Revolution, 1753-1783

Author: George Washington  | Date: 1780

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Arnold’s Treason

GENERAL ARNOLD is gone to the enemy. I have just received a line from him, in-closing one to Mrs. Arnold, dated on board the Vulture. From this circumstance, and Colonel Lamb’s being detached on some business, the command of the garrison for the present devolves upon you. I request you will be as vigilant as possible, and as the enemy may have it in contemplation to attempt some enterprise, even to-night, against these posts, I wish you to make, immediately after receipt of this, the best disposition you can of your force, so as to have a proportion of men in each work on the west side of the river. You will see or hear from me further to-morrow.

I HAVE the honor to inform Congress that I arrived here [his headquarters in the New York Highlands] at about twelve o’clock on my return from Hartford. Some hours previous to my arrival General Arnold went from his quarters, which were this place, and, as it was supposed, over the river to the garrison at West Point, whither I proceeded myself, in order to visit the post.

I found General Arnold had not been there during the day, and on my return to his quarters he was still absent. In the meantime a packet had arrived from Lieutenant Colonel Jameson, announcing the capture of a John Anderson who was endeavoring to go to New York with several interesting and important papers, all in the handwriting of General Arnold. This was also accompanied with a letter from the prisoner, avowing himself to be Major John Andre, Adjutant to the British army, relating the manner of his capture, and endeavoring to show that he did not come under the description of a spy. From these several circumstances, and information that the general seemed to be thrown into some degree of agitation, on receiving a letter a little time before he went from his quarters, I was led to conclude immediately that he had heard of Major Andre’s captivity, and that he would, if possible, escape to the enemy, and accordingly took such measures as appeared the most probable to apprehend him. But he had embarked in a barge and proceeded down the river, under a flag, to the Vulture ship of war, which lay at some miles below Stony and Verplank’s Points.

He wrote me a letter after he got on board. Major Andre is not arrived yet, but I hope he is secure, and that he will be here to-day.

I have been and am taking precaution which I trust will prove effectual, to prevent the important consequences which this conduct on the part of General Arnold was intended to produce. I do not know the party that took Major Andre, but it is said that it consisted of only a few militia, who acted in such a manner upon the occasion, as does them the highest honor, and proves them to be men of great virtue. As soon as I know their names, I shall take pleasure in transmitting them to Congress. I have taken such measures with respect to the gentlemen of General Arnold’s family, as prudence dictated; but from everything that has hitherto come to my knowledge, I have the greatest reason to believe they are perfectly innocent. I early secured Joshua H. Smith, the person mentioned in the close of General Arnold’s letter, and find him to have had considerable share in this business.


TREASON of the blackest dye was yesterday discovered. General Arnold, who commanded at West Point, lost to every sense of honor, of private and public obligation, was about to deliver up that important post into the hands of the enemy. Such an event must have given the American cause a dangerous, if not a fatal wound; but the treason has been timely discovered, to prevent the fatal misfortune. The providential train of circumstances which led to it affords the most convincing proof that the liberties of America are the object of Divine protection. At the same time that the treason is to be regretted, the general cannot help congratulating the army on the happy discovery.

Our enemies, despairing of carrying their point by force, are practicing every base art to effect by bribery and corruption what they cannot accomplish in a manly way. Great honor is due to the American army that this is the first instance of treason of the kind, where many were to be expected from the nature of the dispute. The brightest ornament in the character of the American soldiers is their having been proof against all the arts and seductions of an insidious enemy. Arnold has made his escape to the enemy, but Major Andre, the Adjutant General in the British army, who came out as a spy, is our prisoner.

His Excellency the Commander-in-Chief, has arrived at West Point from Hartford, and is no doubt taking proper measures to unravel fully so hellish a plot.


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Chicago: George Washington and Nathanael Greene, "Arnold’s Treason (Washington and Greene)," Revolution, 1753-1783 in America, Vol.3, Pp.282-285 Original Sources, accessed December 2, 2022,

MLA: Washington, George, and Nathanael Greene. "Arnold’s Treason (Washington and Greene)." Revolution, 1753-1783, in America, Vol.3, Pp.282-285, Original Sources. 2 Dec. 2022.

Harvard: Washington, G, Greene, N, 'Arnold’s Treason (Washington and Greene)' in Revolution, 1753-1783. cited in , America, Vol.3, Pp.282-285. Original Sources, retrieved 2 December 2022, from