It was 1778 and the British controlled New York, and General George Washington knew if he was going to win the war against England he would need to take New York back. He needed eyes and ears on the ground behind enemy lines, and the British weren't going to readily handover information, so he needed men and women that were in a position to gather intelligence and relay that intelligence back to him.
He enlisted Major Benjamin Tallmadge, who was his Director of Military Intelligence, to create a spy ring. Tallmadge's spy ring consisted of friends he met at school on Long Island. It included Austin Roe, Caleb Brewster, Abraham Woodhull, James Rivington, and Anna Strong. This spy ring, known as the Culper Spy Ring, operated from 1778 to 1783. It was probably the most important espionage network in America’s history. Members of the Ring were subjected to intense British scrutiny, and though several were arrested during the course of the war, not a single member was ever unmasked. It ran secret messages 60 miles by horseback through British-held territory from Eastern Long Island into New York City and across the Long Island Sound by small boat to Connecticut.
The Culper Spy Ring achieved more than any other American or British intelligence network during the war. The information collected and passed on by the ring concerned key British troop movements, fortifications, and plans in New York and the surrounding region. Perhaps the group’s greatest achievement came in 1780, when it uncovered British plans to ambush the newly arrived French army in Rhode Island. Without the spy ring’s warnings to Washington, the Franco-American alliance may well have been damaged or destroyed by this surprise attack.
The existence of this spy ring was virtually unknown to the public until the discovery of revealing correspondence in 1929, where it was made known that George Washington attributed the victory of our independence to the Culper Spy Ring. Without the intelligence provided by these people, the Revolutionary War would have been lost. We owe our freedom and our way of life to these true patriots.
For in-depth information on The Culper Spy Ring, I highly recommend a book by Brian Kilmeade, "George Washington's Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved America."
Happy Fourth of July and may God bless these United States of America.
Written by Walt Ryba. July 4, 2022.