioners, was extraordinary, considering the purpose it was intended to answer. After expressing his "grateful acknowledgments and thanks" for the kindness shown to Mrs. Arnold, and attempting to screen André from blame by taking the responsibility of his deeds upon himself, and declaring that he "had an undoubted right to transact all those matters," he concludes in a style of hardened impudence and malignity, that, even when coming from such a source, must be regarded with astonishment.
"If, after this just and candid representation of Major Andre's case," said he, "the board of general officers adhere to their former opinion, I shall suppose it dictated by passion and resentment; and if that gentleman should suffer the severity of their sentence, I shall think myself bound by every tie of duty and honor to retaliate on such unhappy persons of your army as may fall within my power, that the respect due to flags, and to the law of nations, may be better understood and observed.
"If this warning should be disregarded, and he suffer, I call Heaven and earth to witness, that your Excellency will be justly answerable for the torrent of blood, that may be spilt in consequence."
It is hardly possible that this letter could have been seen by Sir Henry Clinton, although written at his request, with the view of operating on the judgment and clemency of Washington. Could any language, uttered by any individual, have a more opposite tendency? Disgust and contempt were the only emotions it could excite; and it was at least an evidence, that neither the understanding nor the heart of the writer had been improved by his political change. Hitherto he had discovered acuteness and mental resource, but in this act his folly was commensurate with his wickedness. At the same time he performed the farce of resigning his commission, as an officer in the American service, and wrote to General Washington, "I beg leave to assure your Excellency, that my attachment to the true interests of my country is invariable, and that I am actuated by the same principle, which has ever been the governing rule of my conduct in this unhappy contest." Setting aside the hypocrisy of this declaration, it is perhaps fair to interpret it in its literal sense, and to believe, that he had always confounded patriotism with selfishness, and the interests of his country with the aims of a mercenary ambition.
The British commissioners waited till morning, as General Robertson had proposed, and at an early hour they received a note from General Greene, stating that he had communicated to Washington the substance of the conference, but that it had produced no change in his opinion and determination. This intelligence was astounding to Robertson; for he had written to Sir Henry Clinton the evening before, that he was persuaded André would not be harmed. How he got this impression is not easily discovered, since he represented General Greene as obstinately bent on considering André as a spy, and resisting all his arguments to the contrary.
Nothing more could be done by the commissioners. That no measure might be left untried, however, General Robertson wrote a letter to Washington, containing a summary of the topics he had discussed at the conference, and assigned as a reason for sending it, that he feared General Greene's memory might have failed him in some particulars, and he wished the merits of so important a case to be presented with all the clearness and force it deserved. This letter could have produced no effect, even if it had not arrived too late; for it touched upon no points, which had not already been examined and decided. The commissioners returned to New York.
While in confinement at Tappan, both before and after his sentence, André had shown the greatest composure, and the same serenity of temper and winning gentleness of manners, that had been conspicuous in his conversation and deportment from the time he was taken. His regimentals had been brought from New York by his servant, after his arrival at Tappan, and he appeared in the full dress of a British officer. Colonel Hamilton, in his beautiful and pathetic letter to Colonel Laurens, respecting the capture and death of André, has described an incident in his conduct on this occasion, which would add lustre to his name, even if it were not adorned by genius, magnanimity, and honor.
"In one of the visits I made to him," said Hamilton, "(and I saw him several times during his confinement,) he begged me to be the bearer of a request to the General, for permission to send an open letter to Sir Henry Clinton. 'I foresee my fate,' said he, 'and though I pretend not to play the hero, or to be indifferent about life, yet I am reconciled to whatever may happen, conscious that misfortune, not guilt, has brought it upon me. There is only one thing that disturbs my tranquillity. Sir Henry Clinton has been too good to me; he has been lavish of his kindness; I am bound to him by too many obligations, and love him too well, to bear the thought that he should reproach himself, or others should reproach him, on the supposition of my having conceived myself obliged, by his instructions, to run the risk I did. I would not, for the world, leave a sting in his mind that should embitter his future days.' He could scarce finish the sentence, bursting into tears, in spite of his efforts to suppress them, and with difficulty collected himself enough afterwards to add, 'I wish to be permitted to assure him, I did not act under this impression, but submitted to a necessity imposed upon me, as contrary to my own inclination, as to his orders.' His request was readily complied with, and he wrote the letter annexed, with which I dare say you will be as much pleased as I am, both for the sentiment and diction."
This letter was the same that has been inserted above, and its contents accord in every respect with the delicacy of feeling and warmth of gratitude here expressed towards his benefactor.
When the sentence of the board was announced to André, he manifested no surprise or concern, having evidently been prepared by his own reflections for this result. He remarked only, that, since he was to die, "there was still a choice in the mode, which would make a material difference in his feelings." It was his wish to die the death of a soldier, and he requested that he might be shot. The application was renewed in a letter addressed to General Washington.
"Tappan, 1 October, 1780.
"Buoyed above the terror of death, by the consciousness of a life devoted to honorable pursuits, and stained with no action that can give me remorse, I trust that the request I make to your Excellency at this serious period, and which is to soften my last moments, will not be rejected.
"Sympathy towards a soldier will surely induce your Excellency, and a military tribunal, to adapt the mode of my death to the feelings of a man of honor.
"Let me hope, Sir, that if aught in my character impresses you with esteem towards me, if aught in my misfortunes marks me as the victim of policy and not of resentment, I shall experience the operation of these feelings in your breast, by being informed that I am not to die on a gibbet.
"I have the honor to be your Excellency's most obedient and most humble servant,
The indulgence here solicited, in terms as manly as they are persuasive and touching, could not be granted consistently with the customs of war. Such, at least, was the opinion of Washington and of the officers he consulted. No answer was returned either to the first application or to the letter, it being deemed more humane to evade a reply, than to cause the painful sensations, which a positive refusal would inflict. *
* There is still in existence a curious memorial both of the person of Major André, and of his tranquillity and self-possession, during this period of trial and solemn anticipation. In the midst of the sombre thoughts, which must have thronged upon his mind, he resorted to the art, which had given him so much delight, when all the opening prospects of life were gilded with hope and gladness. The following is an extract from a letter, written by Mr. Ebenezer Baldwin to the President of Yale College, and dated at New Haven, August 8th, 1832.
"It affords me pleasure, as the agent of Mr. Jabez L. Tomlinson of Stratford, and of Mr. Nathan Beers of this city, to request your acceptance of the accompanying miniature of Major John André. It is his likeness seated at a table in his guard-room, and drawn by himself with a pen, on the morning of the day fixed for his execution. Mr. Tomlinson informs me, that a respite was granted until the next day, and that this miniature was in the mean time presented to him (then acting as officer of the guard) by Major André himself Mr. Tomlinson was present when the sketch was made, and says it was drawn without the aid of a glass. The sketch subsequently passed into the hands of Mr. Beers, a fellow-officer of Mr. Tomlinson on the station, and from thence was transferred to me. It has been in my possession several years."
The original drawing is now in the Trumbull Gallery at Yale College. It bears a strong resemblance to an engraved head of André printed in England, and the likeness may be presumed to approach as near to accuracy, as is usual in miniatures of the same size; more especially as André was accustomed to draw similar sketches of himself for his friends.
The time for the execution was at first fixed at five o'clock in the afternoon of the day, on which Greene had the interview with Robertson, and it was thus published in the general orders.
But the length of that negotiation caused the execution to be deferred till the next day, October 2d, at twelve o'clock.
The particulars of this event will be here related in the language of Dr. Thacher, who was an eye-witness and evidently a close observer, and who has described what he saw with a precision and force, which bear the stamp of accuracy and present a vivid picture of the scene.
