By repeated solicitations from many of those who have given assistance and encouragement in the publication of this work, the author was induced for the purpose of gratifying many friends' desires, to condense material elsewhere and give place to the centennial ceremonies that occurred within the County. By so doing may they be preserved until another century rolls round. May then a recurrence of the spirit of honor and patriotism which led to such observances, be aroused in the breasts of our children's children, to again animate "Love of Country," through her early struggles, for a further lease of Liberty and Independence, and thus transmit from one century to another, our national pride and honor, through the silent workings of reverential hearts and not by martial power.
The purpose of this publication is to perpetuate the formal part of the ceremonies which occurred at Schoharie on the ninety-sixth anniversary of the capture of Major Andre, and also to record in an enduring form a brief statement of the manner in which the people of Schoharie county and the surrounding country responded to the suggestion, that the grave of DAVID WILLIAMS, one of Andre's captors, should be permanently honored by a monument worthy of the historic act with which his name is associated.
The following pages are taken from the published proceedings of the Ceremonies at the Laying of the Corner-Stone of David Williams Monument, at Schoharie, September 23, 1876.
The following extract is taken from a description, in the local press, of the celebration which occurred at Schoharie on the 23d day of September, 1876:
Saturday dawned cloudy and cool, but not threatening. The streets were dry but not dusty, and the committee-men in purple ribbons and white ribbons were busily performing the various duties assigned to them before eight o'clock in the morning. People were coming in from every quarter at that early hour, and no one seemed to think that Old Probabilities, who announced rain, knew any thing about the weather. The cars from either direction were crowded inside, and even on their roofs.
At 10 A.M. the steady stream of incoming people was augmented by the arrival of the excursion trains from Albany and Troy, and the day was fairly begun. The Committee of Reception was on hand at the depot with carriages for the orator and notables, and mounted marshals were also in attendance. As soon as the train stopped, our visitors from Albany and Troy disembarked. First came the Albany Zouave Cadets, Co. A, 10th Regiment, in command of Captain John H. Reynolds, and headed by Austin's Band; then came the carriages with Hon. Charles Holmes, president of the day; then the orator of the day, Grenville Tremain, Esq., of Albany; the poet of the day, Alfred B. Street, of Albany; Daniel Knower, Ralph Brewster, commissioners; several descendants of David Williams; Senator W. C. Lamont; J. R. Simms, historian, of Schoharie County; Hon. S. L. Mayham, N. La F. Bachman, Esq., Hon. S. H. Sweet, of Albany, Colonel C. C. Kromer, Prof. S. Sias, Charles Courter, Esq., A. A. Hunt, Esq., Hon. John Westover, and Dr. W. T. Lamont and many others.
The line of march was up Knower avenue to Bridge street, down Bridge street to Main street, down Main street to the Old Stone Fort, where the exercises of laying the corner-stone were to take place. When the head of the lone reached the Stone Fort, the road was full of carriages the entire mile between it and the village, and others were still coming, and the sidewalks were crowded the entire distance with people on their way to the Fort. Only about one-half of the people could get inside the grounds and in the street which passes by the grounds surrounding the Stone Fort, and these were estimated by competent judges to number five thousand. We do not doubt that there were ten thousand people in the village that day. As soon as possible order was restored, and Hon. Charles Holmes, president of the day, announced the following programme:--
Prayer by Rev. WILLIAM H. HANDY.
Singing of the "STAR SPANGLED BANNER' by the Schoharie Musical Association.
Oration by GRENVILLE TREMAIN, of Albany.
Music by Doring's Band.
Poem, written by ALFRED B. STREET, of Albany, and read by N. La F. BACHMAN, Esq., of Schoharie.
Singing of " AMERICA" by the Schoharie Musical Association.
Historical Address by Dr. KNOWER, of Schoharie.
Music by Austin's Band
O R A T I O N
By GRENVILLE TREMAIN.
Mr. PRESIDENT AND FELLOW-CITIZENS----In that temple of silence and reconciliation where the enmities of twenty generations lie buried, in the tender and solemn gloom of that venerable abbey wherein is gathered the honored dust of England's bravest and best, surrounded by "royal sarcophagus and carved shrine, and by fading banners which tell of the knights of former time; where the Chathams and Mansfields repose, and where orators and poets lie," is a conspicuous monument, bearing this inscription:--
"SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF MAJOR JOHN ANDRE, WHO, RAISED BY HIS MERIT AT AN EARLY PERIOD OF HIS LIFE TO THE RANK OF ADJUTANT-GENERAL OF THE BRITISH FORCES IN AMERICA, AND EMPLOYED IN AN IMPORTANT BUT HAZARDOUS ENTERPRISE, FELL A SACRIFICE TO HIS ZEAL FOR HIS KING AND COUNTRY."
By command of England's king, George the Third, was this monument raised in Westminster Abbey. The sculptor, true to the historical fact, has pictured and perpetuated the singular sense of pain and grief entertained by those who were the foes of him whose name is thus prominently carved in this temple of fame. Contemplating, as it were, with bowed head this rare homage of a great nation to her dead, the spectator is moved to inquire more minutely into the events of this life so grandly immortalized. What has won so much in a career of only twenty nine years? In this sacred mausoleum of England's mighty dead, where,
Through long-drawn aisle and fretted vault. sweep memories of those who have enriched the language, ennobled the human intellect, elevated humanity, or perpetuated in immortal verse the emotions and passions of men, on every side are names, the very utterance of which is an era, an army, an anthem, an empire. To associate with these mighty dead, how incalculable the honor! How indelible the record here engraven! How immortal the fame here perpetuated/1
And yet this man thus wept by his foes and immortalized by his country, was an enemy to American liberty, a foe to republicanism, whose death was ignoble, and whose ashes reposed for forty years under the free soil of our own land marked only by a tree whose fruit never blossomed. That monument to the memory of John Andre would never have been raised, no such inscription would ever have been written, and that grim irony would not have marred the greatness of Westminster Abbey, but for the critical act, the crucial conduct and the incorruptible honor of him whose name is upon every lip and in every heart here today.
The minute details of the story and the life that are brought to mind by the ceremonies of this day will be wrought out by another and more competent hand. The expression of the thoughts and emotions suggested by the accepted facts connected with the memorable event of September 23, 1780, and a mere outline of the occurrence, are more appropriately within the province of the duty assigned to me. In the contemplation of the performance of that duty I am sustained, buoyed and strengthened by a belief in the leniency of judgment and the charitable consideration of those whom I address.
To us, living when the nation's life has spanned a century, when her greatness and her power are recognized in every clime and upon every sea, when the rich blessings of civil and religious liberty accompany every heart-throb and every breath--to us the page that records the fidelity and the transcendent honor of David Williams, John Paulding and Isaac Van Wart, is serried with lines of the deepest interest, and glorious with letters that can never fade.
