George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major John André, 1 October 1780

From Major John André

Tapaan the 1st October 1780


Buoy’d 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 the request I make to your Excellency at this Serious period and which is to Soften my last moments will not be rejected.1

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 honour.

Let me hope Sir, that if ought in my Character impresses you with Esteem towards me, if ought 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.2 I have the honour to be Your Excellencys Most obedient and most humble Servant

John André Adj. Gen. to the Brit: Army

ALS, DLC:GW; copy, DLC: Hamilton-McLane Family Papers; copy, enclosed in GW to Samuel Huntington, 7 Oct. (Document XVI), DNA:PCC, item 152; copy, ScCC; copy, OClWHi; copy, NjMoHP. GW’s aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton wrote an undated note on the copy in DLC: Hamilton-McLane Family Papers: “Copy of a letter written by André to Genl Washington the day before he was executed requesting to be Shot: As this favor Could not be granted; it was thought most kind to return no answer: André was hanged the next day (Oct. 2nd) about half a mile back of the village of Tappan at 12 Oclock.”

Hamilton wrote his fiancé Elizabeth Schuyler from Tappan on 2 Oct.: “I must inform you that I urged a compliance with Andre’s request to be shot and I do not think it would have had an ill effect; but some people are only sensible to motives of policy, and sometimes from a narrow disposition mistake it. When André’s tale comes to be told, and present resentment is over, the refusing him the privilege of choosing ⟨the⟩ manner of death will be branded with too much obduracy.

“It was proposed to me to suggest to him the idea of an exchange for Arnold; but I knew I should have forfieted his esteem by doing it, and therefore declined it. As a man of honor he could not but reject it and I would not for the world have proposed to him a thing, which must have placed me in the unamiable light of supposing him capable of a meanness, or of not feeling myself the impropriety of the measure. I confess to you I had the weakness to value the esteem of a dying man; because I reverenced his merit” (Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 2:448–50, angle brackets in source).

Hamilton commented further on André’s detention and execution when he wrote Lt. Col. John Laurens circa 11 Oct.: “Never perhaps did any man suffer death with more justice, or deserve it less. The first step he took after his capture was to write a letter to General Washington conceived in terms of dignity without insolence and apology without meanness. The scope of it was to vindicate himself from the imputation of having assumed a mean character for treacherous or interested purposes; asserting that he had been involuntarily an impostor, that contrary to his intentions, which was to meet a person for intelligence on neutral ground, he had been betrayed within our posts and forced into the vile condition of an enemy in disguise, soliciting only that to whatever rigor policy might devote him a decency of treatment might be observed, due to a person who though unfortunate had been guilty of nothing dishonorable. His request was granted in its full extent, for in the whole progress of the affair, he was treated with the most scrupulous delicacy. When brought before the Board of Officers, he met with every mark of indulgence and was required to answer no interrogatory, which could even embarrass his feelings. On his part, while he carefully concealed everything that might involve others, he frankly confessed all the facts relating to himself; and upon his confession without the trouble of examining a witness, the Board made their report. The members of it were not more impressed with the candor and firmness mixed with a becoming sensibility, which he displayed than he was penetrated with their liberality and politeness. He acknowle[d]ged the generosity of the behaviour towards him, in every respect, but particularly in this, in the strongest terms of manly gratitude. In a conversation with a Gentleman who visited him after his trial, he said he flattered himself he had never been illiberal; but if there were any remains of prejudice, in his mind, his present experience must obliterate them. …

“When his sentence was announced to him, he remarked, that since it was his lot to die there was still a choice in the mode which would make a material difference to his feelings, and he would be happy, if possible, to be indulged with a professional death. He made a second application by letter in concise, but persuasive terms. It was thought this indulgence being incompatible with the customs of war could not be granted and it was therefore determined in both cases to evade an answer to spare him the sensations, which a certain knowle[d]ge of the intended mode would inflict.

