The Execution of Major Andre
Major Andre was a British officer, who bargained with Benedict Arnold for the surrender of West Point. The agreement was made at a meeting between Arnold and Andre, and would have resulted in serious calamity to the American forces, if Andre had not been captured on his way to New York, and the tell-tale papers discovered hidden in his boots.
Andre was declared a spy. The fact that he was a brave young officer, whom every one admired, could not save him from the fate of all spies, caught within the enemy's lines. He was tried by court-martial, and condemned to be hanged. Andre had hoped that the Court would order him to be shot, as befitted his rank, but this was not to be!
When the time arrived for his execution, he received the news without emotion. All present were deeply affected, but Andre kept a cheerful countenance, and talked in his usual manner with those around him. His servant came into the room, and Andre noticed tears in his eyes. Seeing this, he exclaimed, "You must not give way thus. Leave me till you can show yourself more manly."
His breakfast was sent him from the table of General Washington. Every day during his confinement this had been done. He ate as usual; then shaved and dressed. Placing his hat on the table, he said to the officers, "I am ready at any moment, gentlemen, to wait on you."
The fatal hour came at last! A large body of troops was paraded, and an important gathering of citizens assembled. Many generals and field officers were present. Washington did not attend. The scene was solemn, and gloom pervaded all ranks. Major Andre walked from the stone house, where he had been confined, between two soldiers, showing the greatest dignity and composure.
He smiled as he approached the scaffold, and nodded to several acquaintances as he passed them. When he saw that he was to be hanged, and not shot, he was visibly moved, and said, "I am reconciled to my death, and shall bear it as a brave man should, but I had hoped to be shot as a soldier rather than hanged as a felon."
As soon as things were in readiness, he stepped quickly into the wagon, drawn under the gallows, and took two white handkerchiefs from his pocket. He then grasped the rope that hung from the gallows, and slipped the noose around his own neck. He gave one handkerchief to the provost-marshal to bind his arms behind him, and, with the other, he bandaged his own eyes.
"It will be but a momentary pang," he said to those around him. "I pray you to bear me witness that I meet my fate like a brave man."
The wagon was then drawn from under him, and, in a few moments, he had ceased struggling and was dead. He was dressed in his royal regimentals and boots, and was buried at the foot of the gallows. Thus died, in the bloom of his life, the gallant Major Andre, pride of the Royal Army!