Happy 4th of July! Here in the sleepy, riverside village where I now live – eerily similar to that fictional counterpart in so many of my supernatural stories – the holiday has special resonance. It was right off our shore here at Tellers Point (now called Croton Point) that in September of 1780, a British sloop-of-war, the HMS Vulture, showed up with a particularly special passenger: Major John André. Major Andre was on a critical mission: meet up with one of Washington’s top generals – Benedict Arnold – and secure the plans of West Point, which Arnold was in the process of turning over to the British for the princely sum of £20,000. What followed was both a tragic and almost comical drama: the plan should of succeeded for every reason and yet everything that could have possibly gone wrong, did. A study in human fallibility and fate, I suppose. In the end, Major André was captured (just south here, at Tarrytown), and took the noose for Arnold instead.
Major André is more than just a footnote in history, though, for me at least. Known as a very cultured gentleman and scholar – and an artist to boot – he was well-liked by his captors. It was also the sketch he made of himself the night before his execution that served as an inspiration behind my short story, “The Dying Dream of Major Andre” published in David Neilsen’s ‘Legends of Sleep Hollow’ anthology (available here), a ‘what if?’ scenario that involves a second – and haunted – sketch by the Major, one that illustrated the embodiment of his fear just before meeting his death. Here’s a slide from one of my presentations on the tale, which includes the Majors original self-portrait.
In the meantime, for those interested in how uncertain the outcome of our country’s history really was, check out this article: Link to historic account of Major John Andre .
For the rest of you, sit back, enjoy the holiday, and if you think of it, raise a toast to those founding fathers that risked everything to make this a new and independent country. They were not perfect men, to be sure, but they were men of reason, passion and commitment who tried to come up with the best form of government they knew how, one that is being sorely tested to its limits 241 years later.