“In going to the place of execution, he bowed familiarly as he went along to all those with whom he had been acquainted in his confinement. A smile of complacency expressed the serene fortitude of his mind. Arrived at the fatal spot, he asked with some emotion, must I then die in this manner? He was told it had been unavoidable. ‘I am reconciled to my fate (said he) but not to the mode.’ Soon however recollecting himself, he added, ‘it will be but a momentary pang,’ and springing upon the cart performed the last offices to himself with a composure that excited the admiration and melted the hearts of the beholders. Upon being told the final moment was at hand, and asked if he had any thing to say, he answered: ‘nothing, but to request you will witness to the world, that I die like a brave man.’ Among the extra ordinary circumstances that attended him, in the midst of his enemies, he died universally esteemed and universally regretted” (Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 2:460–70, quotes on 465–66, 468; see also Documents II and VIII).

Col. Stephen Moylan wrote Joseph Reed, president of the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council, from camp on 1 Oct.: “Major André is to be executed this evening at 5 o’clock. What a pity it is not Arnold that is to suffer in his room. His conduct through the examination has been open, candid, manly, and has gained him the esteem of every one. He has been led into the scrape against his judgment, and fortunately for America, by the bad conduct of Arnold in sending him back, was catched” (Reed, Joseph Reed description begins William B. Reed. Life and Correspondence of Joseph Reed, Military Secretary of Washington, at Cambridge; Adjutant-General of the Continental Army; Member of the Congress of the United States; and President of the Executive Council of the State of Pennsylvania. 2 vols. Philadelphia, 1847. description ends , 2:276). Moylan also exchanged letters with his brother John regarding Arnold (see Griffin, Stephen Moylan description begins Martin I. J. Griffin. Stephen Moylan: Muster-Master General, Secretary and Aide-de-Camp to Washington, Quartermaster-General, Colonel of Fourth Pennsylvania Light Dragoons and Brigadier-General of the War for American Independence. Philadelphia, 1909. description ends , 108).

Dr. James Thacher wrote in his journal entry for 1 Oct.: “I went this afternoon to witness the execution of Major Andre: a large concourse of people had assembled, the gallows was erected, and the grave and coffin prepared to receive the remains of this celebrated but unfortunate officer; but a flag of truce arrived with a communication from Sir Henry Clinton, making another and further proposals for the release of Major Andre, in consequence of which the execution is postponed till tomorrow, at twelve o’clock” (Thacher, Military Journal description begins James Thacher. Military Journal of the American Revolution, From the commencement to the disbanding of the American Army; Comprising a detailed account of the principal events and Battles of the Revolution, with their exact dates, And a Biographical Sketch of the most Prominent Generals. Hartford, 1862. description ends , 225; see also Document XI). Thacher resumed his account of André’s execution in his journal entry for 2 Oct.: “Major Andre is no more among the living. I have just witnessed his exit. It was a tragical scene of the deepest interest. …

“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, and the scene was affectingly 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 Andre 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 fears 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 awkward executioner. Colonel Scammel 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; it proved indeed ‘but a momentary pang.’ He was dressed in his royal regimentals and boots, and his remains, in the same dress, were placed in an ordinary coffin, and interred at the foot of the gallows; and the spot was consecrated by the tears of thousands” (Thacher, Military Journal description begins James Thacher. Military Journal of the American Revolution, From the commencement to the disbanding of the American Army; Comprising a detailed account of the principal events and Battles of the Revolution, with their exact dates, And a Biographical Sketch of the most Prominent Generals. Hartford, 1862. description ends , 226–28; see also Benjamin Russell to Thacher, 29 March 1834, in Dawson, Papers Concerning André description begins Henry B. Dawson, comp. Papers Concerning the Capture and Detention of Major John André. Yonkers, N.Y., 1866. description ends , 134–39). For the man who played the dead march and the man who served as executioner, see Lossing, Pictorial Field-Book description begins Benson J. Lossing. The Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution; or, Illustrations, by Pen and Pencil, of the History, Biography, Scenery, Relics, and Traditions of the War for Independence. 2 vols. New York, 1851–52. description ends , 2:203.

