October 20, 1780: Sergeant Champe Starts His Mission to Capture Traitor Benedict Arnold

Oct 20, 2017

The Escape of Sergeant Champe
Credit Valerius Tygart via Wikimedia Commons

On the night of October 20, 1780, Sergeant Major John Champe set off on a mission to track down the traitor Benedict Arnold.  Arnold had recently betrayed the Americans by agreeing to surrender the fortifications at West Point, New York, to the British. His scheme was discovered at the last minute, and Arnold escaped to British lines.

Weeks later, John Champe was handpicked by George Washington to pursue Arnold. Champe pretended to defect to the British, gained Arnold’s confidence, and collected intelligence about British plans. His scheme to capture Arnold was foiled when his British unit, Champe included, was sent to fight in Virginia.

Champe served with the British in Virginia for several months before escaping. When he returned to the American side, Washington and other generals were afraid to put him back into battle because, if captured, Champe could now be executed as a spy.

With Washington’s encouragement, Champe and his family soon settled near the present Grant- Pendleton County line. Champe Rocks, located north of the larger Seneca Rocks off West Virginia Route 28, are named for the Revolutionary War soldier.