Sgt Maj John Champe Chapter Commemorates their namesake: Revolutionary War Hero - Sgt Maj John Champe
23 April 2022 John Champe homesite Middleburg, VA
The Sgt Maj John Champe Chapter sponsored the commemoration of Revolutionary War patriot and hero Sergeant Major John Champe at the Champe homesite in Middleburg, VA. Participating were four officers of the Virginia Society (VASSAR), and representatives of the Fairfax Resolves Chapter (FR), George Washington Chapter (GW), Colonel William Grayson (CWG) and Colonel James Wood II Chapter (CJWII). The Daughters of the American Revolution were represented by Stone Bridge (SB), Ketoctin (KT), and Lanes Mill (LM). The Children of the American Revolution had representatives from the Rev John Marks (RJM) and Colonel William Grayson (CWG) Societies. Ken Bonner, President of SMJC, emceed the program with Chaplain duties by Right Rev Larry Johnson (CJWII). Greetings were given by Jeff Thomas, Alternate National Trustee and Past President of VASSAR; Ernest Coggins, 1st Vice President VASSAR and Dr Michael Weyler, Governor of the Virginia Order of Founders and Patriots of America. Steven Powers (SMJC) gave a biographical sketch on Sgt Maj Champe.
John Champe was a Revolutionary War soldier and hero. He was born in 1752, near Aldie Virginia. In 1776, he enlisted in the Virginia Cavalry and quickly rose to the rank of Sergeant Major in the unit commanded by Major Henry Lee III, later known as "Lee's Legion". In October 1780, near Bergen, New Jersey, the legion was camped across the river from New York City and British encampments. A month earlier, Benedict Arnold had deserted to the British. General George Washington wanted to capture Arnold, who was in New York recruiting men to fight for the British. Washington developed a plan to capture, court-martial and make an example of the traitor Benedict Arnold. This would require an individual to be a double agent, act as a traitor to the colonial cause and infiltrate the British forces. The soldier would ride through American pickets and board a boat that would cross the Hudson. In New York, he would present himself as a deserter and gain Arnold's confidence. With the aid of an accomplice, he would kidnap Arnold and bring him back to the American camp. Major Lee told Washington, that John Champe was the right man for the job. Lee's Memoirs describe Champe as "Rather above the common size -- full of bone and muscle -- grave, thoughtful, taciturn -- of tried courage and inflexible perseverance". Champe accepted the assignment and at about 11:00 pm on 20 October 1780, rode away from camp with his personal effects, weapons and the unit Orderly Book to prove his desertion. Only a handful of American leaders knew of the plan. Champe was chased by and shot at by his own unit. He eventually made it to the river and was captured by the British.
Taken to British Headquarters, he convinced Arnold of his desertion and was assigned as a recruiting sergeant. The job gave him access to Arnold's home where he observed Arnold and his nightly routine. A plan was made with sympathizers to seize Arnold on his evening stroll, take him to a waiting boat and transport him across the Hudson. Before the plot could be put into play, Arnold moved the headquarters to another part of Manhattan, taking Champe with him. Arnold then moved his forces to Virginia. Once in Virginia, Champe served in the British Army for months before finding a way to escape back to the Continental Army. Upon rejoining the Americans, Champe wanted to continue fighting the British, but Major Lee dissuaded him from it. It was noted that if captured, he would now be hanged as a spy. Lee believed Champe had acquitted himself well and discharged him honorably from the Continental Army. After the War, Washington personally recommended Champe for the position of Sergeant-at-Arms for the Continental Congress. His name was recorded as such in the Congressional log dated 25 August 1783. After serving, he returned to Loudoun County near what is now Champe Ford Road. An obelisk was erected near the site of that home using stones from the home. NSDAR installed a marker on the obelisk in 1939. He later moved his family to what is now Pendleton County West Virginia. He married Phebe Susan Barnard and they raised six children. He died 30 September 1798 in Fort Prickett in what is now West Virginia. Sergeant Major John Champe was a true hero of the American Revolution.
The Color guard and musket squad was commanded by Barry Schwoerer (SMJC). Wreath presentations were made by representatives of the participating organizations followed by a musket salute from the Virginia State Color Guard. Photos courtesy of Steven Powers.
Presentation of Colors, L-R: Barry Schwoerer, Ken Bonner (back view), Michael Weyler, Dale Corey, Brett Osborn (Obscured by 250th flag), Christian Powers (SMJC junior member