Revolutionary Westchester 250
Launches This Man’s A Spy
The Treason Of Benedict Arnold, The Capture Of Major John Andre
By Mike Virgintino
From Philadelphia, on July 3, 1776, John Adams mailed a letter to his wife, Abigail, in Boston. The letter explained the historic decisions agreed upon by the Continental Congress and the plans for celebration.
“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.” ~ John Adams
Practically immediately, though, the country chose to celebrate its founding not on July 2, when the resolution for independence from Great Britain was approved by 12 of the 13 colonies, but on July 4, when America’s birth certificate, the Declaration of Independence, actually was approved by the Congress. Just four years later, however, as the fight for independence continued throughout the colonies and on the frontier, one of the world’s most infamous acts of treason took center stage in Westchester County. The series of events could have ended the war abruptly and crushed the democracy.
Revolutionary Westchester 250
Revolutionary Westchester 250 (RW250) is Westchester County’s commitment to remembering the local events and people associated with the American Revolution in accordance with the United States Semiquincentennial Commission Act of 2016. With the upcoming observation of the 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States of America in 1776, many local events preceding, during and after the Revolutionary War will be recognized by RW250.
“RW250 is collaborating with local and regional groups to promote heritage tourism and to enhance the experience of the war for independence for Westchester residents,” said Constance Kehoe, RW250 president and a resident of Irvington. “We are working with heritage and historic, art and cultural, and educational organizations along with libraries, veterans’ organizations, municipalities, private businesses and others to commemorate Westchester County’s contribution to the 250th anniversary of the founding of this great country. Treason and a spy – and, thankfully, quick-thinking Patriots – in our midst are part of our story.
“With the legislation recently passed in Albany creating a 250th Commission, the State of New York will join other states in the national plans for the 250th commemoration,” added Kehoe. “As the legislation points out, New York played a leading role in the struggles in the ensuing nearly 250 years, to more fully realize – for all groups – the ideals of the revolution. Those ongoing movements will be an important part of the commemoration as well.”
Revolutionary Westchester 250 is a public charity described in Sections 501(c)(3) and 509(a)(1). RW250 was created as a part of the national initiative begun in 2016 with the passage of Public Law 114-196 to commemorate the 250th Anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
John André – This Man’s A Spy
Recognizing the people, events and sites related to what General George Washington described as “treason of the blackest dye,” referring to traitor American General Benedict Arnold’s attempt to surrender the American fortification at West Point, RW250 has launched an aptly named initiative – This Man’s A Spy. Co-chaired by Lynn Briggs and Bob Fetonti, this effort will create community awareness, understanding and enthusiasm for the historical significance of this critical event in U.S. history through a variety of public outreach programs.
“We will cooperate with local volunteer groups at the events in Westchester and important sites in the other counties,” said Lynn Briggs, co-chair of This Man’s A Spy and a member of the Yorktown Heritage Preservation Commission in the northern part of the county. “We will collaborate with volunteers to design, plan and execute projects that acknowledge and interpret the plot through a variety of colonial era demonstrations, mobile applications, art, music, presentations, re-enactments, theatrical plays, driving, walking and biking tours, and videos.”
This Man’s A Spy will feature the stories of the Patriots of Westchester County who primarily were responsible for the capture of British Major John André and foiled Arnold’s treasonous plot. The description of the strength of the West Point garrison provided by Arnold was found in André’s boot. If Arnold’s plan had been successful, the loss of West Point could have led to an American defeat.
Historic Sites In Several Counties
The September 1780 treasonous plot has connections to more than 30 locations across Westchester, Rockland, Putnam and Orange counties. Earlier in the war, André and Arnold each were associated with events in Philadelphia and at Fort Ticonderoga in upstate New York. André later was stationed in British occupied New York City and enjoyed some military downtime in Oyster Bay, Long Island, at the home (Raynham Hall) of Samuel Townsend, which has a connection to General Washington’s spy ring.
