André | Arnold | Bates | Burgoyne | Church | Clinton | Cornwallis | Gage | George III | Germain | Howe | Jenny | Lafayette | Odell | Ottendorf | Paul Revere | Rachel Revere | Rochambeau | Stansbury | Tallmadge | Thompson | Washington
John André (1750-1780)
John André was the aide de camp of Sir Henry Clinton, the British commander-in-chief. André purchased a commission as second lieutenant in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers in 1771. In 1774 he joined a regiment in Quebec, where he pursued his first love of poetry and painting. In September and October 1775, American troops laid siege to his fort at St. Johns. He was captured, brought back to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and treated roughly. His days as a prisoner turned him against the American rebels. The Americans finally exchanged him in 1776, and he met up with British troops in New York City. Sir William Howe was especially interested in the information André had learned behind the American lines. André then purchased a position as captain and become General Charles Grey’s aide. He became known for behaving ruthlessly and aggressively on the battlefield. In 1778 André joined the staff of Henry Clinton, General Howe’s replacement. Clinton made him head of intelligence in April 1779. André successfully kept track of intelligence from American disserters and British prisoners who had escaped or were exchanged. André’s most famous success was the treachery of Benedict Arnold. As a result, Clinton promoted André rapidly, from deputy to adjutant general in October 1779. Yet Benedict Arnold was also André’s downfall. Three American militiamen captured André, who was dressed in civilian clothes with a treasonous letter from Clinton to Arnold in his shoe. André was tried with a court martial. Found guilty, he begged George Washington to shoot him as a gentlemen instead of hanging him as a spy. Nevertheless, he was hanged as a spy in Tappan, New York on October 2, 1780.
- John André to Joseph Stansbury, May 10, 1779
- Benedict Arnold to John André, July 12, 1780
- Benedict Arnold to John André, July 15, 1780
- John André to Henry Clinton, September 29, 1780
Benedict Arnold (1741-1801)
Benedict Arnold was a successful military leader early in his career, but his treasonous relationship with the British in the American Revolution marks him as an infamous traitor to the American cause. Before the Revolution, he was a well-to-do merchant. At the start of the Revolution, Arnold suggested that he could capture Fort Ticonderoga in New York. Benjamin Church made him colonel, and Arnold raised a regiment and captured the fort on May 10, 1775. He returned home victoriously and joined General George Washington‘s Continental Army. Washington next gave him command of an expedition to attack Quebec. Their attack on Quebec failed, but Arnold and his men managed to sustain a blockade. During this time, Arnold seriously wounded his knee. For his heroism Congress promoted him to brigadier general on January 10, 1776.
In 1776 Arnold repeatedly demonstrated his military prowess against British forces. Yet, Arnold threatened to resign when other brigadiers were promoted to major generals, but not him. At the encouragement of Washington, he again joined the army to stop the advance of General Burgoyne, Colonel Barry St. Leger, and Sir William Howe from the north. Arnold twice made two heroic attacks (once independently) against the British, leading to Burgoyne’s surrender at Saratoga on October 17, 1776. During these forays, he was shot in the same leg as before, giving him a serious limp thereafter. Arnold’s successes conflicted with his superior, General Horatio Gates, and he was temporarily removed from his command.
In 1778 Washington appointed Arnold the military commander of Philadelphia after the British evacuated. In Philadelphia patriots accused him of using using public wagons for private profit and for making money for himself after he closed all the shops down in Philadelphia. Patriots also accused him of being to friendly with loyalists. After all, the British had just evacuated Philadelphia, and tensions were high between loyalists and patriots. Arnold then faced a court martial for corruption and resigned his post on March 19, 1779. Soon after resigning, Arnold sold his services to the British.
In May 1779 Arnold sent for Joseph Stansbury, who lived in Philadelphia and opposed armed resistance. Stansbury, with the help of Jonathan Odell, met with John André, the aide de camp of General Henry Clinton. In the following months, Arnold provided the British with a variety of military and political secrets. Arnold’s treachery was revealed when André was captured on September 21. Arnold escaped to New York once the Americans discovered he was a spy. Arnold published a statement to encourage other Americans to join his cause. When this failed, we was made a British brigadier and sent on raids in Virginia. His successful attacks against forts in Virginia and New York permanently marked him as a traitor. After General Charles Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, Virginia in October 1781, Arnold and his family sailed back to England with Cornwallis. In Britain, he was not trusted with any military commands and failed as a merchant. He died in London in 1801.
