« ZurückWeiter »
tered the works; but his horse being killed, and he himself badly wounded in the leg, he found it necessary to withdraw, and as it was now almost dark, to desist from the attack.
Being rendered unfit for active service in consequence of his wound, after the recovery of Philadelphia, he was appointed to the command of the American garrison. When he entered the city, he made the house of governor Penn, the best house in the city, his head quarters. This he furnished in a very costly manner, and lived far beyond his income. He had wasted the plunder, which he had seized at Montreal, in his retreat from Canada; and at Philadelphia, he was determined to make new acquisitions. He laid his hands on every thing in the city, which could be considered as the property of those who were unfriendly to the cause of his country. He was charged with oppression, extortion, and enormous charges upon the public, in his accounts; and with applying the public money and property to his own private use. Such was his conduct, that he drew upon himself the odium of the inhabitants, not only of the city, but of the province in general. He was engaged in trading speculations, and had shares in several privateers, but was unsuccessful.
From the judgment of the commissioners, who had been appointed to inspect his accounts, and who had rejected above half the amount of his demands, he appealed to congress; and they appointed a committee of their own body to examine and settle the business. The committee confirmed the report of the commissioners, and thought they had allowed him more than he had any right to expect or demand. By these disappointments he became irritated, and he gave full scope to his resentment. His invectives against congress were not less violent, than those which he had before thrown out against the commissioners. He was, however,
soon obliged to abide the judgment of a court-martial, upon the charges exhibited against him by the executive of Pennsylvania; and he was subjected to the mortification of receiving a reprimand from Washington. His trial commenced in June, 1778, but such were the delays occasioned by the movements of the army, that it was not concluded until the 26th of January, 1779. The sentence of a reprimand was approved by congress, and was soon afterwards carried into execution.
Such was the humiliation, to which general Arnold was reduced, in consequence of yielding to the temptations of pride and vanity, and indulging himself in the pleasures of a sumptuous table and expensive equipage.
From this time, probably, his proud spirit revolted from the cause of America. He turned his eyes to West Point as an acquisition, which would give value to treason, while its loss would inflict a mortal wound on his former friends. He addressed himself to the delegation of New York, in which state his reputation was peculiarly high; and a member of congress from this state, recommended him to Washington for the service which he desired. But this request could not be immediately complied with. The same application to the commander in chief was made not long afterwards through general Schuyler. Washington observed, that, as there was a prospect of an active campaign, he should be gratified with the aid of general Arnold in the field, but intimated, at the same time, that he should receive the appointment requested, if it should be more pleasing to him.
Arnold, without discovering much solicitude, repaired to camp in the beginning of August, and renewed, in person, the solicitations, which had been before indirectly made. He was now offered the command of the left wing of the army, which was advancing against New York, but he declined it
under the pretext, that in conseqence of his wounds, he was unable to perform the active duties of the field. Without a suspicion of his patriotism, he was invested with the command of West Point.Previously to his soliciting this station, he had, in a letter to colonel Robinson, signified his change of principles, and his wish to restore himself to the favour of his prince, by some signal proof of his repentance. This letter opened to him a correspondence with sir Henry Clinton, the object of which was to concert the means of putting the inportant post, which he commanded, into the possession of the British general.
His plan, it is believed, was to have drawn the greater part of his army without the works, under the pretext of fighting the enemy in the defiles, and to have left unguarded a designated pass, through which the assailants might securely approach and surprise the fortress. His troops he intended to place, so that they would be compelled to surrender, or be cut in pieces. But just as his scheme was ripe for execution, the wise Disposer of events, who so often and so remarkably interposed in favour of the American cause, blasted his designs.
Major Andre, adjutant general of the British army, was selected as the person, to whom the maturing of Arnold's treason, and the arrangements for its execution should be committed. A correspondence was, for some time, carried on between them under a mercantile disguise, and the feigned names of Gustavus and Anderson; and at length, to facilitate their communications, the Vulture sloop of war moved up the North river and took a station convenient for the purpose, but not so near as to excite suspicion. An interview was agreed on, and in the night of September the 21st, 1780, he was taken in a boat, which was dispatched for the purpose, and carried to the beach without the posts of both armies, under a pass for John Ander
son. He met general Arnold at the house of a Mr. Smith. While the conference was yet unfinished, day light approached; and to avoid the danger of discovery, it was proposed, that he should remain concealed till the succeeding night. He is understood to have refused to be carried within the American posts, but the promise made him by Arnold, to respect this objection, was not observed. He was carried within them contrary to his wishes. and against his knowledge. He continued with Arnold the succeeding day, and when, on the following night, he proposed to return to the Vulture, the boatmen refused to carry him, because she had, during the day, shifted her station, in consequence of a gun having been moved to the shore, and brought to bear upon her. This embarrassing circumstance reduced him to the necessity of endeavouring to reach New York by land. Yielding, with reluctance, to the urgent representations of Arnold, he laid aside his regimentals, which he had hitherto worn under a surtout, and put on a plain suit of clothes; and, receiving a pass from the American general, authorising him, under the feigned name of John Anderson, to proceed on the public service, to the White Plains, or lower, if he thought proper, he set out on his return.. He had passed all the guards and posts on the road without suspicion, and was proceeding to New York in perfect security, when, on the 23d of September, one of the three militia-men, who were employed with others in scouting parties between the lines of the two armies, springing suddenly from his covert into the road, seized the reins of his bridle and stopped his horse. Instead of producing his pass, Andre, with a want of self-possession, which can be attributed only to a kind providence, asked the man hastily, where he belonged; and being answered, "to below," replied immediately, "and so do I." He then declared himself to be a British
officer, on urgent business, and begged that he might not be detained. The other two militia men coming up at this moment, he discovered his mistake; but it was too late to repair it. He offered a purse of gold and a valuable watch, to which he added the most tempting promises of ample reward and permanent provision from the government, if they would permit him to escape; but his offers were rejected without hesitation.
The militia men, whose names were John Paulding, David Williams, and Isaac Vanwert, proceeded to search him. They found concealed in his boots, exact returns, in Arnold's hand writing, of the state of the forces, ordnance, and defences at West Point and its dependencies; critical remarks on the works, and an estimate of the men ordinarily employed in them, with other interesting papers. Andre was carried before lieutenant colonel Jameson, the officer commanding the scouting parties on the lines, and, regardless of himself, and only anxious for the safety of Arnold, he still maintained the character which he had assumed, and requested Jameson to inform his commanding officer that Anderson was taken. An express was accordingly dispatched, and the traitor, thus becoming acquainted with his danger, escaped.
Major Andre, after his detection, was permitted to send a message to Arnold, to give him notice of his danger; and the traitor found opportunity to escape on board the Vulture, on the 25th of September, 1780, a few hours before the return of Washington, who had been absent on a journey to Hartford, Connecticut. It is supposed, however, that he would not have escaped, had not an express to the commander in chief, with an account of the capture of Andre, missed him by taking a different road from the one which he travelled.
Arnold, on the very day of his escape, wrote a letter to Washington, declaring that the love of his