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EXTRACT FROM GEN. LEE'S MEMOIRS
[The feelings, which must exist in the minds of all Americans, from the
recollection of the base desertion and treachery of General Arnold from
** and it will be seen, that the writer was personally engaged in the
reserve for a review.]
“The treason of brigadier Arnold—the capture of Andre
Vol. ii, p. 159.
orders of major general Greene, encamped in the vicinity of Tappan, he sent for major Lee, posted with the light troops, some distance in front. This officer repaired to headquarters with celerity, and found the general in his marqué alone, busily engaged in writing. As soon as Lee entered, he was requested to take a seat, and a bundle of papers, lying on the table, was given him for perusal. In these much information was detailed, tending to prove that Arnold was not alone in the base conspiracy just detected, but that the poison had spread; and that a major general, whose name was not concealed, was certainly as guilty as Arnold himself. This officer had enjoyed, without interruption, the confidence of the commander in chief throughout the war; nor did there exist a single reason in support of the accusation. It altogether rested upon the intelligence derived from the papers before him. Major Lee, personally acquainted with the accused, could not refrain from suggesting the probability, that the whole was a contrivance of sir Henry Clinton, in order to destroy that confidence between the commander and his officers on which the success of military operations depends. This suggestion, Washington replied, was plausible, and deserved due consideration. It had early occurred to his own mind, and had not been slightly regarded; but his reflections settled in a conclusion not to be shaken; as the same suggestion applied to no officer more forcibly than a few days ago it would have done to general Arnold, known now to be a traitor.
“Announcing this result of his meditations with the tone and countenance of a mind deeply agitated, and resolved upon its course, Lee continued silent, when the general proceeded: 'I have sent for you, in the expectation that you have in your corps individuals capable and willing to undertake an indispensable, delicate, and hazardous project. Whoever comes forward upon this occasion, will lay me under great obligations personally, and in behalf of the United States I will reward him amply. No time is to be lost: he must proceed, if possible, this night. My object is to probe to the bottom the afflicting intelligence contained in the papers you have just read; to seize Arnold, and by getting him to save Andre. They are
all connected. While my emissary is engaged in preparing means for the seizure of Arnold, the guilt of others can be traced; and the timely delivery of Arnold to me will possibly put it into my power to restore the amiable and unfortunate Andre to his friends. My instructions are ready, in which you will find my express orders that Arnold is not to be hurt; but that he be permitted to escape if to be prevented only by killing him, as his public punishment is the only object in view. This you cannot too forcibly press upon whomsoever may engage in the enterprize; and this fail not to do.
With my instructions are two letters, to be delivered as ordered, and here are some guineas for expenses.'
“Major Lee replying, said, that he had little or no doubt but his legion contained many individuals daring enough for any operation, however perilous; but that the one in view required a combination of qualities not easily to be found unless in a commissioned officer, to whom he could not venture to propose an enterprize, the first step to which was desertion. That though the sergeant-major of the cavalry was in all respects qualified for the delicate and adventurous project, and to him it might be proposed without indelicacy, as his station did not interpose the obstacle before stated; yet it was very probable that the same difficulty would occur in his breast, to remove which would not be easy, if practicable.
Washington was highly pleased with finding that a noncommissioned officer was deemed capable of executing his views; as he had felt extreme difficulty in authorizing an invitation to officers, who generally are, and always ought to be, scrupulous and nice in adhering to the course of honor. He asked the name, the country, the age, the size, length of service, and charcter of the sergeant.
Being told his name that he was a native of Loudon county in Virginia; about twenty-three or twenty-four years of age --that he had enlisted in 1776-rather above the common size _full of bone and muscle- with a saturnine countenance, grave, thoughtful, and taciturn-of tried courage and inflexible perseverance, and as likely to reject an overture coupled with ignominy as any officer in the corps; a commission being the goal
of his long and anxious exertions, and certain on the first vacancy.
“The general exclaimed, that he was the very man for the business; that he must undertake it; and that going to the enemy by the instigation and at the request of his officer was not desertion, although it appeared so: and he enjoined that this explanation, as coming from him, should be pressed on Champe; and that the vast good in prospect should be contrasted with the mere semblance of doing wrong, which he presumed could not fail to conquer every scruple. Major Lee assured the general, that every exertion would be essayed on his part to execute his wishes; and taking leave returned to the camp of the light corps, which he reached about eight o'clock at night. Sending instantly for the sergeant-major, he introduced the business in the way best calculated, as he thought, to produce his concurrence; and dilated largely on the very great obligaLions he would confer on the commander in chief, whose unchanging and active beneficence to the troops had justly drawn to him their affection, which would be merely nominal, if, when an opportunity should offer to any individual of contributing to the promotion of his views, that opportunity was not zealously embraced. That the one now presented to him never before occurred, and in all probability never would occur again, even should the war continue for ages; it being most rare for three distinct consequences, all of primary weight, to be comprised within a single operation, and that operation necessarily entrusted to one man, who would want but one or two associates in the active part of its execution. That the chance of detection became extremely narrow, an) that consequently that of success enlarged. That by succeeding in the safe delivery of Arnold, he not only gratified his general in the most acceptable manner, but he would be hailed as the avenger of the reputation of the army, stained by foul and wicked perfidy; and what could not but be highly pleasing, he would be the instrument of saving the life of major Andre, soon to be brought before a court of inquiry, the decision of which could not be doubted, from the universally known circumstances of the case, and had been anticipated in the generai's instructions. That by investigating
with diligence and accuracy the intelligence communicated to him, he would bring to light new guilt, or he would relieve in nocence (as was most probable) from distrust; quieting the torturing suspicions, which now harrowed the mind of Washington, and restoring again to his confidence a once honored general, possessing it at present only ostensibly, as well as hush doubts affecting many of his brother soldiers.
“In short, the accomplishment of so much good was in itself too attractive to be renounced by a generous mind; and when connected with the recollection of the high honor which the selection shed upon him, as a soldier he ought notmust not pause. This discourse was followed by a detail of the plan, with a wish that he would enter upon its execution instantly. Champe listened with deep attention, and with a highly excited countenance; the perturbations of his breast not being hid even by his dark visage. He briefly and modestly replied, that no soldier exceeded him in respect and affection for the commander in chief, to serve whom he would willingly lay down his life; and that he was sensible of the honor conferred by the choice of him for the execution of a project all over arduous; nor could he be at a loss to know to whom was to be ascribed the preference bestowed, which he took pleasure in acknowledging, although increasing obligations before great and many.
“That he was charmed with the plan. Even its partial success would lead to great good; as it would give peace to the general's mind, and do justice, as he hoped, to innocence. Full success, added powerful and delicious personal excitements, as well as the gratification of the general and army. He was noi, he said, deterred by the danger and difficulty which was evidently to be encountered; but he was deterred by the ignominy of desertion, to be followed by the hypocrisy of enlisting with the enemy; neither of which comported with his feelings, and either placed an insuperable bar in his way of promotion.
“He concluded by observing, if any mode could be contrived free from disgrace, he would cordially embark in the enterprize. As it was, he prayed to be excused; and hoped that services, always the best in his power to perform, faithful