John André : biography
John André (2 May 1750 – 2 October 1780) was a British Army officer hanged as a spy during the American War of Independence. This was due to an incident in which he attempted to assist Benedict Arnold's attempted surrender of the fort at West Point, New York to the British.
André was born on 2 May 1750 in London to wealthy Huguenot parents, Antoine André, a merchant from Geneva, Switzerland, and Marie Louise Girardot, from Paris, France. He was educated at St Paul's School, at Westminster School and in Geneva. At age 20, he entered the British Army and joined his regiment, the 7th Royal Fusiliers, in Canada in 1774 as a lieutenant. He was captured at Fort Saint-Jean by General Richard Montgomery in November 1775, and held a prisoner at Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He lived in the home of Caleb Cope, enjoying the freedom of the town as he had given his word not to escape. In December 1776, he was freed in a prisoner exchange. He was promoted to captain in the 26th Foot on 18 January 1777, and to major in 1778.
He was a great favorite in colonial society, both in Philadelphia and New York, during their occupation by the British Army. He had a lively and pleasant manner and could draw, paint and cut silhouette pictures, as well as sing and write verse. He was a fluent writer who carried on much of General Clinton's correspondence. He was fluent in English, French, German, and Italian. He also wrote many comic verses. He planned the Mischianza when General Howe resigned and was about to return to England.
During his nearly nine months in Philadelphia, André occupied Benjamin Franklin's house, where it has been claimed that, on the orders of Major-General Lord Charles Grey he took several valuable items from Franklin's home, including an oil portrait of Franklin, when the British left Philadelphia. Grey's descendants returned Franklin's portrait to the United States in the early half of the 20th century.
Intelligence work, capture and execution
In 1779 André became adjutant-general of the British Army in America with the rank of major. In April of that year he took charge of British secret intelligence. By the next year (1780) he had begun to plot with American General Benedict Arnold. Arnold's Loyalist wife, Peggy Shippen, was a close friend of André, and possibly a paramour; the two had courted in Philadelphia prior to Shippen's marriage to Arnold. She was one of the go-betweens in the correspondence. Arnold, who commanded West Point, had agreed to surrender it to the British for £20,000 (approximately $1.1 million in 2008 dollars) — a move that would have enabled the British to cut New England off from the rest of the rebellious colonies.
André went up the Hudson River on the British sloop-of-war Vulture on Wednesday, 20 September 1780, to visit Arnold. On the following night a small boat, furnished by Arnold, was steered to the Vulture by Joshua Hett Smith. At the oars were two brothers, tenants of Smith's, who reluctantly rowed the boat six miles on the river, to the sloop. Despite Arnold's assurances, the two oarsmen sensed something was wrong. None of these men knew Arnold's purpose, or suspected his treason; all were told that the purpose was to do good for the patriot cause. Only Smith was told anything specific, and that was the lie that it was to secure vital intelligence for the American cause. The brothers finally agreed to row after threats by Arnold to arrest them. They picked up André, and placed him on shore. The others left and Arnold came to André on horseback, leading an extra horse for André's use. The two men conferred in the woods below Stony Point until near dawn, after which André accompanied Arnold several miles to the Joshua Hett Smith House (Treason House) in West Haverstraw, New York, owned by Thomas Smith and occupied by his brother Joshua. Soon thereafter, on the morning of 22 September, American troops commanded by Col. James Livingston, guarding Verplanck's Point across the river, began firing on the Vulture, which received many hits and was forced to retire down river without André.
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