Major John André Is Hanged

On October 2, 1780, British intelligence officer Major John André was hanged as a spy in Tappan, New York.

Captured on his return to New York City by American militiamen fighting in the War of Independence, Major André was found to have papers hidden in his boot concerning Continental army Brigadier General Benedict Arnold's negotiation for the surrender of West Point. (Arnold had recently been appointed commandant of the fort at West Point.)

General George Washington designated a board of officers to hear the case. André was found guilty of spying and sentenced to death.

While a prisoner he endeared himself to American officers, who lamented his death as much as the British. Alexander Hamilton wrote of him: "Never perhaps did any man suffer death with more justice, or deserve it less." The day before André's hanging he drew, with pen and ink, a likeness of himself, which is now owned by Yale College. In fact André, according to witnesses, refused the blindfold and placed the noose around his own neck.

An eyewitness account of the last day of Major André can be found in the book The American Revolution: From the Commencement to the Disbanding of the American Army Given in the Form of a Daily Journal, with the Exact Dates of all the Important Events; Also, a Biographical Sketch of the Most Prominent Generals by James Thacher, M.D., a surgeon in the American Revolutionary Army.

The Honorable the Congress have been pleased in just Abhorrence of the perfidy of his conduct to pass the following Act…Resolved, That the Board of War be and hereby are directed to erase from the register of the names of the officers of the army of the United States, the name of Benedict Arnold.”

— George Washington, October 19, 1780, General Orders. George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799