We open today the book that perpetuates the history of Revolutionary times, that tells how our country was baptized with fire and blood; how, through toils, and labors, and sacrifices, and sorrows, and prayers, this last hope of Republicanism arose; and we know that the "red rain of her slaughtered sires has but watered the earth for the harvest of their gallant sons." We turn to the chapter blackened by the only traitor that disgraced the Revolutionary period, to find that his treachery was defeated and the infant nation saved by the providential presence and the memorable act of him to whom we this day erect with pageant and with pride, this monumental tribute.
That Andre's was an important but hazardous enterprise is now more fully appreciated than even when the stirring events of that period were being enacted-- nay, than during the first half century of the nation's life. The true nature of that enterprise as well, thanks to the unerring adjustment of time, has become fixed and certain wherever intelligence and judicial fairness prevail over passion or sentimentality. I would not if I could, and certainly I could not if I would, mar the charm of that picture which the character and personality of Major Andre presents. Dissociated from the terrible consequences which would have resulted from a successful termination of that enterprise, and independent of the attempt made in certain quarters in England to cast a shade upon the spotless character of Washington, we cannot contemplate the fate of Andre, without emotions of the profoundest pity. Wherever loyalty and valor are respected, wherever steadfastness and manly devotion are admired, wherever youth, ambition, intelligence and beauty combined, command interest and win affection, there will the character of Major Andre be cordially and truly appreciated. But these very qualities of heart and mind were the underlying causes of his connection with the enterprise. Considered with all the surrounding circumstances, however, I have no hesitation in saying that, in comparison with the high noon glory that surrounds the distinguished service, lofty firmness and untarnished honor of our own Nathan Hale, the conduct of Andre pales into a glimmering twilight. He who by corruption and bribery seeks profit and renown, has no place beside him who for love of liberty, considers his own single life but an insignificant offering upon the altar of his country.
The method of Andre's death was an inseparable accompaniment of the act and of the offense. The laws of war and of nations have inexorably imposed the penalty, and its infamy cannot be lessened in the world's estimation by the fact that his brother was invested with the honors of knighthood. Vattel, the great expositor of the laws of nations and of war, while he recognizes such enterprises as not contrary to the external law of nations, denies that they are just and compatible with the laws of a pure conscience, and says: "Seducing a subject to betray his country; suborning a traitor to set fire to a magazine; practicing on the fidelity of a Governor--enticing him, persuading him to deliver up a place, is prompting such persons to commit detestable crimes. Is it honest to incite our most inveterate enemy to be guilty of a crime? * * * it is a different thing merely to accept the offers of a traitor, but when we know ourselves able to succeed without the assistance of traitors, it is noble to reject their offers with detestation."
At this distance of time, then, we view the act of Andre with that calmness and repose of judgment that does not err, and which is not warped by
"Titles blown from adulation."
This is the darker side of the picture essential to its completeness; but there are lighter shades to attract the eye and warm the heart. Let us examine them.
Stand with me upon the historic spot, hard by Tarrytown, in the county of Westchester, where the dark blow that was aimed at the life of the young Nation was arrested. There the zealous Andre sees visions of future glory and honor, kingliest rewards, within his very grasp. There, as he rides along his solitary path beyond the American lines and on the very verge of safety, he knows that his heel is upon the throat of American freedom and independence. Within sight the great artery of trade and commerce flows majestic to the sea, unconscious that on this hapless morning of September 21, 1780, its bosom is vexed by the Vulture laden with the fate of nations and of centuries. The giant mountains, sentinels of the centuries, stand and see the beginning and the tragic ending of the hellish plot which includes the destinies of the Nation, and the sacrifice of the precious life upon which those destinies hang. Standing at this point of observation, the magnitude of the service of David Williams is more fully seen, is more fully comprehended. In the rusty garb of a reduced gentleman, the solitary horseman, as he approaches, is now the central figure of our view. And who is he? Major John Andre, Adjutant General of the British forces in America. He has left the "Mercuries reclining upon bales of goods, and the Genii playing with pens, ink and paper." Mercantile glories crowd no longer upon his fancy. An "impertinent consciousness" has whispered in his ear that he is not of the right stuff for a merchant, and the picture of his beautiful and beloved Honora has lost the talismanic power to enlighten toil and inspire industry. Accomplished in the lighter graces of music, poetry and painting, graceful and cultured in literary expression, fired with a zeal for glory,
"Yearning for the large excitement that the coming years would yield, Eager-hearted as a boy, when first he leaves his father's field," he has turned his glowing nature toward the profession of his heart. In the words of his biographer, few men were more capable than he of winning a soldier's reward. A prisoner at the surrender of St. Johns, we see him clinging to the picture his own hand had painted of the loved Honora: promoted for merit and fidelity to a position far above his years and experience, winning the confidence and affection of his chief, Sir Henry Clinton, he is now commissioned for a service of which the King of England did not hesitate to day that "the public never can be compensated for the vast advantages which must have followed from the success of his plan."
Up to that critical moment, nine o'clock on the morning of the 23d of September, there had been no special lack of discretion on Andre's part. He had been borne along by fates that were propitious, so far as human ken could see, though in fact perils were approaching from sources called accidental, perils which to him were entirely unforeseen. For more than a year he had, without exposure of suspicion, conducted a clandestine correspondence with the traitor Arnold. The treason had been hidden under the phrases of the mercantile profession. Arnold, under the feigned name of "Gustavus," had communicated much valuable, and often highly important information to Andre, whom he addressed as John Anderson. Sir Henry Clinton, the commander of the British forces, had soon suspected the true rank and person of Gustavus. Several attempts at a personal interview had miscarried, but the infidelity of Arnold had never been suspected. He had by importunity at last succeeded in obtaining from Washington command of West Point, without causing the slightest shade of suspicion to cross the sagacious mind of that watchful commander. There his plottings were renewed. Even the overture which had come in response to his communications, and borne by the ominous Vulture up the Hudson to within fourteen miles of Arnold's quarters, near West Point, had been shown to Washington in the presence of LaFayette, with a brazen boldness that extinguished all doubts of Arnold's honor. "I had no more suspicion of Arnold than I had of myself," said the chief on relating this. On the 20th, Andre had boarded the Vulture in the highest spirits, confident of success. The details of that midnight voyage of twelve miles, from King's Ferry to Teller's Point, and back from the Vulture to Long Clove, are known to all. With oars carefully muffled in sheep-skins, the flag-boat, so called, beneath a serene and clear sky, approached in silence the place of meeting, where the arch-traitor was hid among the firs.
From this point occur a series of trivial circumstances, insignificant in themselves, but yet big with fate. The refusal of the boatman to return to the Vulture that night, necessitated the journey to the Smith house, some three or four miles distant, the consequent disguise assumed by Andre to escape detection during the return by land, and as well the possessions of the papers found under Andre's stockings, which led his captors to the knowledge of his true character. Without that disguise and without those papers, while the conspiracy might not have been defeated, the life of Andre would have been saved. But the memorable act of Colonel Livingston is still more remarkable. At daybreak, on the morning of the 22d, the Vulture still lingered with impudent audacity in the vicinity of the American fortifications. Her presence had so outraged the spirit of Livingston and the troops that he had applied, but without success, to Arnold for two heavy guns. Nothing daunted by the treasonable refusal of Arnold, he had carried a four-pounder to Gallows Point, a lesser promontory of Teller's, and with but a scant supply of powder, he commenced so active a cannonading upon her that she was obliged to drop down the river beyond range. In this manner all means of access to her by water was cut off from Andre. But for the American grit and perseverance of Livingston, Andre would doubtless have found some means of again boarding the Vulture, carrying with him the instruments for the destruction of West Point and her dependencies. Upon such apparently trivial and accidental incidents does the fate of nations frequently depend.
