The Sergeant Major’s Strange Mission


Although his mission had failed, Champe had performed an extraordinary duty with faithfulness, courage, and daring. In order to prevent his being taken in battle by the enemy and hanged, Lee granted him an honorary discharge, and sent him as a civilian back to the remote security of Loudoun County, Virginia, to sit out the rest of the war.

Had Sergeant Champe succeeded in taking Arnold, he would at least have won his promotion. As it turned out, he received no reward whatever. He died years before the Congress, in 1818, established pensions for Revolutionary veterans, although his widow in 1837, when nearly eighty, was granted $120 per annum as the needy relict of a Revolutionary soldier. Ironically, however, in 1847, Sergeant Champe was awarded a sort of posthumous promotion: that year, in consideration of his special service, the Congress of the United States granted his descendants an amount equal to the commutation pay of an ensign in the Continental service.