Robert Tomes.

Battles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) online

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The plan drawn up by Washington, and
now submitted by Lafayette to the French
general and admiral, was, to attack New
York with the combined forces. Wash
ington was to march upon the city by
land, in conjunction with Rochambeau,
who was to debark on Long island with
his troops; while De Ternny was to at
tack the British squadron, or blockade it
in the harbor. The plan, however, was
defeated for the present by tlie arrival of
Admiral Graves at New York with six
ships-of-the-line, which gave the British
the naval superiority. It was now re
solved to postpone the expedition until
the arrival of the second division of the
French force, which had been left at Brest,
awaiting transports; or of the squadron
of the count de Guichen, which was daily
expected from the West Indies.

In the meantime, Sir Henry Clinton,
having obtained information of the pro
posed project of the allies, determined to
thwart it by attacking the French at New
port. He therefore embarked eight thou
sand men and sailed up Long-island sound
with his transports ; while Admiral Ar-
buthnot put to sea with his squadron, in
order to co-operate.

Washington now r proposed to take ad
vantage of the absence of Sir Henry Clin
ton, and either to strike a blow at New
York, or to make such a- demonstration
as would cause the British commander to



return to its defence, and abandon his at
tack upon Newport. The army, which
was on the west, was accordingly thrown
across to the east side of the North river.
The troops were ordered to disencumber
themselves of all their heavy baggage,
which, with the women and children, was
sent to West Point. Provisions for two
days were cooked in advance, the horses
of the baggage-wagons were kept con
stantly in harness, and every man was
ordered to be in readiness to march at a
moment s notice.

The young Lafayette was among the
most eager. He was now in command
of a light-infantry corps, consisting of two
brigades, selected from the different regi
ments of the army. He had supplied his
officers and men, as we have seen, with
extra equipments, at his own expense ;
and with conscious pride he displayed his
troops in review before Washington and
his general officers, by all of whom they
were pronounced to be, in accoutrement
and bearing, equal to any soldiers in the
world. Their uniform was neat, each man
wearing a leathern helmet, with a crest of
horse-hair. Both officers and privates car
ried swords, which Lafayette had himself
brought from France and presented to
them. The marquis was also anxious to
prove that his corps was no less effective
in the field than showy on parade. He
was, however, disappointed in his martial

On discovering; Washington s move-

O C5

merit across the Hudson, and his prepa
rations for a inarch upon New York, Sir
Henry Clinton gave up his part of the
proposed attack on Rhode island, and re

turned with his land-forces to his head
quarters; while Admiral Arbuthnot pro
ceeded to blockade the French fleet in
the harbor of Newport, and to endeavor
to cut off the expected reinforcements.
Intelligence soon came that the second
division of the French armament was
blockaded at Brest by an English squad
ron, and that the count de Guichen had
sailed from the West Indies for Europe.
This compelled the allies to abandon all
thought of an attack upon New York,
and forced Rochambeau to continue in
active during the remainder of the year.

The American army now recrossed the
Hudson, leaving a small detachment to
raise some works and establish a post at
Dobb s ferry, on the eastern side, in or
der to secure a communication for future
operations against New York, if found to
be practicable. Washington took post at
Orangetown (or Old Tappan), opposite
Dobb s ferry, where he remained until

While the army was crossing the river
at King s ferry when the movement
against New York was contem
plated, and Washington was on
horseback, directing the passage of the
last division General Arnold suddenly
presented himself. He seemed anxious
to know, and hurriedly asked, what place
had been assigned to him. The general-
in-chief answered that it was the left wing,
which was the post of honor, and which
was his right by rank. Arnold made no
response, but his face was quickly cloud
ed with an expression of dissatisfaction.
Washington, deeply engaged in directing
the movement of his troops, had no time

July 31,




[PART n.

for further parley, and dismissed Arnold,
with a courteous request that he would
ride to headquarters, where he would soon
see and speak with him more at leisure
in regard to the matter.

