« ZurückWeiter »
under the protection of a flag without receiving the slightest insult.
This treatment of Mrs. Arnold by Washington is the more remarkable for its delicacy when we recollect that she was under very strong suspicions at the time of being actively concerned in the treason of her husband. Historians are still divided on the question of her guilt or innocence.
The mingled sentiments of admiration and compassion excited in every bosom for the unfortunate André, seemed to increase the detestation in which Arnold was held. "André," said General Washington in a private letter, “has met his fate with that fortitude which was to be expected from an accomplished man and a gallant officer, but I am mistaken if at this time Arnold is undergoing the torments of a mental hell. He wants feeling. From some traits of his character which have lately come to my knowledge, he seems to have been so hardened in crime, so lost to all sense of honor and shame, that while his faculties still enable him to continue his sordid pursuits, there will be no time for remorse.”
The traits in his character above alluded to, were disclosed in a private letter from Hamilton, who said: “This man (Arnold) is in every sense despicable. In addition to the scene of knavery and prostitution during his command in Philadelphia, which the late seizure of his papers has unfolded, the history of his command at West Point is a history of little as well as great villainies. He practiced every dirty act of peculation, and even stooped to connections with the sutiers to defraud the public.”*
*“I am inclined to believe that Arnold was a finished scoundrel from early manhood to his grave; nor do I believe that he had
From motives of policy, or of respect for his engagements, Sir Henry Clinton conferred on Arnold the commission of a brigadier-general in the British service, which he preserved throughout the war. Yet it is impossible that rank could have rescued him from the contempt and detestation in which the generous, and honorable, and the brave could not cease to hold him. It was impossible for men of this description to bury the recollection of his being a traitor — a sordid traitor — first the slave of his rage, then purchased with gold, and finally secured at the expense of the blood of one of the most accomplished officers in the British army.
His representations of the discontent of the country and of the army, concurring with reports from other quarters, had excited the hope that the Loyalists and the dissatisfied, allured by British gold and the prospect of rank in the British service, would flock to his standard and form a corps at whose head he might again display his accustomed intrepidity. With this hope he published an address to the inhabitants of America in which he labored to palliate his own guilt, and to increase their dissatisfaction with the existing state of things.
This appeal to the public was followed by a proclamation addressed “To the officers and soldiers of the Continental army, who have the real interests of their country at heart, and who are determined to be no longer the tools and dupes of Congress or of France.”
The object of this proclamation was to induce the officers and soldiers to desert the cause they had embraced from principle by holding up to them the very flattering offers of the British general, and contrasting the substantial emoluments of the British service with their present deplorable condition. He attempted to cover this dishonorable proposition with a decent garb, by representing the base step he invited them to take as the only measure which could restore peace, real liberty, and happiness to their country.
any real and true-hearted attachment to the Whig cause. He fought as a mere adventurer, and took sides from a calculation of personal gain, and chances of plunder and advancement."— Sabine's "American Loyalists,” p. 131.
These inducements did not produce their intended effect. Although the temper of the army might be irritated by real suffering, and by the supposed neglect of government, no diminution of patriotism had been produced. Through all the hardships, irritations, and vicissitudes of the war Arnold remains the solitary instance of an American officer who abandoned the side first embraced in this civil contest, and turned his sword upon his former companions in arms.
In the whole course of this affair of Arnold's treason, Washington, according to the habitually religious turn of his mind, distinctly recognized the hand of Divine Providence. Writing to Col. John Laurens he says: “In no instance since the commencement of the war has the interposition of Providence appeared more remarkably conspicuous than in the rescue of the post and garrison of West Point from Arnold's villainous perfidy. How far he meant to involve me in the catastrophe of this place does not appear by any indubitable evidence, and I am rather inclined to think he did not wish to hazard the more important object of his treachery by attempting to combine two events, the less of which might have marred the greater. A combination of extraordinary circumstances, an unaccountable deprivation of presence of mind in a man of the first abilities, and the virtue of three militiamen, threw the adjutant-general of the British forces, with full proofs of Arnold's treachery, into our hands. But for the
egregious folly, or the bewildered conception, of Lieutenant-Colonel Jameson, who seemed lost in astonishment and not to know what he was doing, I should undoubtedly have got Arnold.”
Arnold, however, had not yet displayed the whole of his character. Savage revenge and ruthless cruelty were yet to become apparent in his conduct as an officer in the British service. It seems to have been the design of Providence that Americans, in all ages, should learn to detest treason by seeing it exhibited in all its hideous deformity, in the person of “ARNOLD, THE TRAITOR."*
* On the third of November it was resolved, “That Congress have a high sense of the virtuous and patriotic conduct of John Paulding, David Williams, and Isaac Van Wart; in testimony whereof, ordered, that each of them receive annually $200 in specie, or an equivalent in the current money of these States, during life, and that the Board of War be directed to procure for each of them a silver medal, on one side of which shall be a shield, with this inscription - FIDELITY; and on the other, the following motto — VINCIT AMOR PATIÆ, and forward them to the Commander-in-Chief, who is requested to present the same, with a copy of this resolution, and the thanks of Congress for their fidelity, and the eminent service they have rendered their country.” CHAPTER XIX.
OPERATIONS AT THE SOUTH.
LTHOUGH Washington was aware that the British A were aiming at the conquest of the southern States
he still considered the middle States to be the main theater of war, and felt the necessity of reserving his main force for the defense of that portion of the Union. He did not believe that the possession by the British of a few posts in the South would contribute much to the purposes of the war, and he sent no more troops to that part of the country than he could conveniently spare from the main army. Writing to Lafayette in Paris, after the fall of Savannah (8th March, 1779), he says: “Nothing of importance has happened since you left us except the enemy's invasion of Georgia and possession of its capital, which, though it may add something to their supplies on the score of provisions, will contribute very little to the brilliancy of their arms; for, like the defenseless Island of St. Lucia,* it only required the appearance of force to effect the conquest of it, as the whole militia of the State did not exceed 1,200 men, and many of them disaffected. General Lincoln is assembling a force to dispossess them, and my only fear is that he will precipitate the attempt before he is fully prepared for the execution.”
* This was a recent conquest of the British fleet in the West Indies.