Pvt. Elijah Fisher wrote in his journal entry for 2 Oct. 1780: “Maj. Andre was Executed at twelve of the Clock, there was a gard consisting of sixteen Commishened offisers, twenty-six sarjts. and one hundred and Eighty Rank and file and twelve Drums and fifes” (Fisher’s Journal description begins Wm. B. Lapham, ed. Elijah Fisher’s Journal while in the War for Independence, and Continued Two Years After He Came to Maine. 1775–1784. Augusta, Maine, 1880. description ends , 16). Lt. Col. Henry Dearborn wrote in his journal entry for the same date: “at 12 oclock this day Majr Andre was executed. he discoverd great firmness & candor on the occasion; he was one of the most promising yong Gentlemen in the British Army” (Brown and Peckham, Dearborn Journals, 206). Lt. William S. Pennington of the 2d Continental Artillery Regiment wrote in his diary entry for 2 Oct.: “This day 12 o’clock, Major André, Adjutant-General to the British Army, was executed in camp as a spy. He behaved with great fortitude. Although self-preservation and the laws and usages of nations justify, and policy dictates, the procedure, yet, I must conceive, most of the officers in the Army felt for the unfortunate gentleman” (Pennington, “Diary,” description begins A. C. M. Pennington, contributor. “Diary of William S. Pennington, of New Jersey, 1780–1781.” Journal of the Military Service Institution of the United States 4 (1883): 314–29. description ends 322). For an unsympathethic perspective on those who lamented André’s execution as a spy, see Martin, Private Yankee Doodle description begins Joseph Plumb Martin. Private Yankee Doodle: Being a Narrative of Some of the Adventures, Dangers and Sufferings of a Revolutionary Soldier. Edited by George F. Scheer. 1962. Reprint. New York, 1968. description ends , 206–7.

Maj. Caleb Gibbs, who commanded GW’s guard, wrote an account of André’s final hours dated 2 Oct.: “At 12 oClock, P.M. Major Andrie Adjt Genel to the B. Army was executed persuant to his sentence determind by a board of Genel Officers & as soon as he got into the cart ‘he said with a firm composure of mind that he was perfectly reconciled to his Death but not quite to the mode[’]—he look around & adr[e] ss’d himself to the Officer of the Guard & said with a smile ‘it is but for a moment Sir,[’] he seem not in the least to [be] agitated in his last moments, not one moment before he was turn off he was asked if he had any [thing] to say as time would be allowed him for that purpose, he‘said nothing more than he call on all the gentlemen present to bear witness that he died like a brave man—& did” (André, Journal description begins John André. Major André’s Journal: Operations of the British Army under Lieutenant Generals Sir William Howe and Sir Henry Clinton, June 1777 to November 1778. 1930. Reprint. New York, 1968. description ends , facsimile manuscript preceding 113). Continental army chaplain Joel Barlow also witnessed André’s hanging and wrote Ruth Baldwin, his eventual wife, from Orangetown on that same date: “A politer gentleman, or a greater character of his age, perhaps is not alive. He was twenty-eight years old. He was dressed completely and suffered with calmness and cheerfulness. With an appearance of philosophy and heroism, he observed that he was buoyed above the fear of death by the consciousness that every action of his life had been honorable; that in a few minutes he should be out of all pleasure and pain. Whether he has altered his mind, or whether he has any mind, is now best known to himself. … I gave them a preachment yesterday for the fourth time—a flaming political sermon, occasioned by the treachery of Arnold. I had a number of gentleman from the other brigades, and I am told it did me great honor” (Todd, Life and Letters of Barlow description begins Charles Burr Todd. Life and Letters of Joel Barlow, LL.D.: Poet, Statesman, Philosopher. New York and London, 1886. description ends , 35).

