John Andre -- a captain during his appearance in Independence but a major later on -- had the misfortune to be the traitor Benedict Arnold's point of contact for Arnold's offer to hand over the plans of West Point in return for ten thousand pounds.  West Point's schematics were saved only by chance, when an American picket -- which might very well have been trying to rob Andre rather than question him -- discovered the incriminating papers on his person.

Benedict Arnold heard of the arrest in time, barely, to beat feet out of there just minutes before George Washington arrived (Washington's arrival was coincidental in regard to the timing of all the excitement).

So Andre was captured but Arnold safely with the British.  Due to a technicality, Andre had to be tried as a spy -- he had changed out of his uniform into civilian clothes before trying to cross American lines, and that, regrettably, put him in a different and sterner category of justice.  Andre was probably as well-loved by the Americans as by his countrymen; he had made many friends during his stays in New York and Philadelphia, and as a prisoner of war in Pennsylvania (where he gave drawing lessons to the delighted children of the household).  He was an artistically talented charmer who seems to have failed to win over only one person in his life:  the woman he loved, whose persistent rejection had driven him at last into the army, where he intended to find refuge from blasted personal hopes in a glorious career.

The English offered to trade any prisoner in their possession for Andre, but after a setback of this magnitude -- we had lost not just a general, but the hero of Saratoga -- only one man would answer as a trade, and that was Arnold himself.

But Arnold was the one man General Clinton would not give.


Andre was sentenced to death, and he was hanged.  George Washington, although he usually had a cast-iron stomach about these matters, remained indoors after signing the order and did not watch it carried out.  The Americans watching Andre go to his death wept openly.

Meanwhile, General Clinton struggled to find men willing to swallow their contempt and serve under the newly minted English General Arnold's command.

This is a quick sketch Andre made of himself two days before his death.






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