"The principal guard-officer, who was constantly in the room with the prisoner, relates, that when the hour of his execution was announced to him in the morning, he received it without emotion, and, while all present were affected with silent gloom, he retained a firm countenance, with calmness and composure of mind. Observing his servant enter the room in tears, he exclaimed, 'Leave me till you can show yourself more manly.' His breakfast being sent to him from the table of General Washington, which had been done every day of his confinement, he partook of it as usual, and having shaved and dressed himself, he placed his hat on the table, and cheerfully said to the guard-officers, 'I am ready at any moment, Gentlemen, to wait on you.' The fatal hour having arrived, a large detachment of troops was paraded, and an immense concourse of people assembled; almost all our general and field officers, excepting his Excellency and his staff, were present on horseback; melancholy and gloom pervaded all ranks; the scene was affecting and awful.
"I was so near during the solemn march to the fatal spot, as to observe every movement and participate in every emotion, which the melancholy scene was calculated to produce. Major André walked from the stone house, in which he had been confined, between two of our subaltern officers, arm in arm; the eyes of the immense multitude were fixed on him, who, rising superior to the fear of death, appeared as if conscious of the dignified deportment which he displayed. He betrayed no want of fortitude, but retained a complacent smile on his countenance, and politely bowed to several gentlemen whom he knew, which was respectfully returned. It was his earnest desire to be shot, as being the mode of death most conformable to the feelings of a military man, and he had indulged the hope that his request would be granted. At the moment, therefore, when suddenly he came in view of the gallows, he involuntarily started backward, and made a pause. 'Why this emotion, Sir?' said an officer by his side. Instantly recovering his composure, he said, 'I am reconciled to my death, but I detest the mode.'
"While waiting and standing near the gallows, I observed some degree of trepidation; placing his foot on a stone, and rolling it over, and choking in his throat, as if attempting to swallow. So soon, however, as he perceived that things were in readiness, he stepped quickly into the wagon, and at this moment he appeared to shrink, but instantly elevating his head with firmness, he said, 'It will be but a momentary pang;' and taking from his pocket two white handkerchiefs, the provost marshal with one loosely pinioned his arms, and with the other, the victim, after taking off his hat and stock, bandaged his own eyes with perfect firmness, which melted the hearts, and moistened the cheeks, not only of his servant, but of the throng of spectators. The rope being appended to the gallows, he slipped the noose over his head, and adjusted it to his neck, without the assistance of the executioner. Colonel Scammell now informed him, that he had an opportunity to speak, if he desired it. He raised the handkerchief from his eyes, and said, 'I pray you to bear me witness, that I meet my fate like a brave man.' The wagon being now removed from under him, he was suspended and instantly expired." *
* Thacher's Military Journal, p. 222.—In a more recent publication, entitled Observations relating to the Execution of Major André, first printed in the New England Magazine, Dr. Thacher has added several facts illustrative of that event. Appended to the same is an interesting letter by Major Benjamin Russell, who was one of the inner guard, that attended André to the place of execution, and walked so near him as to hear distinctly what he said. The outer guard consisted of about five hundred men; the inner guard was only a captain's command.
Throughout the whole of this scene, from the time he left the house in which he was guarded, till the last fatal moment, his demeanor was such as to excite the respect, sympathy, and sorrow of every beholder. His step was steady, his carriage easy and graceful, his countenance placid, but thoughtful and firm, indicating a solemn sense of his impending fate, and a resolution to meet it in a manner consistent with his character and the previous tenor of his conduct. He was dressed in the uniform of a British officer. When life had departed, the body was taken down and interred within a few yards of the place of execution. The coat and other regimentals were given to his servant, who faithfully attended him to the last, and saw the grave close over his mortal remains.
Such was the death of a man, whose rare accomplishments had procured for him the friendship and confidence of all to whom he was known, and opened the happiest presages of a future career of renown and glory. In ten short days his blooming hopes had been blighted, and his glowing visions dispersed. But it was his singular fortune to die, not more beloved by his friends, than lamented by his enemies, whose cause he had sought to ruin, and by whose hands his life was justly taken. Time has consecrated the feeling. There are few Americans, and few will there ever be, who can look back upon the fate of André without deep regret. His name is embalmed in every generous heart; and they, who shall condemn his great error and applaud the sentence of his judges, will cherish a melancholy remembrance of the unfortunate victim, and grieve that a life of so much promise, adorned with so many elevated and estimable qualities, was destined to an untimely and ignominious end.
Soon after this event, when the facts had not yet become fully known or duly weighed, a few British writers allowed themselves to remark with much freedom and asperity respecting the part taken by Washington. They said the sentence was harsh, if not unjustifiable; and that, admitting it was right, humanity ought to have interposed and saved André.
The foregoing details render it unnecessary to discuss these points, either for the purpose of establishing truths, or of vindicating the character of Washington. Let every reader reflect upon the prominent transactions, and judge for himself. Nothing more is requisite. Was André a spy? This character he voluntarily acknowledged, both in his first letter to General Washington, and in his examination before the board of officers; that is, he confessed himself to have acted a part, which no one could possibly act, who was not a spy. He landed secretly in the night, he was concealed within the American lines, he changed his dress and appeared in disguise, he assumed a false name, he was taken while going to the enemy with papers containing intelligence.
These facts were so well attested, that the British general, in his extreme solicitude to rescue André, did not attempt to evade or disprove them. It was the drift of his argument to show, that, notwithstanding their existence, André could not properly be considered a spy, first, because he went ashore under a flag of truce, and secondly, because while on shore he was subject to the directions of an American general.
The first point was not accurate in any sense, either literally or theoretically. It is true, Arnold had written a paper as a passport for Smith, in which he mentioned a flag; but there was no flag, and it was in the night, when flags are not sent except on extraordinary occasions. Moreover the business was not such as could ever be sanctioned by a flag, the whole design of which is to soften the rigors of war by creating a mutual confidence between hostile armies, and thereby opening a channel for reciprocal acts of humanity. The moment this signal of peace is employed to abuse the confidence of an opposing party, by seeking to inflict an injury under the mask of friendship, the act becomes infamous. Hence the prostitution of a flag is regarded by all civilized people as one of the basest crimes. It is surprising, therefore, that the idea of a flag should have been put forward in any shape as a favorable circumstance. No such hint came from André. On the contrary, when questioned upon the subject, he declared, in very positive terms, that he was not under the sanction of a flag.
As to the second branch of the argument, there can be no doubt, that after André landed he was within the sphere of Arnold's command, and acted in all respects either with his knowledge or by his direction. But this did not alter the nature of his conduct. He was still in disguise, with a false name, and carrying papers of a dangerous import to the enemy. To say that he was an agent in maturing treason is not certainly to make him the less a spy. So far from it, that, if possible, the offence is aggravated by this coincidence of character and objects. It was argued, that Arnold had a right, while in command, to give such directions as he did to André, and consequently that no law was violated in obeying them. Upon the same principle it may be said, that Arnold had a right to be a traitor, if he could bring his ends to pass by secret means and without detection. The sophistry is too shallow to need a refutation.
Although Sir Henry Clinton used these arguments in his endeavors to procure a release of André, yet he did not recur to them in the narrative which he sent to the British government, nor complain that they had been disregarded. He stated all the facts minutely, in connexion with a copy of the correspondence, but without uttering any censure against Washington or the board of officers, and without intimating an opinion, that the sentence was unjust, or that André could be regarded in any other light than as a spy. Had his sentiments been different, he would unquestionably have expressed them strongly on this occasion, and thrown upon his enemies the full measure of blame, which he conceived them to deserve.
In publishing this event likewise to the army in general orders, Sir Henry Clinton maintained the same reserve, concerning the mode of Andréas death. "The unfortunate fate of this officer," said he, "calls upon the Commander-in-chief to declare, that he ever considered Major André a gentleman of the highest integrity and honor, and incapable of any base action or unworthy conduct." Nothing was added as to the manner of his death, nor was it even insinuated, that it had been caused by the vengeance, injustice, or any improper act of the enemy, in whose hands he suffered.
