This post is brought to you by author Allison Pataki and is part of the Kismet tour for The Traitor’s Wife.
Buy the Book: Amazon (Available Feb 11th, 2014)
About the Author
ALLISON PATAKI grew up in upstate New York, in the same neighborhood where Benedict and Peggy Arnold once lived. Allison attended Yale University, where she graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s Degree in English. While at Yale, Allison received Distinction in the Major from the English department and served as a campus reporter and news anchor for the student-run campus television program, YTV News.
The daughter of former New York State Governor George E. Pataki, Allison was inspired to write The Traitor’s Wife: A Novel of Benedict Arnold and the Plan to Betray America based on the rich Revolutionary War history of her hometown in New York State’s Hudson Highlands.
Allison spent several years writing for television and digital news outlets prior to transitioning to fiction. The Traitor’s Wife: A Novel of Benedict Arnold and the Plan to Betray America is Allison’s first novel.
Allison lives in Chicago with her husband.
About the Book
Everyone knows Benedict Arnold—the infamous Revolutionary War General who betrayed America and fled to the British as history’s most notorious turncoat. Many know Arnold’s co-conspirator, Major John André, who was apprehended with Arnold’s documents in his boots and hanged at the orders of General George Washington. But few know of the integral third character in the plot; a charming and cunning young woman, who not only contributed to the betrayal but orchestrated it.
Socialite Peggy Shippen is half Benedict Arnold’s age when she seduces the war hero during his stint as Military Commander of Philadelphia. Blinded by his young bride’s beauty and wit, Arnold does not realize that she harbors a secret: loyalty to the British. Nor does he know that she hides a past romance with the handsome British spy John André. Peggy watches as her husband, crippled from battle wounds and in debt from years of service to the colonies, grows ever more disillusioned with his hero, Washington, and the American cause. Together with her former lover and her disaffected husband, Peggy hatches the plot to deliver West Point to the British and, in exchange, win fame and fortune for herself and Arnold.
Told from the perspective of Peggy’s maid, whose faith in the new nation inspires her to intervene in her mistress’s affairs even when it could cost her everything, The Traitor’s Wife brings these infamous figures to life, illuminating the sordid details and the love triangle that nearly destroyed the American fight for freedom.
5 Ways that John André could have avoided the hangman’s noose
1. John André could have carried a verbal message, rather than stuffing the suspicious documents into his boots, where they were discovered:
When the British General, Sir Henry Clinton, approved John André’s mission to meet with Benedict Arnold and to acquire the top-secret information that would facilitate the British capture of the critical fort at West Point, he ordered his spy not to accept any documents or papers from the American. Such physical evidence, if discovered by the other side, would surely convict André. As such, the British spy should carry nothing away from that illicit meeting but a verbal message.
Whether out of arrogance, recklessness, or some other motive, André did not heed this order. He left his midnight meeting with Arnold carrying maps of the various outposts at West Point, copies of Arnold’s artillery orders, detailed accounts of precisely where the colonial defenders were dispatched, troop lists, and the minutes of high commander General George Washington’s recent meeting, during which time he had outlined the weaknesses of the Continental Army.
These documents André stuffed into his stockings. When he was stopped in No Man’s Land, just north of the British line near New York City, André was ordered to take off his shoes and stockings for a full body search. The three patriot militiamen who searched him, on discovering this packet of highly confidential papers, suspected that they had caught a spy. They sent these documents, described by the local commander as papers “of a very dangerous tendency,” to General Washington.
These papers certainly were “dangerous.” And now that they were in colonial hands, they were most dangerous to the man who had carried them, Major John André…
2. John André could have made his way back to the British by boat rather than on land:
In the final moments of their hours-long meeting in late September, 1780, Benedict Arnold and John André saw something that they had not expected to see: the British warship Vulture retreating down the Hudson River, leaving its cargo, Major John André, stranded. American gunboats fired on the British vessel as they chased it south.
