The AMSTUD Times

Concerning The Capture of Major André

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The Capture of Major André by Asher Durand, 1845

Story Truth By: Ryan Sklar

As I was walking with my fellow militiamen, Davey Williams and Isaac Van Wart, we saw Major Andre near British territory talking with a British soldier. Major Andre was a friend of ours that many of us trusted. He was given papers which he put into his boot before getting on his horse and heading back to American territory. Immediately we all became suspicious and hid behind a large tree that he would soon pass. We had to know what his encounter with the British was about. As he passed us, we stopped him and demanded that he remove his boots and reveal the papers he was given. At first, he was reluctant to do so which only made our suspicion grow. In order to get him off his horse we had to threaten him with weapons. He then got off his horse and removed his boots. Nothing had fallen out of his boots which lead him to say “See, I have none of the papers that you speak of.” Before Major Andre could react, Williams had already searched his boots and found the papers. After he realized we had discovered the papers, the look on his face became filled with worry. The content of the papers were British orders which convinced us that he was a spy. He continuously tried convincing us that he attained those through a trade, but nothing he said was believable. We brought him and the papers to court where he was found guilty of espionage and then later executed. It was sad to see a man that much of our army had trusted to be hung right in front of us.

Happening Truth By: Trace Mersbach

Major John André was a major in the British Army during the American Revolution. He was associated with the British Secret Intelligence network, and is most known for working in companionship with General Clinton to make negotiations with Major General Benedict Arnold to defect from the Continental Army and join forces with the British Army. He was successful in his negotiations with Arnold, gaining both Arnold's loyalty and West Point. The negotiations took place on the HMS Vulture, and American troops began opening fire on the ship before André had disembarked from the ship. Major André had no other option than to flee by land to New York. He was provided civilian clothes, a pass from Arnold to get through American lines, and the identification papers of a common-man under the name of John Anderson; however, on September 23, he was stopped by three men in Tarrytown, NY. The three men, John Paulding, Issac Van Wart, and David Williams, were militiamen for the American forces. The men questioned him and eventually discovered he was a British Officer. They denied the validity of the pass from Arnold and placed André under arrest. The three men searched his person, leading them to find the papers pertaining West Point. Ironically, the papers were forwarded to Arnold because the Americans did not realize the full context of the papers. Despite all efforts made by Arnold to have him released from imprisonment, Major André was convicted of espionage and sentenced to hanging.

War Story

This is true.

There was once a real nice guy in the British army. A rising major. Knew him real well, too. Real gifted at art, and literature; a real sophisticated man. Everyone loved him. Even George Washington loved him. Imagine that, George Washington admiring a British major.

In any case, this guy loves Britain so much that he goes out to make sure that others do, too. Only the guy he wanted to bring around was Benedict Arnold, the American general. I mean, guy was real mad, to want to get on the losing side of a war. Course, nobody knew that yet. But anyway, this guy sneaks into West Point off a British warship, and manages to convince him to surrender the fort. Takes real talent, really. He was always a charmer. He slept in Ben Franklin’s house, isn’t that something? Real loved. Always could charm anyone, ladies, men, all the rest. Real Renaissance man. Why was he in the army, instead of the library. Didn’t matter. Right after his mission, the Americans force the warship out, and now he’s stuck. Bummer for him, huh.

So he tries to get out by land, sneaking past with Arnold’s papers, dressed like an American. He gets close enough, but then these militiamen stop him. Shook him down, found the papers in his boots. He got tricked into confessing who he was, too. Weird, the intellectual getting tricked like that. But he was a nice guy, well enough, so I guess he wasn’t careful enough. In any case, they took him back to town. Poor guy, there was only one real punishment for spying. Even in his last hours, he spends his time committing himself to the arts- making self-portraits and contemplating artistic values. How else would an artist like him, meet his end?

So a few days later, they put him to death. They pushed him off with a rope around his neck, and the world lost a great artist, a writer, and a mind. A beautiful mind. Why is it that the best guys always gotta die soon? Real shame. I think we all miss him.

What a filthy traitor.

Critique of The Capture of Major André By: Ankur Bhagwath

The painting is set in a field-like area, with some trees in the background and foreground, so that the actual setting of the capture should be shown properly. The three men in the foreground, who are the major’s captors, are all dressed differently than him, in middle class clothing and with guns. This has two purposes- to establish who among them is Andre, and also to emphasize that the Americans are the ones in charge, capturing him and rendering him helpless. The evening sky is darkening, perhaps to exemplify that Andre’s fate is sealed. Andre is turning towards one of the men with his arms outstretched, in a manner that is almost begging, with a look of clear panic in his face. This is due to him knowing that his fate is absolutely sealed, and he’s trying in vain to convince the Americans of his innocence. However, the man he’s pleading with will have none of it, as exemplified by him stretching his arm out in a motion to reject his plea. In his other hand, he examines the papers that provide proof of his guilt. His compatriots look on, holding guns and looking rather satisfied, to show their intrigue at capturing such a British spy. On the ground near Major Andre are his hat and boots, which serves to convey the actual events, where the American militiamen examine him, and find the treasonous papers in his boots. The audience who would be seeing this painting at the time of its creation would obviously be the more well-off American audience. Furthermore, this was painted in 1845, when American patriotism and belief in exceptionalism was still high, and memories of the Revolutionary war were just a generation away. Therefore, most of the audience would understand the events that took place in the painting to a fair degree. Also, Texas joined the Union in 1845, meaning that American patriotism would likely be high. As such, the painting was aimed for an understanding and appreciative American audience.

Identity of Asher Durand By: Amanda Wolfgram

Asher Brown Durand was born the eighth of eleven children in 1796 in what is now Maplewood, New Jersey. He spent his early artistic years as an apprentice to an engraver, and he later became regarded as one of America’s finest engravers after reproducing John Trumbull’s The Declaration of Independence. In 1825, he joined his friend Thomas Cole and fourteen other men to establish the New York Drawing Association, which became the National Academy of Design. Thomas Cole also encouraged Durand to shift his aesthetic focus to oil paintings, specifically of landscapes, which they worked on together in the Adirondack and Catskill Mountains. Cole, joined by Durand, later founded The Hudson River School, which was influenced by romanticism and focused on the American themes of discovery, exploration, and settlement. Durand returned to his family’s home in New Jersey from New York in 1869, where he continued to paint and later died in 1886.