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

By DANIEL VAN WINKLE

Edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003

Major Lee, replying, said that he had little or no doubt but that his Legion contained many individuals daring enough for any operation however perilous; but that the one in view required a combination of qualities not easily to be found unless in a commissioned officer to whom he could not propose an enterprise the first step to which was desertion. That though the Sergeant-Major of the cavalry was in all respects qualified for the delicate and adventurous project, and to him it might be proposed without indelicacy, as his station did not interpose the obstacle before stated; yet it was very probable that the same difficulty would occur in his breast, to remove which would not be easy, if practicable.

Washington was highly pleased at finding that a non-commissioned officer was deemed capable of executing his views, as he had felt extreme difficulty in authorizing an invitation to officers, who generally are, and always ought, to be, scrupulous and nice in adher- ing to the course of honor. He asked the name, the country, the age, the size, length of service, and character of the Sergeant. Being told his name-that he was a native of Loudoun County in Virginia, about twenty-three or twenty-four years of age – that he had enlisted in 1776 rather above the common size – full of bone and muscle, with a saturnine countenance, grave, thoughtful, and taciturn – of tried courage and inflexible perseverance, and is likely to reject an overture coupled with ignominy as any officer in the corps; a commission being the goal of his long and anxious exertions, and certain on the first vacancy – the General exclaimed that he was the very man for the business; that he must undertake it, and that going to the enemy by the instigation and at the request of his officer, was not desertion, although it appeared to be so. And he enjoined that this explanation, as coming from him, should be pressed on Champe; and that the vast good in prospect should be contrasted with the mere semblance of doing wrong, which he presumed could not fail to conquer every scruple.

Major Lee assured the General that every exertion would be essayed on his part to execute his wishes; and taking leave, returned to the camp of the Light Corps, which he reached about eight o'clock at night. Sending instantly for the Sergeant-Major, he introduced the business in the way best calculated, as he thought, to produce his concurrence, and dilated largely on the very great obligations he would confer on the Commander-in-Chief, whose unchanging and active beneficence to the troops had justly drawn to him their affection, which would be merely nominal if, when an opportunity should offer to any individual of contributing to the promotion of his views, that opportunity was not zealously embraced. That the one now presented to him had never before occurred, and in all probability never would occur again, even should the war continue for ages; it being most rare for three distinct consequences all of primary weight, to be comprised within a single operation, and that operation necessarily to be intrusted to one man who would want but one or two associates in the active part of its execution. That the chance of detection became extremely narrow, and consequently that of success enlarged. That by succeeding in the safe delivery of Arnold he not only gratified his General in the most acceptable manner, but he would be hailed as the avenger of the reputation of the army, stained by foul and wicked perfidy; and what could not but be highly pleasing, he would be the instrument of saving the life of Major Andre, soon to be brought before a Court of Inquiry, the decision of which could not be doubted from the known circumstances of the case, and had been anticipated in the General's instructions. That by investigating with diligence and accuracy the intelligence communicated to him, he would bring to light new guilt, or he would relieve innocence (as was most probable) from distrust; quieting the torturing suspicions which now harrowed the mind of Washington, and restoring again to his confidence a once honored General, presenting it at present only ostensibly, as well as hush doubts affecting many of his brother soldiers.

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Part One

Hudson County Facts by Anthony Olszewski
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