Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

he avoided inculpating others. When he was done, the board took the case, and shortly afterward gave a judgment to the effect “ that Major John Andre, adjutant-general of the British army, ought to be considered a spy from the enemy, and, agreeably to the law and usage of nations, ought to suffer death.' The unfortunate officer received the news of his sentence with the same calm fortitude which distinguished him throughout and to the end. He acknowledged the impartiality and courtesy of the officers, who formed the court and the fairness of his trial. “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."

From the time of the announcement of judgment of the court, there was no cessation of effort on the part of Sir Henry Clinton to secure a mitigation of the sentence. He entered into correspondence with Washington, and the execution which had been fixed for the 1st day of October, was once postponed to permit of consultation with a commission sent up from New York under a flag of truce. A suggestion was once made to Clinton, that an arrangement might be made for the exchange of Andre for Arnold, but this was rejected as a matter of course. Arnold, who had escaped to the British lines and received a command, had the unblushing impudence to write a letter to Washington asserting his right, as commander of the post, to receive Andre within his lines, and to give him safe conduct for return, threatening, if the judgment of the court were carried into effect, to retaliate upon the first American officer who fell into his hands. As if it were not enough to insult the intelligence of his late commander in chief by such a ridiculous assertion, Arnold supplemented this letter with another, in which he went through the form of resigning his commission, and hypo. critically professed that his action had been dictated by a sincere regard for the welfare of his country.

Andre, conscious that, by the application of the letter of military law, he must die on the scaffold, addressed the following letter to Washington:

“Sir:-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 regard towards me; if aught in my misfortunes marks me as the victim of policy and not of resentment, I shall experience the operation of those feelings in your breast, by being informed that I am not to die on a gibbet."

Washington, had he consulted only his own feelings, would doubtless have granted this request, but it could not be. The cruel justice of war

demanded the ignominious death of Andre, as a spy, and, as such, he was executed on the 2d day of October, 1780. He mounted the hangman's wagon unassisted, removed his stock, and, with his own hands, adjusted the noose and bandaged his eyes. His last words were: “It will be but a momentary pang," then the cart moved from under him and he died, almost without a struggle.

So ended, most sadly, the life of a brave man, whom his friends would have ransomed at any cost short of dishonor, and whose enemies would gladly have spared him, could they have done so with safety and consistency. There was, at the time, on the part of the British, much passionate condemnation of the judgment and execution, and some feeling survives to this day. Washington did not escape severe criticism. Yet, in the coolness of a later century, there seems no question that Andre was fairly tried, honestly convicted, and that, according to all military law, he justly died. The circumstances which made his sentence seem so hard, were fortuitous and personal, having no relation to his offence. Had he been a common soldier, instead ofan officer; a clod-hopper, instead of a gentleman; sullen, instead of winning and companionable; evasive, rather than frank; cowardly, rather than brave and simply dignified, no one would have regarded his death as other than the natural punishment of his act. He was clearly a spy, and his corruption of an American general officer was an aggravation of his offence. Washington had no incentive to uncommon severity, but rather the contrary. There was no clamor, among the people or in the army, for the blood of the unhappy young man. All would have been happy, could his life have been spared, but his offence was too serious to permit it. Andre's body was buried near the place of his execution. Years afterward it was removed and interred in Westminster Abbey. A hundred years after the closing scene of the tragedy, a citizen of New York* raised, at his own cost, a monument to the memory of Andre, which every person, not blinded by prejudice, must admit to have been well merited by a life of unquestioned honor, and the death of a brave man.

Arnold was made a brigadier-general in the British army; received a money payment "to cover his loss;" issued a proclamation to the American people, in which he strove to justify his villainy, and another urging his late comrades to imitate him. He served against his country almost to the close of the war, then retired to England, where he passed the remainder of his days. His wife, by reason of her former tory associations, was suspected of privity with his plots, and banished from America, during the continuance of the war. She went to England and joined her husband, her beauty and wit alone serving to sustain him in a recognized social position, as he “was generally slighted and sometimes insulted.” She returned but

* Cyrus W. Field.

once to America, and was then treated with such coldness that she formed and adhered to the determination never again to visit her home. The burthen of evidence is decidedly in favor of her innocence of all pre knowledge of her husband's crime.