On Washington s return, he learned
from Colonel Tilghman, his aid-de-camp,
that Arnold had been speaking freely
with him about his interview with the
commander-in-chief, and had expressed
his disappointment at the result, declar
ing that in consequence of his wound he
was unfit for the field, and that the only
post at which he could do good service
was West Point. Washington seemed to
be surprised, for this was so unlike the
daring Arnold, to prefer the restriction
of garrison-duty to the free action of the

o */

field ! Still, he was aware that Arnold
had before expressed a desire for the com
mand at West Point, although he believed
that this had been a mere passing caprice
of that restless officer, and not the ear
nest wish of his heart.

General Arnold, however, was deeply
in earnest, and had been so ever since he
had solicited the command. Thus, he had
urged in his behalf the interposition of his
friends in Congress, and the exercise of
the influence of General Schuyler and of
Mr. Robert R. Livingston, the member
from New York, who wrote to Washing
ton, asking for the appointment of Arnold
to the command at West Point, upon the
ground that he was not only an officer of
tried courage and ability, but stood high
in the estimation of the people of New
York, and was popular with the militia,
whose services would be required. Liv-


i, however, made no allusion to the
fact that he had been prompted by Ar
nold himself to make this application, and
left it to be inferred by Washington that
his only motive was the suitableness of
the appointment.

Recalling to mind the previous solici
tations which had been made, and now
finding that Arnold himself was resolute
ly bent upon obtaining the appointment,
Washington no longer hesitated, but gave
him the command at West Point, whither
he immediately proceeded. Ar-


nold s headquarters were estab
lished at the former residence of Colonel
Beverly Robinson, a loyalist in the ser
vice of Great Britain. The- " Robinson
house," as it was called, is situated (for it
still exists) on the eastern and opposite
bank of the Hudson to that of West Point,
and between two and three miles below
that post.

On taking leave of Washington and his
officers, when about to assume his com
mand, General Arnold suggested to La
fayette, who had spies in his pay at New
York, that, as their intelligence might
sometimes come more conveniently by
the way of West Point, it would be as
well to intrust him (Arnold) with their
names, that intercourse with them miVht


be thus facilitated. The young marquis
unhesitatingly declined, on the principle
that he was bound in honor to keep the
names of the spies to himself. Nothinf
more, at the time, was thought of it; but
subsequent events revived its remem
brance, and gave great significance to
Arnold s request.




General Arnold as Governor of Philadelphia. His Restlessness. Abortive Schemes. Suspicious Conduct. Charges. -
Resignation. Splendor and Expense. The Penn House. Banquets. Coach-and-Fonr. The Marriage. A Reign
ing Toast. The Beautiful Margaret Sliippen. A Needy Prodigal. Verdict of the Court-Martial. Gentle Words of
Washington. A Sore Conscience. Desperation. A French Rebuke. Good Advice. Contemplated Treason.
Arnold s Unpopularity. His Correspondence with Major Andre. " Gtistavus." Life of Major Andre. A Youthful


GENERAL ARNOLD, it will be recol
lected, was appointed military gov
ernor of Philadelphia in May, 1778, im
mediately after the evacuation of that
city by the British troops under Sir Hen
ry Clinton. Here he soon incurred the
dislike of the inhabitants by his arbitrary
conduct, and their suspicion by his equiv
ocal transactions. His restlessness of dis
position, or his desire to escape from the
observation of those who regarded him
with no friendly eye, prompted him to
seek another field for his active energies,
and a month had hardly passed when he
solicited an appointment in the navy.

Abandoning this design, either from its
impracticability or from his own caprice,
Arnold resolved to take the command of
a privateer. This scheme was in its turn
also given up while preparations were ma
king for its accomplishment. His next
project was, to obtain a grant of land in
the western part of New York, for the es
tablishment of a settlementfor the officers
and soldiers who had served under him,
and for such other persons as might be
disposed to join them. This plan, too,
was nursed for awhile, and finally aban
doned by its capricious parent. Among

the various other projects with which his
restless mind teemed, he at one time en
tertained the idea of forming a vast con
federacy of the Indian tribes, of which he
might then become its great and power
ful chief.