Maj. John Palsgrave Wyllys began a letter to his father George from camp at Orangetown on 2 Oct.: “The particulars of Mr Arnold’s desertion doubtless have by this time reached Hartford—his plot, had it succeeded, must have been attended with most fatal consequences; and he had secured the execution of it by every method in his power—three days were to have completed the villainy,—&, most probably, our ruin.—it was happily detected—scarce is there a common Soldier in the Army, who is not sensible of the importance of the escape, or who does express his joy for the deliverance—indeed, Sir, it may be ranked as one of the most remarkable incidents throughout the course of the present war—nothing, humanly speaking, could have Saved us, but the discovery of that treachery, and but one small, one very unlikely chance for that—the Agent detected proved to be the British Adjutant-General—one of the best Officers in their Army—Sr Harry Clinton tried every method to save his life but in vain—he was executed this day—and, to do him justice, died as became a Soldier” (Wyllys Papers description begins The Wyllys Papers: Correspondence and Documents Chiefly of Descendants of Gov. George Wyllys of Connecticut, 1590–1796. Hartford, 1924. Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society, vol. 21. description ends , 467–68).

Adj. Gen. Alexander Scammell wrote New Hampshire delegate Nathaniel Peabody on 3 Oct.: “Treason! Treason! Treason! black as hell! That a man so high on the list of fame should be guilty as Arnold, must be attributed not only to original sin, but actual transgressions.

“Heavens and earth! we were all astonishment, each peeping at his next neighbor to see if any treason was hanging about him: nay, we even descended to a critical examination of ourselves. This surprise soon settled down into a fixed detestation and abhorrence of Arnold, which can receive no addition. His treason has unmasked him the veriest villain of centuries past, and set him in true colors. His conduct and sufferings at the northward, has in the eyes of the army and his country, covered a series of base, grovelling, dirty, scandalous, and rascally peculation and fraud; and the army and country, eve[r] indulgent and partial to an officer who has suffered in the common cause, wished to cover his faults, and we were even afraid to examine too closely, for fear of discovering some of his rascality. Now after all these indulgencies, the partiality of his countrymen, the trust and confidence the Commander-in-Chief had reposed in him, the prodigious sums that he has pilfered from his country, which has been indulgent enough to overlook his mal-practices, I say, after all this, it is impossible to paint him in colors sufficiently black. Avarice, cursed avarice, with unbounded ambition, void of every principle of honor, honesty, generosity, or gratitude, induced the caitiff to make the first overtures to the enemy, as Andre, the British Adjutant-General declared upon his honor, when on trial before the General officers.

“This brave, accomplished officer was yesterday hanged; not a single spectator but what pitied his untimely fate, although filled with gratitude for the providential discovery; convinced that his sentence was just, and that the law of nations and custom of war justified and rendered it necessary. Yet his personal accomplishments, appearance and behavior, gained him the good wishes and opinion of every person who saw him. He was, perhaps, the most accomplished officer of the age—he met his fate in a manner which did honor to the character of a soldier.

“Smith, the man who harbored him, is under trial for his life; and I believe will suffer the same fate.

“May Arnold’s life be protracted under all the keenest stings and reflections of a guilty conscience; be hated and abhorred by all the race of mankind; and finally suffer the excruciating tortures due to so great a traitor” (Dawson, Papers Concerning André description begins Henry B. Dawson, comp. Papers Concerning the Capture and Detention of Major John André. Yonkers, N.Y., 1866. description ends , 66–68; see also Scammell to Otho Holland Williams, 19 Oct., in Otho Holland Williams Papers description begins Maryland Historical Records Survey Project. Calendar of the General Otho Holland Williams Papers in the Maryland Historical Society. Baltimore, 1940. description ends , 24–25, and The Smith Family and Major General Benedict Arnold’s Treachery, 26 Sept.–30 Oct., editorial note).

