American Revolution Passport Arnold
Passport. Philadelphia: 19 April 1779. Autograph note signed “B Arnold MGenl” allowing the passage of Capt. Francis Mountanye to the camp at Raritan “to endeavor to effect his Exchange with the Commissary of Prisoners.” 5 1/2 x 6 3/8 inches (14 x 16 cm). American Revolution Passport Arnold
A very rare passport signed by Arnold in April 1779 – just ten days after his wedding to Peggy Shippen and during the period that he first made himself available to the British as a spy. Placed in command of Philadelphia in June 1778, a city evacuated by the British but still deeply loyalist, Arnold was sharply criticized for his extravagant entertaining and conspicuous activities about town. Joseph Reed who presided over the Executive Council of Pennsylvania presented eight charges of misconduct against Arnold, who immediately demanded an investigation. The Congress decided on a Court Martial, which was delivered to Arnold from General Washington on April 20th, the day after this passport was penned. American Revolution Passport Arnold
Peggy Shippen, Arnold’s nineteen-year-old wife, had been courted by British officer John Andre during the occupation of Philadelphia the previous year and she is a likely source of Arnold’s introduction to Andre, who had become the British head of intelligence. The timing of this current passport is particularly evocative of Arnold’s descent into treason as his first communication with Andre took place at this precise time. Arnold would avail himself to the British through Joseph Stansbury sometime before May 10th, and his potential uses are discussed at length in an extant four-page letter from Andre to Stansbury. American Revolution Passport Arnold
In that letter, Arnold’s role in effecting prisoner exchanges is offered up, and at the end of the letter Stansbury is told that secret correspondence would be carried by “exchanged officer & every messenger remaining ignorant of what they are charged.” While Captain Francis Mountanye, the subject of this document, has proven difficult to find in listings of exchanged British soldiers, the timing of the passport is uncanny. American Revolution Passport Arnold
It is interesting to note that in 1780 Arnold would serve Andre with a fake passport to get through American lines in advance of the planned surrender of West Point.
Benedict Arnold (14 January 1741 – 14 June 1801) was an American military officer who served during the Revolutionary War. He fought with distinction for the American Continental Army and rose to the rank of major general before defecting to the British side of the conflict in 1780. General George Washington had given him his fullest trust and had placed him in command of West Point in New York. Arnold was planning to surrender the fort there to British forces, but the plot was discovered in September 1780, whereupon he fled to the British lines. In the later part of the conflict, Arnold was commissioned as a brigadier general in the British Army, and placed in command of the American Legion. He led the British army in battle against the soldiers whom he had once commanded, after which his name became synonymous with treason and betrayal.