- John André to Joseph Stansbury, May 10, 1779
- Benedict Arnold to John André, July 12, 1780
- Benedict Arnold to John André, July 15, 1780
Ann Bates, a loyalist spy for the British forces, was a teacher in Philadelphia. Bates began spying for the British sometime in 1778. She posed as a peddler, selling thread, needles, knives and utensils to the American camp followers. In this manner, Bates traveled through rebel camps, counting the number of men and weapons and meeting with other loyalist sympathizers in the American army. On May 12, 1780 Bates requested to leave Clinton’s espionage ring and join her husband, a gun repairman with the British Army, in Charleston, South Carolina.
John Burgoyne (1722-1792)
John Burgoyne was a British general and playwright. His first play, The Maid of Oaks, was produced in 1775. Burgoyne is probably best known for surrendering at Saratoga during the American Revolution. A parliamentary inquiry into Burgoyne’s responsibility for the Saratoga defeat was inconclusive in 1779, but Burgoyne was deprived of most of his political offices. He returned to play-writing, and published and produced a successful comedy, The Heiress, in 1786. Burgoyne died in his seventieth year.
Benjamin Church (1734-1778)
Benjamin Church was a member of both the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts and a member of the Sons of Liberty rebel organization along with other patriot leaders such as John and Samuel Adams, Paul Revere and John Hancock. However Benjamin Church was really a paid spy for the British general, Sir Thomas Gage. Six weeks before the battle of Lexington, Church sent Gage letters detailing hidden military and political secrets of the American rebel forces (these letters can also be found at the William L. Clements Library in the Sir Thomas Gage Collection). In October of 1775, one of Church’s spy letters to Gage was captured and delivered to General Washington. Church was arrested, stood trial for treason and imprisoned until 1777. After his release, Church sailed to West Indies in a schooner that disappeared at sea.
Sir Henry Clinton (1730-1838)
Henry Clinton replaced William Howe as Commander of the British forces in America in 1778. During the next four years, he disputed admirals, generals, and Secretary of State George Germain, and became known for his intelligent planning and ineffectual execution. In May 1782, several months after Yorktown, Clinton turned his command over to Sir Guy Carleton. Clinton spent most of his postwar years fighting a paper war with his enemies in the army, navy, and government. His papers, including many spy letters, intelligence reports and military maps, are housed at the Clements Library and form the basis of this exhibit. See the Henry Clinton Papers for more information.
Lord Charles Cornwallis (1738-1805)
Cornwallis was born in London, the son of the first Earl Cornwallis, and educated at Eton. He began his military career in the Grenadier Guards at the age of eighteen.. He became a major general in 1775 and arrived in New York in 1776 where he became second in command to Henry Clinton two years later. In 1781, Cornwallis seriously depleted his army and supplies while achieving a series of tactical victories in the South and was forced to withdraw to Yorktown, Virginia ignoring Clinton’s suggestions to either stay in the Carolinas or join the British troops in New York. In September of 1781, the American and French troops met Comte de Gasse and twenty-nine French ships in Chesapeake Bay and laid siege to Cornwallis and the British troops in Yorktown. On October 17, 1781 Cornwallis surrenders. Lord Cornwallis continues on to a successful military career, becoming the governor of India in 1786 and the governor-general of Ireland in 1797. He returned to India in 1805, where he died quietly.
Sir Thomas Gage (1721-1787)
Gage was born in Firle, England, the descendant of a French nobleman who came to England with William the Conqueror. He was educated at Westminister School and became an ensign in the British Army in 1740. In 1751, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and was ordered to America to serve under General Edward Braddock in the French and Indian War (part of the Seven Years War). He served in Braddock’s disastrous Pennsylvania campaign of 1755, becoming an acquaintance of George Washington during the expedition. After the French surrender in 1760 Gage became governor of Montreal. In 1761 he was promoted to major general, and in 1763 he became commander-in-chief in America, assuming his post in New York City. In 1774, after a brief stay in England, Gage was sent back to America as both commander-in-chief and governor of Massachusetts, serving in this capacity during the events leading to the battles of Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill. Out of favor with the English government after failing to quell the American rebellion, Gage was recalled to England in late 1775. Gage endured years of financial and personal hardship until he was made a full general when Germain left office in 1782. His papers, including many military and political documents, are housed in the Clements Library.