General Arnold s conduct, in his capaci
ty as military commandant of Philadel
phia, at length became so suspicious, and
doubts of his integrity were so freely ex
pressed, that the council of Pennsylvania
was forced to take cognizance of them.
An investigation ensued, which resulted
in the presentation of certain charges,
some of which imputed criminality, and
all implied abuse of power. These were
submitted to Congress, and referred to a
committee of inquiry, which reported fa
vorably to Arnold. The authorities of
Pennsylvania, however, still clung to their
charges, and insisted that Arnold should
be tried by the military tribunal to which,
as an army-officer, he was amenable. Con
gress assented, and it was resolved that
the charges should be referred to a court-
rnartial for its decision. The accused gen
eral complained that he was unfairly treat
ed, and sacrificed by Congress to a desire
on its part to conciliate the state of Penn-




sylvania. In the meanwhile, kept in sus
pense by repeated postponements of his
trial, he fretted angrily under the impend
ing accusations. Under pretence of the
wants of the army, he had forbidden the
shopkeepers of Philadelphia " to sell or
buy; he then put their goods at the dis
posal of his agents, and caused them af
terward to be resold at a profit. At one
moment, he prostituted his authority to
enrich his accomplices; at the next, he
squabbled with them about the division
of the prey."*

Arnold now resigned his command, but
remained in Philadelphia, where since his
first arrival he had lived in a style of
unexampled splendor and expense. He
took possession of the " Perm house," one
of the most imposing in the city, gave
magnificent banquets, and drove a coach-
and-four,with liveried coachman and lack
eys. When Monsieur Gerard, the French
embassador, first arrived in Philadelphia,
Arnold gave him a grand dinner, a,nd en
tertained him and all his suite in his house
for several days.

His marriage with Miss Margaret Ship-
pen, the daughter of Mr. Edward Ship-
pen (afterward chief-justice of Pennsyl
vania, though at that time supposed to
be favorably inclined toward the tories),
added still more to Arnold s love of ex
pensive display and ostentation. lie was
forty years of age, and a widower. Miss
Shippen was a beauty of eighteen, and
fond of gayety and public admiration.
She had been a reigning toast of the town
while the British occupied Philadelphia,
and was one of the fair ladies whose su-

* American Register, vol. ii., p. 23, 1817.

premacy in " wit, beauty, and every ac
complishment," the knights of the "Blend
ed Rose" in the famous Mischianza assert
ed by " deeds of arms" against all rivals.*
Her attractions had made such an im
pression upon the British officers, that,
after leaving Philadelphia, no name was
more frequently heard in the toast and
sentiment which, as was the custom in
those days, flavored the after-dinner Ma
deira, than that of the beautiful Margaret
Shippen. With Andre, the captivating
aid-de-camp of the English commander-in-
chief, her remembrance was kept fresh by
a sentimental correspondence, which was
continued even after her marriage.-j-

The associations of his wife s family
were with the more pretentious and tory
people of Philadelphia, and Arnold was
thus brought in constant contact with
those whose habits were neither calcu
lated to lessen his prodigality, nor their
principles to increase his patriotism.

* See page 91, of this volume.

t " It was from one of the disaffected or tory families thai
Arnold selected his wife. He loved her with passionate
fondness, and she deserved his attachment, by her virtues
and solidity of understanding. In addition to these advan
tages, she possessed an extraordinary share of beauty, dis
tinguishable even in a country where Nature has been prodi
gal of her favors to the sex. A considerable time before
this marriage, when Philadelphia was still in the hands of
the enemy, the relatives of the lady had given an eager wel
come lo the British commanders. His marriage, therefore,
caused some surprise ; but he was pledged to the republic
by so many services rendered and benefits received, that the
alliance gave umbrage to no one." American Register, 1817.

"It is generally believed," adds Mr. Lossing, " that Ar
nold s wife was instrumental in weakening his attachment to
the American cause." W T hen he received from Washington
the command at West Point, " the news of this unexpected
success reached Mrs Arnold in the midst of a large assem
bly at an evening party in Philadelphia, and so affected her
that she partly swooned ; yet no one suspected the real cause
of her emotion, and, when she recovered, they all eongratu
latcd her upon the resolution and good success of her bus
band !"