From Tappan, also on 3 Oct., GW’s aide-de-camp Richard Kidder Meade wrote Virginia delegate Theodorick Bland at Philadelphia: “I have been absent for some days with the general, on an interview between him and the general and admiral of the French army and navy.” Calling Arnold “an avaricious, unprincipled villain,” Meade continued: “As I expect to see you not at a very distant period, and you will have been informed of this black affair, though not of all the particulars of it, I shall reserve them until then. I will only add, that poor André, the British adjutant-general, was executed yesterday; nor did it happen, my dear sir, (though I would not have saved him for the world,) without a tear on my part. You may think this declaration strange, as he was an enemy, until I tell you that he was a rare character. From the time of his capture to his last moment, his conduct was such as did honor to the human race. I mean by these words to express all that can be said favorable of man. The compassion of every man of feeling and sentiment was excited for him, beyond your conception. This affair, I know, will furnish us, when we meet, with matter for some hours’ conversation; and I will, on my way to Virginia, allot as much time as possible for this and other purposes” (Campbell, Bland Papers description begins Charles Campbell, ed. The Bland Papers: Being a Selection from the Manuscripts of Colonel Theodorick Bland, Jr., of Prince George County, Virginia. 2 vols. Petersburg, Va., 1840-43. description ends , 2:33–34; see also The Hartford Conference, 20–22 Sept., editorial note).

Maj. Benjamin Tallmadge wrote Jeremiah Wadsworth from Haverstraw, N.Y., on 4 Oct. with thoughts on André’s hanging: “His conduct was unparalleled on the occasion. He met death with a smile, chearfully marching to the place of execution, & bidding his friends, those who had been with him, farewell. He called me to him a few minutes before he swung off, and expressed his Gratitude to me for the Civilities in such a way, and so chearfully bid me adieu, that I was obliged to leave the parade in a flood of Tears. I cannot say enough of his fortitude—unfortunate youth; I wish Arnold had been in his place” (Ford, Webb Correspondence and Journals description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed. Correspondence and Journals of Samuel Blachley Webb. 3 vols. New York, 1893–94. description ends , 2:293–94; see also Document II, source note).

Many years later, a surgeon “who stood within four or five rods of Major André” recalled the officer’s execution: “André was a small man, and seemed hardly to stretch the rope, and his legs dangled so much that the hangman was ordered to take hold of them and keep them straight. The body was cut down after hanging fifteen or twenty minutes, and buried near the gallows” (Dawson, Papers Concerning André description begins Henry B. Dawson, comp. Papers Concerning the Capture and Detention of Major John André. Yonkers, N.Y., 1866. description ends , 144–45; for the earlier publication of these recollections, see The Knickerbocker, or New-York Monthly Magazine 16 [October 1840]: 356–57).

Former Continental artillery officer John Van Dyke, “one of four officers” who walked with André to his execution, wrote John Pintard from New York on 27 Aug. 1821: “A strong guard paraded before the dwelling-house where he was confined. He was attended in his room, night and day, by two American officers, and sentinels were placed around the house. There were six steps which led to the stoop of the house; on the right of these, one American officer with myself were standing when Major Andre came out of the front door of the house, in regimentals, hooking his arm with the two American officers, his attendants, one on his right and one on his left.

“He ran down the steps of the stoop as quickly and lively as though no execution was to take place; and immediately fell into the centre of the guard, the place assigned him.

“In this situation, the commanding officer gave command: ‘Forward March.’ The whole marched off, the drums and fifes beating and playing lively tunes. Major Andre said, ‘I am very much surprised to find your troops under so good discipline; and your music is excellent.’

“I had taken my station close on the left of Major Andre’s left hand officer; and continued in that station the whole march. The guard marched a short distance when it wheeled to the left, turning a corner of the road, and marched a short distance, when they again wheeled to the left, in order to pass through a fence. Having entered a field, they marched forward a short distance, wheeled to the right, and halted. The ground here was level; a little distance in front was a moderate ascending hill, on the top of which the gallows was erected. In the position where they halted, Major Andre was, for the first time, in view of the gallows. Major Andre here said, ‘Gentlemen, I am disappointed. I expected my request’ (which was to be shot) ‘would have been granted.’ No answer was given, and he continued with his arms locked with those of the two officers.

