Shippen, c. 1783-89
July 11, 1760
|Died||August 24, 1804 44) (aged|
(m. 1779;his death 1801)
|Parent(s)|| Edward Shippen IV |
Margaret "Peggy" Shippen (July 11, 1760 – August 24, 1804)was the highest-paid spy in the American Revolution, and was the second wife of General Benedict Arnold.
Shippen was born into a prominent Philadelphia family with Loyalist tendencies. She met Arnold during his tenure as military commander of the city following the British withdrawal in 1778. They were married in the Shippen townhouse on Fourth Street on April 8, 1779, and Arnold began conspiring with the British to change sides soon after. Peggy played a role in the conspiracy which was exposed after British Major John André was arrested in September 1780 carrying documents concerning the planned surrender of the critical Continental Army base at West Point.
Arnold escaped to New York City and Peggy followed. They traveled together to London at the end of 1781, where she established a home and Arnold rebuilt a trading business. In 1787, she joined him in Saint John, New Brunswick, where his difficulties with local businessmen forced them to return to London in December 1791. Arnold died in 1801, after which she had to settle his business affairs and pay off his debts. She died in 1804, having borne five children who survived infancy.
Margaret Shippen was born July 11, 1760 in Philadelphia, the fourth and youngest daughter of Edward Shippen IV and Margaret Francis, the daughter of Tench Francis, Sr.; she was nicknamed "Peggy".She was born into a prominent Philadelphia family, which included two Philadelphia mayors and the founder of Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. Edward Shippen was a judge and member of the Provincial Council of Pennsylvania; the Shippen family was politically divided, and the judge was considered either a "Neutralist" or a covert "Tory " with allegiance to the British crown. Two younger boys died in infancy, and Peggy grew up as the baby of the family and was the "family's darling."
As a young woman, she enjoyed music, doing needlework, and drawing, and participated in the study of politics. She looked up to her father and, under his tutelage, learned about politics, finance, and the forces which led to the American Revolution.
The British captured Philadelphia in September 1777, and the Shippen family held social gatherings at their home, in keeping with their political interests and stations.A frequent guest was John André, an officer in General William Howe's command, and he paid particular attention to Peggy. The British withdrew from the city in June 1778 following France's entry into the war; André left Philadelphia with his fellow troops, but the two of them remained in contact.
In late summer of 1778,Shippen met Arnold, the Continental military commander of Philadelphia, and he began courting her despite the differences between himself and Judge Shippen. Shortly after, Arnold sent her father a letter asking for her hand, but Shippen was skeptical of Arnold due to Arnold's legal problems. In 1779, the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania had brought eight formal charges against Arnold for corruption and malfeasance with the money of the federal and state governments, and he was subsequently convicted on two relatively minor counts. Despite this, Edward Shippen eventually granted permission for Arnold and Peggy to marry, which took place on April 8, 1779.
Arnold purchased Mount Pleasant on March 22, 1779, a manor home built in 1762 for Captain John Macpherson, and he deeded the property to Peggy and any future children.The couple did not live at Mount Pleasant, however, but rented it out as an income property. The couple honeymooned at family homes in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, then returned to Philadelphia to take residence at Arnold's military headquarters in the Masters-Penn mansion.
As a newlywed, Peggy may have had contact with her "dear friend" Major André, who had become General Clinton's spy chief. She and Arnold also had close friends who were either actively Loyalist or sympathetic to that cause. Some historians believe that Peggy Shippen instigated the correspondence between Arnold and André and sent military secrets to the British before her wedding. Other suspects in Arnold's subsequent espionage ring with André were Loyalists Rev. Jonathan Odell and Joseph Stansbury.
Arnold hired Joseph Stansbury to initiate communications in May 1779, offering his services to the British not long after he married. General Clinton gave Major André orders to pursue the possibility, and secret communications began between André and Arnold. The messages that they exchanged were sometimes transmitted through Peggy's actions; letters written in her hand also include coded communications written by Benedict Arnold in invisible ink.
Enraged by his treatment in Philadelphia, General Arnold resigned his command there in March 1779. Pursuant to the secret communications with the British, he sought and obtained the command of West Point, a critical American defense post in the highlands of the Hudson River. Peggy and their infant son Edward Shippen Arnold (born 19 Mar 1780) joined him there in a home on the Hudson two miles south of West Point. General Arnold systematically weakened the defenses of West Point with the intent of making it easier for the British to capture.
