George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Henry Clinton, 30 September 1780

Head Quarters Septemr 30th 1780


In answer to Your Excellency’s letter of the 26th instant, which I have had the honor to receive, I am to inform you, that Major André was taken under such circumstances, as would have justified the most summary proceedings against him. I determined, however, to refer his case to the examination and decision of a Board of General Officers, who have, on his free and voluntary confession and letters, reported—First. "That he came on shore from the Vulture Sloop of War in the night of the twenty first of September last 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 Verplanks points the evening of the twenty second of September last, and was taken the morning of the twenty third of September last, at Tarry Town, 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. The Board having maturely considered these facts do also report to his Excellency Genl Washington that Major André Adjutant General to the British Army ought to be considered as a Spy from the Enemy, and that agreeable to the law and usage of Nations it is their opinion he ought to suffer death."

From these proceedings it is evident Major André was employed in the execution of Measures, very foreign to the objects of Flags of Truce, and such as they were never meant to authorise or countenance in the most distant degree—and this Gentleman confessed with the greatest candor in the course of his examination "that it was impossible for him to suppose he came on shore under the sanction of a Flag." I have the honor to be Your Excellency’s Most obt and most hble Servt

Go: Washington

PRO: Carlton Papers.


Tapaan 29th September 1780


Your Excellency is doubtless already apprised 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 Kings 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 & 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 faithfull, affectionate, and respectful Attendant can frame.

I have a Mother and three 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 &c.]

(Signed) John Andre

Adjt General

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