From the window of Smith's house, Andre saw with impatience the Vulture withdraw, but he knew not that she carried with her all his hopes of future glory and renown. All that morning after Arnold's departure, which occurred at then o'clock, he chafed with impatience to depart. But the jealous, prying, gossip-loving guide, in whose care Andre had been left, proved too timid, weak and procrastinating for the part assigned him. Toward the last of that ill-omened Friday, the return was begun, with Andre's spirits sunk deep in gloom and sadness. And well might they be. The bargain had been made by which, for gold, an officer, high in the esteem of Washington, had sold his birth-right and his honor. During that long night he had been breathing the foul atmosphere where treason was hatched, had been looking into a face wrinkled with perfidy, into the blood-shot eyes of a debauched and worthless traitor. And he, the soul of honor, "the pet of the British army," had been bartering with devilish coolness for the soul of a fellow-man. Involved in that midnight conference were the lives of men who had never done him injury, and the happiness of innocent women and children who had never crossed his path. He, the hero, who had been fired by a desire to win renown by heroic bravery and distinguished service for his country, was skulking inside the enemy's lines like a commom thief in disguise, the companion of a petty tool and his negro, and with his stockings stuffed with an ill-gotten booty, bought with the price of another's dishonor. Is it any wonder that his mind settled into gloomy forebodings?
He crossed King's Ferry at the northern extremity of Haverstraw bay and took his way, under the dictation of his over-cautious companion, northward, to disarm suspicion. Here another trivial circumstance interposed itself with unerring fatality. Smith, the willing tool of Arnold, insisted upon remaining over night on the way. Fatal error! In the darkness and silence of that night, there were hidden forces at work, which would block the morrow's path with a wall more impregnable than Fort Putnam. The honor and incorruptibility of David Williams was a part of its masonry.
All night the restless Andre tossed upon an uneasy bed, side by side with the miserable creature whose easy virtue had yielded to the persuasions of Arnold. Is it wonderful that both should have been robbed of sleep? Is it strange that at daylight and without breakfast they should hasten on in the path that was to lead Andre to the feet of his sovereign, to receive a grateful country's homage and reward?
And now we approach the place and the act in commemoration of which, by the tardy favor and justice of our State, we are assembled here today.
The three captors of Major Andre, whose names have become renowned, would in all likelihood have remained unknown to future generations, had Smith, as he agreed, accompanied Andre to White Plains, below Tarrytown. But yielding to his pusillanimous fears, he refused to go further than Pines Bridge.
From this point, then, our solitary horseman approaches the place where we stand. To the west of the road was the river; to the east, the Greenburgh Hills, in whose bosom lies the world-renowned vale of Sleepy Hollow, with its old church founded by the Philipse family, and the ancient bell with its legend,
Deus pro nobis, quis contra nos. In front of him as he passes, a few rough logs laid side by side, furnish a passage over a rivulet, which rises in the neighboring swamp and finds its way westward into those broad waters of the Hudson known as the Tappan Zee.
Here on the south and west side of the path, concealed among the bushes, are David Williams, the eldest of the party (he being about twenty-two years old), John Paulding and Isaac VanWart, yeomen. Not freeholders under the rank of gentlemen, but American citizens of humble birth, two of whom had already risked their lives in the service of their country and in the cause of the colonies, against whom the breath of slander from sentimental or compassionate lips, had not yet breathed a shade of suspicion; representatives of that "Peasant patriotism of America -- the conquering power of the revolution-- the essential element then, as now, and evermore, of American greatness and American freedom!"
Springing to their feet, with presented muskets, they bid the stranger stand and announce his destination. Surely the darling of the British army, who, by sagacity, prudence and bravery, has been elevated to the rank of Adjutant-General of the British forces in America, is possessed of sufficient caution to disarm this bristling trio! Not so. Although armed with Arnold's pass to guard him against the only real enemies he has cause to fear, and which has already put to sleep the awakened suspicions of the wary Captain Boyd, some over-ruling Providence leads him to make that fatal answer, "My lads, I hope you belong to our party." The reply comes quick, "What party is that?" "The lower party," he answered. "We do," is the reply. "Thank God, I am once more among friends," he cried, deceived by the rude simplicity of the men, and recognizing a British militia coat upon Paulding's back, a coat in which (in lieu of his own, of which he had been despoiled,) Paulding had escaped from the enemy, in whose hands he had fallen some five or six days before the capture of Andre. "I am glad to see you, I am a British officer; I have been up in the country on particular business, and I hope you won't detain me a minute," confidently continued Andre.
The long agony was over! That mine which had been set for the overthrow of the citadel of American freedom and independence, whose train it had taken months to lay, was now exposed and harmless, unless
"The jingling of the guinea That helps the hurt that honor feels," can successfully assail the virtue of Williams, Van Wart and Paulding. This vast assemblage, these ceremonies, the projected monument over the remains of David Williams, but above all that waving symbol of the power and greatness of this nation, tell with unmistakable and answerable emphasis of the incorruptible integrity of these simple rustic men.
The State of New York has honored herself by making the appropriation necessary to commence this monument over the remains of the only one of that immortal three, whose grave remains to this day unhonored. In 1827, the city of New York erected a monument over the remains of Paulding near Peekskill, bearing this significant inscription:--
"On the morning of the 23d of September, 1780, accompanied by two young farmers of the county of Westchester (whose names will one day be recorded on their own deserved monuments) he intercepted the British spy Andre. Poor himself, he disdained to acquire wealth by the sacrifice of his country. Rejecting the temptation of great rewards, he conveyed his prisoner to the American camp; and by this act of noble self-denial the treason of Arnold was detected, the designs of the enemy baffled, West Point and the American army saved, and these United States, now, by the grace of God, free and independent, rescued from most imminent peril."
At Greenburgh, near Tarrytown, on the spot where the remains of Isaac Van Wart lie buried, the citizens of the vicinity erected, in 1829, a suitable monument, with the following inscription engraven thereon:--
"Fidelity. On the 23d of September, 1780, Isaac Van Wart, accompanied by John Paulding and David Williams, all farmers of the county of Westchester, intercepted Major Andre on his return from the American lines in the character of a spy; and, notwithstanding the large bribes offered them for his release, nobly disdained to sacrifice their country for gold, secured and carried him to the commanding officer of the district, whereby the dangerous and traitorous conspiracy of Arnold was brought to light, the insidious designs of the enemy baffled, the American army saved, and our beloved country free."
