Virtual Marching Tour of the American Revolutionary War

Major John Andre

John Andre esqr.
late Adjutant General of the British forces in America

from Walker's Hibernian magazine, 1780
LOC id: cph 3a45405

John Andre -- handsome, artistic, beloved by the Loyalists, admired by Washington ... a spy brave and cunning ... convinced Benedict Arnold to sell out West Point ... hanged at age 31.

John Andre was born in London in 1750 to French Protestant (Huguenot) parents. His father was a merchant, born in Geneva, Switzerland; his mother was born in France and moved to England when she was young. He attended school in Geneva, returning to London in 1767, two years before his father died.

The young Andre was a charismatic and charming man whose manners and advanced education set him apart from his contemporaries in England. He was fluent in English, French, German, and Italian. He drew and painted, wrote lyric and comic verse, and played the flute.

The glamour of military life appealed to Andre, but coming from the merchant class and of limited means, he would not be able to advance in the British army, where a purchase system almost always governed promotions.

After his father's death, in 1769, Andre felt obliged to financially care for his family and entered his father's counting house.

That same year, Honora Sneyd declared her love for him -- all he had to do to obtain her guardian's approval and win her hand in marriage was to grow rich. Andre strove to succeed, but before too long Honora found that her feelings for him had cooled. Andre decided now to follow his dream and join the army.

Driven by a Broken Heart

Anna Seward, the English poet and foster sister of Honora, asserted that Andre was driven to join the army by a broken heart. Thus, he was commissioned on March 4th, 1771, and selected for special training in Germany, where he spent two years. In 1774 he went to America as lieutenant in the Royal English Fusileers traveling to Canada by way of Philadelphia and Boston.

As a British lieutenant in Canada, Andre was involved in the defense of St. Johns which was taken by American forces on November 2, 1775, after a two-month siege.


The Capture of Andre 1870
Currrier & Ives, 1845
LOC id: pga 06481

He became a prisoner of war and was transferred to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was not uncommon for officers who were prisoners of war to be entertained en route to their places of detention, and Andre had dinner in Haverstraw, New York, at the home of a Mr. Hays. Also present was Mr. Hays's brother-in-law, Joshua Hett Smith. Five years afterwards, Andre and Smith would meet again, apparently without recognition on either side; in 1780 it was Joshua Hett Smith who set Andre on the road to capture and death.

In Lancaster, the enlisted prisoners were kept in barracks, while captured officers were housed at their own expense in local inns. Andre was among those officers allowed to reside with a local family. He moved in with the Caleb Cope family. The Copes developed a real affection for Andre, who gave art lessons to their eldest son. Further, in this German-speaking Lancaster community, Andre's fluency added to his popularity.

At the close of 1776, as part of a prisoner exchange, Andre was returned to Howe, now wintering in New York. Andre presented Howe a memoir he had compiled from his observations in "the colonies." Impressed by the young man's abilities, Howe first gave him a captaincy in the 26th Regiment and recommended him as an aide to Major-General Charles Grey.

In August, 1777, serving under Grey, Andre was among the 17,000 British who landed at Head of Elk, Maryland, which led to the occupation of Philadelphia. Andre was present at the Battle of Brandywine, Grey's bloody night raid, known as the Paoli Massacre, the Battle of Germantown, the British occupation of Philadelphia, the Battle of Monmouth, and Grey's brutal raids of 1778 in Massachusetts and New Jersey. One of the most reliable sources for the history of the war from the British side is Andre's Journal.

During the Winter 1777–78 British occupation of Philadelphia, while Washington endured at Valley Forge, Andre wrote poetry for the Tory women, including Peggy Shippen, and took center stage in making the otherwise boring days entertaining. He planned the notorious Mischianza extravaganza of May 18, 1778, in honor of Howe's impending departure.