On Thursday, September 21, 1780, General Arnold met with André on the shores of the Hudson River and gave him documents and maps about the fortifications at West Point in anticipation of the British capture of that site. On Saturday, September 23, André was arrested as he rode towards British territory, the documents were discovered, and the plot was exposed. On Monday, September 25, Arnold received a note announcing André's capture and possession of treasonous papers and maps. That same morning, General George Washington was planning to meet Arnold at his home, two miles south of West Point. Arnold first dashed upstairs to Peggy, then fled, eventually reaching HMS Vulture on the Hudson River.
Peggy Shippen Arnold was then dressing in anticipation of hosting a breakfast for Washington and his party. Possibly based on a brief discussion with her husband, she pretended hysteria in order to falsely convince General Washington and his staff that she had nothing to do with her husband's betrayal. The delay caused by her histrionics may have allowed Arnold time to escape, leaving Peggy with their infant son. Fearing for her safety, she traveled to Philadelphia to stay with her family. She also played the innocent when asked about her husband, even though she knew his whereabouts. Philadelphia authorities soon found a letter from André to Peggy written from British-occupied New York—the so-called "millinery letter"—and seized upon it as proof that Arnold's wife had been complicitous in the treason. That led the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania to banish her from Philadelphia. In November 1780, her father escorted Peggy and her infant son to the shores of the Hudson where she boarded a boat to New York City to join Arnold.
After a military trial, Major André was condemned to death as a common spy and was hanged at Tappan, New York. He was later re-interred in London's Westminster Abbey.
Hostilities appeared to be winding down in North America after Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown in October 1781, and the Arnolds left for London on December 15, 1781—including their second child James Robertson (born in August)—arriving January 22, 1782.
Peggy was initially welcomed warmly in England, as was her husband; she was presented at court to the queen on February 10, 1782 by Lady Amherst. Queen Charlotte awarded her an annuity of 100 pound sterling for the maintenance of her children, including those not yet born. King George III also presented her with £350 "obtained for her services, which were meritorious."A girl (Margaret) and a boy (George), born in 1783 and 1784 respectively, died in infancy while the Arnolds lived in London.
Arnold left for a business opportunity in 1784 and sent to Connecticut for his three sons Benedict, Richard, and Henry (by his first wife) to join him in Saint John, New Brunswick. During Arnold's stay in New Brunswick, Peggy Shippen Arnold gave birth to their third surviving child Sophia Matilda Arnold, while her husband may have fathered an illegitimate child (John Sage) in New Brunswick.Peggy sailed to Saint John to join her husband in 1787, leaving her two older sons with a private family in London; in New Brunswick, Peggy gave birth to son George in 1787; their last child William Fitch was born in 1794 after their return to London.
In 1789, she returned briefly to Philadelphia, accompanied by her infant son George and a maid, to visit with her parents and family. She was treated coldly by Philadelphians in spite of her father's considerable influence.Peggy sailed back to New Brunswick with young George in the spring of 1790, and from there returned to England with Arnold in late December 1791. Their departure was unhappy, with mobs gathering on their property to protest against them and calling them "traitors."
After Arnold died in 1801, Peggy auctioned the contents of their home, the home itself, and many of her personal possessions to pay off his debts. She died in London in 1804, reportedly of cancer,and was buried with her husband at St. Mary's Church in Battersea on August 25, 1804.
Historians are unanimous in her complicity—and she accepted a reward for her services from the king. Her family in Philadelphia denied everything.
James Parton, a biographer of Aaron Burr, published an account in the 19th century, after all of the principal actors had died, implying that Peggy Shippen Arnold had manipulated or persuaded Benedict to change sides. The basis for the claim was interviews that Burr conducted with Theodosia Prevost, the widow of Jacques Marcus Prevost who later married Burr, and notes later made by Burr. While en route to Philadelphia from West Point in 1780, Peggy Shippen Arnold visited with Prevost at Paramus, New Jersey. According to Parton, she unburdened herself to Prevost, claiming that she "was heartily tired of all the theatricals she was exhibiting", referring to her histrionics at West Point.According to Burr's notes, Shippen Arnold "was disgusted with the American cause" and "through unceasing perseverance, she had ultimately brought the general into an arrangement to surrender West Point."
When these allegations were first published, the Shippen family countered with allegations of improper behavior on Burr's part. They claimed that Burr rode with Peggy Shippen Arnold in the carriage to Philadelphia after her stay with Mrs. Prevost, and that he fabricated the allegation because she refused advances that he made during the ride.Arnold biographer Willard Sterne Randall suggests that Burr's version has a more authentic ring to it: first, Burr waited until all were dead before it could be published; and second, Burr was not in the carriage on the ride to Philadelphia. Randall also notes that ample further evidence has since come to light showing that Peggy Shippen Arnold played an active role in the conspiracy. British documents from 1792 show that Mrs. Arnold was paid £350 for handling secret dispatches.
