October 2d.-- Major André is no more among the living. I have just witnessed his exit. It was a tragical scene of the deepest interest. During his confinement and trial, he exhibited those proud and elevated sensibilities which designate greatness and dignity of mind. Not a murmur or a sigh ever escaped him, and the civilities and attentions bestowed on him were politely acknowledged. Having left a mother and two sisters in England, he was heard to mention them in terms of the tenderest affection, and in his letter to Sir Henry Clinton, he recommended them to his particular attention. The principal guard officer, who was constantly in the room with the prisoner, relates that when the hour of execution was announced to him in the morning, he received it without emotion, and while all present were affected with silent gloom, he retained a firm countenance, with calmness and composure of mind. Observing his servant enter the room in tears, he exclaimed, "Leave me till you can show yourself more manly!" His breakfast being sent to him from the table of General Washington, which had been done every day of his confinement, he partook of it as usual, and having shaved and dressed himself, he placed his hat upon the table, and cheerfully said to the guard officers, "I am ready at any moment, gentlemen, to wait on you." The fatal hour having arrived, a large detachment of troops was paraded, and an immense concourse of people assembled; almost all our general and field officers, excepting his excellency and staff, were present on horseback; melancholy and gloom pervaded all ranks, and the scene was affectingly awful. I was so near during the solemn march to the fatal spot, as to observe every movement, and participate in every emotion which the melancholy scene was calculated to produce.
Major André walked from the stone house, in which he had been confined, between two of our subaltern officers, arm in arm; the eyes of the immense multitude were fixed on him, who, rising superior to the fears of death, appeared as if conscious of the dignified deportment which he displayed. He betrayed no want of fortitude, but retained a complacent smile on his countenance, and politely bowed to several gentlemen whom he knew, which was respectfully returned. It was his earnest desire to be shot, as being the mode of death most conformable to the feelings of a military man, and he had indulged the hope that his request would be granted. At the moment, therefore, when suddenly he came in view of the gallows, he involuntarily started backward, and made a pause. "Why this emotion, sir?" said an officer by his side. Instantly recovering his composure, he said, "I am reconciled to my death, but I detest the mode." While waiting and standing near the gallows, I observed some degree of trepidation; placing his foot on a stone, and rolling it over and choking in his throat, as if attempting to swallow. So soon, however, as he perceived that things were in readiness, he stepped quickly into the wagon, and at this moment he appeared to shrink, but instantly elevating his head with firmness he said, "It will be but a momentary pang," and taking from his pocket two white handkerchiefs, the provost-marshal, with one, loosely pinioned his arms, and with the other, the victim, after taking off his hat and stock, bandaged his own eyes with perfect firmness, which melted the hearts and moistened the cheeks, not only of his servant, but of the throng of spectators. The rope being appended to the gallows, he slipped the noose over his head and adjusted it to his neck, without the assistance of the awkward executioner. Colonel Scammel now informed him that he had an opportunity to speak, if he desired it; he raised the handkerchief from his eyes, and said, "I pray you to bear me witness that I meet my fate like a brave man." The wagon being now removed from under him, he was suspended, and instantly expired; it proved indeed "but a momentary pang." He was dressed in his royal regimentals and boots, and his remains, in the same dress, were placed in an ordinary coffin, and interred at the foot of the gallows; and the spot was consecrated by the tears of thousands...
André was born on 2 May 1750 in London to wealthy Huguenot parents Antoine André, a merchant from Geneva, Switzerland, and Marie Louise Girardot from Paris, France. He was educated at St Paul's School, Westminster School, and in Geneva. He was briefly engaged to Honora Sneyd. At age 20, he entered the British Army and joined the 7th of Foot (Royal Fuzileers) in Canada in 1774 as a lieutenant. He was captured at Fort Saint-Jean by Continental General Richard Montgomery in November 1775, and held prisoner at Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He lived in the home of Caleb Cope, enjoying the freedom of the town, as he had given his word not to escape. In December 1776, he was freed in a prisoner exchange. He was promoted to captain in the 26th Foot on 18 January 1777, and to major in 1778.
In 1779, André became Adjutant General of the British Army in America with the rank of Major. In April of that year, he took charge of British Secret Service. By the next year (1780), he had briefly taken part in Clinton's invasion of the South, starting with the siege of Charleston, South Carolina.
Glover was officer of the day at André's execution. Sir Henry Clinton, the British commander in New York, did all that he could to save André, his favourite aide, but refused to surrender Arnold in exchange for him, even though he personally despised Arnold. André appealed to George Washington to be executed by firing squad but by the rules of war, he was hanged as a spy at Tappan, New York on 2 October 1780.
The names of André's captors were John Paulding, David Williams, and Isaac Van Wart. The United States Congress gave each of them a pension of $200 a year and a silver medal, known as the Fidelity Medallion. All were honored in the names of counties in Ohio, and in 1853 a monument was erected to their memory on the place where they captured André. It was re-dedicated in 1880 and is located in Patriot's Park, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
A pension was awarded to his mother and three sisters not long after his death, and his brother william André was made a baronet in his honour in 1781 (see André baronets). In 1804 a memorial plaque by Charles Regnart was erected in the Grosvenor Chapel in London, to John's memory. In 1821, at the behest of the Duke of York, his remains, which had been buried under the gallows, were removed to England and placed among kings and poets in Hero's Corner at Westminster Abbey under a marble monument depicting Britannia mourning alongside a British lion over André's death. On 2 October 1879, a monument was unveiled on the place of his execution at Tappan.
During his nearly nine months in Philadelphia, André occupied Benjamin Franklin's house, from which it has been claimed that he removed several valuable items on the orders of Major-General Charles Grey when the British left Philadelphia, including an oil portrait of Franklin by Benjamin Wilson. Grey's descendants returned Franklin's portrait to the United States in 1906, the bicentennial of Franklin's birth. The painting now hangs in the White House.
André was portrayed by Michael Wilding as an eloquent and dignified idealist in the 1955 Hollywood film The Scarlet Coat. He is portrayed by JJ Feild in the TV series Turn: Washington's Spies. He is also portrayed briefly by Eric Joshua Davis in the TV series Sleepy Hollow.
Around this time, André had been negotiating with disillusioned American General Benedict Arnold. Arnold's Loyalist wife Peggy Shippen was one of the go-betweens in the correspondence. Arnold commanded West Point and had agreed to surrender it to the British for £20,000 (approximately $3.65 million in 2018 dollars)—a move that would have enabled the British to cut off New England from the rest of the colonies.