Major John Andre: spy of the American Revolution

Major Andre was tried at Tappan by fourteen general officers, found guilty, and hanged there on the 2nd of October, 1780. He begged to be shot that he might die like a soldier and not as a spy. In a letter to Washington he pleaded with touching but manly earnestness for this boon. That letter has been thus paraphrased in verse, by Willis:

"It is not the fear of death that damps my brow, It is not for another breath, I ask thee now; I can die with a lip unstirr'd, and a quiet heart-- Let but this prayer be heard ere I depart.

I can give up my mother's look--my sister's kiss; I can think of love--yet brook a death like this! I can give up the young fame I burn'd to win; All--but the spotless name I glory in.

Thine is the power to give, thine to deny Joy for the hour I live, calmness to die. By all the brave should cherish, by my dying breath, I ask that I may perish by a soldier's death."

The usage of both armies and the implacable demands of the military code toward a spy forbade a compliance with his wishes. The British officers, on all occasions, had been quick to hand American captives. We have seen how brutally they gibbeted young Nathan Hale; and scores of patriots in South Carolina had recently perished by the rope by order of Cornwallis, for no other offence than loving the service of their own country better than that of their oppressors. Every officer in the American army would gladly have exchanged Andre for Arnold, and efforts to accomplish that end were made, but failed. Arnold died in his bed twenty-one years afterward; while Andre, the more innocent victim of the wicked complot of Clinton and Arnold, perished on a gibbet four days after he was convicted. The last words of Andre to the multitude who saw him die were--" I pray you bear me witness that I met my fate like a brave man." The American people and their annalists have ever done so. His king knighted his brother, and pensioned his mother and sisters; and the custodians of Westminster Abbey dishonored that sanctuary of the virtuous and noble dead of the kingdom, by allowing a conspicuous monument to his memory to be placed in it. Arnold escaped punishment altogether, for his was too coarse a nature to suffer the mental anguish of remorse. He was shunned and neglected by those who accepted the treason but despised the traitor, excepting the king and a few persons in office; and he died in London, in poverty and obscurity. His children were placed on the pension-list of the realm.

The captors of Andre--the three young militiamen--were rewarded by the Congress with a vote of thanks; and to each was awarded a commemorative medal of silver and two hundred dollars a year for life. At the burial place of each a marble monument has been erected; and another marks the spot where Andre was arrested.

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