Peggy Shippen had seven children with Benedict Arnold, of whom five survived to adulthood:
Peggy Shippen is portrayed by Erin McGathy and Winona Ryder in the Drunk History episode on Philadelphia.She is also portrayed in the TV miniseries George Washington by Megan Gallagher, in the TV movie Benedict Arnold: A Question of Honor by Flora Montgomery, and in the Revolutionary War drama Turn: Washington's Spies by Ksenia Solo.
Shippen is also the subject of three historical novels: Peggy by Lois Duncan (1970), Finishing Becca by Ann Rinaldi (1994), and The Traitor's Wife by Allison Pataki (2014).
John André was a major in the British Army and head of its Secret Service in America during the American Revolutionary War. He was hanged as a spy by the Continental Army for assisting Benedict Arnold's attempted surrender of the fort at West Point, New York, to the British.
Brigadier General Benedict Arnold was an American-born senior officer of the British Army who commanded the American Legion in the later part of the Revolutionary War. He is best known for his defection from the Continental Army to the British side of the conflict in 1780. General George Washington had given him his fullest trust and placed him in command of the West Point, New York. Arnold planned to surrender the fort to British forces, but the plot was discovered in September 1780 and he fled to the British lines. Arnold's name quickly became a byword in the United States for treason and betrayal because he led the British army in battle against the very men whom he had once commanded.
"To the Inhabitants of America" is an open letter written by former Continental Army Major General Benedict Arnold not long after his defection to the British side in the American Revolutionary War. The letter, dated October 7, 1780, was published in New York on October 11th. In it, he explains his justification for his actions.
William Shippen Sr. was an American physician from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was also a civic and educational leader who represented Pennsylvania in the Continental Congress.
Shadow Patriots is 2005 historical novel by Lucia St. Clair Robson. It tells of the Culper Ring, a group of George Washington's spies operating out of New York City during the Revolution. The story includes familiar names—Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Benedict Arnold, Peggy Shippen—and one unfamiliar number, the mysterious Spy 355. 355 was the Culpers' code for "lady," and after 225 years she remains a nameless heroine who, many historians believe, died for her country.
The Arnold Cipher was a book cipher used by John André and Benedict Arnold during the negotiations that led to Arnold's failed attempt to surrender West Point to the British in 1780.
Edward Shippen was the second mayor of Philadelphia, although under William Penn's charter of 1701, he was considered the first. He was appointed to a one-year term by William Penn in 1701. In 1702, he was elected to a second one-year term, making him the first elected mayor of Philadelphia. He was also a leader of the Province of Pennsylvania, and served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in 1699. He also served as the chief executive for the Province of Pennsylvania as the President of the Provincial Council between 1703 and 1704.
George Washington commanded the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783). After serving as President of the United States, he briefly was in charge of a new army in 1798.
Edward Shippen was an American lawyer, judge, government official, and prominent figure in colonial and post-revolutionary Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The Mischianza, or Meschianza, was an elaborate fête given in honor of British General Sir William Howe in Philadelphia on May 18, 1778.
Ann Bates was a loyalist spy during the American Revolution. Originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Bates was known for her awareness, her intelligence, and her ability to remain calm under pressure. She was commonly referred to as "Mrs. Barnes" by affiliates in her spy networks. She was known to carry an unknown unique token that would eventually identify her as a British spy. She would go on to become a part of British General Clinton's espionage network, and would help the British combat American forces on several fronts. She reportedly took part in various clandestine spy missions between 1778 and 1780. Bates was most well known for her missions completed at George Washington's base camp in White Plains, New York, and during the Rhode Island Campaign or the Battle of Rhode Island.
The military career of Benedict Arnold in 1775 and 1776 covers many of the military actions that occurred in the northernmost Thirteen Colonies early in the American Revolutionary War. Arnold began the war as a captain in Connecticut's militia, a position to which he was elected in March 1775. Following the outbreak of hostilities at Lexington and Concord the following month, his company marched northeast to assist in the siege of Boston that followed. Arnold proposed to the Massachusetts Committee of Safety an action to seize Fort Ticonderoga in New York, which he knew was poorly defended. They issued a colonel's commission to him on May 3, 1775, and he immediately rode off to the west, where he arrived at Castleton in the disputed New Hampshire Grants in time to participate with Ethan Allen and his men in the capture of Fort Ticonderoga. He followed up that action with a bold raid on Fort Saint-Jean on the Richelieu River north of Lake Champlain. He then resigned his Massachusetts commission after a command dispute with the head of a detachment of Connecticut militia troops that arrived in June to reinforce Ticonderoga.