On the memorable site where the capture occurred, the young men of Westchester county, in 1853, built a cenotaph in honor of the captors. How appropriate, then, that in this beautiful valley and in this County, where the survivor of the three lived for twenty-six years, and where he died and was buried, there should rise an enduring mark of the gratitude and appreciation of this people!
It does not become the time nor the occasion to enter upon any extended discussion of the mooted questions surrounding the purposes and motives of Andre's captors. It is too late a day to reverse the judgment of George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, of Congress and the Legislature of this State, all pronounced at the time. Besides the united testimony of a host of their neighbors and acquaintances, the sworn statement of Paulding and Van Wart, and the solemn asseverations of Williams, seven months before his death in 1831, all untie in bearing down, with an unanswerable weight of testimony, the eleventh-hour statement of Colonel Tallmadge thirty-seven years after the capture. To all this we may add the critical analysis, by Henry J. Raymond, of the whole testimony bearing on the subject. That acute publicist dismissed the slander to the reprobation it deserves, and the almost universal judgment of the American people confirms the verdict. For myself, I may be permitted to add, that in my judgment, when examined with fairness, and attested by the rules of common sense and common justice, every candid mind must inevitably conclude that the overwhelming balance of proof is upon the side of the incorruptible honesty and purity of their motives. Nothing more reliable than rumor and suspicion arising from statements made solely by Andre, stand upon the other side, statements, it must never be forgotten, which sprang from a heart sorely dejected, chagrined and mortified by his own lack of common prudence; made, too, at a time when his mind, sunk beneath a weight of woe almost incalculable, was seeking for relief in the contemplation of what might have been. It is our duty to guard the reputation of these humble patriots against this misty testimony rising out of such a cauldron of self-interest. It must always be borne in mind that the British would not concede that true virtue was a feature of character belonging to Americans: and Andre, fresh from a field where he had witnessed the debased character of a high officer, was in no condition of mind to stem the tide of opinion that flowed within the English lines. The virtue of these men, under such circumstances, could not be, and evidently was not comprehended. In the words of Lieutenant-Colonel Fleury, written from Newport, on the 5th of October, 1780:-- "How great, compared to Arnold, are those peasants who refused the bribe of Andre. Let this be remembered in favor of the poor."
I may be permitted to express the hope, that somewhere upon this projected monument to David Williams will appear these notable words of Washington in his letter to the President of Congress: "The party that took Major Andre acted in such a manner as does them the highest honor, and proves them to be men of great virtue, their conduct gives them a just claim to the thanks of their country."
Perhaps the true nature of this conduct is more eloquently and luminously told in the words of Alexander Hamilton, in the Laurens letter, where he says: "Arnold's conduct and that of the captors of Andre, form a striking contrast. He tempted them with the offer of his watch, his horse and any sum of money that they should name. They rejected his offer with indignation, and the gold that could seduce a man, high in the esteem and confidence of his country, who had the remembrance of past exploits, the motives of present reputation and future glory to prop his integrity, had no charms for these simple peasants leaning on their virtue and an honest sense of their duty. While Arnold is handed down with execration, posterity will repeat with reverence the names of VanWart, Paulding and Williams!"
I owe it to the occasion, to you and to myself, to present some considerations in support of the constantly recurring thought, throughout this discourse, of the grave importance of Arnold's plot. I have already alluded to the estimate of its advantages to the British government pronounced by King George the Third. From the abundant materials furnished by those in the English service at the time, I will only add the following from the memoirs of Sir Henry Clinton, commander of the British forces in New York. In speaking of the arrest of Andre, he says: "I was exceedingly shocked, as may be supposed, by this very unexpected accident, which not only ruined a most important project which had all the appearance of being in a happy train of success, but involved in danger and distress a confidential friend for whom I had deservedly the warmest esteem."
Creasy, in his "Decisive Battles of the World," has succinctly described the great and pivotal victory of the Americans at Saratoga, on the 7th of October, 1777. He has conclusively shown the plan of operations which the English attempted in that year, and which the battle of Saratoga defeated. The English had a considerable force in Canada, which had been re-enforced for the purpose of striking a vigorous and crushing blow against the Colonies. It was intended that the force thus collected should march southward by the line of the lakes and thence along the banks of the Hudson river. The British army in New York was to make a simultaneous movement northward up the line of the Hudson, and the two expeditions were to meet at Albany. In this manner all communications between the Colonial army in New England, and the principal army under Washington, which was watching over Pennsylvania and the South, would be cut off. The army from Canada was under command of Burgoyne, and that in New York under Sir Henry Clinton. The plan was ably formed, and was defeated only by the consummate skill of General Gates, and the unprecedented bravery of his men at Saratoga, aided by the delay caused by the fortifications on the lower Hudson, the key of which was West Point, which fortification hindered the prompt co-operation of Sir Henry Clinton with Burgoyne. Clinton, in fact, reached Kingston, where, hearing of Burgoyne;s surrender, he burned the place and returned to New York.
What the capture of West Point would have been to the British, will be more fully appreciated by an illustration familiar to all. It will be remembered how the country was stirred to its very center, on the 4th of July, 1863, by the glorious tidings that Vicksburg had fallen, and that "the great Mississippi swept unvexed to the sea." What that meant was soon known. Surrounded, like West Point, with fortifications, redoubts and bastioned forts, it held within its iron grasp the control of the great Mississippi. When it fell, that great artery through which ran the life-blood of the Southern Confederacy, was absolutely within the power of the Federal army. The Rebellion had been cut in twain. In the language of Sherman, "the reduction of Vicksburg made the destruction of the Rebellion certain." What Vicksburg and her dependencies were to the Mississippi in 1863, West Point and her dependencies were to the Hudson in 1780.
What had been lost at Saratoga by open force, would have been regained, had West Point and its dependencies fallen by means of the secret plottings of Arnold. "This was the great object of British and American solicitude," says Irving, in speaking of West Point, "on the possession of which was supposed by many to hinge the fortunes of the war." And again he says, "the immediate result of this surrender, it was anticipated, would be the defeat of the combined attempt upon New York, and its ultimate effect might be the dismemberment of the Union and the dislocation of the whole American scheme of warfare." From the mass of American testimony at hand, the following additional proofs are selected: LaFayette wrote to his wife, October 8th: "A frightful conspiracy has been planned by the celebrated Arnold; he sold to the English the fort of West Point which was under his command, and consequently the whole navigation of the North river."
General Greene issued a general order on the 26th of October, from which the following is taken:--
"Treason, of the blackest dye, was yesterday discovered. General Arnold, who commanded at West Point--lost to every sentiment 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 deadly wound, if not a fatal stab. Happily this 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, though 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 the kind, where many were to be expected from the nature of the dispute; and nothing is so bright an ornament in the character of the American soldiers, as their having been proof against all the arts and seductions of an insidious enemy. * * * 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."
It must be borne in mind, that had the "hellish plot" succeeded, it would have involved the captivity of Washington himself. The following remarkable letter of Governor William Livingston to General Washington so entirely expresses the emotions of the hour, that it is inserted in full.
