George Washington’s spy network was the reason for the success in the Revolutionary War
George Washington’s spy network was the reason for the success in the Revolutionary War. George Washington carefully picked a group of people to lead this spy network, and he picked these people for a reason. This spy network provided him with important information that he needed to when the war. Without George Washington’s spy network we would not have had the outcome we had in the war.
The need for a spy ring was an often thought about topic during the Revolutionary War. Knowing this need Washington wrote a letter to Nathaniel Sackett in February, 1777. The New York merchant was offered fifty dollars a month to set up a spy ring to learn “the earliest and best intelligence of the designs of the enemy.” After a few months, they realized the job and finding the right man for the job was harder than they thought because this and other attempts had failed. During the battle of Long Island we suffered a great defeat, letting the British invade Long Island New York City. It was then in 1778 that George Washington assigned Major Benjamin Tallmadge as his Chief of Intelligence and he created a spy ring that lasted all the way through the Revolutionary War. It was strongly needed in the success if the war. The British had taken over Long Island, New York. Washington needed something so he could learn the British movements and strategies.
George Washington was the superior in the spy ring and occasionally directed the operation. However, the ring was directly organized and controlled by Benjamin Tallmadge who went by the name John Bolton. Tallmadge recruited some Patriot friends from Long Island, New York but some volunteered too. The key members of the ring were Nathan Hale, Austin Roe, Anna Strong, James Lafayette , Caleb Brewster, and many more including Agent 355, a women spy who’s name is still unknown. The main members were Abraham Woodhull and Robert Townsend. Abraham Woodhull used the alias Samuel Culper Senior and Robert Townsend went by Samuel Culper Junior. In this ring, George Washington went by Agent 711.
Nathan Hale was captain in the Continental Army and volunteered to go under disguise and find out the British troop movements. On his first mission, he was captured and executed by the British Army for being a spy. One of his famous quotes is, “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” Austin Roe served as the spy group’s courier. He took information from his New York City shop all the way to Setauket, Long Island. This job was a very dangerous job, traveling such a long way with crucial information and with the possibility of being caught put him at great danger. Anna Strong, the wife of Captain Selah Strong III, used her clothesline to help in the war. She arranged her clothes on the clothesline to transfer her information as to where the location of hidden documents was to be moved and they also represented places and people. James Armistead Lafayette was an enslaved African American that volunteered to be an agent. He was an agent that posed as a run away slave who acted like he was working for the British but was actually collecting information.
George Washington asked Tallmadge to create the spy ring where British headquarters were in New York City and he did just so. Abraham Woodhull joined the spy ring in November 1778 and was one of the main members and partial leader. He was the son of a Patriot judge and a farmer. He was in charge of the information that was put around throughout the group. Caleb Brewster was a spy from the very beginning. He taunted the British from his whaler and would smuggle goods. He was very knowledgeable about the waterways and knew his way through them making it easy for him to escape the British by ducking into coves. There was spy named Hercules Mulligan that worked for the Continental Army. He owned a business in New York City and wasn’t a member, but was known for working with the Culper Spy Ring.
The main information that the Culper Spy ring uncovered was the movements and plans of the British. Also, the ring uncovered Britain’s plan to attack French troops that were coming to the aid of the Americans and the treason of General Benedict Arnold. During the Revolution, The Culper Spy ring was one of the first spy rings that was successful and uncovered critical information that gave George Washington the intelligence he needed to out smart the British. One of their biggest successes was uncovering the British’s plan to ambush the French. The French were arriving to aide the American against the British. With the spy rings help, we were able to trick the British into not doing that. The French were traveling across the Atlantic Ocean to provide the much needed boost of morale and troops for the Americans. There was a rumor going around that General Clinton of The British Army had learned of this fleet. If the British were to intercept them we would have been devastated. Washington didn’t know when or where the French would land, if the British in fact knew if they were coming and if they did know, what Clinton would do about it. Washington needed eyes and ears on the British to learn what they knew. On July 11th sent an urgent letter to Tallmedge to reorganize the Culper spy Ring. “As we may every moment except arrival of the French Fleet a revival of correspondence with the Culpers will be a very great importance.” This it part of what Washington wrote to him. When Washington wrote this letter he did not know that the French had already landed in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island.
On July 14, Tallmedge received the letter and sprung into action. He replied to him promptly and then said he would set out the next morning to find Brewster, which he did. When he located him he then went off to find Woodhull but he was sadly ill. Instead of him, Austin Roe got on a horse and headed to alert Townsend in New York. Washington now knew that the French had landed and that General Clinton also had to have known. Now, it was Townsend’s mission to spy on the British and see what they would do to the arrival of the French fleets. Townsend was in his mission for four days and gathered information about the British. He then wrote down what he found out between the lines of a fake apology note on one of his order forms from his store in invisible ink and sent it to Washington. When the note had finally reached George Washington after going through most of the members of the ring, he learned that the British were waiting for the French with lots of man power. In learning this Washington was able to plan out what he would do to handle this situation. Leaving the Culper spy ring with a successful mission completed and leading to the success of the war.
The Culper’s intelligence also lead to the finding out of General Benedict Arnold’s treason. Benedict grew up living in the shadow of his brother, so all his life he wanted recognition and praise. He spent a lot of his life trying to make the Americans appreciate him but he just made a fool of himself. He started to side with the British however he needed to gain their trust. To accomplish that he had to convince the Americans to trust him with their crucial information. This led to suspicion from both sides. General Clinton always had a spy watching him and the Culper members were also always aware of him. Agent 355 was doing her best to gain information at a Loyalist party in New York. The party guests included the wealthiest Loyalists of New York and the most supreme British officers. She couldn’t help but overhear a few officers talking about how they disapproved of Benedict. They talked a little bit about how he was a merchant that turned into a Major General because he was desperate for cash and praise, and would go to great lengths for both. Learning this triggered great suspicion about Benedict. With the intelligence from the Culper Spy Ring, the doubt fullness of Benedict’s intentions were learned and this soon lead to his capture.
Without learning about the treason of Benedict Arnold, we would have been in a very vulnerable spot. While pretending to be sympathetic to the Americans, Benedict was trying to learn of our movements and plans. Also, he wrote letters to Washington asking him the names of the spies and pleaded it would improve the fort. If we had continued to trust Benedict, this crucial information would have been passed to the British and been harmful to our efforts in the was. The intelligence and knowledge of the Culper Spy ring prevented this.
In learning about the plan for treason by Benedict Arnold, the spy ring also uncovered information about the British’s spymaster. Their spymaster was named John Anderson but used the pseudonym John André. The spy’s recorded information and descriptions of him helped Tallmadge put together who Anderson was and prevented Tallmadge from falling for Arnold’s tricks. Anderson was part of a plan with Arnold to surrender Fort West Point. After the plan to surrender the fort was shattered. Though Benedict was caught, the Culper Ring didn’t stop all of the many schemes he planned.
George Washington thought, if I have spies working in secret then so must General Washington so this job took concealment. After the hanging of one of the spies, Nathan Hale George Washington asked and demanded that the ring stay extremely secretive. The ring stayed so secretive that even he didn’t know all the members of the ring and never found out who they were. Many names of the members were never discovered and the identity of the spy with the fake name, “Culper Junior” was not discovered to be Robert Townsend until 1929. The ring had so many clever ways to communicate. Some methods were coded messages, invisible ink and a numbering system that was used to represent places and people. With the knowledge of spies watching them the members of the Culper spy ring had to be as classified as possible, and the agents did just so.
All of the information and the intelligence of the spies was the reason for our success in the Revolutionary War.