Arnold, living in a style of profuse
splendor, which he had not the means to
support, was soon driven to the usual re
sources of the needy prodigal. He in
curred debts as long as his credit enabled
him; but when this means failed, he re
sorted to other expedients. He specula
ted in privateer-risks and various trading-
projects. When Count d Estaing with his
fleet approached New York, and it was
supposed that the British would be forced
to evacuate the city, Arnold formed a
partnership with two other persons, to
purchase (on the expected decline of the
market) goods to the amount of thirty
thousand pounds sterling within the lines
of the enemy. These projects of antici
pated profit failing, Arnold, whose pride
would not permit him to diminish his ex
penditures, was prepared to resort to any
means to supply his reckless prodigality.
In the meantime, the court-martial, ap
pointed more than a year previous, con
vened at Morristown, whither Arnold re
paired. Having investigated the charges
against him, that tribunal, on the
20th of January, pronounced him
guilty of two of them,* though with miti
gating circumstances, and sentenced him
to be reprimanded by Washington. Nev
er was the sword of justice more delicate
ly tempered, and a smoother wound given

* The two charges which were sustained in part, but not
so far us to imply criminality, were these : 1. That Arnold,
when at Valley Forge, before the evacuation of Philadel
phia by the British, had given a written protection to the
commander of a vessel to proceed to sea and enter any port
within the United States. The mitigating circumstance was,
that the vessel was the property of persons who had taken
the oath of allegiance to the state of Pennsylvania. 2. That
Arnold had used the public wagons of Pennsylvania for pri
vate purposes. The mitigating circumstance in this instance
was, that their use was paid for at private expense.


to an irritable conscience, than when wield
ed by the hand of the commarider-in-chief
on this occasion. When Arnold appeal ed
before him, Washington addressed him
gravely but kindly, saying : " Our profes
sion is the chastest of all. Even the shad
ow of a fault tarnishes the lustre of our
finest achievements. The least inadver
tence may rob us of the public favor, so
hard to be acquired. I reprimand you
for having forgotten that, in proportion
as you had rendered yourself formidable
to your eneuiies, you should have been
guarded and temperate in your deport
ment toward your fellow-citizens. Ex
hibit anew those noble qualities which
have placed you on the list of our most
distinguished commanders. I will furnish
you, as far as it may be in my power, with
opportunities of regaining the esteem of
your conn try."

Arnold s conscience, however, like an
ulcerated sore when exposed to the pure
air of heaven, was only the more inflamed
by these gentle words of the pure and up
right Washington. He was maddened to
rage, and spared no one, from command-
er-in-chief to subaltern, all of whom he
charged with envy of his own brilliant
military fame. He had already, under an
assumed name, opened a correspondence
with the enemy, but hesitated to take the
last and basest step of overt treason un
til he had exhausted every other resource
for the supply of his greedy prodigality.
Nearly four years before Arnold s defec
tion, Colonel Brown, denouncing him in
a handbill, used these memorable words:
" Money is this man s God, and to yet cnouyli
of ii he would sacrifice his couniry /"




Shortly after his trial, Arnold renewed
a petition to Congress for a settlement of
his accounts, in which he made claims for
an exorbitant balance in his favor. He
was pertinacious, but his demands were
evidently so unjust, that neither his ene
mies, disgusted with his effrontery, nor
his friends, wearied with his importunity,
were disposed to listen further to his ap

Yet Arnold was sinned against. Many
officers were envious of his deserved rep
utation as a soldier. He had been made
to feel the shafts of their envy in many
ways. The very men who had conspired
against Washington, in 1777 and 1778,
were most prominent in opposition to Ar
nold ; and the same faction in Congress
withheld deserved honors from him. With
contracted vision he saw, in the conduct
of these individuals, the ingratitude of his
country; and the resentment which he
felt toward them he extended to the
cause, and all engaged in it. This feel
ing, and the hope of large pecuniary re
ward, by which he might relieve himself
of heavy and increasing embarrassments,
seemed to have extinguished every spark
of patriotism, and beckoned him to the
bad pre-eminence of a mercenary traitor.*

Arnold, in his desperation,now resorted
to the expedient of appealing for a loan
of money to the French envoy, Monsieur
de la Luzerne (the successor of M. Ge
rard), with whom he was on terms of so
cial intimacy in Philadelphia. The gener
al spoke of his disinterested services, his
sacrifices, his wounds; he complained of
the ingratitude of his country, the injus-

