History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Centennial Celebrations of the State of New York
Prepared pursuant to a Concurrent Resolution
of the Legislature of 1878 and Chapter 391 of the Laws of 1879
By Allen C. Beach, Secretary of State.
Weed, Parsons & Co. Printers 1879.
Ceremonies At The Old Fort In Schoharie
Old Fort in Schoharie
The above image is from the Centennial book. The balance of the images are courtesy of Jerod Rosman from royalty-free book and drawn by Darley. The one of the death warrant being read to Andre is a Chappel engraving
Selected passages from the Centennial Celebration at Schoharie.
The ceremony of laying the corner stone of the monument to David Williams, one of the captors of Andre, the British spy, took place at the Old Fort in Schoharie, on September 23, 1876. The following description of the Old Fort, with a short account of its history, is from the pen of Dr. Daniel Knower:
"On the 1st of June, 1774, the port of Boston was blockaded. The people of this valley contributed 525 bushels of wheat for their relief. In October, 1780, a strong force of Indians, Tories and soldiers, under the command of Sir John Johnson, the celebrated Indian chief Brant and the Seneca chief Corn Planter, attacked this place. The inhabitants fled to the fort. The Fort was attacked, but the enemy were repulsed by a shower of grapeshot and musket balls from the garrison and retreated. Only two persons in the Fort were killed, but one hundred of the defenseless inhabitants outside the Fort were murdered by the hostiles on that day. Not a house, barn or grain stack known to belong to a Whig was left standing; and it was estimated that 100,000 bushels of grain were destroyed. The houses and other property of the Tories were spared, but the exasperated Whigs set them on fire as soon as the enemy had gone, and all shared a common fate. The Fort is now in a perfect state of preservation, with the marks of the cannon balls of that day's attack on it. The Legislature of this State donated it to the supervisors of the county on condition that they keep it in repair."
Address by Grenville Tremain
Mr. President and Fellow Citizens
In that temple of silence and reconciliation where the enmities of twenty generations lie buried, in the tender and solemn gloom of that venerable abbey wherein is gathered the honored dust of England's bravest and best, surrounded by "royal sarcophagus and carved shrine, and by fading banners which tell of the knights of former time; where the Chathams and Mansfields repose, and where orators and poets lie," is a conspicuous monument, bearing this inscription:
Sacred to the memory of Major John Andre, who, raised by his merit at an early period of his life to the ran of Adjutant-General of the British forces in America and employed in an important but hazardous enterprise, fell a sacrifice to his zeal for his king and country.
By command of England's king, George the Third, was this monument raised in Westminster Abbey. The sculptor, true to the historical fact, has pictured and perpetuated the singular sense of pain and grief entertained by those who were the foes of him whose name is thus prominently carved in this temple of fame. Contemplating, as it were, with bowed head this rare homage of a great nation to her dead, the spectator is moved to inquire more minutely into the events of this life so grandly immortalized. What has won so much in a career of only twenty nine years? Is this sacred mausoleum of England's mighty dead, where, "Through long-drawn aisle and fretted vault," swept memories of those who have enriched the language, ennobled the human intellect, elevated humanity, or perpetuated in immortal verse the emotions and passions of men, on every side are names, the very utterance of which is an era, an army, and anthem, an empire. To associate with these mighty dead, how incalculable the honor! How indelible the record here engraven! How immortal the fame here perpetuated!
And yet this man thus wept by his foes and immortalized by his country was an enemy to American liberty, a foe to republicanism, whose death was ignoble, and whose ashes reposed for forty years under the free soil of our own land, marked only by a tree whose fruit never blossomed. *1 (For references by numbers see appendix at end of the proceedings.) That monument to the memory of John Andre would never have been raised, no such inscription would ever have been written,and that grim irony would not have marred the greatness of Westminster Abbey, but for the critical act, the crucial conduct and the incorruptible honor of him whose name is upon every lip and in every heart here today. (David Williams)
The minute details of the story and the life that are brought to mind by the ceremonies of this day will be wrought out by another and more competent hand. The expression of the thoughts and emotions suggested by the accepted facts connected with the memorable event of September 23, 1780, and a mere outline of the occurrence, are more appropriately within the province of the duty assigned, buoyed and strengthened by a belief in the leniency of judgment and the charitable consideration of those whom I address.
To us, living when the nation's life has spanned a century, when her greatness and her power are recognized in every clim and upon every sea, when the rich blessings of civil and religious liberty accompany every heart throb and every breath--to us the page that records the fidelity and the transcendent honor of David Williams, John Paulding and Isaac VanWart, is serried with lines of the deepest interest,and glorious with letters that can never fade.
We open today the book that perpetuates the history of revolutionary times, that tells how our country was baptized with fire and blood; how, through toils, and labors, and sacrifices,and sorrows and prayers, this last hope of republicanism arose; and we know that the "red rain of her slaughtered sires has but watered the earth for the harvest of her gallant sons." We turn to the chapter blackened by the only traitor that disgraced the revolutionary period, to find that his treachery was defeated,and the infant nation saved by the providential presence and the memorable act of him to whom we this day erect with pageant and with pride this monumental tribute.
That Andre's was an important but hazardous enterprise is now more fully appreciated than even when the stirring events of that period were being enacted--nay, than during the first half century of the nation's life. The true nature of that enterprise as well, thanks to the unerring adjustment of time, has become fixed and certain wherever intelligence and judicial fairness prevail over passion or sentimentality. I would not if I could, and certainly I could not if I would, mar the charm of that picture which the character and personality of Major Andre presents. Dissociated from the terrible consequences which would have resulted from a successful termination of that enterprise, and independent of the attempt made in certain quarters in England to cast a shade upon the spotless character of Washington, we cannot contemplate the fate of Andre, without emotions of the profoundest pity. Wherever loyalty and valor are respected, wherever steadfastness and manly devotion are admired, wherever youth, ambition, intelligence and beauty combined command interest and win affection, there will the character of Major Andre be cordially and duly appreciated. But these very qualities of heart and mind were the underlying causes of his connection with the enterprise. Considered with all the surrounding circumstances, however, I have no hesitation in saying that, in comparison with the high noon glory that surrounds the distinguished service, lofty firmness and untarnished honor of our won Nathan Hale, the conduct of Andre pales into a glimmering twilight. He who by corruption and bribery seeks profit and renown has no place beside him who for love of liberty considers his own single life but an insignificant offering upon the altar of his country.
The method of Andre's death was an inseparable accompaniment of the act and of the offense. *2 The laws of war and of nations have inexorably imposed the penalty, and its infamy cannot be lessened in the world's estimation by the fact that his brother was invested with the honors of knighthood. *3 Vattel, the great expositor of the laws of nations and of war, while he recognized such enterprises as not contrary to the external law of nations, denies that they are just and compatible with the laws of a pure conscience,and says: "Seducing a subject to betray his country; suborning a traitor to set fire to a magazine; practicing on the fidelity of a governor--enticing him, persuading him to deliver up a place, is prompting such person to commit detestable crimes. Is it honest to incite our most inveterate enemy to be guilty of a crime? * * * It is a different thing merely to accept the offers of a traitor, but when we know ourselves able to succeed without the assistance of traitors, it is noble to reject their offers with detestation."
At this distance of time, then, we view the act of Andre with that calmness and repose of judgment that does not err, and which is not warped by "Titles blown from adulation."
This is the darker side of the picture essential to its completeness; but here are lighter shades to attract the eye and warm the heart. Let us examine them.
Stand with me upon that historic spot, hard by Tarrytown, in the county of Westchester, where the dark blow that was aimed at the life of the young nation was arrested. There the zealous Andre sees visions of future glory and honor, kingliest rewards, within his very grasp. There, as he rides along his solitary path beyond the American lines, and on the very verge of safety, he knows that his heel is upon the throat of American freedom and independence. Within sight the great artery of trade and commerce flows majestic to the sea, unconscious that on this hapless morning of September 21, 1780, its bosom is vexed by the Vulture, laden with the fate of nations and of centuries. The giant mountains, sentinels of the centuries, stand and see the beginning and the tragic ending of the hellish plot which includes the destinies of the nation, and the sacrifice of the precious life upon which whose destinies hang. Standing at this point of observation, the magnitude of the service of David Williams is more fully seen, is more fully comprehended. In the rusty garb of a reduced gentleman the solitary horseman, as he approaches, is now the central figure of our view. And who is he? Major John Andre, adjutant-general of the British forces in America. He has left the "Mercuries reclining upon bales of goods,and the Genii playing with pens, ink and paper." Mercantile glories crowd no longer upon his fancy. An "impertinent consciousness" has whispered in his ear that he is not of the right stuff for a merchant, and the picture of his beautiful and beloved Honora has lost the talismanic power to lighten toil and inspire industry. *4 Accomplished in the lighter graces of music, poetry and painting, graceful and cultured in literary expression, fired with a zeal for glory:
for the large excitement
that the coming years would yield,
Eager-hearted as a boy,
When first he leaves his father's field,"
he has turned his glowing nature toward the profession of his heart. In the words of his biographer, few men were more capable than he of winning a soldier's reward. A prisoner at the surrender of St. John's, we see him clinging to the picture his own hand had painted of the loved Honora; promoted for merit and fidelity to a position far above his years and experience, winning the confidence and affection of his chief, Sir Henry Clinton, he is now commissioned for a service of which the King of England did not hesitate to say that "the public never can be compensated for the vast advantages which must have followed from the success of his plan."
Up to that critical moment, nine o'clock on the morning of the 23d of September, there had been no special lack of discretion on Andre's part. He had been borne along be fates that were propitious so far as human ken could see, though in fact perils were approaching from sources called accidental, perils which to him were entirely unforeseen. For more than a year he had, without exposure of suspicion, conducted a clandestine correspondence with the traitor Arnold. The treason had been hidden under the phrases of the mercantile profession. Arnold, under the feigned name of "Gustavus," had communicated much valuable, and often highly important information to Andre whom he addressed as John Anderson. Sir Henry Clinton, the commander of the British forces, had soon suspected the true rank and person of Gustavus. Several attemps at a personal interview had miscarried, but the infidelity of Arnold had never been suspected. He had by importunity at last succeeded in obtaining from Washington command of West Point without causing the slightest shade of suspicion to cross the sagacious mind of that watchful commander. There his plottings were renewed. Even the overture which had come in response to his communications, and borne by the ominous Vulture up the Hudson to within fourteen miles of Arnold's headquarters, near West Point, had been shown to Washington in the presence of La Fayette, with a brazen boldness that extinguished all doubts of Arnold's honor. "I had no more suspicion of Arnold than I had of myself," said the chief in relating this. On the 20th, Andre had boarded the Vulture in the highest spirits, confident of success. The details of that midnight voyage of twelve miles, from King's Ferry to Teller's Point, and back from the Vulture to Long Clove, are known to all. With oars carefully muffled in sheepskins, the flagboat, so called, beneath a serene and clear sky, approached in silence the place of meeting, where the arch traitor was hid among the firs.
From this point occur a series of trivial circumstances, insignificant in themselves but yet big with fate. The refusal of the boatmen to return to the Vulture that night necessitated the journey to the Smith house, some three or four miles distant, the consequent disguise assumed by Andre to escape detection during the return by land, and as well the possession of the papers found under Andre's stockings, which led his captors to the knowledge of his true character. Without that disguise and without those papers, while the conspiracy might not have been defeated, the life of Andre would have been saved. But the memorable act of Col. Livingston is still more remarkable. At daybreak, on the morning of the 22d, the Vulture still lingered with imprudent audacity in the vicinity of the American fortifications. Her presence had so outraged the spirit of Livingston and the troops that he applied, but without success, to Arnold for two heavy guns. Nothing daunted by the treasonable refusal of Arnold, he had carried a four pounder to Gallows Point, a lesser promontory of Tellers, and with but a scant supply of powder, he commenced so active a cannonading upon her that she was obliged to drop down the river beyond range. *5 In this manner all means of access to her by water was cut off from Andre. But for the American grit and perseverance of Livingston, Andre would doubtless have found some means of again boarding the Vulture, carrying with him the instruments for the destruction of West Point and her dependencies. Upon such apparently trivial and accidental incidents does the fate of nations frequently depend.
From the window of Smith's house Andre saw with impatience the Vulture withdraw, but he knew not that she carried with her all his hopes of future glory and renown. All that morning after Arnold's departure, which occurred at Ten o'clock, he chafed with impatience to depart. But the jealous, prying, gossip-loving guide, in whose care Andre had been left, proved too timid, weak and procrastinating for the part assigned him. Toward the last of that ill-omened Friday, the return was begun, with Andre's spirits sunk deep in gloom and sadness. And well might they be. The bargain had been made by which, for gold, officer, high in the esteem of Washington, had sold his birthright and his honor. During that long night he had been breathing the foul atmosphere where treason was hatched, had been looking into a face wrinkled with perfidy, into the blood-shot eyes of a debauched and worthless traitor. And he, the soul of honor, "the pet of the British army," had been bartering with devilish coolness for the soul of a fellowman. Involved in that midnight conference were the lives of men who had never done him injury, and the happiness of innocent women and children who had never crossed his path. He, the hero, who had been fired by a desire to win renown by heroic bravery and distinguished service for his country, was skulking inside the enemy's lines like a common thief in disguise, the companion of a petty tool and his Negro, and with his stockings stuffed with an ill gotten booty, bought with the price of another's dishonor. *6 Is it any wonder that his mind settled into gloomy forebodings?
He crossed King's Ferry at the northern extremity of Haverstraw bay and took his way, under the dictation of his overcautious companion, northward, to disarm suspicion. Here another trivial circumstance interposed itself with unerring fatality. Smith, the willing tool of Arnold, insisted upon remaining over night on the way. Fatal error! In the darkness and silence of that night there were hidden forces at work, which would block the morrow's path with a wall more impregnable than Fort Putnam. The honor and incorruptibility of David Williams was a part of its masonry.
All night the restless Andre tossed upon an uneasy bed, side by side with the miserable creature whose easy virtue had yielded to the persuasions of Arnold. Is it wonderful that both should have been robbed of sleep? Is it strange that at daylight and without breakfast they should hasten on in the path that was to lead Andre to the feet of his sovereign, to receive a grateful country's homage and reward?
And now we approach the place and the act in commemoration of which, by the tardy favor and justice of our State, we are assembled here today.
The three captors of Major Andre, whose names have become renowned, would in all likelihood have remained unknown to future generations, had Smith, as he agreed, accompanied Andre to White Plains, below Tarrytown. But yielding to his pusillanimous fears, he refused to go further than Pines Bridge.
From this point, then, our solitary horseman approaches the place where we stand. To the west of the road was the river; to the east the Greenburgh Hills, in whom bosom lies the world renowned vale of Sleepy Hollow, with its old church founded by the Philipse family, and the ancient bell with its legend Deus pro nobis, quis contra nos. In front of his as he passes, a few rough logs laid side by side furnish a passage over a rivulet, which rises in the neighboring swamp and finds its way westward into those broad waters of the Hudson known as the Tappan Zee.
Here on the south and west side of the path, concealed among the bushes, are David Williams, the eldest of the party (he being about twenty-two years old), John Paulding and Isaac Van Wart, yeomen. Not freeholders under the ran of gentlemen, but American citizens of humble birth, two of whom had already risked their lives in the service of their country and in the cause of the colonies, against whom the breath of slander from sentimental or compassionate lips had not yet breathed a shade of suspicion; representatives of that "Peasant Patriotism of America--the conquering power of the revolution--the essential element then, as now, and evermore, of American greatness and American freedom!"
Springing to their feet, with presented muskets, they bid the stranger stand and announce his destination. Surely the darling of the British army, who, by sagacity, prudence and bravery, has been elevated to the rank of adjutant-general of the British forces in America, is possess of sufficient caution to disarm this bristling trio! Not so. Although armed with Arnold's pass to guard him against the only real enemies he had cause to fear, and which has already put to sleep the awakened suspicions of the wary Captain Boyd, some overruling Providence leads him to make that fatal answer, "My lads, I hope you belong to our party." The reply comes quick, "What party is that?" "The lower party," he answered. "We do," is the reply. "Thank God, I am once more among friend," he cried, deceived by the rude simplicity of the men, and recognizing a British military coat upon Paulding's back, a coat in which (in lieu of his own, of which he had been despoiled) Paulding had escaped from the enemy, in whose hands he had fallen some five or six days before the capture of Andre. "I am glad to see you, I am a British officer; I have been up in the country on particular business, and I hope you won't detain me a minute," confidently continued Andre.
The long agony was over! That mine which had been set for the overthrow of the citadel of American freedom and independence, whose train it had taken months to lay, was now exposed and harmless, unless
jingling of the guinea
That helps the hurt that honor feels."
can successfully assail the virtue of Williams, Van Wart and Paulding. This vast assemblage, these ceremonies, the projected monument over the remains of David Williams, but above all that waving symbol of the power and greatness of this nation, tell with unmistakable and unanswerable emphasis of the incorruptible integrity of these simple rustic men.
The State of New York has honored herself by making the appropriation necessary to commence this monument over the remains of the only one of that immortal three, whose grave remains to this day unhonored In 1827 the city of new York erected a monument over the remains of Paulding near Peekskill, bearing the significant inscription:
"ON THE MORNING OF THE 23D OF SEPTEMBER, 1780, ACCOMPANIED BY TWO YOUNG FARMERS OF THE COUNTY OF WESTCHESTER (WHOSE NAMES WILL ONE DAY BE RECORDED ON THEIR OWN DESERVED MONUMENTS) HE INTERCEPTED THE BRITISH SPY ANDRE. POOR HIMSELF, HE DISDAINED TO ACQUIRE WEALTH BY THE SACRIFICE OF HIS COUNTRY. REJECTING THE TEMPTATION OF GREAT REWARDS, HE CONVEYED HIS PRISONER TO THE AMERICAN CAMP; AND BY THIS ACT OF NOBLE SELF-DENIAL, THE TREASON OF ARNOLD WAS DETECTED, THE DESIGNS OF THE ENEMY BAFFLED, WEST POINT AND THE AMERICAN ARMY SAVED, AND THESE UNTIED STATES, NOW, BY THE GRACE OF GOD, FREE AND INDEPENDENT, RESCUED FROM MOST IMMINENT PERIL."
At Greenburgh, near Tarrytown, on the spot where the remains of Isaac Van Wart lie buried, the citizens of the vicinity erected, in 1829, a suitable monument, with the following inscription engraved thereon:
"FIDELITY. ON THE 23D OF SEPTEMBER, 1780, ISAAC VAN WART, ACCOMPANIED BY JOHN PAULDING AND DAVID WILLIAMS, ALL FARMERS OF THE COUNTY OF WESTCHESTER, INTERCEPTED MAJOR ANDRE ON HIS RETURN FROM THE AMERICAN LINES IN THE CHARACTER OF A SPY; AND, NOTWITHSTANDING THE LARGE BRIBES OFFERED THEM FOR HIS RELEASE, NOBLY DISDAINED TO SACRIFICE THEIR COUNTRY FOR GOLD, SECURED AND CARRIED HIM TO THE COMMANDING OFFICER OF THE DISTRICT, WHEREBY THE DANGEROUS AND TRAITOROUS CONSPIRACY OF ARNOLD WAS BROUGHT TO LIGHT, INSIDIOUS DESIGNS OF THE ENEMY BAFFLED, THE AMERICAN ARMY SAVED, AND OUR BELOVED COUNTRY FREE."
On the memorable site where the capture occurred, the young men of Westchester county, in 1853, built a cenotaph in honor of the captors. How appropriate, then, that in this beautiful valley and in this county, where the survivor of the three lived for twenty-six years, and where he died and was buried, there should rise an enduring mark of the gratitude and appreciation of this people!
It does not become the time nor the occasion to enter upon any extended discussion of the mooted questions surrounding the purposes and motives of Andre's captors. It is too late a day to reverse the judgment of George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, of congress and the Legislature of this State, all pronounced at the time. Besides the united testimony of a host of their neighbors and acquaintances, the sworn statements of Paulding and Van Wart, and the solemn asseverations of Williams seven months before his death in 1831, *7 all unite in bearing down, with an unanswerable weight of testimony, the eleventh hour statement of col. Tallmadge thirty seven years after the capture. *8 To all this we may add the critical analysis, by Henry J. Raymond, of the whole testimony bearing on the subject. *9 That acute publicist dismissed the slander to the reprobation is deserves, and the almost universal judgment of the American people confirms the verdict. For myself, I may be permitted to add, that in my judgment, when examined with fairness, and tested by the rules of common sense and common justice, every candid mind must inevitably conclude that the overwhelming balance of proof is upon the side of the incorruptible honesty and purity of their motives. Nothing more reliable than rumor and suspicion arising from statements, made solely by Andre, stand upon the other side, statements, it must never be forgotten, which sprang from a heart sorely dejected, chagrined and mortified by his own lack of common prudence; made, too, at a time when his mind, sunk beneath a weight of woe almost incalculable, was seeking for relief in the contemplation of what might have been. It is our duty to guard the reputation of these humble patriots against this misty testimony rising out of such a cauldron of self-interest. It must always be borne in mind that the British would not concede that true virtue was a feature of character belonging to Americans; and Andre, fresh from a field where he had witnessed the debased character of a high officer, was in no condition of mind to stem the tide of opinion that flowed within the English lines. The virtue of these men, under such circumstances, could not be, and evidently was not comprehended. In the words of Lieutenant-Colonel Fleury, written from Newport, on the 5th of October, 1870: "How great, compared to Arnold, are those peasants who refused the bribe of Andre! Let this be remembered in favor of the poor."
I may be permitted to express the hope that somewhere upon this projected monument to David Williams will appear these notable words of Washington in his letter to the President of Congress: "The party that took Major Andre * * * * acted in such a manner as does them the highest honor, and proves them to be men of great virtue, * * * * Their conduct gives them a just claim to the thanks of their country."
Perhaps the true nature of this conduct is more eloquently and luminously told in the words of Alexander Hamilton, in the Laurens letter, where he says: He tempted them with the offer of his watch, his horse and any sum of money that they should name. They rejected his offer with indignation, and the gold that could seduce a man, high in the esteem and confidence of his country, who had the remembrance of past exploits, the motives of present reputation and future glory to prop his integrity, had no charms for these simple peasants leaning on their virtue and an hones sense of their duty. While Arnold is handed down with execration, posterity will repeat with reverence the names of Van Wart, Paulding and Williams!"
I owe it to the occasion, to you and to myself, to present some considerations in support of the constantly recurring thought, throughout this discourse, of the grave importance of Arnold's plot. I have already alluded to the estimate of its advantages to the British government, pronounced by King George the Third. From the abundant materials furnished by those in the English service at the time, I will only add the following, from the memoirs of Sir Henry Clinton, commander of the British forces in New York. In speaking of the arrest of Andre, he says: "I was exceedingly shocked, as may be supposed, by this very unexpected accident, which not only ruined a most important project, which had all the appearance of being in a happy train of success, but involved in danger and distress a confidential friend for whom I had deservedly the warmest esteem."
Creasy, in his "Decisive Battles of the World," has succinctly described the great and pivotal victory of the Americans at Saratoga, on the 17th of October, 1777. He has conclusively shown the plan of operations which the English attempted in that year, and which the battle of Saratoga defeated. The English had a considerable force in Canada, which had been re-enforced for the purpose of striking a vigorous and crushing blow against the colonies. It was intended that the force thus collected should march southward by the line of the lakes and thence along the banks of the Hudson river. The British army in New York was to make a simultaneous movement northward up the line of the Hudson, and the two expeditions were to meet at Albany. In this manner all communications between the Colonial army in New England, and the principal army under Washington, which was watching over Pennsylvania and the South, would be cut off.
The army from Canada was under command of Burgoyne, and that in New York under Sir Henry Clinton. The Plan was ably formed, and was defeated only by the consummate skill of General Gates,a nd the unprecedented bravery of his men at Saratoga, aided by the delay caused by the fortifications on the lower Hudson, the key of which was West Point, which fortification hindered the prompt co-operation of Sir Henry Clinton with Burgoyne. Clinton, in fact, reached Kingston, where hearing of Burgoyne's surrender, he burned the place and returned to New York.
What the capture of West Point would have been to the British will be more fully appreciated by an illustration familiar to all. It will be remembered how the country was stirred to its very center, on the fourth of July, 1863, by the glorious tidings that Vicksburg had fallen, and that "the great Mississippi swept unvexed to the sea." What that meant was soon known. Surrounded, like West Point, with fortifications, redoubts and bastioned forts, it held within its iron grasp the control of the great Mississippi. When it fell, that great artery through which ran the life blood of the Souther Confederacy was absolutely within the power of the Federal army. The rebellion had been cut in twain. In the language of Sherman, "the reduction of Vicksburg made the destruction of the Rebellion certain." What Vicksburg and her dependencies were to the Mississippi in 1863, West Point and her dependencies were to the Hudson in 1780.
|Benedict Arnold, March to Quebec.|
What had been lost at Saratoga by open force, would have been regained, had West Point and its dependencies fallen by means of the secret plottings of Arnold. "This was the great object of British and American solicitude," says Irving, in speaking of West Point, "On the possession os which was supposed by many to hinge the fortunes of the war." And again he says, "the immediate result of this surrender, it was anticipated, would be the defeat of the combined attempt upon New York, and its ultimate effect might be the dismemberment of the Union and the dislocation of the whole American scheme of warfare." Fromt he mass of American testimony at hand, the following additional proofs are selected: LaFayette wrote to his wife October 8th: "A frightful consipracy has been planned by the celebrated Arnold; he sold to the English the fort of West Point, which was under his command, and consequently the whole navigation of the North river."
General Greene issued a general order on the 26th of October, from which the following is taken:
"Treason of the blackest dye was yesterday discovered. General Arnold, who commanded at West Point -- lost to every sentiment of honor, of private and public obligation -- was about to deliver up that important post into the hands of the enemy. Such an event must have given the American cause a deadly wound, if not a fatal stab. Happily this treason has been timely discovered to prevent the fatal misfortune. The providential train of circumstances which led to it affords the most convincing proof that the liberties of America are the object of divine protection. At the same time, though the treason is to be regretted, the general cannot help congratulating the army on the happy discovery. Our enemies, despairing of carrying their point by force, are practicing every base art to effect by bribery and corruption, what they cannot accomplish in a manly way. Great honor is due to the American army that this is the first instance of the kind, where many were to be expected from the nature of the dispute; and nothing is so bright an ornament in the character of the American soldiers, as their having been proof against all the arts and seductions of an insidious enemy. * * * * His Excellency the commander-in-chief has arrived at West Point from Hartford, and is no doubt taking proper measures to unravel fully so hellish a plot.
It must be borne in mind, that had the "hellish plot" succeeded it would have involved the captivity of Washington himself. The following remarkable letter of Governor William Livingston to General Washington so entirely expresses the emotions of the hour, that it is inserted in full:
Sir -- I most heartily congratulate your Excellency on the timely discovery
of General Arnold's treasonable plot to captivate your person and deliver
up West Point to the enemy, of which the loss of the former, had his infernal
machinations succeeded, would have been more regretted by America than of
the latter. The remarkable disposition of Providence to frustrate the diabolical
conspiracy will inspire every virtuous American with sincere gratitude to
the Great Arbiter of all events; and I hope that no true Whig among us will
ever forget the memorable era when we were, by the peculiar guardianship of
Heaven, rescued from the very brink of destruction.
I have the honor to be
Your very obedient servant,
Benedict Arnold's Escape
Is it any wonder, then, that, with pomp and circumstance, and with grateful hearts, we assemble to perpetuate, with enduring granite, here under the broad sky, and upon the free acres of our beloved country, that transcendent act and that renowned virtue of these captors of Andre!
Though neglected, he whose ashes lie buried here was not absolutely forgotten by his country, and it is proper that allusion should be made to the rewards which a grateful country, has bestowed upon him.
By authority of Congress, in 1780, a silver medal, bearing the inscription of "Fidelity" and the legend "Vincit Amor Patriae" was submitted to each of the captors, and at the same time an annuity was authorized to be paid to each of them $200 in specie. In addition, congress granted to each the privilege of locating any confiscated lands in the county of Westchester to the amount of $1,250, or of receiving that sum in cash. The Legislature of the State of New York granted to each a farm, reciting in the act as a consideration "their virtue in refusing a large sum offered to them by Major Andre as a bribe to permit him to escape." In the fall of 1830 the corporation of the city of New York invited David Williams (the survivor of the three), by special messenger to be present in that city at the celebration of the French Revolution. He was drawn, with other heroes of '76, in a carriage at the head of the procession and attracted much attention. He was presented with a silver cup at one of the schools and at another with a silver headed cane, the stem of which was made out of shevaux de frise used near West Point during the revolution. His widow obtained a continuation of his pension, which had ceased at the time of his death. Forty-five years ago, amid a concourse of honoring friends and countrymen, he was buried at Livingstonville, in this county. His remains have been removed by consent of his descendants to this place.