These are proofs, and more might be adduced, that the opinions of Sir Henry Clinton on this subject, namely, the light in which André was to be held, according to the invariable laws of war and of nations, were essentially the same as those of General Washington. It is said by M. de Marbois, that Washington secretly consulted Congress respecting André before he was examined. No formal deliberation was held upon the subject, but Congress returned as an answer, that they perceived no reason for arresting the course of justice.
The question, which is merely one of feeling and not of principle, whether André might not have been indulged in his last request to die a military death, should be answered in reference to the state of things at that crisis, and to the motives operating on Washington's mind. Regarding the matter only in the abstract, there seems no very obvious reason why such an indulgence should have been refused. Yet, as no trait in Washington's character was more remarkable through life than his humanity, this noble quality cannot be supposed to have forsaken him on an occasion, which most deeply interested his feelings, and enlisted his sympathies on the side of the sufferer. It must be recollected, that, when André was executed, Washington was entirely ignorant as to the extent of the conspiracy and the persons engaged in it. His fears and his suspicions were alive; and, both as an evidence that he deemed André's punishment just, and as a terror to others who might be concerned in the plot, he believed it a duty to his office and his country to let the law take its usual course. As the event turned out, no ill consequences could have resulted from a compliance with the request of André. Could this have been foreseen by Washington, the tenderness of his disposition, so often manifested, warrants us to believe, that no effort on his part would have been spared to soothe the dying moments of a brave and unfortunate man. *
* A monument was erected by order of the King, in Westminster Abbey, to the memory of Major André. His remains were taken up, in the year 1821, by Mr. Buchanan, British Consul in New York, and removed to England. They were deposited in Westminster Abbey near the monument. André died at the age of twenty-nine. As no metallic buttons were found in the grave, when the disinterment took place, it was considered a proof, that he was not buried in his regimentals. It was inferred, that he had been stripped before burial; in what manner was uncertain. Dr. Thacher has shown, in his Observations, that André's regimentals were given to his servant.
The captors of André were recommended by Washington to Congress, as worthy not only of thanks but of a more substantial recompense from the public. After expressing by a formal vote "a high sense of their virtuous and patriotic conduct," Congress granted to each of them an annual pension of two hundred dollars for life, and ordered a silver medal to be struck and presented to each, bearing on one side the inscription Fidelity, and on the other, Vincit Amor Patrice. These medals were given to the individuals by General Washington, at head-quarters, with some ceremony, and they were invited to dine with him on that occasion. In writing to the President of Congress, he said, "The recompense is ample; it is an evidence of the generosity of Congress, a flattering tribute to the virtue of those citizens, and must prove a powerful incitement to others to imitate their example." The country participated in this opinion, and the conduct of the captors was universally applauded.
In connexion with this statement, however, it is proper to add, that doubts have been entertained as to the original motives and designs of Paulding, Van Wart, and Williams. The representation made by André to Major Tallmadge and Mr. Bronson was, that he first discovered these men playing at cards in the bushes near the road; that, after they had stopped him, they ripped up the housings of his saddle and the cape of his coat in search of money; but, finding none, one of the party said, "He may have it in his boots;" then they then pulled off his boots, and found the papers, which induced them to think he was a spy. Major André was of the opinion, that, if he could have given them a small sum of money at first, they would have allowed him to pass without further molestation; but he had no other money about his person, than the paper bills given to him by Smith, and merely sufficient to pay his expenses to the city.
So strong an impression did this account make upon the mind of Major Tallmadge, and so fully was he convinced of its accuracy, and of the dubious virtue of the captors, that, thirty-seven years afterwards, when Paulding petitioned Congress for an increase of pension, he resisted the petition, (being then a member of Congress,) on the ground that the conduct of the petitioner did not deserve such a testimony of public approbation and gratitude. *
* The subject was drawn into a discussion, and several replies were made to Major Tallmadge. See a small volume entitled Vindication of the Captors of Major André, published in New York, 1817.
May there not be a middle line between these two extremes? Was it not possible for the men to search for money, and still be true to their country, which is the only point at issue? When they stopped the traveller, the idea of a spy seems not to have occurred to them. They took him for a merchant, or a person engaged in mercantile business, not legally and openly, but in the manner practised by too many of the borderers of the neutral ground. They would naturally expect him to have money, and would search for it, especially after the confused manner in which he had spoken of himself, and since, if he was an enemy and had money, it would be theirs by the same prize-law, that afterwards assigned to them the horse, saddle, bridle, and watch. Their virtue cannot be impeached, therefore, merely on the score of their searching for money, although this incident, it must be confessed, contributes no special lustre to their motives or acts.
According to their testimony before the court at Smith's trial, they did not suspect André of being a spy, till his boots had been pulled off and the papers discovered; nor is there any direct proof, that he offered them money to release him till after that discovery. Williams then asked him what he would give them to let him go, evidently having no other aim, than to obtain further knowledge of his character. André offered to give any sum of money, or quantity of dry goods, that they would name. Here was the trial of their virtue. Ten thousand guineas, they said, should not tempt them to let him escape.
Major André believed, that, when he made the offer, they would have accepted it, if he could have given any security for the fulfilment of his promise. As he could only pledge his word, and as either he or some other person in his name must go into the city and bring out the money and goods, they distrusted his ability to execute his engagement, and feared that some cross accident would in the mean time lead them into difficulty, and prevent their getting any thing. As the surest course, or the one from which they were the most likely to obtain a reward, they resolved to take him within the American lines, and deliver him up to an officer.
Such was Andre's belief, and it was perhaps favored by appearances. But all the prominent circumstances of the case are decidedly against it. Whatever the captors thought of their prisoner, they could not have imagined his real importance, nor foreseen the consequences that followed. They looked upon him as a common spy, and supposed that they would be suitably but not extravagantly rewarded for giving him up. If they were influenced only by motives of gain, it is hardly possible that they should not have been tempted by the golden offers of André, notwithstanding the uncertainty attending them, which could not be very great, since he proposed to stay where he was, till one of them should go into the city and bring out the money and other articles. Had they known Andre's character, the affair would assume a different aspect; but, as they did not, we must look for a higher determining principle, than a mere pecuniary calculation.
The exact degree in which we are to expect patriotism and genuine public virtue in men, who stand in the same class of society and follow the same pursuits as the captors of André, may be a question for casuistry to settle. But it will require more than the casuist's art to prove, that these men did not believe they were doing a valuable service to their country, distinct from any ulterior consideration, in committing to custody a person, whom they knew to be a spy, and who had offered them a large bribe for his release. We need not scrutinize motives too closely. The act was noble in itself, immensely important to the nation in its effects, and worthy of all praise as an example. This meed of justice let it receive from history, and from every citizen, who would by his approbation encourage instances of generous self-sacrifice for the public good.
The reader may be curious to know what became of Joshua H. Smith. We left him at Tap-pan under guard. He was tried by a court-martial, which was assembled the day after the examination of André, and continued by adjournments for about four weeks. Many witnesses were brought before the court, among whom were Lafayette, Knox, Hamilton, Harrison, Colonel Livingston, Colonel Hay, Captain Boyd, Paulding and Williams, and the two boatmen, who went on board the Vulture. The testimony was voluminous, as written out by the judge-advocate, and formed a mass of facts developing many of the secret incidents of the conspiracy.
The charge presented against Smith ran in these words; "For aiding and assisting Benedict Arnold, late major-general in our service, in a combination with the enemy to take, kill, and seize such of the loyal citizens or soldiers of these United States, as were in garrison at West Point and its dependencies." Smith drew up in writing a long defence, which he read to the court, and in which he first objected to its jurisdiction, saying that, being a citizen and not a soldier, he could not properly be subject to a military tribunal; he then summed up the evidence with considerable ability, and argued his cause. He was acquitted by the court.
