A World Winder exclusive by Guest Blogger, Shane Cashman of Future Ancestor.
Along Philipstown, New York’s Hudson River shoreline, just south of the Garrison Metro-North station lays the narrow woodland path that served as the escape route for America’s most notorious traitor, Benedict Arnold.
Now, 231 years after Arnold took command at West Point—a position he accepted to facilitate his anticipated treason, there stands a picturesque gazebo overlooking the Hudson River that the infamous traitor fled down. The gazebo serves as a charming place to spend time watching tugboats pass by, with a great view of West Point, the United States Military Academy, directly across the river.
Planning A Trip to West Point & the Benedict Arnold Gazebo
There are well placed benches and a kiosk describing Arnold’s plight along the escape route with exceptional views of West Point. West Point being a constant reminder of one of the major history-altering events that have taken place in Putnam County, New York.
It is hard to enjoy the view of the gazebo without thinking of how things could have turned out should Arnold have succeeded. The gazebo is a well-kept secret tucked in the woods beside the river. It is perfect for a quick rest along the beautiful trail, and also a great spot to have a picnic. During autumn, the forest and the river between it explode with deep reds, yellows, and oranges and is an ideal time to visit.
The town of Coldspring is five minutes north of the gazebo and offers a slew of great places to grab food and drink. For a great sit-down meal there is The Depot, Hudson Hills, The Foundry, and Whistling Willies among others in the sleepy town. There is also a good deal of antique shops in Coldspring for anyone looking for some great vintage clothes, furniture, music, etc.
For a quick way to get some great food to bring with you for a gazebo-picnic there is the Appalachian Market and Garrison Market, both in Garrison and both are also only five minutes from the trail to the gazebo.
To retrace Benedict Arnold’s infamous steps, there are two entrances that lead to the trail off of Route 9D in Garrison. Turn down Glenclyffe Road, at the sign for the Garrison Institute. There is a small parking lot above the entrance to the trail that will lead directly to the exact overlook where Arnold departed. Also, down Lower Station Road, just outside the entrance to the Metro-North station parking lot are two stone pillars that lead into the Arden Point trail, which also leads to the gazebo and overlook. The trail is easy to access and makes for a great walk, especially now that the leaves are about to change color and recede some, making West Point even more visible through the thick forest.
Revolutionary History along the Hudson River
While in command of West Point, Benedict Arnold resided at the Robinson House, directly across the river in what is now Garrison, beneath Sugar Loaf Mountain near Garrison’s Landing. The home once belonged to Beverley Robinson, a loyalist to England whose estate was taken by the Continental Army. Arnold was advised not to stay there, as it was not within the safe confines of West Point.
Arnold, however, knew that the Robinson House, safely outside of West Point, would allow for a perfect getaway when the British made their assault on West Point.
Using Major John Andre, the British spy chief, as an intermediary, Arnold communicated with Sir Henry Clinton, the British Commander-in-Chief. Arnold gave away the locations of Continental soldiers and the whereabouts of heavily stocked supply depots. As he negotiated a price for West Point with the British, Arnold began to divide up large numbers of troops in West Point to guarantee its vulnerability against an attack.
On September 21, 1780, Benedict Arnold and John Andre met for the first time, after having communicated for months through letters sent in code and invisible ink. The HMS Vulture, a British warship brought Andre up the Hudson River to meet with Arnold. The next morning, Colonel James Livingston of the Continental Army ordered his troops to fire upon the ship. The attack forced the Vulture downriver, leaving Andre behind. Since Andre would have to ride on land back to the Vulture, Arnold supplied the British spy with plainclothes and a passport to help him return safely to the warship without being captured by patriots. Arnold also gave Andre his plans, detailing how to capture West Point.
After a day of riding undetected, Andre was stopped in Tarrytown by three armed militiamen whom he mistook for British loyalists because one of the men was wearing a Hessian Soldier’s overcoat. The men were suspect of Andre and took him into custody where they would find his poorly hidden plans from Arnold in his boot.
On September 24, hearing that Washington’s army had captured John Andre, which he knew would expose him as a traitor, Arnold was forced to retreat in haste.
Fully aware of the consequences of high treason, death by hanging, Arnold hurried down the small path near the Robinson House, leaving his young socialite wife, Margaret, and newborn child behind. It was a path he would have traveled many times to cross the Hudson River into West Point.
He fled to the overlook where he commanded the bargemen to row him promptly downriver to the HMS Vulture. He then surrendered the men who helped him flee to the British and sailed south to safety.
Arnold avoided being hanged as he made it into British held territory.
Today the path to the gazebo is mostly unchanged and there are clearings amid the dense forests along Arnold’s escape route, where West Point is visible. But the Robinson House, which became known as the “treason house,” burned down in 1892.