George III (1738-1820)
King of Great Britain. George William Frederick ascended to the throne in 1760 at the age of twenty-two. He played a major role in the creating the terms of the Treaty of Paris of 1763 that brought an end to the Seven Years War. In 1770, the king finally gained control over the English Parliament with the installation of Lord North, as prime minister. However, the king’s repressive policies towards the American colonies throughout the North ministry backfired with the American rebels’ struggle for independence from English rule. In March 1782, George III finally allowed Lord North to resign as prime minister and began peace negotiations to end the American Revolution. In the fall of 1788, the king succumbed to the congenital illness that had plagued him since 1765, rendering him mad. He soon recovered and continued to rule England until 1811, when he became permanently ill after the death of his favorite daughter.
George Germain, Lord Sackville (1716-1785)
Lord Sackville was made Commander of the British forces in Germany in 1758. His army career ended abruptly in disgrace, however, with a court martial for failure to follow orders. Dismissed from service, he spent the next sixteen years rebuilding his parliamentary career. By 1775, now using the name Germain, he was in favor with the North ministry. His tough attitude toward the colonies led to his appointment as First Lord of Trade and Secretary of State for America. During the war, Germain’s actions alienated British commanders, George III, and the cabinet. Germain was forced to resign in 1782 and left public life.
William Howe (1729-1814)
William Howe succeeded General Thomas Gage in 1775 as Commander of the British forces in the American Revolution. After the successful Battle of Long Island in 1777, he defeated Washington at Brandywine near Chadds Ford and continued his advance on Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Howe’s success in Philadelphia was overshadowed by General John Burgoyne’s surrender at Saratoga, and Howe was criticized for not cooperating with Burgoyne during the 1777 campaign. Parliament appointed General Henry Clinton to replace Howe in 1778.
A French woman who spied for the British by infiltrating the American’s French allies’ army camps. She reported her observations to Baron Ottendorf, who in turn sent her disposition to Sir Henry Clinton. No other information is known on her.
Lafayette, Marquis de (1754-1834)
The American Declaration of Independence inspired Lafayette to buy a ship and sail to America without official permission from France in 1777. In America, he became an unpaid volunteer on George Washington‘s staff. He participated in the Battle of Brandywine in 1777 and soon became a major general. While spending the winter in Valley Forge, he became close friends with Washington. He continued to have military commands in 1778, but in 1779 went back to France to advocate the American cause. He returned in 1780 bearing the news to Washington that the Comte de Rochambeau would bring French troops to assist him. Lafayette next went to Virginia, where he battled Charles Cornwallis until Cornwallis retreated to Yorktown. After Yorktown, Lafayette was the “diplomatic aide-de-camp” to Benjamin Franklin in Paris and continued to voice American interests to the French government. Lafayette had an illustrious and tumultuous political career in France during the French Revolution, the Reign of Terror, Napoleon, and the Restoration Era, throughout which he defended his concept of liberty.
Rev. Jonathan Odell, graduate of Princeton and grandson of its first president, was a physician, poet, and clergyman. He went over to the British side in 1777, and patriots promptly confiscated his property in New Jersey. Odell probably helped arrange the first meeting between Benedict Arnold and Joseph Stansbury in New York in May 1779. He also translated the secret ciphers and decoded the invisible ink of the spy letters passing among John André, Joseph Stansbury, and Benedict Arnold.
Nicholas Dietrich, Baron de Ottendorf
On December 5, 1776, Congress commissioned Major Nicholas Dietrich, Baron de Ottendorf, a German mercenary, to raise an independent corps in the Continental Army. Ottendorf’s Corps had difficulty in completing itself properly and on June 11, 1777 Washington replaced Ottendorf with Lieutenant Colonel Armand and his French troops. Baron Ottendorf and his mercenaries later joined with the British army.
Paul Revere (1735-1818)
Paul Revere was one of the finest American craftsmen of the late eighteenth century. He learned his trade of silversmithing from his father. Revere served as an officer in the Seven Years War and then returned to Boston to set up shop as a silversmith. He was a leader in the Bostonian Sons of Liberty and played in a major role in popularizing resistance to the Stamp Act and the Boston Massacre through his widely circulated engravings. He helped plan and carry out the Boston Tea Party in 1775. He also served as a courier between the American rebel organizations. On April 18 and 19 of 1775, he set out on horseback from Boston to warn patriot leaders John Hancock and Sam Adams in Lexington that the British were marching to seize rebel leaders and weapons. During the war he served the American cause as a manufacturer of gunpowder and as an engraver for Congress. After the war he returned to his business as a silversmith and engraver.