That he had aided and assisted Arnold there was no doubt; this he confessed before the trial; but it was not proved by the evidence, that he had any knowledge of Arnold's traitorous designs. Considering the part he performed, this was extraordinary; but the court were fully justified in their decision. Some points in Smith's conduct, however, were never cleared up, especially his refusing to go back with André to the Vulture. The reason he assigned was improbable, and his attempts at an explanation only threw a deeper shade over his candor. Although no one would be willing to condemn Smith, upon the testimony adduced to the court, yet whoever reads it will be satisfied, that he could not have fallen into such extreme stupidity, as not to suspect something wrong in the business he was engaged in carrying on. Nor is it easy to imagine how a man of his intelligence and character could have been made a passive tool, even in the hands of so artful a hyprocrite as Arnold, for effecting purposes obviously of great moment, concerning which he was not allowed to have any knowledge.
These impressions are strengthened by Smith's book, which he published many years afterwards in England, evidently with a copy before him of all the written testimony produced to the court at his trial; and in which he utters innumerable assertions widely different from the testimony itself and from his original defence, mingled with severe and bitter reflections upon several of the witnesses. *
* The book is entitled An Authentic Narrative of the Causes which led to the Death of Major André. London. 1808.—Whether from a defect of memory in the author, or from whatever reason, needs not be inquired; but as a work of history this volume is not worthy of the least credit, except where the statements are confirmed by other authority.
But, after all, it would be unjust to charge Smith with positive guilt without farther proof; as it is impossible to believe him entirely innocent, without a more satisfactory explanation of his conduct than has yet appeared.
The papers of the court-martial were read by Washington, and then transmitted to Governor Clinton, that Smith might be tried by a civil process under the laws of the State of New York, should such a course be deemed advisable. He was sent to West Point and released from military arrest, but he was immediately taken into custody by the civil authority of the state, and confined in the jail at Goshen. After remaining there several months without any trial, he found means to escape, and passed through the country, sometimes disguised in a woman's dress, to Paulus Hook and New York. At the close of the war he went to England.
Mrs. Arnold resolved to share the lot of her husband. She visited her friends at Philadelphia, and joined him in New York about the middle of November. In her travels through the country, she was everywhere treated with a respect and forbearance hardly to have been expected in the exasperated state of public feeling, which then prevailed; a proof, that, although unfortunate in her alliance with a traitor, she was not considered guilty of participating in his crimes. It is related by M. de Marbois, as a remarkable instance of moderation in the people, that, when on her journey she had stopped at a village to pass the night, where the inhabitants were preparing to burn her husband in effigy, they suspended the execution of their design till the next night, out of delicacy to her sex and situation. It is also said, that, when she entered her carriage in open day to go and join Arnold in the midst of the enemies of his country, no symptoms were exhibited of the detestation in which his name was held even by the lowest populace. This was the more worthy of notice, as his effigy had recently been paraded through the streets of Philadelphia with every mark of infamy, and every demonstration of resentment and contempt.
The case of Captain Nathan Hale has been regarded as parallel to that of Major André. This young officer was a graduate of Yale College, and had but recently closed his academic course when the war of the revolution commenced. Possessing genius, taste, and ardor, he became distinguished as a scholar; and, endowed in an eminent degree with those graces and gifts of nature which add a charm to youthful excellence, he gained universal esteem and confidence.
To high moral worth and irreproachable habits were joined gentleness of manners, an ingenuous disposition, and vigor of understanding. No young man of his years put forth a fairer promise of future usefulness and celebrity; the fortunes of none were fostered more sincerely by the generous good wishes of his associates, or the hopes and encouraging presages of his superiors.
Being a patriot upon principle, and an enthusiast in a cause, which appealed equally to his sense of justice and love of liberty, he was among the first to take up arms in his country's defence. The news of the battle of Lexington roused his martial spirit, and called him immediately to the field. He obtained a commission in the army, and marched with his company to Cambridge. His promptness, activity, and assiduous attention to discipline, were early observed. He prevailed upon his men to adopt a simple uniform, which improved their appearance, attracted notice, and procured applause. The example was followed by others, and its influence was beneficial. Nor were his hours wholly absorbed by his military duties. A rigid economy of time enabled him to gratify his zeal for study and mental culture.
At length the theatre of action was changed, and the army was removed to the southward. The battle of Long Island was fought, and the American forces were drawn together in the city of New York. At this moment it was extremely important for Washington to know the situation of the British army on the heights of Brooklyn, its numbers, and the indications as to its future movements. Having confidence in the discretion and judgment of the gallant Colonel Knowlton, who commanded a Connecticut regiment of infantry, he explained his wishes to that officer, and requested him to ascertain if any suitable person could be found in his regiment, who would undertake so hazardous and responsible a service. It was essential, that he should be a man of capacity, address, and military knowledge.
Colonel Knowlton assembled several of his officers, stated to them the views and desires of the General, and left the subject to their reflections, without proposing the enterprise to any individual. The officers then separated. Captain Hale considered deliberately what had been said, and finding himself by a sense of duty inclined to the undertaking, he called at the quarters of his intimate friend, Captain Hull (afterwards General Hull), and asked his opinion. Hull endeavored to dissuade him from the service, as not befitting his rank in the army, and as being of a kind for which his openness of character disqualified him; adding that no glory could accrue from success, and a detection would inevitably be followed by an ignominious death.
Captain Hale replied, that all these considerations had been duly weighed, that "every kind of service necessary to the public good was honorable by being necessary," that he did not accept a commission for the sake of fame alone or personal advancement, that he had been for some time in the army without being able to render any signal aid to the cause of his country, and that he felt impelled by high motives of duty not to shrink from the opportunity now presented.
The arguments of his friend were unavailing, and Captain Hale passed over to Long Island in disguise. He had gained the desired information, and was just on the point of stepping into a boat to return to the city of New York, when he was arrested and taken before the British commander. Like André, he had assumed a character, which he could not sustain; he was "too little accustomed to duplicity to succeed." The proof against him was so conclusive, that he made no effort at self-defence, but frankly confessed his objects; and, again like André, without further remarks "left the facts to operate with his judges." He was sentenced to be executed as a spy, and was accordingly hanged the next morning.
The sentence was conformable to the laws of war, and the prisoner was prepared to meet it with a fortitude becoming his character. But the circumstances of his death aggravated his sufferings, and placed him in a situation widely different from that of André. The facts were narrated to General Hull by an officer of the British commissary department, who was present at the execution, and deeply moved by the conduct and fate of the unfortunate victim, and the treatment he received. The provost-martial, to whose charge he was consigned, was a refugee, and behaved towards him in the most unfeeling manner; refusing the attendance of a clergyman and the use of a bible, and destroying the letters he had written to his mother and friends.
In the midst of these barbarities, Hale was calm, collected, firm; pitying the malice that could insult a fallen foe and dying man, but displaying to the last his native elevation of soul, dignity of deportment, and an undaunted courage. Alone, unfriended, without consolation or sympathy, he closed his mortal career with the declaration, "that he only lamented he had but one life to lose for his country." When André stood upon the scaffold, he called on all around him to bear witness, that he died like a brave man. The dying words of Hale embodied a nobler and more sublime sentiment; breathing a spirit of satisfaction, that, although brought to an untimely end, it was his lot to die a martyr in his country's cause. The whole tenor of his conduct, and this declaration itself, were such proofs of his bravery, that it required not to be more audibly proclaimed. The following tribute is from the muse of Dr. Dwight.
