If you draw a 150-mile radius around New York City, you’ll find so many locations relevant to the American Revolution that it’s almost overwhelming. There are nearly endless day trips to be had (for those fortunate enough to have a motor vehicle), which is especially welcome during this time when real long-distance travel is for the most part off the table.
Within that 150-mile radius you just drew you’ll find Haverstraw, New York, where a very famous event took place in a very secluded location. Here, obscured by the trees along the shore of the Hudson, Benedict Arnold met with his liaison John André to discuss the handing over of West Point to the British. What followed was a series of events that likely changed the course of history.
Retracing Maj. John André’s steps as he walked from Haverstraw, carrying on his person incredibly incriminating documents, I found myself connecting strongly with the flurry of emotions that must have been swirling around Arnold and André. Can you imagine how stressful it must have been for Arnold, waiting with bated breath as his plot to betray the cause of the American Revolution unfolded? Or the apprehension with which André must have walked through such dangerous territory, where a chance encounter with friend or foe could mean the difference between life and death. (Not to mention carrying the heavy burden of the British Empire’s advantage in the war on his shoulders.)
How fascinating is it to think that the entire fate of the American Revolution was, for a short span of a few days, hanging very much in the balance as one man walked back to British lines, like a slow-moving relay race carrying a torch that could mean a turning point in the war. And it all came down to fifteen miles—and the honor of three militiamen.
It’s a gripping story; it’s one that reminds us of the perils of war, the randomness of history, and the timelessness of human emotion.
Notes for future Andre trail followers:
•The sign for the Treason House is on the west side of US Route 9W right next to the driveway of a Ford dealership.
•The monument in Tarrytown is in honor of the three captors, not of André. The statue on top is meant to depict one of the men, most likely John Paulding.