Washington’s Spies by Alexander Rose

Washington's Spies

Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring covers the American Revolutionary War and the state of spying in the 1780s. The commanders: British General Henry Clinton and American General George Washington used their spies differently and paid them poorly considering how many ended up caught and hung. Not much came from spying. The war certainly didn’t hinge on it. The British army had a hard time getting out of New York city, as the war dragged on the British managed to alienate their supporters including the Whigs back home. Rose covers spying during the the American Revolutionary War; mostly by the Patriots, as the American needed to know what Clinton was up to on the island. The war begins to devolve with a third side (pirates and privateers) fighting (robbing) the American Patriots and the Loyalist Tories. Rose covers the Benedict Arnold episode in some detail and also covers the post-war nation- how the spies were treated and when (or if) the stories of spying came out.

384 pages

Excerpts From My Kindle

His [lost words] were certainly not, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country”; that phrase, lifted from Joseph Addison’s contemporary play Cato, was put into his mouth many years later by William Hull and other friends. Hull could not have known what Hale said in his final moments, though he did remember that Hale had been struck by Cato when at Yale, and that he and Hull and Tallmadge had talked excitedly of its brilliance. Perhaps he had specifically cited the I regret line as representative of his patriotic views, and Hull, loyal as ever, allowed his friend the posthumous privilege of uttering it. What Hale really said was caught by Captain Frederick MacKenzie, who wrote in his diary for September 22: He behaved with great composure and resolution, saying he thought it the duty of every good officer, to obey any orders given him by his commander in chief; and desired the spectators to be at all times prepared to meet death in whatever shape it might appear. Later that day, a Howe aide wrote a terse, routine entry in the orderly book: A spy from the enemy (by his own full confession) apprehended last night, was this day executed at 11 o-Clock in front of the Artillery Park. – location 614-624

The new agent was Robert Townsend soon unimaginatively aliased Samuel Culper, Junior and bestowed the code number 723. A secretive, reserved man who found it difficult to form permanent attachments, Townsend remained a lifelong bachelor. He kept his spying activities so much to himself that even the nineteenth-century Townsend family history, which might otherwise be expected to laud him to the skies, contains precisely one unremarkable sentence on the man called Culper, Jr.: Robert, son of Samuel, died unmarried, March 7, 1838. – location 2296-2300

An ashamed British officer recalled, We planted an irrecoverable hatred wherever we went, which neither time nor measures will be able to eradicate. – location 2862-2863

In short order, Heron had begun working two parts and was profiting both ways. His theatrical role as William Heron, Esq., covert Patriot and American spy, brought him closer to Parsons, who innocently provided the intelligence Heron then sold to De Lancey in his alternate guise as Hiram, covert Loyalist and British spy. Likewise, whenever he returned from New York, Heron passed on to Parsons nuggets of intelligence hed picked up either from De Lancey or on the way home to Connecticut. – location 4255-4259


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