ANDRÉ, John (1751-1780), Major, British Army, Deputy Adjutant General to General Sir Henry Clinton, executed as a spy. Autograph letter signed ("John André D. Adjt. Gen.") to Gregory Townsend, Esq., Commissary General of the British army in New York, Head Quarters, 19 February 1780.
1 full page, folio, integral address leaf in André's hand, with recipient's docket, inconsquential mend at seal hole, otherwise in exceptionally crisp original condition. Very boldly penned in André's striking copperplate hand.
A WAR-DATE LETTER OF SPYMASTER JOHN ANDRÉ, SEVEN MONTHS BEFORE HIS CAPTURE AND EXECUTION
A very attractive letter of the unfortunate Major André, penned a scant seven months before his capture and execution as a spy. "An officer of exceptional ability" (Boatner), André possessed both personal charm and organizational talents, and was appointed to the important post of Deputy Adjutant General to Sir Henry Clinton in October 1779, at the unusually young age of 28. The infamous secret correspondence with Benedict Arnold began in the summer of 1779, and André (under the code names "Lothario" and "John Anderson") proved active and adroit in his handling of the surreptitious negotiations, involving elaborate ciphers, invisible ink, furtive go-betweens, secret meetings and concealed papers. Here, though, the subject is rum (a commodity which the British Army considered essential). André writes:
"Sir The commander in chief [Clinton] bids me inform you with respect to the Rum, that you are to make such an agreem't with the owner as you think, considering circumstances. Mr. Weir will approve. I have the honour to [be] with Reg'd, Sir, /Your most obedient & most hum. Serv't John André Adjt Gen. "
LETTERS OF JOHN ANDRÉ ARE INCREASINGLY RARE: In late September, to finalize plans for the betrayal of the key American garrison at West Point , André, in red regimentals, was rowed ashore from a British warship anchored up the Hudson, for a face-to-face interview with Arnold. The conference with the traitor ended at dawn and it was deemed too dangerous to row André back to the British vessel. Sighted at anchor, the ship was shelled by an American battery and forced downriver, stranding André behind American lines. On September 23, 1780, Wearing civilian garb (having discarded his red coat), and calling himself "John Anderson," André was captured attempting to cross American picket lines into British-held parts of Westchester County, New York. His official pass, signed by Benedict Arnold, was ignored, and highly compromising documents--including information regarding the West Point fortifications--were retrieved from his boots. The plot was revealed and Arnold fled on horseback, leaving his wife and child behind. Within days, André was condemned to death by a court-martial whose members included Lafayette and von Steuben. On 20 October, in spite of Sir Henry Clinton's last-minute request for clemency, André was hung as a spy and buried at the foot of the gallows.