"Thus, while fond virtue wished in vain to save,
Hale, bright and generous, found a hapless grave;
With genius' living flame his bosom glowed,
And science charmed him to her sweet abode;
In worth's fair path his feet adventured far,
The pride of peace, the rising grace of war."
There was a striking similarity between the character and acts of Hale and André, but in one essential point of difference the former appears to much the greater advantage. Hale was promised no reward, nor did he expect any. It was necessary, that the service should be undertaken from purely virtuous motives, without a hope of gain or of honor; because it was of a nature not to be executed by the common class of spies, who are influenced by pecuniary considerations; and promotion could not be offered as an inducement, since that would be a temptation for an officer to hazard his life as a spy, which a commander could not with propriety hold out. Viewed in any light, the act must be allowed to bear unequivocal marks of patriotic disinterestedness and self-devotion. But André had a glorious prize before him; the chance of distinguishing himself in a military enterprise, honors, renown, and every allurement, that could flatter hope and stimulate ambition. To say the least, his personal advantages were to be commensurate with the benefit to his country.
But whatever may have been the parallel between these two individuals while living, it ceased with their death. A monument was raised and consecrated to the memory of André by the bounty of a grateful sovereign. His ashes have been removed from their obscure resting-place, transported across the ocean, and deposited with the remains of the illustrious dead in Westminster Abbey. Where is the memento of the virtues, the patriotic sacrifice, the early fate of Hale? It is not inscribed in marble; it is hardly recorded in books. Let it be the more deeply cherished in the hearts of his countrymen.
Narrative of Arnold's Plot communicated by Sir Henry Clinton to the Ministry.—Arnold in New York.—His Expedition against Virginia and New London.
After the return of General Robertson and the other Commissioners to New York, Sir Henry Clinton made still another effort to rescue Major André. He wrote a long letter to Washington, recapitulating the facts and reasonings already advanced, and claiming the release of his adjutant-general. He proposed to exchange for him Lieutenant Governor Gadsden, of South Carolina, who had been taken prisoner, and, with other persons under similar circumstances, sent to St. Augustine, in consequence of their having been detected in a correspondence with General Gates. A statement of particulars was also obtained from Captain Sutherland, respecting the manner in which André came on board the Vulture, and left it in the boat with Smith.
As neither the letter nor the statement contained any thing new, the object in writing them probably was to cause delay by protracting the negotiation. Before they were sent off, however, Major André's servant arrived in New York with the news of his execution; and thus all intercourse on the subject between the two commanders was closed.
Hitherto no hints of this affair had been transmitted to the ministry; but, immediately after the catastrophe, a narrative of all the events was drawn up, signed by Sir Henry Clinton, and despatched to Lord George Germain. It commenced with the first advances made by Arnold, and pursued the train of incidents to the end. All the correspondence, respecting the capture of André and the means used for his release, was interspersed according to the dates of the respective letters.
Conformably to the request of André, his commission was sold by Sir Henry Clinton for the benefit of his mother and sisters. In acquainting the minister with this transaction, he added; "But I trust your Lordship will think that Major André's misfortune still calls for some further support to his family; and I beg leave to make it my humble request, that you will have the goodness to recommend them in the strongest manner to the King for some beneficial and distinguishing mark of his Majesty's favor."
The papers were laid before the King by Lord George Germain, who replied to Sir Henry Clinton as follows.
"His Majesty has read with much concern the very affecting narrative of Major André's capture, and the fatal consequences of that misfortune related in your letter; and his Majesty was graciously pleased to express his entire approbation of your having complied with his request of disposing of his commission for the advantage of his family. And I have the satisfaction to add, that his Majesty has further extended his royal bounty to Major André's mother, by the grant of a pension, and has offered to confer the honor of knighthood on his brother, in order to wipe away all stain from the family, that the ignominy of the death he was so unjustly put to might be thought to have occasioned. The beneficence of our gracious sovereign will thereby console the family for their private misfortune; but the public can never be compensated for the disappointment of the vast advantages, which must have followed from the success of your plan, which Major André's capture prevented. Nothing could have been more judiciously concerted; and, from the proof Mr. Arnold has since given of his sincerity, there is no reason to doubt it could have failed in its execution, especially as you proposed conducting it in person."
The generous sentiments and noble conduct of the King, both in regard to the memory of André and the tokens of substantial kindness to his family, claim and must ever receive the highest applause. But the countenance shown to Arnold, the approbation of his infamy, and the distinctions and favors conferred upon him, will be viewed in a much more questionable light. If policy and military custom extend protection to a deserter, they can never demand nor even justify caresses to a traitor.
It was doubtless proper for Sir Henry Clinton to fulfil the promises he had made, and submit to the sacrifice with as good a grace as he could, notwithstanding the utter disappointment of all his expectations. He wrote to the minister; "I have paid to that officer six thousand three hundred and fifteen pounds sterling, as a compensation for the losses, which he informs me he has sustained by coming over to us. I make no doubt, that the expense will be cheerfully submitted to." It was gratuitous to charge this reward of treachery to the score of losses. Arnold's creditors were the chief losers by his defection, unless he set a large price upon the diminution of his rank, being appointed colonel of a regiment in the British service, with the brevet of brigadier-general.
Arnold had been but a few days with his new friends, when he published an Address to the Inhabitants of America, attempting to explain and vindicate the course he had pursued. Considering the cause he undertook to defend, it is no wonder that he should say little to the purpose. Abuse of Congress and of the French alliance was the principal theme of his discourse. "To the thousands," said he, "who suffer under the tyranny of the usurpers in the revolted provinces, as well as to the great multitude who have long wished for its subversion, this instance of my conduct can want no vindication; and as to that class of men, who are criminally protracting the war from sinister views, at the expense of the public interest, I prefer their enmity to their applause. I am therefore only concerned to explain myself to such of my countrymen, as want abilities or opportunities to detect the artifices by which they are duped." Having thus defined the description of persons for whom his address is intended, he proceeds to his defence.
Conceiving the rights of his country in danger, at the beginning of the contest, he thought it his duty to take up arms for their protection, but he aimed only at a redress of grievances. The declaration of independence was a measure, which at the time he believed precipitate, although he acquiesced in it; but all the reasons for this measure, however plausible when it was adopted, were completely removed by the subsequent proffers of the British government. The refusal to accede to these terms he ascribed to the tyrannical use of power in Congress, who studiously avoided submitting them to the people, and resisted every advance towards a negotiation.
The suspicions excited in his patriotic breast, by these and other indications of the temper and views of Congress, were more than confirmed when the treaty with France was ratified. He was shocked to find his country, by the folly and duplicity of its pretended leaders, thus tied to its "proud, ancient, and crafty foe, the enemy of the Protestant faith, who fraudulently avows an affection for the liberties of mankind, while she holds her native sons in vassalage and chains." His virtuous spirit could not brook such an enormity. From that hour he resolved to abandon a cause, sustained by iniquity and controlled by usurpers, in which he could no longer act with that pure and disinterested aim for the public good, which had always been the ruling motive of his conduct. He retained his arms and command only for a suitable opportunity to surrender them to his King in such a manner, that he might accomplish an event of decisive importance with the least effusion of blood.
"With respect to that herd of censurers," said he in conclusion, "whose enmity to me originates in their hatred to the principles by which I am now led to devote my life to the reunion of the British empire, as the best and only means to dry up the streams of misery, that have deluged this country, they may be assured, that, conscious of the rectitude of my intentions, I shall treat their malice and calumnies with contempt and neglect." Such was the tenor of Arnold's Address to his former fellow citizens of the United States. His next performance was a Proclamation to the officers and soldiers of the Continental army, particularly those who had "the real interest of their country at heart, and who were determined to be no longer the tools and dupes of Congress and of France." All such he invited to come over to the King's standard, holding out as a temptation, that they should be clothed, subsisted, and paid like the other troops in the British service, and receive the value of any horses, arms, or accoutrements, which they might bring with them. A bounty of three guineas was offered to every non-commissioned officer and private. Officers were to obtain rank in proportion to that which they had formerly held, and to the number of men who should accompany them. It was expected, that a colonel would bring with him or recruit in a reasonable time seventy-five men, a major fifty, a captain thirty, and a lieutenant fifteen. They were moreover to have the inestimable privilege of fighting for "true American liberty," which had so long been denied to them by their oppressors.