"Trenton, 7th October, 1780. Dear Sir---- I most heartily congratulate your Excellency on the timely discovery of General Arnold's treasonable plot to captivate you person and deliver up West Point to the enemy, of which the loss of the former, has his infernal machinations succeeded, would have been more regretted by America than of the latter. The remarkable disposition of Providence to frustrate the diabolical conspiracy, will inspire every virtuous American with sincere gratitude to the Great Arbiter of all events; and I hope that no true Whig among us will ever forget the memorable era when we were, by the peculiar guardianship of Heaven, rescued from the very brink of destruction. "I have the honor to be your very obedient servant, "William Livingston."Is it any wonder, then, that with pomp and circumstance, and with grateful hearts, we assemble to perpetuate with enduring granite, here under the broad sky, and upon the free acres of our beloved country, that transcendent act and that renowned virtue of these captors of Andre!
Though neglected, he whose ashes lie buried here, was not absolutely forgotten by his country, and it is proper that allusion should be made to the rewards which a grateful country has bestowed upon him.
By authority of Congress, in 1780, a silver medal bearing the inscription of "Fidelity," and the legend "Vincit Amor Patira." was presented to each of the captors, and at the same time an annuity was authorized to be paid to each, of $200 in specie. In addition, Congress granted to each the privilege of locating any confiscated lands in the county of Westchester to the amount of $1,250, or of receiving that sum in cash. The Legislature of the State of New York granted to each a farm, reciting in the act as a consideration "their virtue in refusing a large sum offered to them by Major Andre as a bribe to permit him to escape." In the fall of 1830, the corporation of the city of New York invited David Williams (the survivor of the three), by special messenger to be present in that city at the celebration of the French Revolution. He was drawn, with other heroes of 1776, in a carriage at the head of the procession and attracted much attention. He was presented with a silver cup at one of the schools, and at another with a silver headed cane, the stem of which was made out of a chevaus-de-frise used near West Point during the Revolution. His widow obtained a continuation of his pension, which ceased at the time of his death. Forty-five years ago, amid a concourse of honoring friends and country-men, he was buried at Livingstonville, in this County. His remains have been removed by the consent of his descendants to this place.
Here in this locality, made memorable by the ruinous invasion of Johnson about the time when the events we have described were transpiring near Tarrytown--here near the place where the "peeled log" of the enemy left its mark upon the old Dutch church-- here where brave men and braver women stood with undaunted courage in the midst of conflagration, ruin and death--where the red men showed no mercy, and where patriots never flinched--let his ashes lie. Not in the midst of royal sarcophagi or carved shrines, but surrounded by the veneration of untold generations of freeborn Americans; not wholly unhonored, as heretofore, but graced and adorned with a permanent token of our remembrance and esteem. For at last, thanks to the interest and sense of justice of many good men and true, the Legislature of the State, by making an appropriation for the monument, has removed the stain which the neglect of forty-five years had fastened upon us.
Standing where we do today, as it were upon the apex of a pyramid, we look back over the way the nation has so grandly trod. In the beginning we perceive the toiling multitudes, who, regardless of personal sacrifice, conscious of their own rectitude and relying upon the favor of God, wrought out the greatest empire of freedom the world has ever seen. In that great work, so full of the richest blessings for us and for our children, let it be remembered, the part performed by the humblest, was often as important as that of the greatest. The cause of the colonies was near to the hearts of the people. That was the security of the nation then, and it cannot endure without it now.
Oh! if the young men of our time would glow with a healthy pride of race; if they would kindle with the inspiration of patriotism, if they would find annals wealthier in enduring lesson, and bright with the radiance of a holier virtue than ever Rome embraced or Sparta knew, let them read their own land's history. Then may we be hopeful for the future. Then may the story we rehearse here today be borne to future ages along with the growing grandeur of this mighty nation which was built upon the devotion, and will be sustained by the bright example of the Revolutionary patriots.
P O E M, BY ALFRED B. STREET. What fires the human heart with noblest flame, And fills, with grandest swell, the trump of fame-- Strengthens the sinews, war's dread arms to wield-- Scorns the red horrors of the battlefield-- Tunes to triumphant song the failing breath, And sheds live brilliance on the brow of death? 'Tis love of country! mystic fire from Heaven! To light our race up stateliest heights 'tis given; To guard man's home--make that his holiest shrine Where his soul's love grows purest, most divine; Where dear domestic virtues safely bloom, And joy's rich rainbows deck grief's transient gloom; At whose bright hearth is changeless summer found Heightening to pleasure daily duty's round; Where humble wishes sweet enjoyments shed Like violets fragrant in their lowly bed. Not this alone! beyond the narrow span Of single souls, it rivets man to man; Links in one circling chain the stretched out hand, And makes on fireside of the whole broad land. Thus home meets home though mountains rise between, And winter storms beat backward summer sheen; O'er the wide river, through the forest, all That most repels, on runs the living wall, Against which, should it faithful strength remain, The world shall hurl its angriest waves in vain. It turns the rocks to roses, stormiest skies To loveliest calm, where cloudy crags arise The anointed eye views plains knee-deep in flowers; The ear in dumb wastes, hears melodious bowers. Deem we the Esquimaux, though brutish, sees Heavens that but frown and waters that but freeze! Think we the Arab, though untaught, surveys Sands that but burn and sunbeams that but blaze! No! In that frown the cold dwarfed shape perceives Summer's soft gold poured out on emerald leaves; His wooden streak, wild plunging, ripples smooth O'er glassy seas that undulate to soothe; And the fierce roamer of the ocean gray Treads velvet grass, feels sweet the pleasant ray, Till one oasis smiles along his songful way. Grand love of Country! from the earliest time Our race has deemed its glory most sublime. To its proud praise the lyre has loftiest rung, Eloquence woke the music of its tongue; A Hector's deed filled Homer's breast with fire, And when shall patriot Scipio's fame expire? Though Rome's dread Eagle darkened earth at will, Thy name, Caractacus, shines brightly still! Planting his foot upon his native sod He fought; though made a slave to Caesar's rod, His big heart burst its chains, and up he towered, a god! And thus with willing minds we meet to lay Our gifts on a loved patriot's shrine to-day. Not fortune's favorite he--his humble sail Felt but the shock of penury's ceaseless gale; Never he knew the rose, but felt the thorn; His pathway led through chill neglect and scorn; Yet, though man glanced on him disdainful eyes, God had built up his nature for the skies; His heart was mighty, though his path was low--- Man made the cloud---God tinged it with his bow. And thus it is; the humble lifted up' The pearl oft decks the lowest of the cup. Fame doffs aside the Sovereign of a day To make a Shakespeare King with endless sway; Genius, from wealth and titled grandeur, turns To touch as with live flame the tongue of Burns. And thus though Williams' eye but saw the rim Of the low valley, where alone for him Life's pathway upward led, his mental sight Flashed with the Eagle's from the