It was in the room occupied by Dr. Bronson,1 the "surgeon's mate" or
assistant surgeon, of Sheldon's regiment, that the prisoner who so impressed
King wrote at three o'clock that Sunday, his celebrated letter to Washington,2
which Hamilton justly says is | conceived in terms of dignity without insolence,
and apology without meanness:"
Salem, September 24th, 1780.
Sir,—What I have as yet said concerning myself was in the justifiable attempt to
be extricated. I am too little accustomed to duplicity to have succeeded. I beg your
Excellency will be persuaded that no alteration in the temper of my mind, or apprehension
for my safety, induces me to take the step of addressing you, but that it is to rescue
myself from an imputation of having assumed a mean character for treacherous purposes
or self-interest; a conduct incompatible with the principles that actuate me, as well as
with my condition in life. It is to vindicate my fame that I speak, and not to solicit
security. The person in your possession is Major John Andre, adjutant general to the
The influence of one commander in the army of his adversary is an advantage
taken in war. A correspondence for this purpose I held, as confidential (in the present
instance) with his Excellency Sir Henry Clinton. To favor it, I agreed to meet, upon
ground not within the posts of either army, a person who was to give me intelligence. I
came up in the Vulture man-of-war for this effect, and was fetched by a boat from the
ship to the beach. Being here, I was told that the approach of day would prevent my
return, and that I must be concealed until the next night. I was in my regimentals, and
had fairly risked my person.
Against my stipulations, my intention, and without my knowledge beforehand, I
was conducted within one of your posts. Your Excellency may conceive my sensation on
this occasion, and must imagine how much more must I have been affected by a refusal to
re-conduct me back the next night as I had been brought. Thus become a prisoner, I
had to concert my escape. I quitted my uniform, and was passed another way in the
night, without the American posts, to neutral ground, and informed I was beyond all
armed parties, and left to press for New York. I was taken at Tarrytown by some
volunteers. Thus, as I have had the honor to relate, was I betrayed (being adjutant
general of the British army) into the vile condition of an enemy in disguise within
Having avowed myself a British officer, I have nothing to reveal but what relates
to myself, which is true on the honor of an officer and a gentleman. The request I have
1 Isaac Bronson was born in Breakneck (now Middlebury), Conn., March 10, 1760. He studied medicine, and
in November, 1779, was appointed Junior Surgeon of Sheldon's regiment, where he saw much hard service
under many difficulties. A single instance gives an idea of the lack of modern conveniences in
Washington's army—that at times there was hardly a tent in the regiment. In 1783 he relinquished his
profession and went abroad for some years, returning in 1789. From 1792 to 1794 he lived in Philadelphia,
put in 1796 went to Bridgeport, Conn., and engaged in banking. He was very successful, and his advice
in financial matters was often sought by Hamilton and other distinguished men. He died at Greenfield
Hill, Conn., May 19, 1839. Andre' gave him a humorous sketch, snowing himself escorted by the four
militia, under Lieutenant Allen. I regret not being able to trace it.
s This was given to Tallmadge to read, then sealed and sent to Washington by the messenger who had previously
been despatched to meet him on his return from Hartford. He had gone almost to Danbury before
learning that the Chief had already left Hartford on his way to "Pishkill. Returning to Sands' Mills he
took Andrews letter to the Robinson House. He did not arrive there until two on Monday afternoon,
when he gave it, as well as Jameson's letter to Washington, with the Arnold papers, to Hamilton.
Washington was then at West Point, and hence did not get them until his return at four o'clock.
(See Chap. IV.)
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