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INTERVIEW OF WASHINGTON WITH THE FRENCH OFFICERS AT HARTFORD-PLAN
On the very day that the treasonable conference between Arnold and André took place, on the banks of Haverstraw Bay, Washington had his interview with the French officers at Hartford. It led to no important result. Intelligence was received that the squadron of the Count de Guichen, on which they had relied to give them superiority by sea, had sailed for Europe. This disconcerted their plans, and Washington, in consequence, set out two or three days sooner than had been anticipated on his return to his head-quarters on the Hudson. He was accompanied by Lafayette and General Knox with their suites; also, part of the way, by Count Matthew Dumas, aide-de-camp to Rochambeau. The count, who regarded Washington with an enthusiasm which appears to have been felt by many of the young French officers, gives an animated picture of the manner in which he was greeted in one of the towns through which they passed. "We arrived there," says he, "at night; the whole population had sallied forth beyond the suburbs. We were surrounded by a crowd of
ARRIVAL OF WASHINGTON.
children carrying torches, and reiterating the acclamations of the citizens; all were eager to touch the person of him whom they hailed with loud cries as their father, and they thronged before us so as almost to prevent our moving onward. General Washington, much affected, paused a few moments, and pressing my hand, ‘We may be beaten by the English,' said he, 'it is the chance of war; but there is the army they will never conquer !'
These few words speak that noble confidence in the enduring patriotism of his countrymen, which sustained him throughout all the fluctuating fortunes of the Revolution; yet at this very moment it was about to receive one of the cruellest of wounds.
On approaching the Hudson, Washington took a more circuitous route than the one he had originally intended, striking the river at Fishkill just above the Highlands, that he might visit West Point, and show the marquis the works which had been erected there during his absence in France. Circumstances detained them a night at Fishkill. Their baggage was sent on to Arnold's quarters in the Robinson House, with a message apprising the general that they would breakfast there the next day. In the morning (Sept. 24th) they were in the saddle before break of day, having a ride to make of eighteen miles through the mountains. It was a pleasant and animated one. Washington was in excellent spirits, and the buoyant marquis, and genial, warm-hearted Knox, were companions with whom he was always disposed to unbend.
When within a mile of the Robinson House, Washington turned down a cross road leading to the banks of the Hudson. Lafayette apprised him that he was going out of the way, and hinted that Mrs. Arnold must be waiting breakfast for him.
"Ah, marquis!" replied he good-humoredly, "you young men are all in love with Mrs. Arnold. I see you are eager to be with Go you and breakfast with her, and tell
her as soon as possible.
her not to wait for me. I must ride down and examine the redoubts on this side of the river, but will be with her shortly." The marquis and General Knox, however, turned off and accompanied him down to the redoubts, while Colonel Hamilton and Lafayette's aide-de-camp, Major James McHenry, continued along the main road to the Robinson House, bearing Washington's apology, and request that the breakfast might not be retarded.
The family with the two aides-de-camp sat down to breakfast. Mrs. Arnold had arrived but four or five days previously from Philadelphia, with her infant child, then about six months old. She was bright and amiable as usual. Arnold was silent and gloomy. It was an anxious moment with him. This was the day appointed for the consummation of the plot, when the enemy's ships were to ascend the river. The return of the commander-in-chief from the East two days sooner than had been anticipated, and his proposed visit to the forts, threatened to disconcert every thing. What might be the consequence Arnold could not conjecture. An interval of fearful imaginings was soon brought to a direful close. In the midst of the repast a horseman alighted at the gate. It was the messenger bearing Jameson's letter to Arnold, stating the capture of André, and that dangerous papers found on him had been forwarded to Washington.
The mine had exploded beneath Arnold's feet; yet in this awful moment he gave an evidence of that quickness of mind which had won laurels for him when in the path of duty. Con
FLIGHT OF ARNOLD.
trolling the dismay that must have smitten him to the heart, he beckoned Mrs. Arnold from the breakfast table, signifying a wish to speak with her in private. When alone with her in her room up stairs, he announced in hurried words that he was a ruined man, and must instantly fly for his life! Overcome by the shock, she fell senseless on the floor. Without pausing to aid her, he hurried down stairs, sent the messenger to her assistance, probably to keep him from an interview with the other officers; returned to the breakfast room, and informed his guests that he must haste to West Point to prepare for the reception of the commander-inchief; and mounting the horse of the messenger, which stood saddled at the door, galloped down by what is still called Arnold's Path, to the landing-place, where his six-oared barge was moored. Throwing himself into it, he ordered his men to pull out into the middle of the river, and then made down with all speed for Teller's Point, which divides Haverstraw Bay from the Tappan Sea, saying he must be back soon to meet the commander-in-chief.
Washington arrived at the Robinson House shortly after the flight of the traitor. Being informed that Mrs. Arnold was in her room, unwell, and that Arnold had gone to West Point to receive him, he took a hasty breakfast, and repaired to the fortress, leaving word that he and his suite would return to dinner.
In crossing the river, he noticed that no salute was fired from the fort, nor was there any preparation to receive him on his landing. Colonel Lamb, the officer in command, who came down to the shore, manifested surprise at seeing him, and apologized for this want of military ceremony, by assuring him he had not been apprised of his intended visit.
"Is not General Arnold here?" demanded Washington.
VOL. IV. -6
"No, sir. He has not been here for two days past; nor have I heard from him in that time."
This was strange and perplexing, but no sinister suspicion entered Washington's mind. He remained at the Point throughout the morning inspecting the fortifications. In the mean time, the messenger whom Jameson had despatched to Hartford with a letter covering the papers taken on André, arrived at the Robinson House. He had learnt, while on the way to Hartford, that Washington had left that place, whereupon he turned bridle to overtake him, but missed him in consequence of the general's change of route. Coming by the lower road, the messenger had passed through Salem, where André was confined, and brought with him the letter written by that unfortunate officer to the commander-in-chief, the purport of which has already been given. These letters being represented as of the utmost moment, were opened and read by Colonel Hamilton, as Washington's aide-decamp and confidential officer. He maintained silence as to their contents; met Washington, as he and his companions were coming up from the river, on their return from West Point, spoke to him a few words in a low voice, and they retired together into the house. Whatever agitation Washington may have felt when these documents of deep-laid treachery were put before him, he wore his usual air of equanimity when he rejoined his companions. Taking Knox and Lafayette aside, he communicated to them the intelligence, and placed the papers in their hands. "Whom can we trust now?" was his only comment, but it spoke volumes.
His first idea was to arrest the traitor. Conjecturing the direction of his flight, he despatched Colonel Hamilton on horseback to spur with all speed to Verplanck's Point, which com