mountain height; And when the bribe was proffered, off he turned, And with a scornful wrath the base temptation spurned. Well, well for us, worth, honor were not sold By this high patriot heart for British gold! Treason had woven his most cunning coil Around our land, its liberty the spoil; The British Lion stood with hungry gloat To flesh his fangs within the victim's throat; And had the glittering bribe its errand wrought, Treason had found the victory he sought, And the fierce Lion fastened in his spring Our Eagle's glazing eye, and drooping, dying wing. Oh, Treason, foulest demon earth has seen, Darkening ev'n darkness with his midnight mien! How oft his spell has fettered Freedoh's brand! And, for a smiling, left a blighted land! In vain has Liberty uprisen;---unbound Her glorious folds to call her sons around! In vain the crag has burst out into hordes, Trees into lances, thickets into swords! In vain the cataract's white has turned to red, And the wind's murmuring to the war-cry dread! The dingle's sylvan stillness, where the bird Sprang to its wing if but a leaflet stirred, Changed to the tramp of steeds, the clang of arms, The grassy music to War's wild alarms! In vain, in vain, the blood in vain that ran While the soul soaring lifted up the man! In vain has Liberty with reverent head Heaped to one altar all her sainted dead, And kneeling there fought sword in hand, till down Her foes have fallen, and she but grasped her crown! Like a fell serpent Treason low has crept In patriot garb, till oft disguise he swept Striking his blow with such sure aim, his cry Of triumph drowned his victim's dying sigh. Oh mountain peaks, where clouds were cannon-smoke! Oh glens, whose green light battle-banners broke! Oh waves, whose tossings broadside-thunders crushed! Oh skies, whose tempests strife's wild tumults hushed! All spots where man for native land has fought, Have ye not seen how Treason's curse has wrought? How the broad front that Freedom reared to foe, Has felt base Treason creeping from below, Close twining round herself and sons till she A grand Laocoon has died to Treachery? But paeans to brave Williams, and the two, Van Wart and Paulding! no such fate we rue. Song to the Three! our whole broad land should raise One sounding anthem to their patriot praise! For the base Arnold's treason won, we now Perchance, instead of jewels on our brow, Jewels of freedom, with our doom content, Under some kingly bondage might have bent, Native or foreign; or like those wild seas Of tropic States, have surged to every breeze, Dashing in endless strife---for freedom here, And here, for kings, until some ruthless spear The war had ended, and a waste of graves Upheld a Despot's throne, and our a land of slaves. Now--hail the sight--a realm of glorious pride Touching earth's mightiest oceans either side! Pine meeting Palm in garlands round her head, Starred States, striped climates o'er her banner spread, Great Washington diffused; his spirit grand Incarnate in the person of our land! In this green valley where war wildest reigned, Where life's red current every harvest stained, Where peace contrasting, now the brightest glows, And place of battle's thistle, smiles the rose, Where builds the bird within the shattered shell, Plumped with soft moss, that slew where'er it fell, Where the blue violet yields the skull its eye, Instead of strife's close ranks, upstands the rye, Where waves the wheat whence savage plumage flashed, And oft avenging Murphy's rifle crashed By this Stone Fort that once threw back the tide Of conflict as its surges smote its side, This day our patriot's ashes we consign To his loved earth henceforth a sacred shrine, Round which to latest years our grateful hearts shall twine. Now on this flowering of our Century Tree, Apotheosis of our history, This famed Centennial, it is passing well Of patriot hearts and patriot deeds to tell, That they in memory's grasp should firmly cling As gold in quartz, or pearls in shells, and fling Like stars, a lustre o'er our Nation's way, Till Time's grand sun shall set, and dawns Eternal Day.
This large concourse of people, this fine military display, the presence of these distinguished persons, and the attendance of so many ladies to grace the occasion, show that the recollection of patriotic deeds does not die out in the hearts of a free people. David Williams, one of the captors of Major Andre, in honor of whose memory we are assembled here today, was born in Tarrytown, Westchester county, in this State, October 21, 1754. He entered the Revolutionary army in 1775, at the age of nineteen; fought under Montgomery at the battle of St. Johns and Quebec; and continued in the regular patriot service until 1779. The capture of Major Andre occurred on the 23d of September, 1780, ninety-six years ago today.
David Williams was the eldest of the three captors--he being twenty-five years of age, and John Paulding and Isaac Van Wart, his compatriots, being about twenty years old. The following is Williams' account of the capture, as related to Judge Tiffany, at his home in this County, February 13, `817:--
"The three [militiamen] were seated beside the road in the bushes, amusing themselves at cards, when their attention was arrested by the galloping of a horse. On approaching the road they saw a gentleman riding toward them, seated on a large brown horse, which was afterward observed to have marked on the near shoulder the initials U.C.A. The rider was a light, trim-built man, about five feet seven inches in height, with a bold military countenance and dark eyes, and was dressed in a tall beaver hat, surtout, crimson coat, with pantaloons and vest of nankeen. As he neared them, the three cocked their muskets and aimed at the rider, who immediately checked his horse."
[Here Mr. Knower narrated the conversation held between the captors and Andre, as published previously in this work, and thus concluded:---]
The circumstances of the capture as narrated in the testimony of Paulding and Williams, given at the trial of Smith eleven days after the capture, and written down by the Judge Advocate at the time, is substantially the same. Williams in his testimony there says: "He said he would give us any quantity of dry goods, or any sum of money, and bring it to any place that we might pitch upon, so that we might get it. Mr. Paulding answered, No, if you should give us 10,000 guineas you should not stir one step."
The importantance of the capture of Andre can never be too highly estimated. The plan for cutting the Colonies in two on the line of the Hudson and Lake had been foiled by the capture of Burgoyne. The possession of West Point would have given a successful opportunity for prosecuting the same design. No wonder that Washington burst into tears when he learned of the treason of Arnold. He very well knew what had been our danger, and how narrow had been our escape. Washington wrote to Congress, September 28, 1780 ---three days after the capture---saying: "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 of great virtue. As soon as I know their names I shall take pleasure in transmitting them to Congress.," Again, October 7, 1780, he writes Congress, transmitting the findings of the Court, which had tried Andre, and in his letter he says: "I have now the pleasure to communicate the names of those persons who captured Major Andre, and who refused to release him, notwithstanding the most earnest importunities and assurances of a liberal reward on his part. Their names are John Paulding, David Williams, and Isaac Van Wart." Alexander Hamilton, writing in 1780, of the affair, says: "Andre tempted their integrity with the offer of his watch, his horse, and any sum of money they should name. They rejected his offer with disdain."
Congress gave each of them $1,250, or the same value in confiscated lands in Westchester county, a pension of $200, and a silver medal. The medals were presented to the captors by General Washington, at a dinner to which he invited them while the army was encamped near VanPlanck's Point; the one presented to David Williams being now in possession of his oldest grandson, William C. Williams, of this County.*
*It has since been placed in the State Library at Albany.
