By Wyatt Earp | October 5, 2011
On this day, General George Washington writes to the president of the Continental Congress, John Jay, to inform him that a letter from Dr. Benjamin Church, surgeon general of the Continental Army, to Lieutenant General Sir Thomas Gage, British commander in chief for North America, had been intercepted. Washington wrote, “I have now a painful tho’ a Necessary Duty to perform respecting Doctor Church, Director General of the Hospital.”
Benedict Arnold may have been the Revolution’s most renowned traitor, but he certainly was not the only one.
How was Church revealed? A woman . . .
Washington described how a coded letter to a British officer, Major Crane, came into Washington’s possession by a convoluted route from “a Woman who was kept by Doctor Church.”
The woman Washington interrogated was the mistress of Dr. Benjamin Church, a renowned Boston physician. In July 1775, Washington had named Church the first surgeon general of the Continental Army, only to find out three months later that he had been spying for the British since 1772. Despite Church’s plea of innocence, he was charged with treason, convicted and sentenced to life in prison. After becoming ill while incarcerated, Dr. Church was exiled to the West Indies.
The ship in which he traveled is believed to have been lost at sea.
Yeah, that’s just what the British wanted us to think!