Treason of the Blackest Dye: Investigating the Documents Found in John Andre's Boot
Suggested Teaching Instructions
In 1780, near the present-day Tappan Zee Bridge, a major spy drama unfolded, changing the course of the American Revolution. Major General Benedict Arnold secretly attempted to help the British capture the fort at West Point. He had grown resentful of the American Army for not rewarding him for his many military victories. On the night of September 21, Arnold gave British Major John André documents detailing the fortifications and troop strengths at West Point. As André headed towards the British lines with the documents tucked in his boot, he was captured near Tarrytown on September 23. If he had reached the British command in New York City with the information Arnold had given them, the British would likely have taken the fort at West Point. West Point was crucial to controlling the Hudson River, so a British capture could have changed the outcome of the entire war.
Thirty-year-old André was hanged as a spy on October 2, 1780. Benedict Arnold escaped to New York City, eventually commanding British troops for the remainder of the American Revolution. He died in London in 1801.
Compelling Question: Why do some people switch sides during a conflict?
7.3 AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE: Growing tensions over political power and economic issues sparked a movement for independence from Great Britain. New York played a critical role in the course and outcome of the American Revolution. (Standards: 1, 4, 5; Themes: TCC, GOV, ECO)
7.3d The outcome of the American Revolution was influenced by military strategies, geographic considerations, the involvement of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) and other Native American groups in the war, and aid from other nations. The Treaty of Paris (1783) established the terms of peace.
Students will explore the different military strategies used by the Americans and their allies, including various Native American groups, during the American Revolution.
Every student can analyze all the documents for an assignment and return to class to discuss the compelling question.
Alternatively, you could do a whole-class reading of the Frost diary entry and discuss what is meant by the phrase "treason of the blackest dye."
Students could then participate in either a centers activity or jigsaw to analyze particular documents in the set and then come together to discuss reasons for Arnold's move over to the British side.