David Williams was married to Miss Benedict, of Westchester county, by whom he had one son named David, who has seven children living, four in this County, two in Iowa, and one in Virginia, who are worthy descendants in honor and integrity of the Revolutionary patriot. He moved to this County in 1806, and died August 2, 1831, aged seventy-seven, and was buried at Livingstonville, with military honors, where his remains reposed for forty-five years, and until the 4th of March, 1876, when they were removed to the cemetery at Rensselaerville. On the 19th of July, they were removed to the Stone Fort in Schoharie, to which destination they were escorted by a large procession, headed by the American flag, and amid martial music. All places of business were closed; the bells tolled, and the cannon at the Fort fired a salute as his coffin, wrapped in the American flag, was deposited near his present resting place.
On the 1st of May, 1876, the Governor signed the following bill introduced by Senator Lamont, it having passed both Houses:
"For erecting a suitable monument in the cemetery grounds of the revolutionary Stone Fort at Schoharie Court House, to commemorate the virtues and memory of David Williams, one of the captors of Major Andre, the sum of two thousand dollars, to be expended under the supervision of Daniel Knower, Ralph Brewster, supervisor of the town of Schoharie, and Charles Holmes, county judge of Schoharie county, who are hereby appointed a commission for that purpose, and who are hereby authorized to remove the remains of the said David Williams from their present burial in the cemetery at Rensselaerville, to such cemetery at Schoharie Court House, upon first obtaining the consent thereto, in writing, of a majority of the descendants of said Williams, and upon furnishing proof thereof to the comptroller; but in case such consent in writing for said removal shall not be obtained, and proof thereof furnished the comptroller within two months from the passage of this act, then the above appropriation shall be expended by a commission, consisting of the comptroller of the State, Erastus D. Palmer, and the President of the Rensselaerville Cemetery Association, for the erection of the monument in the Rensselaerville cemetery."
Paulding is buried near Peekskill, and a monument was erected over his remains by the corporation of the city of New York in 1827. Near Tarrytown the remains of Isaac Van Wart are honored by a monument erected by the county of Westchester. And now in this centennial year has the State of New York recognized by its Legislature and Governor, this most important event in our Revolutionary history: an event which occurred within its borders, and in which three of her sons had the honor, by their disinterested patriotism and love of country, to save our country in that important crisis of our Revolutionary history. General Washington wrote to the President of Congress, October 7, 1780, two weeks after the capture:--"Their conduct merits our warmest esteem; and I beg leave to add that I think the public would do well to allow them a handsome gratuity. They have prevented in all probability our suffering one of the severest strokes that could have been meditated against us." Yet this one of the most disinterested acts of patriotism and love of country recorded in history, strange to say, has been attacked and the motives of the actors impugned.
A bill passed Congress some years since appropriating $20,000 for erecting a monument to them, but did not reach, or was defeated in the Senate. The patriotism of these men has been impugned by members of Congress. This bill was likewise opposed in the State Senate by a senator from New York City on the same grounds, In the language of the poet,
"He who ascends to mountain tops mountain tops must find
The loftiest hills clad in snow;
He who surpasses and excels mankind
Must see and feel their hate below."
Williams lived to be seventy-seven years old and died fifty-two years after the event occurred. Isaac Van Wart lived to the age of sixty-nine and died forty-nine years after the event, and John Paulding reached the age of sixty, dying forty years after the capture. All three during these long years bore unimpeachable characters for honor and integrity, which would not have bee possible if they had been marauders and freebooters as represented by those who impugned their motives.
Williams, previous to this event, had served four years in the Revolutionary army, and Paulding, only three days previous to the capture, had mad his escape from the Sugar House British prison in New York. These facts indicate beyond all doubt on which side their feelings were.
Andre has a monument erected in Westminster Abbey, which is the highest honor that can be conferred on the remains of any person in England. His remains were removed from this country in a coffin mounted with gold. His brother was created a Knight, in honor of his services in this affair, by the King of England.
What were the services Andre rendered to England, compared with the services these three disinterested patriots rendered to this country? Let it not always be said that Republics are ungrateful. Even the motives of the men who commenced the Revolution by throwing the tea overboard in Boston harbor, and the motives of those who fought the battles of Bunker Hill and Lexington were attacked. It has been said that their grievances from Great Britain did not justify a resort to such measures. These men knew that if they yielded one point guaranteed to them in the liberal charters that had been granted to the Colonies, as an inducement for them to emigrate to this country when a wilderness, that America would become a second Ireland, and all the rights guaranteed to them in their charters would be crushed out. If I have any pride of ancestry, it is in being descended from the men who took part in the glorious events where the cannon first thundered in the War of the Revolution.
Your commissioners propose to make an appeal to any county, city, association, literary club or individual, who may subscribe no less than $200 or more than $1,800, in addition to the $2,000 appropriated by the State, and to have the names of the subscribers inscribed on one of the faces of the monument or on a marble tablet to be erected in the Fort, as the artists who may design the monument may think most appropriate. It is proposed to appoint one or more of the most distinguished artists and sculptors in the State to design the monument and make it a work of art appropriate to the event.
We are now one hundred years old as a nation. Our material prosperity and growth is unparalleled in history. For the sake of the future and the perpetuity of our free institutions, we should cultivate sentiments that will inspire in the youth a strong love of country. What more appropriate occasion than the present to erect here a work of art, which will call attention for all time to the disinterested patriotism of these three men who saved our country in the Revolution? It was such men among our common soldiers that enabled the country to produce a Washington. The people, the source and fountain of political power, must be kept pure and patriotic if we wish to perpetuate our republican form of government. The more we learn from the men of the revolution, and the more strictly we adhere to the great principles inaugurated in our government by its founders, the better for the future of our country. Although the disinterested patriotism of these three men has conferred its benefits on the great nation of 44,000,000 of people, yet the Empire State of New York enjoys the honor of having had the event occur within its own borders. I feel that her sons and daughters will respond to an appeal for the erection of a work of art, in this beautiful valley of Schoharie, beside this Revolutionary Fort, that will do justice to this important event, and in which we all may take a just pride.
When it became known that General Washington was firm, not interceding in behalf of Andre and releasing him in exchange for prominent officers and citizens held by the British, nor suspending the usual custom of hanging a spy and adopting some other mode that was considered more honorable to his rank and station,--the British and Tory element at once began a series of vituperations against Washington through the Tory press and both private and public written missives. Their greatest accusation against the patriot was his being a hard-hearted and obstinate tyrant whom the patriots were cautioned to trust no longer, as he would be as unmerciful to their liberties, if the patriots' cause should succeed, as he was in answering the last request of a dying soldier and gentleman. Soon after the execution, the same press and other sources began to speculate upon the motives of the faithful three in delivering Andre to the Continental powers. When it was ascertained that the three were but common yeoman and thus faithfully performed a duty that transcended in politic as well as manly principle any that their scion of royalty had performed--although long pampered by opportunities and superior discipline-- the allied enemies of our cause at once began to stigmatize the lives and conduct of the captors. They accused them of being low in morals, recreant in duty, and above all, made the charge that Andre could have purchased his freedom if he had had enough money with him. From that day to the present, the same charges have been re-iterated, it seems periodically through the press of our country-- by this and that one, here and there, and as often received its share of conversational notice and died away. The facts of the whole transaction were given before the scrutinizing military court before the execution of Andre and he failed to contradict a single assertion. The fact of his offering the three 10,000 guineas to release him was there brought out. If they did not desire to release him and still willingly accepted the promised money, they could have held him until the amount was delivered or any other sum they might have named, as gold was secondary to the British when West Point was in the scales. The military court investigated the whole and transmitted it to Congress who weighed the matter well and pronounced the three-- such as they were, "true patriots" and voted them a sum of their fidelity. Before that careful and able body was another epistle, from one who knew well the whole transaction. It was Washington's letter speaking in the highest praise of the three.