* Lossin<r.

tice of Congress, and the persecuting mal
ice of his enemies. He declared that his
fortune had been ruined by the war, and
that, unless he could borrow sufficient
money to pay his debts, he would be com
pelled to go into retirement, and quit a
profession which rewarded him only with
poverty. He finally intimated to M. de
Luzerne that it would be for the interest
of his king to secure the attachment of
an American officer so high in rank, and
that it might be done for the amount of
the loan asked !*

The French minister, a man of great
honor and just sentiments, although an
admirer of Arnold s talents, could not ap
prove of such a method of raising money,
and in his reply administered a mild but
firm rebuke. " You desire of me a ser
vice," he said, "which it would be easy
for me to render, but which would de
grade us both. When the envoy of a for
eign power gives, or, if you will, lends
money, it is ordinarily to corrupt those
who receive it, and to make them the crea
tures of the sovereign whom he serves ;
or rather he corrupts without persuading;
he buys, and does not secure. But the
firm league entered into between the king
and the United States is the work of jus
tice and of the wisest policy. It has for
its bases a reciprocal interest and good
will. In the mission with which I am
charged, my true glory consist in fulfil
ling it without intrigue or cabal, without
resorting to any secret practices, and by
the force alone of the conditions of the

To this somewhat formal manifesto of

* Sparks.




political principle, Monsieur de Luzerne
freely added some moral advice. Arnold,
however, "wanted money, not advice;"
and, not getting it, from either America
or France, he was determined upon ob
taining it from Great Britain. He now
made the last desperate move, and, hav
ing lost himself, staked his country upon
the issue. He renewed his correspond
ence with the enemy, which had been
opened with intentional vagueness, that
he might continue or terminate it, as cir
cumstances should prompt.

The command of West Point, which
Arnold secured, as we have seen, gave
him the means he sought for consumma
ting his treason. His departure from
Philadelphia was not regretted, as his ar
bitrary temper, his pretentious bearing,
and his corrupt conduct, had made him
so much detested and so unpopular, that
he hardly dared to show himself in the
streets. On one occasion he was assault
ed by the populace ; and, having com
plained to Congress, he demanded a guard
of continental troops for his protection,
saying, " This request, I presume, will not
be denied to a man who has so often
fought and bled in the defence of -his
country." Congress, however, did not or
der the guard, but referred him for pro
tection to the governor of Pennsylvania.

Arnold found, in the correspondence
of his w r ife with Major Andre, a conveni
ent means of opening a communication
with the enemy. His advances to Sir
Henry Clinton were accordingly made
through this channel. He wrote his let
ters in a disguised hand, and under the
assumed name of " Gustavux ;" while his

correspondent, Major Andre, took that of
"Jo/in Anderson." To avoid detection, the
true meaning of the letters was disguised
under the cover of a commercial corre
spondence, in which mercantile phrases
apparently expressed trading -purposes.
Arnold warily avoided committing his
own name to paper; but Sir Henry Clin
ton, from the beginning, discovered that
his correspondent was an American officer
of influence, and was soon convinced that
"Gustavus" was no less a personage than

Adjutant-General Major JOHN ANDRE,
the British agent who bore so important
a part in this dark transaction, was born
in London, in 1751, whither his parents,
who were Swiss, had removed from Gene
va. Originally intended for a merchant,
he was placed in early youth in a London
countinghouse,and before he had reached
his eighteenth year fell in love with Miss
Honora Sneyd. She returned his affec
tion ; but her cautious father, seeing but
little prospect of young Andre s advance
ment in his career, refused his consent to
their marriage. The lover now sought
a relief for his disappointment in the ex
citement of a military life; while his "dear
Honora" consoled herself by becoming the
second wife of " that man of many wives/
Richard Lovell Edgeworth,* a young wid-

Ireland, was born at Bath, in England, in 1744. Possessing
a large fortune, he devoted much of his time to agricultural
improvements, as well as to the amelioration of the exist
ing modes of education, by writing, in conjunction with his
highly-gifted daughter, many useful works. He also wrote
his own " Memoirs ;" and, among his various mechanical in
ventions, was a telegraph. Mr. Edgeworth was innrrii-d

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 98 of 126)