September 23, 1780: the Capture of Major John André

Capture of Andre By John Paulding David Williams and Isaac Van Wart at Tarrytown NY Currier & Ives c1876 (Small)It was in September that Major John André, the British soldier, was captured.

He had come up the Hudson from New York City to meet with Major General Benedict Arnold, who was in command of West Point. Arnold, frustrated that he was under-appreciated and passed over for promotion, decided to betray the colonials and join the British. The plans to West Point were supposed to seal the deal, only André was caught, put on trial, and hung. And he was captured in Tarrytown not far from where Warner Library and the monument to his three Revolutionary war captors stand. (The stream flowing through Patriot’s Park between Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow is named André Brook.)

André was told three things: first, do not travel by the main roads; second, stay in uniform; and third, do not to miss the boat from the British frigate that had sailed up the Hudson to deliver him near West Point to meet Arnold. André did not follow any of the advice, and then was surprised to find himself arrested as a spy. Though he had requested a gentleman’s death (firing squad), he was hung. The rules of war were quite clear. Had André been arrested in uniform and been convicted as a spy, he would have been shot.

André's self-portrait (from Wikipedia)

André’s self-portrait (from Wikipedia)

It has been said that André’s execution was a payback for the British execution of Nathan Hale, whom the British executed for being a spy on September 22, 1776 in New York City nearly four years to the day of André’s death.

To celebrate the anniversary, the Historical Society had two events: Cookies with André and Wine with André. A local actor played John André at both events. The cookies event was for children, but the audience was mostly adults (five children out of 25), which included myself. Everyone enjoyed the performance, including the children. It is hoped that, with some fine-tuning, that the act can be taken to schools to educate the young on American history.

I also heard that the wine event was well-attended.


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Filed under History, Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown

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