The Ballad of Major Andre
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John Renfro Davis

Benedict Arnold was one of the great heroes of the Revolution. He had distinguished himself in Canada and Saratoga. However, he was reprimanded by Washington for his conduct in Philadelphia and passed over for promotion. Angry and in debt, Arnold contacted Sir Henry Clinton and planned to betray West Point to the British. Major John Andre was Clinton's adjutant and Arnold's contact.

After a meeting with Arnold, Andre was caught behind the lines by a group of militiamen commanded by John Paulding. He was in civilian clothes with a pass from Arnold - and the plans to West Point were found in his boot. Arnold heard of Andre's capture and fled. Major John Andre was hanged October 2, 1780. In 1821 Andre's body was exhumed and reburied in Hero's Corner in Westminster Abbey.

The ballad is also known as The Execution of Major Andre and Major Andre's Capture. This version was collected from the Hudson Valley. Scott calls it a "uniquely American ballad" A copy of the song was found in a copybook dated 1822. (As Andre is still buried in America in these lyrics, the song would seem to date prior to 1821.)

Come, all you brave Americans,
And unto me give ear,
I'll sing you now a ditty
That will your spirits cheer,
Concerning a young gentleman
Who came from Tarrytown,
Where he met a British officer,
A man of high renown.

Then up spoke this young hero,
Young Paulding was his name;
'0 tell us where you're going, sir,
And also whence you came.'
'I bear the British flag, sir,'
Up answered bold André,
'I have a pass that takes me through,
I have no time to stay.'

Then others came around him,
And bade him to dismount:
'Come tell us where you're going,
Give us a strict account;'
Young Paulding said, 'We are resolved
That you shall ne'er pass by';
And so the evidence did prove
The prisoner a spy.

He begged for his liberty,
He pled for his discharge,
And oftentimes he told them,
If they'd set him at large,
'Of all the gold and silver
I have laid up in store,
But when I reach the city
I will send you ten times more.'

'We scorn this gold and silver
You have laid up in store,'
Van Vert and Paulding both did cry,
'You need not send us more.'
He saw that his conspiracy
Would soon be brought to light,
He begged for pen and paper
And he asked for to write.

The story came to Arnold
Commanding at the Fort:
He called for the Vulture
And sailed for New York;
Now Arnold to New York has gone,
A-fighting for his King,
And left poor Major André
On the gallows for to swing.

André was executed,
He looked both meek and mild,
His face was fair and handsome,
And pleasantly he smiled.
It moved each eye with pity,
And every heart there bled,
And everyone wished him released
And Arnold in his stead.

He was a man of honor!
In Britain he was born,
To die upon the gallows
Most highly he did scorn.
And now his life has reached its end
So young and blooming still-
In Tappan's quiet countryside
He sleeps upon the hill.
Related Links
The Ballad of America
See Bibliography for full information.