Essay Example on The Culper Spy Ring

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Cristiano Cornecelli Speech Ms Wentzel 12 3 2017 The Culper Spy Ring Many things were important during the American Revolution but one of the most important things were the Culper Spy Ring British forces stayed in New York in August 1776 the city would be a British stronghold for the rest of the Revolutionary War Though getting information from New York on British troop movements and other plans were of the utmost importance to General George Washington commander of the Continental Army there was no reliable intelligence network that existed on the Patriot side That changed in 1778 when a young officer named Benjamin Tallmadge established a small group of men and women from his hometown of Setauket Long Island Tallmadge s homegrown network or the Culper Spy Ring would become the most effective of any intelligence-gathering operation on either side during the Revolutionary War In September 1766 officer Nathan Hale was hanged after being caught infiltrating the British lines to get information Around this time was when young Benjamin Tallmadge enlisted in the Continental army After 3 years he was awarded the title of major and appointed as the head of the secret service


He only hired people he absolutely trusted starting with his childhood friend Abraham Woodhull and Caleb Brewster whos job was commanding a fleet of whale boats against British and Tory shipping in the South of Long Island Caleb Brewster the most daring in the secret service was the only identified spy Austin Roe owned a tavern in Setauket and acted as a courier for the Culper ring He rode to Manhattan with the excuse of buying supplies for his business Anna Strong was also said to have helped the Culper Spy Ring Her husband Selah Strong had been confined on the British prison ship in Jersey 1778 and Anna Strong lived alone for much of the war It was said she used the laundry on her clothesline as signals about Brewster s location for meetings Even though Woodhull was Tallmadge s head agent Robert Townsend was an important source who acted as a Loyalist coffee shop owner and merchant Townsend was able to get information from the British at different gatherings Woodhull who started running the group's operations on Long Island personally traveled back and forth to New York collecting information He would check the reports and decide which documents would be sent to Washington All documents delivered to Washington had to be sent through British territory Austin Roe went on a journey from Setauket Long Island to New York City There Roe placed an order from Tallmadge who signed under his code name John Bolton


The documents were hidden in goods that Roe took back to Setauket and hid on Abraham Woodhull s farm Anna Strong farm which was near Woodhull s barn would hang a black petticoat on her clothesline for Caleb Brewster in order to tell him to retrieve the documents Strong indicated which cove Brewster should land at by hanging up handkerchiefs to designate the specific cove Brewster would then deliver the messages to Tallmadge The scheme worked well most of the time but Washington's letter dated June 27 1779 signifies the dangers of this route Tallmadge was on his way from Washington's headquarters to drop this letter off with one of the Culpers Townsend who knew he was coming attempted to warn Tallmadge about possible raids in Connecticut Woodhull forwarded the message with his own similar warning but Tallmadge did not receive the warnings He and some ninety troops were near Bedford New York at Poundridge when they were attacked at dawn by Lord Roudon s and a body of light infantry Tallmadge lost his horse and most importantly his secret papers from Washington including a letter of the utmost importance This letter mentions the Culpers by code not revealing their true identity which no one knew but Tallmadge 



The letter also mentioned George Higday who was going to help the ring As a result of the letter s loss Higday was not able to join Washington made sure that he was notified quickly of this discovery Although Higday s place was raided the British found no papers because he had had time to destroy all evidence In order to safeguard the identity of his spies Tallmadge used a number of protective methods Tallmadge gave his informants fake names and invented a numerical system to identify his informants rather than use names Seven hundred and sixty three numbers were used 711 was General Washington 745 was England and 727 was New York Tallmadge and his associates also wrote in invisible ink Despite constant pressure from Washington the Culper spy ring accomplished the most information gathering on both sides of the Revolutionary war The group s greatest achievement was discovering the ambush planned on French troops in Rhode Island Without the Culper Spy Ring the Franco American alliance could have been hurt severely or destroyed They also contributed to the revealing of Benedict Arnold and John Andre both conspiring to give the British control over West Point Without the Culper Spy Ring the American Revolution could have been a British victory over the US



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