Peggy Shippen: Socialite & Accomplice

Socialite & Accomplice

Born into a renowned Philadelphia family, the beautiful and politically astute Margaret “Peggy” Shippen was surrounded by people of influence at a young age. In 1777, the 17-year-old began a long friendship with British Major John André, Adjutant General and intelligence chief to British Commanding General Sir Henry Clinton. That same year, she was also introduced to Benedict Arnold, marrying the American general two years later.

Peggy Shippen,
wife of Benedict Arnold

Born into a renowned Philadelphia family, the beautiful and politically astute Margaret “Peggy” Shippen was surrounded by people of influence at a young age. In 1777, the 17-year-old began a long friendship with British Major John André, Adjutant General and intelligence chief to British Commanding General Sir Henry Clinton. That same year, she was also introduced to Benedict Arnold, marrying the American general two years later.

A Willing Co-Conspirator

Her friendship with André allowed Shippen to easily connect him to her husband. By some accounts, it was Shippen who first encouraged Arnold to consider siding with the British. She also relayed communications between the two officers, sometimes crafting the messages herself. It was through these communications that the pair devised their scheme for Arnold to request command of West Point.

Following André’s capture, Shippen was informed of her husband’s treachery but claimed ignorance and feigned a hysterical state. Later banished from Philadelphia, she was permitted to reunite with Arnold, and in the wake of the final British defeat, the couple moved to London.

Portrait of Peggy Shippen with her daughter. image icon Peggy Shippen and daughter