Major John Andre


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Major John AndreAndre, JOHN, British military officer; born in London in 1751; was the son of a Genevan, who was a merchant in London. After being educated at Geneva, Andre returned, and entered a mercantile house in London when he was Eighteen years old. He was a very talented young man - he painted well and wrote poetry. His literary tastes brought to him the friendship of literary people. Among these was the poetess, Anna Seward, of Lichfield, to whose cousin, Honora Sneyd, Andre became warmly attached. They were engaged, but their young age caused a postponement of their wedding, and Andre entered the army and came to America, in 1774, as lieutenant of the Royal Fusileers. With them, in Canada, he was taken prisoner by Montgomery, at St. Johns (November 2, 1775), and was sent to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. In December, 1776, he was exchanged, and promoted to captain in the British army. He was appointed aide to General Grey in the summer of 1777, and on the departure of that officer he was placed on the staff of Sir Henry Clinton, by whom he was promoted (1780) to the rank of major, and appointed adjutant-general of the British forces in America. His talents were appreciated, and wherever taste was to be displayed in any arrangements, the matter was left to Andre. He was the chief actor in promoting and arranging the Mischianza, and took a principal part in all private theatrical performances. Sir Henry employed him to carry on the correspondence with Benedict Arnold respecting the betrayal of his country. Having held a personal interview with the traitor, he was returning to New York on horseback, when he was arrested, near Tarrytown, . He was transferred to Tappan, tried as a spy, and was condemned and executed, October 2, 1780.

Capture of Major Andre

Capture of Major Andre

In March, 1901, Lord Grey, in examining a lot of family papers that had not been disturbed since the close of the Revolutionary War, discovered what was believed to be the original diary of Major Andre, in which is given a narrative of the campaign of 177778 day by day.

The story of Major Andre's career, in connection with the complot of SIR HENRY CLINTON and GENERAL BENEDICT ARNOLD occupies a conspicuous place in our history, and sympathy for the offender, not unmixed with denunciations of the court of inquiry that condemned him, have been abundant, and not always wise or just. The court that condemned him saw clearly, by his own confession, that he deserved the fate of a spy; and if they had been swayed by other motives than those of justice and the promotion of the public good, they had full justification in the course of the British officers in pursuit of the British policy towards the Americans. Scores of good men, not guilty of any offence but love of country and defense of their rights, had been hanged by the positive orders of Cornwallis in the South; and Sir Henry Clinton himself, who ungenerously attributed the act of the board of inquiry in condemning Andre, and of Washington in approving the sentence, to "personal rancor," for which no cause existed, had approved of ten-fold more "inhumanity" in the acts of his subordinates. One of them wrote to Clinton, "I have ordered, in the most positive manner, that every militiaman who has borne arms with us, and afterwards joined the enemy, shall be immediately hanged." This included all officers and men, even those, as in South Carolina, where this subaltern was serving, who had been forced into the royal service. This order Clinton approved, and sent it to Secretary Germain. That secretary answered Clinton's letter, saying, "The most disaffected will now be convinced that we are not afraid to punish." The order was rigorously executed. Men of great worth and purity were hanged, without the forms of a trial, for bearing arms in defense of their liberty; Andre was hanged, after an impartial trial, for the crime of plotting and abetting a scheme for the enslavement of 3,000,000 people. He deserved his fate according to the laws of war. It was just towards him and merciful to a nation. Cicero justly said, in regard to Catiline, "Mercy towards a traitor is an injury to the state." Andre was treated with great consideration by George Washington, whose headquarters at Tappan were near the place of his trial. The commander-in-chief supplied the former with all needed refreshments for his table. Washington did not have a personal interview with Andre, but treated him as leniently as the rules of war would allow.

The captors of Major Andre were John Paulding, David Williams, and Isaac Van Wart. Washington recommended Congress to reward them for their fidelity. They were each presented with a silver medal, and they were voted a pension of $200 a year each in silver or its equivalent. Monuments have been erected to the memory of the captors - to Paulding, in St. Peter's churchyard, near Peekskill; to Van Wart, by the citizens of Westchester county, in 1829, in the Presbyterian churchyard at Greenburg, of which church the captor was an active officer and chorister for many years; and to Williams, in Schoharie county, New York.

The King caused a monument to be placed in Westminster Abbey to the memory of Andre. It seems to be quite out of place among the "worthies" of England, for he was hanged as a spy, and was a plotter for the ruin of a people struggling for justice. But his monarch honored him for an attempted state service, knighted his brother, and pensioned his family. His remains were at first interred at the place of his execution, and in 1821 were exhumed and conveyed to England. A monument was erected at the place of his execution to commemorate the event by the late Cyrus W. Field, but it was soon afterwards blown up by unknown persons.




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