The events that took place in Patriots Park one day in 1780 probably changed the course of the American Revolution, according to Sara Mascia, the curator of the Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow Historical Society. That was the day three militiamen captured Major John Andre, a British spy.
The biggest outcome of the incident, Mascia said, was that we found out that Benedict Arnold was not to be trusted. Andre was also carrying information about where American defenses were.
It did change the course of the war, she said. The fact that it renewed Washingtons old fervor for the war and his anger over the fact that Arnold betrayed him made him reinforce the whole thing.
Click here to view an interactive map of Revolutionary War historical sites in the Tarrytowns area.
According to Mascia, John Paulding, Isaac Van Wart and David Williams had been posted right on the little stream that physically separates Tarrytown from Sleepy Hollow. They were playing cards when Andre passed by on his horse.
Paulding was wearing a stolen Hessian coat when they stopped Andre. Andre told them I hope that youre from the Lower Party, meaning the British supporters down in New York City. Mascia said the three of them kind of looked at each other and said Yeah, sure. After some waffling, Andre pulled out his silver watch to prove that he was a gentleman.
They looked and said, Well, were going to search you, Mascia said, and thats when they found incriminating documetns inside the stockings in his boot. The three men probably didnt know 100 percent what they had, Mascia said. Paulding, its believed, could read, and Mascia said they probably could all read a little. They knew they had something, and they knew that this was not right, she said.
Andre was taken to various militia leaders in the area before he was finally taken to the 76 house in Tappan, across the Hudson. They had a trial, where one of his captors testified and Andre confirmed the testimony. He was hanged after the trial found him guilty.
The interesting thing is [Andre] did everything wrong a spy could do wrong, Mascia said. He changed out of his uniform, he carried incriminating documents, he stuck to the main roadsall these kind of things that were just obviously, you know, youre going to get caught.
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