In its other topics the proclamation was little else than a repetition of the address. Abusive epithets were profusely applied to Congress and the French. The soldiers were told, that they had been robbed of their property, imprisoned, and dragged against their will to the field of battle; that they were the prey of avarice, the scorn of their enemies, and the pity of their friends; that America had become a land of widows, orphans, and beggars; and that no security any longer remained even for the consolations of that religion, for which their fathers had braved the ocean, the heathen, and the wilderness. Rising in the climax of absurdity, he goes on to say; "can you at this day want evidence, that the funds of your country are exhausted, or that the managers have applied them to their own private use? In either case you surely can no longer continue in their service with honor or advantage. Yet you have hitherto been their supporters in that cruelty, which, with an equal indifference to yours, as well as the labor and blood of others, is devouring a country, that, from the moment you quit their colors, will be redeemed from their tyranny."
By appeals like these were the American soldiers called upon to desert their country, and rally under the banner of a traitor, who had sought the ruin of themselves, their friends, and the cause for which they had long borne arms and often exposed their lives. Such appeals would appear incredible even from so desperate and degraded a man, had not the infirmity of his understanding already been proved to be on a level with the depravity of his heart. The only wonder is, that a measure of such imbecile malevolence and hopeless folly should be sanctioned by the British commander, and published from day to day in the gazettes issued under his authority. How was it possible for him not to perceive, that the effect would be contrary to his interests and wishes? Who would join a traitor? Who would deliberately seek disgrace and infamy? And, above all, who would be cajoled by falsehood and malignity, as undisguised as they were audacious and wicked?
Well informed as to the actual condition, principles, and feelings of the American soldiers, and aware that his proclamation would only excite indignation and disgust, Arnold adopted another expedient to keep his new friends in good humor, and convince them that in him they had gained an important acquisition. He represented to Sir Henry Clinton, that the bounty was much too small, and recommended an increase to ten guineas. He said the American soldiers were chiefly prevented from deserting, by the loss they would sustain in forfeiting their arrears of pay, which had now become large, on account of the poverty of the country and the wretched state of the American finances. Ten guineas he thought would dissolve this tie, and bring over as many deserters as could be desired.
As the bounty was prescribed by the government, and Sir Henry had no authority to allow more than three guineas, Arnold immediately wrote to the ministry, and laid his proposition before them, supporting it by such arguments as he could draw from his invention. In replying to Sir Henry Clinton on the subject, Lord George Germain said he did not think the amount of the proposed sum an objection to it, considering the vast importance of increasing the British army by a corresponding diminution of that under Washington; but he foresaw a very serious evil in the operation of the scheme, since it would tempt deserters to come over for the sake of the bounty, who, having pocketed the ten guineas, would find their way back again as soon as possible to the American camp. To avert this consequence, the minister suggested, that no more than the usual sum of three guineas should be paid at first, and the remaining seven when the regiment, to which the deserter was attached, should be reduced, or at the end of the war. Officers he thought should be liberally rewarded, especially if they brought with them the men they had before commanded.
Many were supposed to be deterred from desertion by the fear of recapture. To obviate this difficulty, a project was set on foot for organizing them into regiments to be employed in the West Indies, or on the Spanish Main. This was favorable to Arnold's views, and it was approved by the King. No harm could result from it; and nearly the same benefits would accrue, as if they were engaged immediately under Sir Henry Clinton, since it would enable him to draw from the West Indies a corresponding force. But why it should be thought, that an American soldier would be allured from his home by the bounty of ten guineas and the almost certain prospect of finding a grave in a tropical climate, is not apparent. The experiment seems never to have been tried.
In short, there is no evidence that Arnold met with any success in his attempts to recruit from the American army. A few deserters and refugees, already within the British lines and not united with any corps, and particularly officers desirous of place and employment, nominally constituted his regiment, which was never so far completed as to be known either for its numbers or exploits.
The sentiments of the British cabinet, in regard to the defection of Arnold, may be gathered from the minister's first letter to him after that event.
"I have the pleasure to acquaint you," says Lord George Germain, "that his Majesty was graciously pleased to express his satisfaction in the demonstration you have given of the sincerity of your return to your allegiance, and of your earnest desire to atone for past errors by a zealous attachment to his royal person and government in future. And his Majesty has been graciously pleased to command me to signify to Sir Henry Clinton his royal approbation of the rank he has given you in the army under his command, and of his having appointed you to raise a corps.
"The intelligence transmitted in both of your letters shows the resources of Congress to be nearly exhausted, and their cause universally sinking, notwithstanding the boasted succors of their ally; and I am fully persuaded, that, were any disgrace at this time to happen to Mr. Washington's army, the inhabitants of many of the provinces would declare their wishes for peace with Great Britain, by returning to their allegiance; and it is the most distant from the intention of the King and of Parliament to abridge those liberties essential to their interests and happiness."
The nature of the intelligence, which afforded so much encouragement to the minister, is no further indicated. It is enough to know, however, that it was false and deceptive, and produced a mischievous influence. Misled by an erroneous impression, thus communicated, of the strength of the American army, and the condition and temper of the people, and willing to foster the smallest germ of hope, the ministry relaxed from exertion, at a moment when the full exercise of all their energies was most necessary. The man, now their friend and a faithful subject of the King, but who had been in a high station with the enemy from the beginning of the war, and a principal actor, they took it for granted must be well informed; and, strange to tell, they relied on his veracity. The consequences were severely felt by the British commander, who, in the bitterness of his disappointment, afterwards complained of this facility of faith and easy confidence on the part of his superiors.
Arnold made such slow progress in recruiting his regiment, that he was impatient for more active service. Two months after he joined the British, he was appointed to the command of an expedition against Virginia, consisting of sixteen hundred effective troops. General Leslie had recently sailed from the Chesapeake, with the detachment under his command, to unite with Lord Cornwallis in the Carolinas. It was thought important to send another detachment to take his place in the waters of Virginia, and thus create a diversion in that quarter in, favor of Cornwallis, and prevent the Virginia troops from marching to the aid of General Greene.
At the head of this division Arnold sailed from New York about the middle of December. In addition to his general directions to invade the country wherever an opportunity presented itself, he was particularly instructed to establish a post at Portsmouth on Elizabeth River, and to prepare materials for constructing a number of boats to be used in Albemarle Sound, and afterwards in the waters of the Chesapeake, when the season should be too far advanced for acting farther southward. He was also directed to assemble and arm the loyalists, but not to encourage any to join him, till there should be the fairest prospect of protecting them.
Sir Henry Clinton proceeded with more caution than the ministry. He was not prepared to put implicit trust in a man, who had shown himself such an adept in the arts of dissimulation, so destitute of principle, and so regardless of honor. Colonel Dundas and Colonel Simcoe, two officers of tried ability and experience, and possessing the entire confidence of their commander, were sent in the expedition; and Arnold was expressly ordered not to adopt any measure, nor to undertake any important operation, without first consulting them and obtaining their approbation.
A violent gale separated the fleet in which the detachment was embarked, but the scattered vessels united at the capes of the Chesapeake and entered Hampton Road on the 30th of December; except one armed ship and three transports, with upwards of four hundred men on board, which did not arrive till five days later. One half of the cavalry horses were lost, and several of the large guns were thrown into the sea to prevent the vessels from foundering.
