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Patriot's Park Event Changed Course of Revolution

The events that took place in Patriot’s 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 Washington’s 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 you’re 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, we’re going to search you,’” Mascia said, and that’s when they found incriminating documetns inside the stockings in his boot. The three men probably didn’t know 100 percent what they had, Mascia said. Paulding, it’s 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 roads—all these kind of things that were just obviously, you know, you’re going to get caught.”

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