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Story of John Champe
Part Twelve
Published By
The Historical Society of Hudson County, NJ

By DANIEL VAN WINKLE

Edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003

Neither Congress or the Nation could have been with propriety informed of the cause of the delay, and without such information it must have excited in both alarm and suspicion. Andre himself could not have been entrusted with the secret and would consequently have attributed the unlooked event to the expostulation and exertion of Sir Henry Clinton, which would not fail to produce in his breast expectations of ultimate relief, to excite which would have been cruel, as the realization of such expectation depended upon a possible but improbable contingency. The fate of Andre, hastened by himself, deprived the enterprise committed to Champe of a feature which had been highly prized by its projector, and which had very much engaged the heart of the individual chosen to execute it.

Washington ordered Major Lee to communicate what had passed to the Sergeant, with directions to encourage him to prosecute with unrelaxed vigor the remaining objects of his instructions, but to intermit haste on the execution only as far as was compatible with final success. This was accordingly done by the first opportunity. Champe deplored the sad necessity which had occurred and candidly confessed that the hope of enabling Washington to save the life of Andre (who had been the subject of universal commiseration in the American camp) greatly contributed to remove the serious difficulties which opposed his acceding to the proposition when first propounded.

Some documents accompanied this communication, tending to prove the innocence of the accused General; they were completely satisfactory and did credit to the discrimination, zeal and diligence of the Sergeant. Lee enclosed them immediately to the Commander-in-Chief, who was pleased to express the satisfaction he derived from the information and to order the Major to wait upon him the next day, when the whole subject was re-examined and the distrust heretofore entertained of the accused was forever dismissed. Nothing now remained to be done but the seizure and safe delivery of Arnold. To this subject Champe gave his undivided attention, and on the 19th of October Major Lee received from him a very particular account of the progress he had made, with the outlines of his plan. This was without delay submitted to Washington with a request for a few additional guineas. The General's letter, written on the same day (29th of October) evinces his, attention to the minutia of business as we as his immutable determination to possess Arnold alive or not at This was his original injunction, which he never omitted to enfo upon every proper occasion. Major Lee had an opportunity in the course of the week of writing to Champe, when he had told him that the rewards that he had promised to his associates would certainly be paid on the delivery of Arnold, and in the meantime these small sums of money would be furnished for casual expenses it being deemed improper that lie should appear with much lest it might lead to suspicion and detection. That five guineas were no sent and that more would follow when absolutely necessary.

Ten days elapsed before Champe brought his measures to conclusion, when Lee received from him his final communication; appointing the third subsequent night for a party of dragoons to meet him at Hoboken, when he hoped to deliver Arnold to the officer. Champe had from his enlistment into the American Legion (Arnold's corps) every opportunity he could wish to attend to the habits of the General. He discovered that it was his custom to return home about twelve every night, and that previous to going to bed he always visited the garden. During this visit the conspirators were to seize him and being prepared with a gag intended to have applied the same instantly.

Adjoining the house in which Arnold resided, and that in which it was designed to seize and gag him, Champe had taken of several of the palings and replaced them so that with care and without noise he could readily open his way to the adjoining alley. Into this alley he meant to have conveyed his prisoner, aided by his companion, one of two associates who had been introduced by the friend to whom Champe had originally been made known by letter from the Commander-in-Chief, and with whose aid and counsel he had so far conducted the enterprise. His other associate was with the boat at one of the wharves on the Hudson River to receive the party. Champe and his friend intended to have placed themselves each under Arnold's shoulder and to have thus borne him through he most unfrequented alleys and streets to the boat, representing Arnold, in case of being questioned, as a drunken soldier whom they were conveying to the guard-house. When arrived at the boat the difficulties would be all surmounted, there being no danger nor obstacle in passing to the Jersey shore.

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Part One

Hudson County Facts by Anthony Olszewski
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