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Don Stivers You, Sir, Are a Spy
With a life in the balance, and adherence to the Rule of Law in the fledging American Republic as their guiding light, fourteen of George Washington's most trusted Generals listened intently as the Amy's Judge Advocate General completed his examination of British Major John Andre with the stinging indictment, 'You Sir, are a Spy.'
As the solider who was the Judge Advocate General's scribe recorded the proceedings, the assembled heroes of the American Revolution, including those depicted right to left seated at the table: Baron von Steuben, Marquis de Lafayette, Nathanael Greene, and Arthur St. Clair, reached a verdict. Convinced of the young British officer's guilt, they reported to General Washington that Major Andre, Adjutant General of British forces in America, 'ought to be considered as a spy from the enemy; and that, agreeable to the law and usage of nations,...ought to suffer death.' The law and usage of nations required hanging, and so he was on the second of October 1780.
The events preceding this unfortunate end began when Major Andre embarked on a mission to find information about, traitors among, the American Army. He found both in Major General Benedict Arnold who, once considered an American hero himself but ailing from old wounds, cash poor, and facing court martial, decided to desert the American cause. All he needed was opportunity, which came with his appointment to command the strategic American fortifications at West Point. With Major Andre's acceptance of his offer to surrender West Point for 20,000 pounds sterling, Benedict Arnold inscribed his name in the American lexicon as forever synonymous with 'traitor.'
If Major Andre had considered that General Arnold was earlier prosecuted at a court-martial for improper personal business by Colonel John Laurance, Judge Advocate General of the Continental Army, and the same officer-lawyer who would later prosecute him, then Andre might have proceeded differently. As it was, however, Major Andre was captures dressed in civilian clothing behind American lines, carrying concealed documents containing vital intelligence about West Point. Those documents, in hand of the Army's prosecutor, were as deadly as the thrust of an American sword, and sealed his fate as surely as General Washington's quill on the execution order.
West Point was saved and the American Republic born. Benedict Arnold lived but would eventually die in debt and disgrace. Colonel Laurance became a Federal judge and member of Congress. The Judge Advocate General's Corps on the United States Army grew from this beginning to a Corps of Judge Advocates, soldiers, and civilians who serve America still today. Don Stivers You, Sir, Are a Spy, commemorates the 225th Anniversary of the Corps, and is a reminder of Judge Advocates' service throughout our Nation's history, and their dedication to the law, the United States Army, and America.