HE campaign of 1780 was a very inactive one in the North, and was

extremely mortifying to the commander in chief. The second division of the French fleet, with the promised reinforcement of the army, was delayed for various reasons, and did not eventually take any part in the campaign, This prevented any offensive operations, for the allies were still inferior to the British at sea, while the weakness of the American army, which had been a source of so great mortification to Washington, at the outset of the campaign, was never sufficiently remedied to permit of other than a defensive policy. Writing to Franklin, minister plenipotentiary of the United States, at Versailles, Washington said: “Disappointed of the second division of the French troops, but, more especially, in the expected naval superiority, which was the pivot, upon which everything turned, we have been compelled to spend an inactive campaign, after a flattering prospect at the opening of it, and vigorous struggles to make it a decisive one on our part. Latterly we have been obliged to become spectators of a succession of detachments from the army at New York, in aid of Lord Cornwallis, while our naval weakness, and the political dissolution of a great part of our army, put it out of our power to counteract them at the southward, or to take advantage of them here."

To guard against a like defeat of the aims of the coming campaign, Washington urged Congress to take early and active steps for the organization of an army, and was especially pressing in his request that they at least attempt the negotiation of a foreign loan, and send an agent to France to forward this design, and to obtain greater naval and military assistance. His arrangements were so far effectual as to procure the appointment of Colonel John Laurens, lately his aide-de-camp, as a speciai commissioner of the United States, with instructions to proceed to France and make an effort to negotiate a sufficie:at loan to relieve the Govern

ment from embarrassment, and, also, to strive, by the strongest representations, to induce the French ministry to use such vigor in their co-operation, as to insure a speedy and fortunate termination of the war. Laurens' service upon the staff of the commander in chief had made him thoroughly conversant with the needs of the army, and the steps most proper to be taken for the success of the war. He was also familiar with the resources of the country, and it was upon the possession of these, and the insignificance of the public debt, that he was instructed principally to rely, in urging the granting of the loan. The appointment was made on the 26th of September, 1780. Anticipating the order of events, it may be stated that Laurens succeeded in securing from the king of France, a subsidy of six million livres. The first installment he brought to America on the 28th of the ensuing August, at a time when it was very sorely needed.

Scarcely had Laurens been appointed to his mission, when occurred an incident which sufficiently emphasized the necessity of placing the United States in a position to do substantial justice to its army. The Pennsylvania line, consisting of six regiments, was quartered near Morristown. The pay of the men was greatly in arrears, many of them not having received so much as a paper dollar for a year. Their coats were worn and ragged; they wore their linen trousers, and there was but one blanket for three men. So, thinly clad, poorly fed, unpaid, they worked in the cold and snow, building the miserable huts that were to shelter them during the winter. Though they were of course discontented, they would probably have submitted to all with patience, had they been treated with common justice, but their officers failed in this, with consequences that threatened to be most serious. Most of the men were enlisted for “three years or during the war,"—the unquestionable intent of the words being to limit the service to three years, with provision for an earlier discharge, should the war be sooner ended. An effort was, however, made to hold the men as enlisted for the term of the war. About the same time, a deputation from Philadelphia appeared in camp, and distributed gold right and left among men, who, having enlisted for a short and definite period, were entitled to discharge, while these veterans were passed by and left penniless. On the first day of the year 1781, at a given signal, a large portion of the line, including the non-commissioned officers, turned out in order, announcing an intention to march to Philadelphia and demand redress from Congress. Wayne endeavored to pacify them, and, finding words of no avail, cocked his pistols. In a moment, he was menaced by a dozen bayonets. “We love you; we respect you,” they said, “but you are a dead man if you fire. Do not mistake us; we are not going to the enemy; were they now to come out, you would see us fight, under your orders, with as much resolution and alacrity as ever.” Some effort was still made to suppress the mutiny, blood was shed and a captain killed. Then the men set out upon their march, Wayne accompanying

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »