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The History of Major John André

Release Date: February 05, 2021

I was asked recently to give a talk about the history of Major John André a British spy who was captured by American patriots, tried and eventually hung in Tappan, New York. I love history and I am a part of the 250th Celebration of Our Country with a wonderful group. The President is Constance Kehoe. 2026 will be the 250th Anniversary.

The history and the role that our area played in the American Revolution was critical to our victory! So let me set the stage for a very important part of that history.

In 1780 as the Revolutionary War was in its 6th year, U.S. Major General Benedict Arnold was becoming disgruntled and was plotting to betray West Point and it’s neighboring Hudson Valley fortifications to the British troops. Therefore, becoming a TRAITOR.

Several weeks after receiving his post as Commander at West Point he finalized these treasonous plans with Major John André of the British army militia. He was to receive 20,000 pounds and betray the 2,000 American troops protecting West Point and the region.

So the stage was set between a Traitor and a Spy!

Arnold met André in Haverstraw not far from West Point on September 21, 1780, but André could not escape in his planned route in the British warship, The Vulture, for this warship had been driven off by American cannon fire. Major André had no other choice after he received the sensitive documents from Arnold, the plans of West Point, but to travel a dangerous route from his perspective first to cross to the Westchester side of the Hudson and travel under the name of John Anderson.

He had in his possession a signed letter from Benedict Arnold stating he was on a mission for him so that he could pass by three American stops.

The journey was almost successful because at that time people still trusted Benedict Arnold and wanted to help. He proceeded on horseback towards British lines heading east from the Verplanck area of Cortlandt through Peekskill into Yorktown, Chappaqua and Pleasantville. We all know these areas very well today.

Towards the end of his mission he was stopped thankfully by three Westchester militiamen. John Paulding, Isaac Van Wart and David Williams (All Patriots) became suspicious of Major André who appeared nervous. They ordered him off his horse and discovered the incriminating documents in his boot. They now knew they were dealing with a spy. John Paulding was the only one who could read and confirmed their suspicions. By the way there is a monument at Paulding’s grave in our historical cemetery in Van Cortlandtville- northern Cortlandt.

The three American heroes took the newly captured British Major John André to Tappan from Tarrytown, the place of his capture, where the plans were turned over to General George Washington. André was held in a jail in an Inn, now called the “76 House”, a wonderful Inn and restaurant. I have dined there many times with my family over the years.

Benedict Arnold, the Traitor, escaped to British forces in New York City. André was tried and hung (nine days after his capture) in the Tappan square where a monument was erected in1853 to depict this critical point and action taken by the Americans. It states “Their (militiamen’s) conduct merits our warmest esteem. They have prevented in all probability, our suffering one of the severest strokes that could have been mediated against us” words by General George Washington.

I have seen this monument and plaque several times with my late father, a history teacher and the Town of Orangetown’s Town Historian for 25 years.

Sadly, the jail was not preserved but the rest of the history has been and the Heroes who captured Major John André are given the tribute they deserve.

In conclusion, a traitor Benedict Arnold, a spy Major John André (only 31 years old) lost and the Americans won this victory and helped in winning the American Revolution.

“I bear my fate like a brave man”, André’s last words according to records.

-Supervisor Linda Puglisi