Without waiting for the arrival of the transports that were missing, Arnold pushed up James River with his fleet aided by wind and tide, and immediately found himself in the heart of the country. His effective force consisted of about twelve hundred men. The burnings and plunderings, the destruction of public and private property, the ravages and distresses, which marked all his movements, were consistent with his character, and such as were to be expected. The inhabitants were not prepared for so sudden an invasion; the militia could not be rallied in time to resist it. A small force was assembled under Baron Steuben, on the south side of James River, but too distant to act efficiently till it was too late. After striking at every assailable point, Arnold called his troops back to the ships, descended the river, and took his station at Portsmouth.
The attempts to defeat and capture him in that post; the spirited and well conducted enterprise under Lafayette; the French naval armament sent from Newport, and commanded by M. de Tilly; the more formidable one under M. Destouches; his rencounter with the fleet of Admiral Graves; the movements of General Phillips's detachment of British troops; and the subsequent operations in Virginia; all these are matters of history and not suited to the present narrative.
Strong hopes were entertained by Washington, that Lafayette in concert with M. de Tilly would succeed in seizing Arnold, before any reinforcement could arrive from New York; but these hopes were disappointed by incidents, that could not have been foreseen or prevented. After entering Hampton Road, M. de Tilly found the depth of water in Elizabeth River not sufficient to receive his ships. Arnold was therefore beyond his reach at Portsmouth; and the detachment of Lafayette could not act without a naval superiority in the Chesapeake.
Had Arnold been captured, it was the intention of Washington, that he should be immediately executed; and in his instructions to Lafayette, he enjoined it upon him to admit no terms of capitulation, which should screen a traitor from the punishment justly due to his crimes. Several weeks afterwards, when, upon the death of General Phillips, the command of the British troops in Virginia devolved temporarily upon Arnold, he attempted to correspond with Lafayette, and sent an officer to him with a flag of truce. When Lafayette opened the letter, and saw Arnold's name at the bottom, he refused to read it, saying to the officer that he would hold no correspondence whatever with him. Lord Cornwallis told Lafayette afterwards, that, as soon as he joined the army in Virginia, he took the first occasion to send Arnold down to Portsmouth, and expressed disgust at the idea of associating with a person of his character.
It was during this expedition, that Arnold asked a captain, who had been taken prisoner, what he thought the Americans would do with him, if he should fall into their hands. "They will cut off the leg," replied the officer, "which was wounded when you were fighting for the cause of liberty, and bury it with the honors of war, and hang the rest of your body on a gibbet."
While these things were going on, Sir Henry Clinton received a letter from Lord George Germain, little suited to increase his respect for the judgment, good sense, or honesty of his new American brigadier. Among other inventions to please the ministry, Arnold had represented the facility with which West Point might be taken, if not by a coup de main, yet by a few days' regular attack, and had proposed a sort of plan for that object. Lord George Germain expressed some degree of surprise, that the British commander had not undertaken the business, or at least mentioned his intention of doing it. "Such is the present state of Great Britain," said he, "that every possible means must be employed for the reduction of the rebellion," and he urged a serious consideration of the subject.
These suggestions, to say the least, were a tacit censure upon Sir Henry Clinton, for his want either of discernment or enterprise. He felt their force, and could not entirely conceal his displeasure. In his reply, however, he proved the folly of the scheme, and the impossibility of its execution, according to his view of the state of affairs, with the reduced force then at his command. "As to Major-General Arnold's opinion," he observed, "I can only say, that, whatever he may have represented to your Lordship, nothing he has as yet communicated to me on the subject has convinced me that the rebel posts in the Highlands can be reduced by 'a few days' regular attack.' But if he convinces me now, in the present reduction of the rebel army, that such a thing is practicable, (for to fail would be death to our cause in the present state of the war,) I shall most likely be induced to make the attempt. I have therefore required that general officer to send his plan of operation to me without delay, and to follow or accompany it himself." This was written on the 5th of April, 1781, and Arnold returned, a few weeks afterwards, to New York, thus escaping the fate that might otherwise have awaited him at Yorktown.
How he explained himself to Sir Henry Clinton is not known. We hear no more of the project against West Point, and Arnold seems to have remained in idleness during the summer.
Early in September, however, an enterprise was set on foot, which, from his knowledge of the place of action and other circumstances, he doubtless originated. At New London were deposited public stores; and private property to a considerable amount was known to be on board the vessels in the harbor, feebly defended by Fort Trumbull on one side of the river, and Fort Griswold on the other. Here was an opportunity, too tempting to be resisted, for gaining plunder, gratifying a vindictive spirit, and rendering a service to the cause, which he had espoused, and in aid of which he had hitherto done so little either to sustain his military reputation, or mark the value of his dearly bought allegiance.
Departing from the opposite shore of Long Island, with a force adequate to the undertaking, he crossed the Sound, and landed his troops in two divisions at the mouth of the river. One division marched towards New London, took Fort Trumbull, and entered the town. The other, passing up the east side of the river, ascended the high grounds to Fort Griswold, which, after a short but sanguinary conflict, was carried at the point of the bayonet.
The details of these tragical scenes have often been described, and need not here be recapitulated. New London was reduced to ashes. Several vessels in the harbor shared the same fate. Others escaped up the river towards Norwich. The brave Colonel Ledyard, who commanded in Fort Griswold, was slain by his own sword, when he gave it into the hands of the officer, who headed the assailing party; and many of his companions in arms, inhabitants of the little village of Groton, who had assembled at a moment's warning to defend their homes and their firesides, were butchered in cold blood after the fort was surrendered.
It has been said, that Arnold, while New London was in flames, stood in the belfrey of a steeple, and witnessed the conflagration; thus, like Nero, delighted with the ruin he had caused, the distresses he had inflicted, the blood of his slaughtered countrymen, the anguish of the expiring patriot, the widow's tears and the orphan's cries. And what adds to the enormity is, that he stood almost in sight of the spot where he drew his first breath; that every object around was associated with the years of his childhood and youth, and revived those images of the past, which kindle emotions of tenderness in all but hearts of stone; that many of the dying, whose groans assailed his ears, and of the living, whose houses and effects he saw devoured by the flames, were his early friends, the friends of his father, his mother, his family; and, in short, that these wanton acts of barbarity were without provocation on the part of the sufferers, and not less iniquitous in the motives whence they sprang, than shocking to humanity in themselves.
This was the last exploit of Arnold in his native country. It was indeed the closing scene of his military and public career. And he had done enough. Nothing more was necessary to unfold his character in all the variety of its resources and depth of its depravity, or to convince the world, that, when a man once abandons himself to his passions, contemns the counsels of wisdom and virtue, sears his conscience, confounds duty with selfishness and honor with revenge, the descent is easy and rapid to that state in which he is the object, not more of the reproach and scorn of mankind, than of their pity and contempt.
Arnold sails for England.—Anecdotes.—His Residence at St. John's, and in the West Indies.—His Death.
The capitulation at York town having virtually put an end to the war, and Arnold finding himself neither respected by the British officers, nor likely to be further employed in the service, obtained permission from Sir Henry Clinton to go to England. He sailed from New York with his family in December, 1781. Sir Henry gave him a letter of introduction to Lord George Germain, mentioning his "spirited and meritorious conduct since he had joined the British army," and commending him to his "Lordship's countenance and protection"; but, forbearing to recount the instances of his worthy deeds, he referred the minister on that head to the tenor of his previous correspondence.
Although Arnold lived twenty years after this date, yet so entirely did he sink out of notice, that hardly an incident respecting him has been related or remembered. Happily no one will regret the blank. All that can be ascertained, in regard to his subsequent history, may be gathered from half a dozen anecdotes. Some of these are characteristic; others show in what utter disgrace he was held by the whole world.
