Updated:
Original:
Year
1780
Month Day
October 02

Benedict accomplice hanged

Thirty-year-old British Major John Andre is hanged as a spy by U.S. military forces in Tappan, New York, on October 2, 1780.

Andre, an accomplice of Benedict Arnold, had been captured by Patriots John Paulding, David Williams and Isaac Van Wart on September 23 after they found incriminating papers in his boot. The papers revealed that Andre was returning from a secret meeting with U.S. General Benedict Arnold, commander of West Point, who had offered to surrender the strategic Hudson River fort to the British for a bribe of £20,000. Upon hearing of Andre’s capture, Arnold fled to the British warship Vulture and subsequently joined the British in their fight against the Patriots.

After being sentenced to death by U.S. authorities on September 29, Andre was allowed to write a letter to his commander, General Henry Clinton. Andre also wrote a letter to General George Washington in which he asked, not that his life be spared, but that he be executed by firing squad. Death by firing squad was considered a more “gentlemanly” death than hanging.

Members of the Continental Army respected Andre’s bravery, including Washington, who wanted to find a way to spare Andre’s life. Believing that Andre had committed a lesser crime than Benedict Arnold, Washington wrote a letter to Clinton, stating that he would exchange Andre for Arnold, so that Arnold could be hanged instead.

When he did not receive a reply to his offer by October 2, Washington wrote in his “general order” of the day, “That Major Andre General to the British Army ought to be considered as a spy from the Enemy and that agreeable to the law and usage of nations it is their opinion he ought to suffer death…The Commander in Chief directs the execution of the above sentence in the usual way this afternoon at five o’clock precisely.”

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Warsaw Uprising ends

The Warsaw Uprising ends on October 2, 1944, with the surrender of the surviving Polish rebels to German forces. Two months earlier, the approach of the Red Army to Warsaw prompted Polish resistance forces to launch a rebellion against the Nazi occupation. The rebels, who ...read more

Thurgood Marshall sworn in

Chief Justice Earl Warren swears in Thurgood Marshall, the first black justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. As chief counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in the 1940s and ’50s, Marshall was the architect and executor of the legal ...read more

Operation Typhoon is launched

On October 2, 1941, the Germans begin their surge to Moscow, led by the 1st Army Group and Gen. Fedor von Bock. Russian peasants in the path of Hitler’s army employ a “scorched-earth” policy. Hitler’s forces had invaded the Soviet Union in June, and early on it had become one ...read more

Woodrow Wilson suffers a stroke

President Woodrow Wilson, who had just cut short a tour of the country to promote the formation of the League of Nations, suffers a stroke on October 2, 1919. The tour’s intense schedule–8,000 miles in 22 days–cost Wilson his health. He suffered constant headaches during the ...read more

Gunman kills five students at Amish school

Charles Roberts enters the West Nickel Mines Amish School in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, where he fatally shoots five female students and wounds five more before turning his gun on himself and committing suicide. Charles Carl Roberts IV, a 32-year-old milk truck driver from a ...read more