“In a few minutes the guard marched off, ascended the hill, and halted. At this time Major Andre was about twenty feet from the gallows. He then bowed his head a little, viewed his feet, and so up until his head rose to its natural position, biting his under lip and shaking his head; at which time I discovered a small flush moving over his left cheek. I supposed at the time he looked at the gallows and viewed himself from the feet upwards that he was reflecting upon the untimely end he had come to.

“In a few minutes the hangman led the wagon under the gallows; and the commanding officer then said, ‘Major Andre, you will please to get on the wagon.’ Major Andre advanced to the hinder part of the wagon, putting his hands upon it, made a motion as though intending to jump on; but faltering, he put his right knee on, and then raised himself up into the wagon, turned himself to the guard, placing his hands on his hips.

“The commanding officer, who was on horseback, then said, ‘Major Andre, if you have anything to say, you can speak, for you have but a short time to live.’ Major Andre, standing with his hands on his hips, said, ‘I have nothing more to say, Gentlemen, than this, you all bear me witness, that I meet my fate as a brave man.’ The hangman then ascended into the wagon and stood at Major Andre’s right hand; when in the act of opening the noose of the halter, Major Andre, with his right hand, made a moderate snatch, took the halter out of the hangman’s hand, took off his hat, and put it down: then took off his white neckcloth and put it in his right hand coat pocket; after which, with the forefinger of his right hand, he pushed down the collar of his shirt, and opening the knot of the halter, he put it over his head, and drew the knot close, on the right side of his neck. He then tied a white handkerchief over his eyes, with much apparent composure of mind. The hangman having secured the end of the halter to the top of the gallows, he descended from the wagon. The commanding officer directed the hangman to tie his arms slack behind him. Major Andre then taking a white handkerchief out of his right hand coat pocket, gave it to the hangman, who tied his arms as directed—this was done that he should not raise his arms while hanging.

“The commanding officer then gave a signal, by the falling of his sword, for the hangman to drive off. The hangman then led the horses from under the gallows, and Major Andre swung off. He had not hung more than half a minute, neither had he as yet made any struggle, when the commanding officer ordered a soldier to bear down on his shoulders, that he might not be long in agony; and he immediately died. Neither did Major Andre struggle in the least, nor did he hang a quarter of the time usual in such cases. The commanding officer ordered two soldiers to bear him up, one on each side, with one arm under his shoulders and one under his thighs. The commanding officer then cut the halter, when the two soldiers bore him away from the gallows. He was not allowed to fall to the ground.

“Every attention and respect was paid to Major Andre that it was possible to pay to a man in his situation … every officer and soldier in the army would have lifted both hands for the exchange of Andre for General Arnold. This exchange was offered by General Washington, but refused by General Clinton, the British Commander-in-chief. So the life of a traitor was saved; and Major Andre fell a sacrifice” (Dawson, Papers Concerning André description begins Henry B. Dawson, comp. Papers Concerning the Capture and Detention of Major John André. Yonkers, N.Y., 1866. description ends , 186–90).

An artificer in Col. Jeduthan Baldwin’s regiment later recalled André’s execution: “One of our men, (I believe his name was Armstrong,) being one of the oldest and best workmen at his trade in the regiment, was selected to make his coffin, which he performed, and painted black, agreeably to the custom in those times.