The military career of Benedict Arnold from 1777 to 1779 was marked by two important events in his career. In July 1777, Arnold was assigned to the Continental Army's Northern Department, where he played pivotal roles in bringing about the failure of British Brigadier Barry St. Leger's siege of Fort Stanwix and the American success in the battles of Saratoga, which fundamentally altered the course of the war.
The military career of Benedict Arnold in 1781 consisted of service in the British Army. Arnold had changed sides in September 1780, after his plot was exposed to surrender the key Continental Army outpost at West Point. He spent the rest of 1780 recruiting Loyalists for a new regiment called the American Legion. Arnold was then sent to Virginia with 1,600 men in late December by General Sir Henry Clinton, with instructions to raid Richmond and then establish a strong fortification at Portsmouth.
Benedict Arnold: A Question of Honor is a 2003 American television film directed by Mikael Salomon and starring Aidan Quinn, Kelsey Grammer, Flora Montgomery and John Light. It portrays the career of Benedict Arnold in the American Revolutionary War and his dramatic switch in 1780 from fighting for American Independence to being a Loyalist trying to preserve British rule in America. Arnold's relationships with his wife Peggy Shippen and the British officer John Andre are focused on. The friction between Arnold and General Horatio Gates, portrayed near the beginning of the film, was historically accurate. The movie points out that, before his treason, Arnold was considered a patriot and a hero. A letter from General Washington is read at the beginning where he enthusiastically recommends Arnold for promotion saying that there is no general in the army more deserving and even comparing him to Hannibal. The movie briefly documents Arnold's final years of exile in England in which he laments his treasonous acts, realizing that he is despised and that people compare him with Judas and Lucifer.
HMS Vulture was a 14 to 16-gun ship sloop of the Swan class, launched for the Royal Navy on 18 March 1776. She served during both the American Revolutionary War and the French Revolutionary War, before the Navy sold her in 1802. Vulture is perhaps best known for being the warship to which Benedict Arnold fled on the Hudson River in 1780 after unsuccessfully trying to betray the Continental Army's fortress at West Point, New York to the British.
Joshua Hett Smith House (demolished), also known as Treason House, was a historic house in West Haverstraw, New York. It stood on a hill overlooking the King's Ferry at Stony Point, an important crossing of the Hudson River. During the American Revolutionary War, General Benedict Arnold met at the house with British Major John André, while plotting to surrender the fort at West Point. Later, the house had a brief tenure as headquarters for General George Washington.
Theodosia Bartow Prevost, also known as Theodosia Bartow Burr, was an American Patriot. Raised by a widowed single mother, she married a British Army officer, Jacques Marcus Prevost, at age 17. After the American Revolution began, her own Patriot leanings led her to offer the use of her house, the Hermitage, as a meeting- and resting-place for revolutionaries, including Alexander Hamilton, the Marquis de Lafayette, and Aaron Burr. It was briefly used as the headquarters of George Washington, who counted her amongst his friends. Burr's visit to the Hermitage began a secret romance that, following the death of Prevost's first husband, led to marriage.
The Mersereau Ring, a spy ring operating throughout the New Brunswick and New York regions during the American Revolution, began gathering intelligence on British military activity for General George Washington as early as December 1776. While retreating through New Brunswick, Washington set up the Mersereau Ring through businessman and patriot Joshua Mersereau. According to their initial arrangements, Joshua's eldest son John LaGrange Mersereau was to remain in New Brunswick after American forces retreated. By 1777, the Mersereau Ring expanded into a greater intelligence network operating under Colonel Elias Dayton of the 1st New Jersey Militia.
Sarah "Sally" Townsend (c.1760–1842) was thought to be an informant for George Washington's Culper Ring, a spy ring founded in the summer of 1778. Townsend lived in Oyster Bay and passed information to her brother, Robert Townsend, a main member of the ring. She died in December 1842 and is buried at the Townsend Cemetery.
A pretty, flirtatious teenager, sixteen-year-old Peggy Shippen was overjoyed when a handsome British officer named John André called at her family's Society Hill mansion, invited her to appear at the Mischianza (an extravaganza in honor of General William Howe's departure for London), and sketched her in her turbaned costume as a member of the Turkish harem.
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