You are here

Benedict Arnold Letter Offering West Point for $20,000, July 15, 1780

Arnold letter offering West Point fo 20,000

Arnold letter offering West Point fo 20,000

Other, Clements_GoldStar_002
Document Description
Letter written in code and translated in which Benedict Arnold describes his terms ($20,000) for becoming a traitor and revealing vital information about troops and equipment at West Point, July 15, 1780.
Inclosed in a cover addressed to M[r.] Anderson  Two days since I received a letter without date or Signature, informing me that S[ir]. Henry ------ was obliged to me for intelligence communicated, and that he placed a full confidence in the Sincerity of my intentions, etc. etc. On the 13th Instant I addressed a letter to you expressing my Sentiments and expectations, viz, that the following Preliminaries be settled previous to cooperating. - First, that S[ir]. Henry secure to me my property, valued at ten thou- sand pounds Sterling, to be paid to me or my Heirs in case of Loss; and, as soon as that happens [strike out] shall happen, ---- hundred pounds per annum to be secured to me for life, in lieu of the pay and emoluments I give up, for my Services as they shall deserve - If I point out a plan of cooperation by which S[ir}. H[enry]. shall possess himself of West Point, the Garrison, etc. etc. etc. twenty thousand pounds Sterling I think will be a cheap purchase for an object of so much importance. At the same time I request thousand pounds to be paid my Agent - I expect a full and explicit answer - The 20th I set off for West Point. A personal interview with an officer that you can confide in is absolutely necessary to plan matters. In the mean time I shall communicate to our mutual Friend S[tansbur]y all the intelligence in my power, until I have the pleasure of your answer.

Moore July 15th [1780] To the line of my letter of the 13th I did not add seven. 

N.B the postscript only relates to the manner of composing the cypher in the letter referred to...
What does Arnold request before he will agree to disclose confidential information?
How much money does Arnold request for himself? For his assistant?
Historical Challenges
Research the difference types of codes used for communication during the Revolutionary War. How many did you find? Describe two examples.
Share the version of the letter that it is in code. Ask students to try to figure out what it says. Compare their work with the translated letter.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Recreate this letter as it may be written in the current year. What agreements would need to be in place before cooperating? What type of payment would be asked for?

Historical Context
In 1780, near the present day Tappan Zee Bridge, a major spy drama unfolded, changing the course of the American Revolution. 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 Andre documents detailing the fortifications and troop strengths at West Point. As Andre 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 that Arnold had given them, the British would likely have taken the fort at West Point. West Point was crucial to controlling the Hudson Rover, so a British capture could have changed the outcome of the entire war.

Secret communications and spy networks were a very important part of the process of intelligence-gathering during the Revolutionary War. Coded letters and spies often conveyed information that was pivotal to the outcomes of individual battles and the whole war itself.

Thirty year old Andre 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 war. He died in London in 1801.

Essential Question
Who was Benedict Arnold and what role did he play in the Revolutionary War?
Check for Understanding
Students will answer the questions using text evidence.