was born in 1750 in
the son of Franco-Swiss Huguenot parents who had settled in England because of religious
persecution in their native countries. Andre was given an excellent education
and learned to speak French, German, Italian, and, of course, English fluently.
As he grew older his interests grew quite broad. He dabbled in art, poetry,
drama, and music, and proved to be quite talented at whatever he took up.
Andre’s lively and pleasant manner gained him many friends and earned him a prominent position in London Society. But for all his charm, his relationships with young women all went woefully awry. He courted various eligible girls, but the proceedings always ended in disappointment. Finally, Andre decided to do the only proper thing a gentleman can do when turned rejected by the feminine world: he joined the military!
At age 20, the young British soldier was transferred to North America and installed in the 23rd Foot Regiment in
In 1776, after a little over a year of captivity, Andre was released after a prisoner exchange. He swiftly rose in rank, being commissioned a captain in 1777 and a major in 1778. He took part in the occupations of both
and became a favorite at social functions hosted by General William Howe,
General Henry Clinton, and wealthy Loyalists who wanted to celebrate the raising
of the Union Flag over their cities.
28-year-old John Andre took up residence in Ben Franklin’s three-story brick mansion after it had been confiscated by British troops and Franklin’s daughter had been forced to find another place to live. At least she took pride in saving much of her father’s library by packing it in boxes and shipping it out of town. Meanwhile, Andre turned a Philadelphian warehouse into a theatre and put on thirteen different plays over the course of the winter. He also visited young American women, charming them with his flute playing and poetry reciting. One such young woman was Peggy Shippen, a beautiful 17 year old Loyalist. They spent hours together, chatting and drinking tea, sometimes up to f 15 cups per visit. They also went on dates together, going to dinners, balls, and sleigh rides.
Andre also showed compassion towards the enemy, as is demonstrated in a story collected by Parson Weems from a first-hand source. Once, when a British foraging party made an inroad into a New York community, the young men of the town turned out to defend it. Two American volunteers in their early teens were captured and about to be incarcerated in a filthy British prison New York. Watching the emaciated prisoners reaching through the iron bars and the burly figures of the pitiless guards standing watching, on of the boys burst into tears, realizing that he would likely die from starvation and neglect. Just than, a richly dressed young British officer approached him and inquired tenderly, “My dear boy, what makes you cry?”
He made a sobbing response that he could not help it when he thought of his mother and sisters back home and how happy he had been with them earlier that day. “Well, well, my dear child,” the British officer sighed, “don’t cry, don’t cry any more.” He then ordered the guard not to do anything until he returned. When he was gone, the American got up enough courage to ask the guard who the officer was. “Why, that’s Major Andre, the adjutant-general of the army; and you may thank your stars that he saw you, for I suppose he is gone to the general to beg you off, as he has so many of your damned rebel countrymen.” Before long, Andre returned and joyfully announced, “Well, my sons, I’ve good news, good news for you! The general has given you to me, to dispose of as I choose; and now you are at liberty! So run home to your fond parents, and be good boys; mind what they tell you; say your prayers; love one another, and God Almighty will bless you.”
Peggie Shippen, an attractive young woman from a well-to-do Loyalist family, had once courted John Andre while in
Reluctantly Andre agreed to meet with
Unfortunately for the two enemies-turned-allies, by the time they had finished haggling over terms and planning their escape, the sun had risen, allowing the Americans at
Of course, Andre was not aware that American Intelligence had already discovered
He rode on, unsuspected in his civilian attire, until 9 A.M., when he reached
Andre immediately assumed they were Loyalists and told them that he was a British officer on an important mission and wished not to be detained. It was then the men informed him that they were really Patriots and that they intended to take him prisoner. Quickly, Andre changed his story, staying that he was an American officer and producing the passport papers that
Now in desperation, Andre offered to give the men his pocket watch and horse if they would let him go. But it was too late. Paulding, who was semi-literate had finally managed to decipher the writing and realized the shockingly serious plot they had accidently foiled. Spurning his attempts to bribe them, they took their prisoner to the headquarters of the American Army in
When Arnold’s papers were brought to Washington, revealing his intent to turn over West Point and Washington to the British, the commander-in-chief sat quietly, holding the papers in trembling hands. Finally he managed to croak, “Arnold has betrayed me. Whom can we trust now?”
The beautiful Peggy, whose husband had already fled by boat when news of Andre’s capture arrived, put on a show for the American officers, hysterically shrieking, “That is not General Washington! That is the man who is going to kill my child!” She had recently given birth, and judging from her reaction, it was judged by Washington that her husband’s treachery had sent her over the edge, and she was therefore innocent. She later joined her husband in British-held New York.
The court found Andre guilty of spying on September 29, 1780, and the penalty was to be death by hanging. British General
Perhaps this was to avenge the ill-treatment and execution of the American officer Nathan Hale who, like Andre, had been captured by the enemy in civilian clothes while conducting a spying mission and was hanged accordingly and his corpse left to rot. Or perhaps
With nothing left to do wait for death, Andre had a final surge of creativity and an unexpected rekindling of religious fervor. He wrote a poem about his faith and drew a self-portrait of himself. On the morning of October 2, 1780, Andre had his breakfast delivered straight was
When they came in sight of the gallows, Andre instinctively took two steps back. “Why this sudden emotion, sir?” asked the guard. “I am resolved to my death, but I detest the mode,” he responding, still having hoped that
The scarlet-clad figure mounted the gallows, but when a blindfold was offered to him, he took his own handkerchief out of his pocket and tied it about his eyes. He also tightened the noose around his own neck.
“Have you anything to say?” asked an American officer beside him. Andre pulled the handkerchief from his eyes and said with perfect calm, “I pray you to bear witness that I meet my fate like a brave man. As I suffer in defense of my country, I must consider this hour as the most glorious in my life. Remember that I die as becomes a British officer, while the manner of my death must reflect disgrace on your commander.”
These were his last words. Immediately after, the executioner pulled the latch, and Major John Andre was dead from a broken neck. When his body was taken down, the poem he had written was found in his inner coat pocket. It is now commonly titled “
Hail, Sovereign Love, which first began
The scheme to rescue fallen man!
Hail, matchless, free, eternal grace,
That gave my soul a
Against the God who built the sky,
I fought with hands uplifted high,
Despised the mention of his grace,
Too proud to seek a
Enwrapt in thick Egyptian night,
And fond of darkness more than light,
Madly I ran the sinful race,
‘Secure’ without a
But thus the eternal counsel ran,
‘Almighty Love, arrest that man!’
I felt the arrows of distress,
And found I had no
Indignant justice stood in view;
To Sinai’s fiery mount I flew,
But Justice cried with frowning face,
‘This mountain is no
Ere long a heavenly voice I heard,
And mercy’s angel soon appeared,
He led me with a beaming face
To Jesus as a
Should sevenfold storms of thunder roll,
And shake this globe from pole to pole,
No thunderbolt shall daunt my face,
For Jesus is my
A few more setting suns at most
Shall land me on Fair Canaan’s coast,
Where I shall sing the song of grace,
And see my glorious
Andre came to be recognized as a hero in
|Maj. John Andre's Self-Portrait|