The British spy was now stuck in No Man’s Land, miles from British-occupied New York City, and without a back-up plan. John André proposed waiting in Haverstraw, where he was meeting with Arnold. He was certain that the Vulture would return for him. The safer option was to travel on the river, rather than risk traversing the treacherous rebel territory and neutral ground. André was overridden, however, by his fellow conspirator, Arnold, as well as the host of the meeting, a man by the name of Joshua Smith.
The better option, Arnold and Smith insisted, was to travel overland. This was a dangerous stretch of neutral ground, patrolled by patriot and Tory raiding parties alike, as well as highway criminals and local gangs.
Arnold wrote André a pass granting him the right to pass through this territory and into British land. With this pass, Arnold said, André would not face any difficulties. If he was stopped, all André had to do was show this pass. Which brings us to our next point…
3. John André could have practiced more discretion once he was stopped by three patriotic militiamen:
As John André approached Tarrytown, New York, just miles from the British line, a man in a Hessian military uniform stopped him on the road. The Hessians had fought for the British, not the colonials, so André believed he was in luck.
André halted his horse and said: “I see you belong to our party.”
The patriot asked André to which party he referred.
“The Lower Party,” André replied. This was short-hand, known only to the British, who controlled the lower portion of the Hudson RiverValley, and thus used this name to describe themselves. The militiaman did not understand André’s meaning, but he played along, saying that his men indeed belonged to the Lower Party.
On hearing this, John André exhaled a sigh of relief and went on to boast about his mission, explaining that he was on a top-secret errand for Generals Clinton and Arnold that would surely lead to the end of the Revolution. He even went so far as to show the men his gold watch, a trinket surely affordable only to the upper classes of British society.
The militiamen, on hearing this, strongly suspected the significance of the traveler they had just stopped. But, if he were indeed a British officer, why was he dressed in plain clothes? Which brings us to the next ill-fated decision André had made…
4. Wearing the British Uniform would have prevented André from hanging
John André had arrived at his meeting with Benedict Arnold wearing the redcoat uniform of the British officer. However, when his ship Vulture was fired upon and his plans for returning to the British lines were changed to a land journey, André was encouraged to change into plain clothes. Joshua Smith, the man who had hosted André’s meeting with Arnold, and who would help the spy make his way back south, insisted that André could not travel through the colonial-held lands in a British uniform. André, hesitant, nevertheless acquiesced, thereby making a decision that would later prove fatal.
The rules of international warfare dictated that any man caught behind enemy lines in plain clothes – be he an officer or merely an enlisted soldier – would be considered a spy. As such, his fate would be execution. By contrast, an officer caught behind enemy lines, if wearing his uniform, might be arrested, to be sure. But, as a gentleman, this officer could then be exchanged in a prisoner swap. Following his arrest, André tried to press his case to Washington, insisting that he had arrived behind enemy lines in his uniform, and had never intended to change, but that Smith had forced him. Washington did not fall in line with this reasoning. And yet, in spite of all of these mishaps, there was still one more way by which André might have survived…
5. André was almost sent to Benedict Arnold
When John André was stopped near the British line, he was delivered over to the local commander, a man by the name of Colonel John Jameson. On André’s person was the slip of paper that Arnold had written, granting the British officer permission to pass over the enemy line. Additionally, Jameson (and all of the other local commanders) had been given a standing order, days earlier, by Benedict Arnold. The order stated that, if an unknown man using the alias of “John Anderson” was ever stopped or arrested, he should be sent immediately to Benedict Arnold.
Colonel Jameson, though by this time apprehensive of Arnold’s nefarious intentions, followed this order. He sent the captive north. You can imagine how relieved John André must have been to hear that he was being sent as a prisoner to the local commander, Benedict Arnold!
But, fortunately for the American cause, and unfortunately for the doomed John André, Colonel Jameson soon realized the imprudence of what he was doing. Surely, Jameson’s colleagues argued, Benedict Arnold was involved in this suspicious series of events. Why else would this John Anderson be carrying Arnold’s top-secret documents and a pass to travel to the British with them? Jameson sent a party to intercept the captive John André, and the British spy was soon redirected and imprisoned. As soon as Washington learned of the situation, André was labeled a dangerous spy. The rest – as you might say – is history.