Here, in this locality, made memorable by the ruinous invasion of Johnson about the time when the events we have described were transpiring near Tarrytown -- here, near the place where the "peeled log" of the enemy left its mark upon the old Dutch church -- here, where brave men and braver women stood with undaunted courage in the midst of conflagration, ruin and death -- where the red men showed no mercy, and where patriots never flinched -- let his ashes lie. Not in the midst of royal sarcophagi or carved shrines, but surrounded by the veneration of untold generations of freeborn Americans; not wholly unhonored, as theretofore, but graced and adorned with a permanent token of our remembrance and esteem. For at last, thanks to the interest and sense of justice of many good men and true, the Legislature of the State, by making an appropriation for the monument, has removed the stain which the neglect of forty-five years had fastened upon us.
Standing where we do today, as it were upon the apex of a pyramid, we look back over the way the nation has so grandly trod. In the beginning we perceive the toiling multitudes, who, regardless of personal sacrifice, conscious of their own rectitude and relying upon the favor of God, wrought out the greatest empire of freedom the world has ever seen. In that great work, so full of the richest blessings for us and for our children, let it be remembered, that the part performed by the humblest was often as important as that of the greatest. The cause of the colonies was near to the hearts of the people. That was the security of the nation then, and it cannot endure without it now.
Oh! if the young men of our time would glow with a healthy pride of race; if they would kindle with the inspiration of patriotism; if they would find annals wealthier in enduring lesson, and bright with the radiance of a holier virtue than ever Rome embraced for Sparta knew, let them read their own land's history. Then may we be hopeful for the future. Then may the story we rehearse here today be borne to future ages along with the growing grandeur of this mighty nation which was built upon the devotion,and will be sustained by the bright example of the Revolutionary Patriots.
Historical Address by Dr. Daniel Knower.
This large concourse of people, this fine military display, the presence of these distinguished persons, and the attendance of so many ladies to grace the occasion, show that the recollection of patriotic deeds does not die out in the hearts of a free people. David Williams, one of the captors of Major Andre, in honor of whose memory we are assembled here today, was born in Tarrytown, Westchester county, in this State, October 21, 1754. He entered the revolutionary army in 1775, at the age of nineteen; fought under Montgomery at the battle of St. John's and Quebec; and continued in the regular patriot services until 1779. The capture of Major Andre occurred on the 23d of September, 1780, ninety-six years ago today.
David Williams was the eldest of the three captors -- he being twenty-five years of age, and John Paulding and Isaac Van Wart, his compatriots, being about twenty years old. The following is Williams' account of the capture, as related to Judge Tiffany, at his home in this county, February 13, 1817: "The three (militiamen) were seated beside the road in the bushes, amusing themselves at cards, when their attention was arrested by the galloping of a horse. On approaching the road, they saw a gentleman riding toward them, seated on a large brown horse, which was afterward observed to have marked on the near shoulder the initials U. S. A. The rider was a light, trim-built man, about five feet seven inches in height, with a bold military countenance and dark eyes, and was dressed in a tall beaver hat, surtout, crimson coat, with pantaloons and vest of nankeen. As he neared them, the three cocked their muskets and aimed at the rider, who immediately checked his horse, and the following conversation ensued:
Andre -- "Gentlemen, I hope you belong to our party!"
Paulding -- "What party?"
Andre -- "The lower party."
Paulding -- "We do." This answer threw him off his guard.
Andre -- "I am a British officer; I have been up in the country on particular business, and do not wish to be detained a single moment."
Her thereupon pulled out a gold watch,and exhibited it as an evidence that he was a gentleman, and returned it again to his fob. Paulding thereupon remarked --"We are Americans!"
Andre -- "God bless my soul! a man must do anything to get along -- I am a Continental officer, going down to Dobbs' Ferry to get information from below."
Andre then drew out and presented a pass from General Arnold in which the assumed name John Anderson. Seizing hold of the reins of the horse, they ordered him to discount. Andre exclaimed -- "You will bring yourselves in trouble." "We care not for that," was the reply. They took him down ten or fifteen rods, from the road, beside a run of water, and Williams proceeded to search his hat, coat, vest, shirt and pantaloons, in which they found $80 in continental money; and at last ordered him to take off his boots. At this he changed color. Williams drew off the left boot first, and found nothing in it, and Paulding, seizing the foot exclaimed excitedly, "My God! here it is!"" The stocking was then drawn off, and in it, next the bare foot, three half-sheets of written paper were found enveloped by a half-sheet marked "contents, West Point." Paulding, still greatly excited, again exclaimed, "My God! he's a spy!" On pulling off the other boot and stocking, a similar package was found.
A number of these original papers are preserved and on exhibition in the State Library at Albany.
Andre was now allowed to dress, and they marched him across the road into the field about twenty rods. The young men then winked to each other to make further discoveries, and inquired from whom he got the papers? "Of a man at Pine's Bridge, a stranger to me," replied Andre. He then offered them for his liberty, his horse which was browsing a short distance away,and his equipage, watch and 100 guineas. This they refused to take, unless he informed them where he obtained the manuscript. He refused to comply, but again offered his horse, equipage and 1,000 guineas. They were firm in their denial, and Andre increased his offer to 10,000 guineas, and as many dry goods as they wished, which should be deposited in any place desired -- they might keep him and send some one to New York (they were at Tarrytown, twenty-eight miles from the city), with his order, so that they could obtain them unmolested. To this they replied, "that it did not signify for him to make any offer, for he should not go." They then proceeded to the nearest military station, which was at North Castle, about twelve miles distant, and delivered him to Col. Jamiesen, the American commanding officer.
The circumstances of the capture as narrated in the testimony of Paulding and Williams, given at the trial of Smith eleven days after the capture, and written down by the Judge Advocate at the time, is substantially the same. Williams, in his testimony there says, "He said he would give us any quantity of dry goods, or any sum of money, and bring it to any place that we might pitch upon, so that we might get it. Mr. Paulding answered, 'No, if you should give us 10,000 guineas you should not stir one step.'"