To confer with General Arnold, Major André traveled north on the Hudson River from New York City on the British sloop-of-war Vulture. He was rowed to the Rockland shore to meet with General Arnold near Stony Point. Patriots firing from, initially, Teller’s Point (Croton Point Park) and then Fort Lafayette at Verplanck’s Point on the Westchester side of the river eventually forced the British ship to raise anchor and drift down river.
With the ship unavailable to return André to the British-held city, Arnold convinced the major to travel across the river and then through the hills and valleys of Westchester to reach the protection of the British lines. Westchester, however, which had witnessed battles in Pelham and White Plains, and ongoing skirmishes that pitted Patriots against Tories to raid and counter-raid villages, towns and farms, became a no-man’s land between the lines of the two armies. André can be faulted for many misjudgments, mistakes and errors from the time he left Arnold until he was detained in Tarrytown. One mistake was exchanging his uniform for civilian clothes before he navigated through Westchester. Another misjudgment was altering his travel route, as identified on his pass from Arnold, that led the British major to Tarrytown.
A series of related events, people and situations contributed to the capture of André, the revelation of the plot and the unmasking of Arnold’s complicity. These actions involved Patriots John Peterson, who is identified as an African and Native American in contemporary sources, and Moses Sherwood. They sighted and fired upon the initial deployment of the rowboat with André that was launched from the Vulture, forcing the small boat to return to the ship. Peterson and Sherwood then rushed to alert Colonel James Livingston at Fort Lafayette, resulting in a ship-to-shore cannon duel that stranded André after the second row boat deployment delivered him to the Rockland shore.
After leaving Arnold, André traveled a circuitous route throughout central and northern Westchester before and after his capture that led to his trial and execution in Tappan in Rockland County.
Among the communities associated with the plot are:
- Teller’s Point (Croton Point Park) – Where Patriots fired upon the Vulture.
- King’s Ferry/Verplanck’s Point – Location of André’s crossing of the Hudson River and a Patriot fortification known as Fort Lafayette.
- Yorktown – André stops for breakfast at a house before crossing the Croton River.
- Tarrytown – André is captured by three members of the American militia (John Paulding, Isaac Van Wart and David Williams). A monument is dedicated to the Patriots.
- Armonk and South Salem – Militia unit headquarters where André is guarded during his transfer and travel to Tappan in Rockland County for his trial and execution.
- Peekskill – Medals presented to the three American militia soldiers who captured André.
Community Involvement Underway
“We are working with people who reside in the communities where the André-Arnold Affair occurred,” added Bob Fetonti, co-chair of This Man’s A Spy and a volunteer for the Westchester County Historical Society. “We are historians, teachers, authors, municipal leaders and preservationists who are passionate about our history and wish to make people aware of the historic events which occurred in their community and the importance of Westchester County in the American effort to win the Revolution.”
Programs will continue during the 250th nationally planned commemorative year of 2026 and then through 2033 to mark the full eight years of the American Revolution (1775-1783) that includes the anniversary of the betrayal.
This Man’s A Spy welcomes the involvement of all Westchester County organizations and individuals interested in the county’s history to assist in the planning and oversight of programs, and to share local and family stories related to the people, places and events associated with this significant historical event. Anyone who wishes to contribute to the preservation and interpretation of this critical period of local history should email ThisMansASpy@yahoo.com .
Website link for RW250: https://rw250.org/
Video: Revolutionary Westchester 250 — “Patriots Park, Tarrytown, New York: Explore Westchester County’s Revolutionary War Sites”
Sand’s Mill (Thomas Wright Mill) – The site of Colonel John Jameson’s Headquarters. He was an officer in the Continental Army and under the supervision of General Benedict Arnold. Major John André arrived here as a prisoner on September 23, 1780, following his capture at Tarrytown. The stones, reportedly, were part of the structure’s original foundation. Located in present day Armonk, a hamlet in the Town of North Castle in northern Westchester County. (Credit: M. Virgintino)
Site of Jacob Gilbert House – The area was Colonel Elisha Sheldon’s Headquarters. Major John André was brought here under guard on September 24, 1780. He wrote a letter of confession to General George Washington that revealed his identity and mission. Located in present day South Salem, a hamlet in the Town of Lewisboro in northern Westchester County. (Credit: M. Virgintino)