| This Country of Ours|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|Stories from the history of the United States beginning with a full account of exploration and settlement and ending with the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. The 99 chapters are grouped under 7 headings: Stories of Explorers and Pioneers, Stories of Virginia, Stories of New England, Stories of the Middle and Southern Colonies, Stories of the French in America, Stories of the Struggle for Liberty, and Stories of the United States under the Constitution. Ages 10-14 |
THE STORY OF A GREAT CRIME
 FOR his strange conduct at the battle of Monmouth General Lee was
court-martialled, and deprived of his command for one year. Before
the year was out, however, he quarrelled with Congress, and was
expelled from the army altogether. So his soldiering days were
done, and he retired to his farm in Virginia. He was still looked
upon as a patriot, even if an incompetent soldier. But many years
after his death some letters that he had written to Howe were found.
These proved him to have been a traitor to the American cause. For
in them he gave the British commander advice as to how the Americans
could best be conquered.
Thus his strange conduct at the battle of Monmouth was explained.
He had always given his voice against attacking the British on
their way to New York. And doubtless he thought that if Washington
had been defeated, he could have proved that it was because his
advice had not been followed. If in consequence Washington's command
had been taken from him, he would have been made commander-in-chief
and could have easily arranged terms of peace with the British.
But his plans miscarried. He lived to see America victorious, but
died before peace was signed.
Lee was a traitor. But he had never been a real American. He had
taken the American side merely for his own glory, and had never
done anything for it worthy of record. But now a true American, one
who had fought brilliantly
 and gallantly for his country, turned
traitor, and blackened his fair name, blotting out his brave deeds
for all time.
When the Americans took possession of Philadelphia again Benedict
Arnold was still too crippled by his wound to be able for active
service. So the command of Philadelphia was given to him.
There he soon got into trouble. He began to live extravagantly,
and grew short of money. He quarrelled with the state government,
and with Congress, was accused of inviting loyalists to his house,
of getting money by dishonest acts, and of being in many ways untrue
to his duty. He also married a beautiful young loyalist lady, and
that was another offence.
Arnold was arrogant and sensitive. He grew restive under all these
accusations, and demanded an enquiry. His demand was granted,
and a court-martial, although acquitting him of everything except
imprudence, sentenced him to be reprimanded by the Commander-in-chief.
Washington loved his high-spirited, gallant officer, and his
reprimand was so gentle and kind that it seemed more like praise
than blame. But even Washington's gracious words chafed Arnold's
proud spirit. He was hurt and angry. He had deserved well of
his country, and he was reprimanded. He had fought gallantly, and
had been passed over for others. He had been twice wounded in his
country's service, and he was rewarded by jealousy, caviling, and
Soon these feelings of bitterness turned to thoughts of treachery,
when exactly is not known. But turn they did, and Arnold began in secret
to write letters to General Clinton, the British commander-in-chief.
In the summer of 1780, his wound still making him unfit for active
service, Arnold was given command of the fortress of West Point,
which guarded the approaches to the Hudson Valley. This fortress
he agreed to betray into the
 hands of the enemy, and thus give them
command of that valley for which Burgoyne had made such a gallant
and hopeless fight. For a long time Arnold carried on a secret
correspondence with Major André, a British officer, and at length
a meeting between them was arranged. One September night Arnold
waited until all was still and dark in the fort. Then stealthily
he crept forth and reached in safety a clump of trees on the bank
of the Hudson just beyond the American lines. Here he lay waiting.
Soon through the darkness the British warship, the Vulture, crept
up the river. Presently Arnold heard the soft splash of oars, and
in a few minutes Major André stepped ashore.
For hours the two conspirators talked until at length all details
of the plot were settled. But day had dawned before Arnold returned
to West Point, and André set out to regain the Vulture, with plans
of the fort, and all other particulars hidden in his boots. By
this time, however, the batteries on shore had begun to fire upon
the ship, and André, finding it impossible to get on board, decided
to go back to New York by land.
It was a dangerous journey, but for a little while he crept on
unseen. Then suddenly his way was barred by three Americans, and
he found himself a prisoner.
"Have you any letters?" asked his captors.
"No," he answered.
They were not satisfied with his answer, and began to search him.
But finding nothing they were just about to let him go when one of
them said, "I'm not satisfied, boys. His boots must come off."
André made every kind of excuse to prevent them taking off his boots.
They were hard to pull off, he said, and it would take a long time.
He was already late, so he begged them not to hinder him more. But
un-  willing he was to take off his boots, the more determined
were his captors that they should come off.
So they forced him to sit down, his boots were pulled off, and the
Only one of the three Americans could read. He seized the papers
and glanced hastily over them.
"By heaven," he cried, "he is a spy!"
It was in vain that André now begged to be set free. First he tried
persuasion, and when that failed he tried bribery. But his captors
would not listen, and marched him off to headquarters.
Arnold was just about to sit down to breakfast, with some other
officers as his guests, Washington being expected every minute to
join them, when a letter was handed to him, telling him that a spy
had been captured. It was an awful moment for Arnold. If André was
captured then all too surely his own treachery was known. He could
not stay to face the disgrace. But he made no sign. He calmly folded
the letter, and put it in his pocket. Then saying that he had been
suddenly called to the fort, he begged his guests to excuse him, and
went out, and mounting the horse of the messenger who had brought
the letter, he sped away, never staying his flight until he was
safe aboard the Vulture.
Very soon after Arnold had escaped Washington arrived. And when the
traitorous papers which had been found in André's possession were
placed in his hands he was overcome with grief.
"Arnold is a traitor, and has fled to the British," he said. "Whom
can we trust now?"
As he spoke the tears ran down his cheeks, bitter tears rung from
his noble soul at the thought of this "one more devil's-triumph
and sorrow for angels."
The chief sinner had escaped. But he had left his fellow conspirator
to pay his debt. For a spy could expect
 no mercy. André was young,
brave, and gay. He had such winning ways with him that even his
captors came to love him, and they grieved that such a gay young
life must be brought to a sudden and dreadful end. His many friends
did their best to save him. But their efforts were all in vain.
Nothing could alter the fact that he was a spy caught in the act,
and the punishment was death.
So one morning André was led out to die. He begged to be shot as a
soldier, and not hanged like a felon. But even that was denied him.
Calm and brave to the end he met his death.
When Arnold's treachery was known a cry of rage rang through the
country. Yet in spite of his foul deed people could not quite forget
how nobly he had fought. "Hang him," they cried, "but cut off the
leg that was wounded at Saratoga first!"
Arnold, however, was beyond their vengeance, safe in the British
lines. There he at once received a commission, and turned his sword
against his own country.
Thus a brave man cast his valour in the dust, and made his name a
scorn and a by-word. But who shall say that the men who belittled
his deeds, and followed him with jealousy and carping, were wholly
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