The importance of the capture of Andre can never be too highly estimated. The plan for cutting the Colonies in two on the line of the Hudson and Lake Champlain had been foiled by the capture of Burgoyne. The possession of West Point would have given a successful opportunity for prosecuting the same design. No wonder that Washington burst into tears when he learned of the treason of Arnold. He very well knew what had been our danger, and how narrow had been our escape. Washington wrote to Congress, September 28, 1780 -- three days after the capture -- saying: "I do not know the party that took Major Andre, but it is said that it consisted of only a few militia, who acted in such a manner upon the occasion as does them the highest honor and proves them of great virtue. As soon as I know their names I shall take pleasure in transmitting them to Congress." Again, October 7, 1780, he writes Congress, transmitting the findings of the court,which had tried Andre, and in his letter he says: "I have now the pleasure to communicate the names of those persons who captured Major Andre, and who refused to release him, notwithstanding the most earnest importunities and assurances of a liberal reward on his part. Their names are John Paulding, David Williams and Isaac Van Wart." Alexander Hamilton, writing in 1780 of the affair, says: "Andre tempted their integrity with the offer of his watch, his horse, and any sum of money they should name. They rejected his offer with disdain."
Andre Hangs, Andre Medal
Congress gave each of them $1,250, or the same value in confiscated lands in Westchester county, a pension of $200 and a silver medal. The medals were presented to the captors by General Washington at a dinner to which he invited them, while the army was encamped near VerPlanck's Point; the one presented to David Williams being now in the possession of his oldest grandson, William D. Williams, of this county. (It has since been placed in the State Library at Albany.)
David Williams was married to Miss Benedict, of Westchester county, by whom he had one son named David, who has seven children living, four in this county, two in Iowa, and one in Virginia, who are worthy descendants in honor and integrity of the Revolutionary patriot. He moved to this county in 1806, and died August 2, 1831, aged seventy-seven, and was buried at Livingstonville with military honors, where his remains reposed for forty-five years, and until the 4th of March, 1876, when they were removed to the cemetery at Rensselaerville. On the 19th of July they were removed to the Stone Fort in Schoharie, to which destination they were escorted by a large procession, headed by the American flag and amid martial music. All places of business were closed; the bells tolled and the cannon at the Fort fired a salute as his coffin, wrapped in the American flag, was deposited near his present resting place.
On the first of May, 1876, the Governor signed the following bill, introduced by Senator Lamont, it having passed both houses:
"For erecting a suitable monument in the cemetery grounds of the Revolutionary Stone Fort at Schoharie Court House, to commemorate the virtues and memory of David Williams, one of the captors of Major Andre, the sum of two thousand dollars, to be expended under the supervision of Daniel Knower, Ralph Brewster, supervisor of the town of Schoharie, and Charles Holmes, county judge of Schoharie county, who are hereby appointed a commission for that purpose, and who are hereby authorized to removed the remains of the said David Williams from their present burial in the cemetery at Rensselaerville, to such cemetery at Schoharie Court House, upon first obtaining the consent thereto, in writing, of a majority of the descendants of said Williams, and upon furnishing proof thereof to the comptroller; but in case such consent in writing for said removal shall not be obtained, and proof thereof furnished the comptroller within two months from the passage of this act, then the above appropriation shall be expended by a commission, consisting of the comptroller of the State, Erastus D. Palmer, and the President of the Rensselaerville Cemetery Association, for the erection of the monument in the Rensselaerville cemetery."
Paulding is buried near Peekskill, and a monument was erected over his remains by the corporation of the city of New York in 1827. Near Tarrytown the remains of Isaac Van Wart are honored by a monument erected by the county of Westchester. And now in this centennial year has the State of New York recognized, by its Legislature and governor, this most important event in our Revolutionary history. An event which occurred within its borders, and in which three of her sons had the honor, by their disinterested patriotism and love of country, to save our country in that important crisis of our Revolutionary history. George Washington wrote to the President of Congress, October 7, 1780, two weeks after the capture: "Their conduct merits our warmest esteem; and I beg leave to add that I think the public would do well to allow them a handsome gratuity. They have prevented in all probability our suffering one of the severest strokes that could have been meditated against us." Yet this one of the most disinterested acts of patriotism and love of country recorded in history, strange to say, has been attacked and the motives of the actors impugned.
A bill passed Congress some years since appropriating $20,000 for erecting a monument to them, but did not reach, or was defeated in the Senate. The patriotism of these men has been impugned by members of Congress. This bill was likewise opposed in the State Senate by a senator from New York city, on the same grounds. In the language of the poet,
who ascends to mountain tops must find
The loftiest hills clad in snow;
He who surpasses and excels mankind,
Must see and feel their hate below."
Williams lived to be seventy-seven years old and died fifty-two years after the event occurred. Isaac Van Wart lived to the age of sixty-nine, and died forty-nine years after the event, and John Paulding reached the age of sixty, dying forty years after the capture. * All three during these long years born unimpeachable characters for honor and integrity, which would not have been possible if they had been marauders and freebooters as represented by those who impugned their motives.
Williams, previous to this event, had served four years in the revolutionary army, and Paulding, only three days previous to the capture, had made his escape from the Sugar House British Prison + in New York. These facts indicate beyond all doubt on which side their feelings were.
Andre has a monument erected in Westminster Abbey, which is the highest honor that can be conferred on the remains of any person in England. His remains were removed from this country in a coffin mounted with gold. His brother was created a knight, in honor of his services in this affair, by the King of England.
What were the services Andre rendered to England, compared with the services these three disinterested patriots rendered this county? Let it not always be said that Republics are ungrateful. Even the motives of the men who commended the Revolution by throwing the tea overboard in Boston harbor, and the motive of those who fought the battles of Bunker Hill and Lexington were attacked. It has been said that their grievances from Great Britain did not justify a resort to such measures. These men knew that if they yielded on point guaranteed to them in the liberal charters that had been granted to the Colonies, as a inducement for them to emigrate to this country when a wilderness, that American would become a second Ireland, and all the rights guaranteed to them in their charters would be crushed out. If I have any pride of ancestry, it is in being descended from the men who took part in the glorious events where the cannon first thundered in the war of the revolution.