Rachel Revere (1745-1813)
Rachel (Walker) Revere was the second wife of Paul Revere, the engraver and patriot. Rachel met Paul outside his shop in Boston. They were married on October 10, 1773, just five months after the death of his first wife. Their marriage was considered a love match. Paul wrote love poems to his wife on the back of his shop ledgers. Rachel and Paul had eight children in addition to Paul’s eight children from his first marriage. Rachel died on June 26, 1813.
Comte de Rochambeau (1725-1807)
Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, the Comte de Rochambeau, joined the French Army to fight in the French and Indian Wars (1744-1746, also known as the War of the Austrian Succession). He performed with distinction in the Seven Years War and was promoted to brigadier in 1760. In 1780, when the French government decided to send troops to aid the American rebels, Rochambeau was promoted to lieutenant general and made commander of 6,000 French soldiers. By all reports, Rochambeau was skilled, experienced and diplomatic, waiting patiently for over a year as the American troops reorganized and gathered the men and funds to mount another attack on the British. Finally, in 1781, Rochambeau and Washington worked together to mislead Clinton and march to Yorktown and surround Cornwallis. Rochambeau returned to France in 1783 and narrowly escaped execution during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror.
Joseph Stansbury was born in London, but he lived in Philadelphia during the Revolution. When the British occupied Philadelphia, he was in British favor. He served as the commissioner of the city watch, managed General William Howe‘s lottery for the relief of the poor, and directed the library. He directly opposed armed resistance and independence from the British. When the British withdrew to New York in June 1778, he stayed in Philadelphia. He then served as the main intercessory between Benedict Arnold and John André. After Arnold approached him with overtures to the British cause, he ventured to New York specifically to meet with André about Arnold.
Benjamin Tallmadge (1754-1835)
With Benjamin Tallmadge’s leadership, George Washington was able to create a strong and successful chain of spies throughout the New York area, beginning the secret service in America. These agents, primarily the Culper Gang, gathered countless amounts of information for Washington, which greatly aided in winning the war. Tallmadge was born in Setauket, Long Island. He was an extremely bright boy, who went to Yale University at the age fifteen. After school he began a teaching career and soon became a headmaster of a school in Wethersfield, CT. When war broke out Tallmadge became interested and decided to join. He began his army career as 1st lieutenant in Colonel John Chester’s Regiment of Wadsworth’s Connecticut Brigade, and eventually rose up the ladder to become Brigade Major and then captain of a troop in the 2nd Continental Light Dragoon Regiment. In the summer of 1778 his dragoons were assigned under Brigadier General Charles Scott, who was Washington’s intelligence chief. Tallmadge’s new job was to recruit intelligence sources throughout the Connecticut and New York area. He contacted old friends from Long Island and New York City, gradually forming the Culper ring. When Charles Scott had to go home because of family problems in the Fall of 1778, Tallmadge was promoted once again and began to report directly to Washington. Tallmadge is now remembered as one of the founders of the first organized espionage operations in America. After his successful career during the war, he was elected to Congress, where he served eight terms.
Benjamin Thompson (1753-1814)
Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford, was one of America’s most important early scientists. Thompson was born in the colonies in 1753. He was an avowed loyalist who may have aided Benjamin Church in his espionage against the rebel armies. Thompson left America on October 15, 1775 from Woburn, Massachusetts aboard a British warship. In March of 1776, Lord Germain (British Minister) appointed him to a position in the Colonial Office. Later he served as an officer, commanding British troops in Charleston and on Long Island. After the war, Thompson served the elector of Bavaria and was rewarded in 1791 by appointment as a count of the Holy Roman Empire. Throughout his life he continued his scientific studies regarding gunpowder, heat and light. Before leaving America, he founded a chair in physics at Harvard and established medals for physics at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
George Washington (1732-1799)
George Washington, the first American President and Commander-in-Chief of the American forces during the American Revolutionary War, was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia in 1732. He did not have much of a formal education, but learned from nature and life, and proved to have a skill with mathematics and surveying. His first experience with war was as a commander during the French and Indian War. For a time afterwards he was a tobacco planter, but he soon learned that it did not pay. As the war with Great Britain approached, Washington, disgruntled with the British laws, entered the political and military realm and was elected one of the delegates to the First Continental Congress. Later he was elected, again, this time as Commander-in-Chief of the American army. As Commander-in-Chief, Washington built a large army, which he kept together and mobile, and prevented it from being destroyed by the British Army. As a result of his abilities during the war, Washington was unanimously elected the first president of the United States in 1789.
- George Washington to Benjamin Tallmadge, June 27, 1779
- Benedict Arnold to John André, July 12, 1780
- George Washington to Dr. Baker, May 29, 1781