It is pleasing to all who are sensitive to such base charges against those whose acts have made American history so full of examples of heroic principle, that all the charges have emanated from untrustworthy sources as sensational newspaper correspondents, who for lack of matter willingly rake over the embers of hatred and suspicion to find material for a shadow of a theme, and from those in whose bosoms, as then, still rankles the dislike to republican institutions and the bold spirits that dare maintain, by life and fortunes, the "inalienable rights" of man, which the grand old Declaration of Independence vouchsafed, and the blood, treasures, and untold privations of true patriots purchased. But a few years since, in October, 1880, a writer, claiming unjustly the name of Williams, also to be a grandson of David Williams, wrote a letter to the Detroit Free Press impugning the motives of the patriot in the capture of Andre, which caused several communications between historical scholars and revived the old charges. The comments of the Press letter were as follows:--
L .K. Williams of Syracuse, N.Y., a grandson of David Williams one of the captors of Major Andre, writes to the Free Press an exceedingly interesting letter about Andre's capture that corroborates a charge once made, that his captors were not the very purest sort of patriots. The following is Mr. Williams' letter:--
"I have cut from yesterday's issue of the Syracuse Evening Herald the following paragraph: The Detroit Free Press says: 'The three men who captured Andre were playing cards in the bushes as he rode up. Had they not come there to play cards he would have escaped and our country been lost. Let us take the right bower of hearts for our national ensign.'
Being familiar with the fact that those three men were playing cards I will day a few words more about it. My grandmother, the wife of David Williams, died in Cayuga county, this State, about thirty years ago. I have listened to her stories many a night about the old Revolutionary war and among others she would tell all about Andre and his captors.
"She seemed to know Paulding and Van Wart personally. She said that the three were playing cards, and that their business in the bush was a sort of guerrilla expedition, watching whom they might devour, and according to her belief, they cared but little whether their captives were friends or foe. It was plunder that they were after, and if Andre had had a little money he could have passed on.
"Williams and Van Wart would have let him pass, on his promise to send any amount of money. After he got the two willing, he became a little saucy with Paulding, and here is where he missed his figure. It seemed that Paulding was the leader, and he got mad and was ready to fight the whole three, and even told Andre to come out and fight him, and if he proved the best man he could then pass along. Andre had only a few dollars and a nice watch with him, which could not well be divided with the party, and they concluded to take him to the American camp, as he told them if he could see Arnold he would satisfy them well, but when they got to the American camp they found different men from cow-boys to deal with. They found Arnold, but he immediately left for the Vulture, in the river.
"These are facts which history does not five in this light. It is forty or fifty years ago that old Granny told us about this transaction and about laying in the scrubwood, in the Mohawk river, when Schenectady was burning."
"L. K. Williams."
Such base libel upon integrity and fidelity has often appeared, with no better foundation. The writer assumes to be a grandson of David Williams, whose name and character stand in history as the brightest. this assumed grandson, unasked, stoops to belittle the family name, the bright character and fame of his grandfather, by throwing mud upon it! If the charges were true, and L. K. Williams was a grandson, he has truly inherited the low principles he wishes to be understood, David Williams possessed, and those principles actuated the foregoing letter. but let us see how far facts prove L. K. Williams to be what he assumes. The letter was brought to the notice of the New York State Librarian, who drew the attention of Dr. D. Knower of Schoharie, chairman of the "Williams Monument Commissioners." Dr. Knower immediately indited the following to the Free Press, but did not receive notice by publication:--
"Schoharie, Dec. 30, 1880. "Dear Sir.---Our State Librarian, D. H. A. Homes, at Albany, called my attention to an article from your paper, of October 23, 1880, in relation to the captors of Major Andre. He was desirous I should reply to it. The article was dated at Syracuse, and signed L. K. Williams, who claimed to be a grandson of the captor; that he had listened to the stories of his grandmother about the Revolution, and this event; that she was personally acquainted with Paulding and Van Wart, and corroborated the charge that those captors were not actuated by patriotic motives; * * * that she died about thirty years ago, and was buried in Cayuga county. "I am personally acquainted with all the grandchildren of David Williams, and with his only son's widow, their mother. "David Williams was married to Miss Benedict, of Westchester county, N.Y. They moved to this County in 1806, and had but one child, a son, named David. this son married a Miss Hess, who is now, at the age of eighty, living in this County. They had seven children, three sons and four daughters. The sons are William C., Daniel, (who resides in this County), and Myron, of Marion county, Iowa, who are the only grandchildren of the captor. So it is not true that L. K. Williams is a grandson nor is it true that the wife of David Williams, whom he falsely claims to be his grandmother, is buried in Cayuga county. They were both buried at Livingstonville, in this County, and as a Commissioner of the State, under authority of the Comptroller, I had their remains exhumed and removed to the grounds of the Stone Fort at this place, where they now repose under a monument erected by the State of New York. there unfortunately have been among our historians, controversies for nearly one hundred years, in relation to the purity of the motives of those captors. From a thorough investigation of the subject, I have no doubt of the disinterested patriotism of those three men, and the inestimable benefit they conferred on our country, no one can question. They may be said to have saved it in the very crisis of the Revolution, and I am satisfied that those attacks on the purity of their motives have no more foundation than the untruthful statements of your correspondent signed L. K. Williams. While the State of New York may take a just pride in having had that event occur within her borders, it has conferred its benefit on this great nation of 50,000,000 of people. Our Republican form of Government cannot be perpetuated alone by politicians. It must have for its foundation the love of country, the inspiration derived from the patriotic sentiments of the people, which the honoring and cherishing of those Revolutionary events are well calculated to cultivate." "Daniel Knower."
The writer has been assured by the aged people who were well acquainted with Mrs. David Williams that she always lived within the County after the family removed here, and therefore was never a resident of Cayuga county. It will thus be seen that L. K. Williams' statement is untrue and that if his grandmother ever related such statements to him as the wife of David Williams she was an impostor and in weighing the assertion that she witnessed the burning of Schenectady (1690) and died about thirty years ago (1850) we are led to believe such was her standing, and that she was a remarkable woman to retain her memory so "vividly" at the age of one hundred and sixty years! Still, such charges by such people often receive credence as "facts untold by history!"