Your commissioners propose to make an appeal to any county, city, association, literary club or individual, who may subscribe not less than $200 or more than $1,800, in addition to the $2,000 appropriated by the State, and to have the names of the subscribers inscribed on one of the faces of the monument, or on a marble tablet to be erected in the Fort, as the artists who may design the monument may think most appropriate. It is proposed to appoint one of more of the most distinguished artists and sculptors in the State to design the monument, and make it a work of art appropriate to the event.
We are now one hundred years old as a nation. Our material prosperity and growth is unparalleled in history. For the sake of the future and the perpetuity of our free institutions, we should cultivate sentiments that will inspire in the youth a strong love of country. What more appropriate occasion than the present to erect here a work of art, which will call attention for all time to the disinterested patriotism of these three men who saved our country in the revolution? It was such men among our common soldiers that enabled the country to produce a Washington. The people, the source and fountain of political power, must be kept pure and patriotic if we wish to perpetuate our republican form of government. The more we learn from the men of the revolution, and the more strictly we adhere to the great principles inaugurated in our government by its founders, the better for the future of our country. Although the disinterested patriotism of these three men has conferred its benefits on a great nation of 44,000,000 of people, yet the Empire State of New York enjoys the honor of having had the event occur within its own borders. I feel that her sons and daughters will respond to an appeal for the erection of a work of art, in this beautiful valley of Schoharie, beside this Revolutionary Fort, that will do justice to this important event, and in which we all may take a just pride.
*[From John Gobhard, Jr., the celebrated geologist.]
NY. October 16, 1876.
Dear Sir -- In compliance with your request, that I would inform you what I know in relation to the standing and character of the late David Williams, on of the captors of Major Andre, I would state, that I was well acquainted with Mr. William for several years immediately preceding his death, and can bear cheerful testimony to the high standing for truth and integrity, in which he was held by his neighbors and acquaintances.
was present at his funeral, which was large and imposing. After the sermon
was preached, the funeral procession proceeded to the cemetery, where an able
eulogy was delivered by Robert McClellan, Esq., and before the remains were
lowered to their resting place R. W. Murphy, Esq., standing beside the coffin,
with a sorrowful heart, overflowing with gratitude and sympathy, stated to
the vast assemblage that when he was a young orphan boy, David Williams took
him to his home, supported and clothed him, gave him a good education and
aided him in starting in business. He also gave a full and minute account
of the daily life and habits of the deceased; and concluded by saying that
David Williams died as he had lived through a long life, and upright and honest
Respectfully your ob' serv't. John Gebhard, jr.
Van Wart is buried at Greenburgh, in the grounds attached to the Presbyterian
church, of which he was an efficient officer for many years. The following
inscription on his monument by his fellow citizens of Westchester county,
who erected it to his memory in 1829, with whom he passed most of his life,
vindicates the integrity of his character:
North side -- "Here repose the mortal remains of Isaac Van Wart an elder in the Greenburgh church, who died on the 23d of May, 1828, in the 69th year of his age. Having lived the life, he died the death of a Christian."
South side-- "The citizens of the county of Westchester erected this tomb in testimony of the high sense they entertained for the virtuous and patriotic conduct of their fellow citizen, as a memorial sacred to public gratitude."
East Side -- "Vincit Amor Patriae. Nearly half a century before this monument was built the conscript fathers of America had, in the senate chamber, voted that Isaac VanWart was a faithful patriot, one in whom the love of country was invincible, and this tomb bears testimony that the record is true."
West side -- "Fidelity. On the 23d of September, 1780, Isaac Van Wart, accompanied by John Paulding and David Williams, all farmers of the county of Westchester, intercepted Major Andre on his return from the American line sin the character of a spy, and notwithstanding the large bribes offered them for his release, nobly disdained to sacrifice their country for gold, secured and carried him to the commanding officer of the district, whereby the dangerous and traitorous conspiracy of Arnold was brought to light, the insidious designs of the enemy baffled, the American army saved and our beloved country free."
John Paulding. I have not obtained so much of the details of his life. The monument erected over his remains near Peekskill in 1827, by the corporation of the city of New York, was addressed by William Paulding, mayor of New York, believed to have been a relative. We understand he has a son residing near Huntington, Long Island, near eighty years of age, a retired rear admiral of the navy, a very distinguished gentleman, not only as an officer in the navy, but for his literary ability and talents.
of a letter from J. R. Simms, Historian of Schoharie county.]
Fort Plain, Montgomery Co., October 9, 1876.
Long, long ago was the enterprise contemplated. Judge Murphy, whom it was our pleasure to know nearly thirty years ago, and who was then a worthy citizen of Livingstonville, Schoharie county, was brought up from childhood in the family of David Williams as one of his own children. He held the character and virtue of his benefactor in the highest esteem. No one could estimate his character more truthfully, and no man ever knew him better, and the picture he gave of him as a man would compare favorably for candor, integrity and benevolence with that of any man in Schoharie county today. Talking with Judge Murphy at his own residence upon the subject of a monument to his godfather, we learned that he had been indefatigable in his efforts to procure one. He repeatedly petitioned Congress to make an appropriation for this purpose, and being a man of good address, he even went in person to Washington to urge upon the law makers their duty. As the event we would honor was one of a national character, it would seem as though he applied to the right source.
+Paulding made his escape in the dress of a German jager. General Van Cortland says that Paulding wore this dress on the day of the capture, which tended to deceive Andre and led him to exclaim "Thank God! I am once more among friends."
Copyright © 1998, -- 2003. Berry Enterprises. All rights reserved. All items on the site are copyrighted. While we welcome you to use the information provided on this web site by copying it, or downloading it; this information is copyrighted and not to be reproduced for distribution, sale, or profit.