At the time he was about to sail from New York, two Scotch officers, wishing to return to England, requested a passage in the same vessel. The captain told them, that General Arnold had taken the whole cabin for himself and family, and that there was no more room for passengers; but, if they could make an arrangement with him, there would be no other obstacle. They accordingly consulted Arnold, who agreed to receive them into the cabin. Nothing further was said on the subject, till the vessel arrived in London. The Scotch gentlemen then went to the captain, and offered to pay for their passage, but he declined taking the money, and referred them to Arnold. He did not see them again, till they departed for Scotland. When Arnold came to pay his bill, he insisted that the proportion for their passage should be deducted. To this the captain would not consent, alleging that he had no claim upon the officers, and requiring a fulfilment of his contract. As this could not be evaded, Arnold was obliged to pay the demand, but he persuaded the captain to draw on the two officers, in favor of Arnold, and in his own name as captain of the ship, for their passage money. The draft came back protested. Arnold prosecuted the captain, and recovered the amount. It had also been paid to him by the officers before they left London.
It has been seen in the preceding narrative, that the horse on which Arnold rode in the second battle of Behmus's Heights was shot under him, just as he was entering the Hessian redoubt. The animal was a beautiful. Spanish horse, which had formerly belonged to Governor Skene, but was now the property of Colonel Lewis, and borrowed by Arnold for the occasion. A short time after the action, Colonel Lewis called on him, and requested a certificate of the horse having been killed, that he might obtain the value of him, according to usage, from the public treasury. Arnold declined giving the certificate, saying it would have an ill appearance for a major-general to sign a certificate for a horse, that had been shot under him in battle. Lewis said no more, till Arnold was about to leave the camp, when he again went to him, and insisted on being allowed a proper compensation for the loss of his horse. Arnold still assigned motives of delicacy for refusing a certificate, but told Lewis that he had a fine Narraganset mare in the public stables, which he would give him in the place of his horse, and immediately wrote an order to the keeper of the stables, directing him to deliver the mare into the hands of Colonel Lewis. Meantime Arnold went off, and two or three days afterwards the order was presented. The keeper said there was no mare belonging to General Arnold in the stables; that there had been one of that description some time before, but she was sold to another officer, who had taken her away. It was subsequently ascertained, that Arnold sent in a certificate, and received pay from the government for the horse that had been shot.
Nor was this the end of the affair. When he was on the point of sailing for England, he borrowed two hundred dollars from a Captain Campbell in the British service, for which he gave an order on Colonel Lewis, telling Campbell that Lewis owed him for a mare purchased three years before, and that, as he was about to leave the country, and should not have an opportunity to collect the debt, it would be a convenience to him if Campbell would undertake that small service. Captain Campbell, having been acquainted with Colonel Lewis before the war and expecting to see him again, took the order as an equivalent for his two hundred dollars. When the news of peace arrived in New York, a passport was obtained from General Washington by the British commander, for a person to proceed through the country with the intelligence to the Governor of Canada. Captain Campbell was the bearer of the message, and on the way he visited his friend Lewis in Albany, and presented Arnold's order. Their mutual surprise may be imagined, both having been equal sufferers by this refinement of knavery.
Although the King, and a few persons in authority, were obliged from policy to take some notice of Arnold, after he went to England, yet he was shunned and despised by every body else. It is said, that when the petition for a bill authorizing a negotiation of peace was presented to the King in the usual form by Parliament, Arnold was standing near the throne, apparently in high favor with the sovereign. Lord Lauderdale is reported to have declared, on returning to the House, "that however gracious might be the language he had heard from the throne, his indignation could not but be highly excited at beholding his Majesty supported by a traitor." At another time, when Lord Surry had risen to speak, seeing Arnold in the gallery, he sat down quickly, pointing to him and exclaiming, "I will not speak while that man is in the House."
He occasionally by accident met his countrymen, who uniformly treated him in the most slighting and contemptuous manner. An officer of rank in the American army, who had known him in early life, was in London. Arnold called at the door of his lodgings, and sent in his name. "Tell the gentleman I am not at home," said the officer to the servant, "and never shall be for General Arnold."
Not long after the war, he took up his residence at St. John's, in New Brunswick, and resumed his old profession of a merchant, engaging principally in the West India trade. It is believed that the government granted him facilities, in the way of contracts for supplying the troops in Jamaica with provisions. At any rate he carried on a thriving and extensive business at St. John's, building ships on his own account and sending them to the West Indies.
His style of living was ostentatious and profuse, exhibiting more splendor than was usual in provincial towns, and thus enabling him to associate on terms of intimacy with the higher classes; but he contrived to make himself odious to the people, not less by his haughty deportment, than by his habits of dishonesty in business. The inhabitants of St. John's were principally refugees from the United States, who had settled there at the close of the war.
An incident happened, which had a tendency to increase the strong feeling of distrust and aversion, with which he had from the first been regarded. He had in use two warehouses. Upon one of these, which was supposed to be filled with goods, he procured an insurance for a large amount. It took fire in the night, and was burnt to the ground with all its contents. Arnold was himself absent on a voyage to England. Two of his sons slept in the warehouse, and were there when the flames broke out, but could give no account of the manner in which the fire was communicated. The circumstances of the case induced a suspicion, that the goods had been insured much above their value, and that the building was intentionally set on fire.
So many particulars favored this construction, that the insurers refused to pay their bonds. Arnold prosecuted them on his return from England, and a trial ensued, in which many witnesses were examined; but no proof was produced to establish the charge of design in setting the fire, and he recovered the full value for which the goods had been insured.
The judicial decision did not accord, however, with public sentiment, and the populace resolved to express their sense of the transaction in a manner, that could not be misunderstood. They made an effigy, which they called The Traitor, and hung it in a conspicuous place, so that it could be seen from Arnold's windows. A concourse of people was gathered around it, when a magistrate appeared among them and read the riot act. This dispersed or quieted them for the moment, but they soon reassembled, and exposed the effigy anew. The military at last interfered, and put an end to the proceedings, but not till the people had effected their object, and committed to the flames the symbol of their indignation; and indeed it may be supposed, that neither the magistrates nor the military were over-earnest to suppress the popular feeling on this occasion.
How long Arnold continued at St. John's is uncertain. He went back to England, where he resided the rest of his life, though he was sometimes absent on business in the West Indies. When the war with France commenced, he petitioned for employment in the army; but, as no officers would serve or associate with him, the petition could not be granted. A single adventure will include all that remains to be told of him.
He was at Point Petre, in Guadaloupe, engaged in commercial pursuits, when that Island, which had fallen under the power of the English, was retaken by the French. Having acted as an agent to furnish provisions for the British troops in the West Indies, chiefly obtained through a circuitous channel from the United States, he had accumulated a good deal of money, which was then in his possession. Fearful that it might be taken from him, or at least doubtful what treatment he would meet with if discovered, he assumed the name of Anderson. With other persons he was put on board a French prison-ship in the harbor. A sentinel told him, that he was known and exposed to great hazard.
Alarmed at this intelligence, he immediately formed a plan to escape. His ingenuity and resource had seldom failed him in cases requiring promptness of decision, and they proved equally true to him at the present critical juncture. He enclosed his treasure in an empty cask, which he let down into the sea as soon as it was dark, and the waves carried it ashore near the place where the English were encamped. He likewise took the precaution to put a letter into the cask, stating that the property belonged to him, and was to be given up when demanded. In the middle of the night he silently descended the side of the ship, and placed himself upon a raft of planks prepared for the purpose, with which he had the good fortune to reach a small boat moored at some distance. He then rowed towards the English fleet, guided by the lights on board. Although hailed by a French guard-boat, he escaped under the cover of darkness, and at four o'clock in the morning was safe on the deck of a British vessel.
Shortly after this adventure, Arnold returned again to England. He died in London, June 14th, 1801, aged sixty-one years.