<br /> Lee Letter: n144

Washington and Lee University

Sender: George Washington
Recipient: Henry Lee

Dr. Sir:

The plan proposd for taking A – – ,1 the
out lines of which are communicated in your letter which was this
moment put into my hands without a date, has every mark of a good
one,2 I therefore agree to the promised
rewards, and have such entire confidence in your management of the
business as to give it my fullest approbation; and leave the whole to
the guidance of your own judgment, with this express stipulation, and
pointed injunction, that he A – d is brought to me alive. No
circumstance whatever shall obtain my consent to his being put to
death. The idea which would accompany such an event would be that
Ruffians had been hired to assassinate him. My aim is to make a public
example of him. and this should be strongly impressed upon those who
are employed to bring him off. The Sergeant must be very circumspect;
too much zeal may create suspicion; and too much precipitancy may
defeat the project. The most inviolable secrecy must be observed on all
hands. I send you five Guineas; but I am not satisfied of the propriety
of the Sergeants appearing with much Specie; this circumstance may also
lead to suspicion as it is but too well known to the enemy that we do
not deal much in this article. The Interviews between the Party in and
out of the City, shd. be managed with much caution and seeming
indifference or else the frequency of their meetings &ca. may
betray the design and involve bad consequences; but I am perswaded you
will place every matter in a proper point of view to rise conductors of
this interesting business

and therefore I shall only add that I am etc.


1 Benedict Arnold.

2 Lee’s undated letter is filed in the Washington
at the end of September, 1780. “I have engaged two
persons to undertake the accomplishment of your Excellencys
wishes . . . The chief of the two persons is a sergeant in my cavalry. To
him I have promised promotion, the other is an inhabitant of Newark;
I have had experience of his fidelity, and his connexions with the
enemy render him, with his personal qualifications very fit for the
business. To this man I have engaged one hund. guineas, five hundd.
acres of land and three negroes. . . . The outlines of the scheme . . . are
that the Sergeant should join Gen. Arnold as a deserter from us,
should engage in his corps now raising, and should contrive to
insinuate himself into some menial or military birth about the Genls.
person. That a correspondence should be kept up with the man in
Newark, by the latter’s visiting the former every two days. When the
favorable moment arrives they should seize the prize in the night,
gag him, and bring him across to Bergen woods. . . . The Sergeant is a
very promising youth of uncommon taciturnity, and invincible
perseverance. . . . I have instructed him not to return till he receives
direction from me, but to continue his attempts, however unfavorable
the prospects may appear at first. I have excited his thirst for fame
by impressing on his mind the virtue and glory of the act.” The
sergeant, John Champe, deserted on the night of October 20 – 21, and,
to prevent a possible suspicion, Lee requested orders to move his
corps to another position. Lee wrote Washington (October 25, in the
Washington Papers): “My friend got safe into
New York. He was before Sir Henry Clinton and passed all the forms of
the garrison. He accidentally met Col. Arnold in the street which has
paved a natural way for further acquaintance. The party entertain
high hopes of success . . . I informed Mr. Baldwin, that I was under
orders to march south. . . .” Champe’s attempt failed through no fault of
his. For Lee’s account of the exploit see Memoirs
of the War in the Southern Department
, by Henry Lee.