“At this time Andre was confined in what was called a Dutch church, a small stone building, with only one door, and closely guarded by six sentinels. When the hour appointed for his execution arrived … a guard of three hundred men were paraded at the place of his confinement. A kind of procession was formed by placing the guard in single file on each side of the road. In front were a large number of American officers, of high rank, on horseback. These were followed by the wagon containing Andre’s coffin; then a large number of officers on foot, with Andre in their midst. The procession moved slowly up a moderately-rising hill, I should think about a fourth of a mile to the west. On the top was a field without any enclosure. In this was a very high gallows, made by setting up two poles or crotches, laying a pole on the top. The wagon that contained the coffin was drawn directly under the gallows. In a short time Andre stepped into the [h]ind end of the wagon; then on his coffin—took off his hat and laid it down—then placed his hands upon his hips, and walked very uprightly back and forth, as far as the length of his coffin would permit; at the same time casting his eyes upon the pole over his head, and the whole scenery by which he was surrounded. He was dressed in what I should call a complete British uniform: his coat was of the brightest scarlet, faced or trimmed with the most beautiful green. His under-clothes, or vest and breeches, were bright buff. … He had a long and beautiful head of hair, which, agreeably to the fashion, was wound with a black riband, and hung down his back.”

Subsequently, André’s “arms were tied just above the elbows, and behind the back. The rope was then made fast to the pole overhead. The wagon was very suddenly drawn from under the gallows, which, together with the length of rope, gave him a most tremendous swing back and forth; but in a few moments he hung entirely still. … He remained hanging, I should think, from twen[t]y to thirty minutes; and during that time the chambers of death were never stiller than the multitude by which he was surrounded. Orders were given to cut the rope, and take him down, without letting him fall. This was done, and his body carefully laid on the ground. Shortly after, the guard was withdrawn, and spectators were permitted to come forward to view the corpse; but the crowd was so great that it was some time before I could get an opportunity. When I was able to do this, his coat, vest, and breeches were taken off, and his body laid in the coffin, covered by some under-clothes. The top of the coffin was not put on. I viewed the corpse more carefully than I had ever done that of any human being before. His head was very much on one side, in consequence of the manner in which the halter drew upon his neck. His face appeared to be greatly swollen and very black, much resembling a high degree of mortification. It was indeed a shocking sight to behold. …

“I now turned to take a view of the executioner, who was still standing by one of the posts of the gallows. I walked nigh enough to him to have laid my hand upon his shoulder, and looked him directly in his face. He appeared to be about twenty-five years of age, his beard of two or three weeks’ growth, and his whole face covered with what appeared to me to be blacking taken from the outside of a greasy pot. A more frightful-looking being I never beheld: his whole countenance bespoke him to be a fit instrument for the business he had been doing” (Barber and Howe, Historical Collections of New Jersey description begins John W. Barber and Henry Howe. Historical Collections of New Jersey: Past and Present . . .. 1868. Reprint. Spartanburg, S.C., 1966. description ends , 77–78).

1Massachusetts soldier Nathaniel Cowdrey, then at Orangetown, wrote in his diary entry for 30 Sept. that André had “10 Senterys Sot over him Besids 2 ofesers with Drawn Swords were Sot over him” (Moulton, “Cowdrey,” description begins Mary A. Stimpson Moulton. “Sketch of the Life of My Great-Grandfather, Nathaniel Cowdrey, of Reading, Mass.” The American Monthly Magazine 4 (January–July 1894): 409–16. description ends 414).

2A subsequent account relates that six officers favored André “being shot; six others were of opinion that he ought to be hung as a spy.” Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene cast the deciding vote for hanging (Stark, Memoir of John Stark description begins Caleb Stark. Memoir and Official Correspondence of Gen. John Stark, with Notices of Several Other Officers of the Revolution . . .. 1860. Reprint. Boston, 1972. description ends , 83).

Joshua Hett Smith later wrote that André’s letter prompted GW to consult “the board of officers on the subject. Overcome with remorse and sorrow, mingled with esteem, they were all for granting this last request, until General Greene insisted that his crime was that of a common spy, and that the service and good of the American cause required the most exemplary punishment. This he urged with such vehemence as induced a compliance in the rest; for, said he, if he is shot, mankind will think there are circumstances in his case, which intitled him to notice and indulgence” (Smith, Narrative description begins Joshua Hett Smith. An Authentic Narrative of the Causes which Led to the Death of Major Andrè, Adjutant-General of His Majesty’s Forces in North America. 1808. Reprint. New York, 1969. description ends , 165–66).

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