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Execution of Andre

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol II.  Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

General Robertson, of the British army, came up yesterday [October 1] to Dobb’s Ferry with a flag, which was soon dismissed, it being of so trite a nature, viz., to entreat his Excellency General Washington, at the request of Sir Harry Clinton, to use lenity to Major Andre; it had the effect to respite him for some hours, as the flag did not return till five o’clock, which was the hour fixed in general orders for his execution. This day [October 2] at twelve o’clock it took place, by hanging him by the neck. Perhaps no person (on like occasion) ever suffered the ignominious death, that was more regretted by officers and soldiers of every rank in our army; or did I ever see any person meet his fate with more fortitude and equal conduct. When he was ordered to mount the wagon under the gallows, he replied: “He was ready to die, but wished the mode to have been in some more eligible way;” preferring to be shot. After he had opened his shirt collar, fixed the rope, and tied the silk handkerchief over his eyes, he was asked by the officer commanding the troops, if he wished to say any thing? He replied: “I have said all I had to say before, and have only to request the gentlemen present, to bear testimony that I met death as a brave man.”1

The flag mentioned to have come out with General Robertson, was received by General Greene and Colonel Hamilton; and what is curious, Arnold sent his resignation, with desire that General Washington should forward it to Congress, with an insolent letter, intimating he would never serve Congress any more, nor need they expect it. And, moreover, that if Major Andre should be executed by order of General Washington, that he would strike a blow on some of his friends on the continent, that should sufficiently retaliate for his loss to his Prince. General Greene, when he read the letter, treated it with contempt, and threw it on the ground before General Robertson, that he might return it to the traitor if he thought proper. The hanging of Major Andre, one of the most eminent officers and polite men in the British army, and the second life of Clinton, shows we are not deterred by great menaces, but determined to extirpate our enemies one by one, until peace shall be restored to our country.2

 

1 He was dressed in full uniform, and after the execution his servant demanded his clothing, which he received. His body was buried near the gallows.
2 Pennsylvania Packet, October 10. General Arnold, as soon as he heard of the execution of Major Andre, struck with this daring act of Washington’s, and alarmed for the safety of a beautiful and affectionate wife and four fine children he had left behind at West Point, wrote immediately the following laconic note to the rebel commander:

“Sir,—The wanton execution of a gallant British officer in cold blood, may be only the prelude to further butcheries on the same ill-fated occasion. Necessity compelled me to leave behind me in your camp, a wife and offspring, that are endeared to me by every sacred tie. If any violence be offered to them, remember I will revenge their wrongs in a deluge of American blood!

“Yours, &c.,
“B. Arnold,

“New York, October 5, 1780.
“His Excellency General Washington.”

No answer was received to the above.—Upcott, vi. 65.