Essay on American Spies: The Secret of Washington’s Culper Spy Ring

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The American Revolution saw the rise of the American spy, and the father of these spies was George Washington, commander in Chief of the Continental Army. The siege of New York demonstrated the importance and dire need for an intelligence to General Washington. Unfortunately, the difficulty, at least initially, lay with finding people willing and able to serve in this manner. Upon recognizing the necessity for a network of subterfuge, Washington created the Culper spy ring. Housed in New York City under the command of Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge, its purpose was more than merely gaining intelligence. It also was tasked with planting and passing false intelligence to the British. Looking back, the questions that must be asked are: What…show more content…
George Washington himself was unaware of the members, even going as far as stating that he had no interest in knowing who the spies were. In Benjamin Tallmadge’s memoir, written by his son, the “two principle agents were known in the correspondence as Culper Senior and Culper Junior”. An article in the Magazine of American History, dated 1877, reflects this same lack of information. According to the author, all that was certain was that “Washington employed the secret service on the highest possible grounds” Shortly after he assumed command of the Army, Washington recorded that he had “furnished a certain person, whose name he withholds, with $333 1/3 ‘to go in to the city of Boston to establish a secret correspondence, for the purpose of conveying intelligence of the enemy’s movements and designs’”. However, it was not until the siege of New York that Washington had need of the use of an intelligence service. As Washington himself was not new to the spy game, since he had spied during the French and Indian War, he was familiar with the problems inherent in intelligence gathering. His biggest problem was not acquiring accurate information, but in getting that information out of the city. Washington’s first spy was Nathan Hale, who failed to gather even one piece of information before he was caught and hanged by the British.

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