by Shuan Butcher, JTHG Director of Communications
The new Argo movie that hit the big screen recently is based on the true story of CIA agent Tony Mendez (who lives in Washington County, Maryland). He isn’t the first person within the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area that has engaged in espionage activities. Here are a few other examples and lessons from the past as well.
John Champe, born in Loudoun County, Virginia in 1752, was a Revolutionary War soldier in the Continental Army. He was handpicked by George Washington and Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee for a mission, to capture the American traitor Benedict Arnold. Champe “defected” to the British side where he was introduced to Arnold. There, he formulated a plot to capture Arnold and he came very close to succeeding, but plans changed and the whole endeavor had to be called off. After that, it took Champe several months before he could return back to the Continental Army. In his honor, the Confederate rifle company from Aldie, Virginia named themselves “Champe’s Rifles” during the American Civil War.
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Although not from this region, it was the actions of Henry Thomas Harrison within the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area during the Civil War that made him known. He became a spy for Confederate Secretary of War James Seddon and then General Longstreet in 1863. On June 28th that year, he shared with Longstreet the news that Federal forces were located around Frederick, Maryland and advancing north, as well as the information that Union General George Meade had replaced Joseph Hooker as commander of the Army of the Potomac. With Confederate troops being stretched thin along a wide swath of land in south central Pennsylvania, so alarmed was Longstreet by the news that he sent Harrison to relay it to General Robert E. Lee, who then made the decision to concentrate his troops at Gettysburg. The move prevented the Union from being able to take on smaller groups of the enemy, but it also resulted in the epic three-day Battle of Gettysburg, where over 50,000 soldiers were killed, wounded, captured or missing in action.
NOTE: Also check out the student-created vodcast about Jack Sterry, a Union spy in a Confederate uniform, as part of the Of the Student, By the Student, For the Student™ program at:
(Sources: Americancivilwar.org, Monticello.org, nps.gov)
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