2021 Washington's Spies: new arrival The Story of America's First outlet online sale Spy Ring online

2021 Washington's Spies: new arrival The Story of America's First outlet online sale Spy Ring online

2021 Washington's Spies: new arrival The Story of America's First outlet online sale Spy Ring online
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2021 Washington's Spies: new arrival The Story of America's First outlet online sale Spy Ring online__left

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Turn: Washington’s Spies, now an original series on AMC

Based on remarkable new research, acclaimed historian Alexander Rose brings to life the true story of the spy ring that helped America win the Revolutionary War. For the first time, Rose takes us beyond the battlefront and deep into the shadowy underworld of double agents and triple crosses, covert operations and code breaking, and unmasks the courageous, flawed men who inhabited this wilderness of mirrors—including the spymaster at the heart of it all.

In the summer of 1778, with the war poised to turn in his favor, General George Washington desperately needed to know where the British would strike next. To that end, he unleashed his secret weapon: an unlikely ring of spies in New York charged with discovering the enemy’s battle plans and military strategy.

Washington’s small band included a young Quaker torn between political principle and family loyalty, a swashbuckling sailor addicted to the perils of espionage, a hard-drinking barkeep, a Yale-educated cavalryman and friend of the doomed Nathan Hale, and a peaceful, sickly farmer who begged Washington to let him retire but who always came through in the end. Personally guiding these imperfect everyday heroes was Washington himself. In an era when officers were gentlemen, and gentlemen didn’ t spy, he possessed an extraordinary talent for deception—and proved an adept spymaster.

The men he mentored were dubbed the Culper Ring. The British secret service tried to hunt them down, but they escaped by the closest of shaves thanks to their ciphers, dead drops, and invisible ink. Rose’s thrilling narrative tells the unknown story of the Revolution–the murderous intelligence war, gunrunning and kidnapping, defectors and executioners—that has never appeared in the history books. But Washington’s Spies is also a spirited, touching account of friendship and trust, fear and betrayal, amid the dark and silent world of the spy.

Review

“Alexander Rose tells this important story with style and wit.” —Pulitzer Prize–winning author Joseph J. Ellis
 
“Fascinating . . . Spies proved to be the tipping point in the summer of 1778, helping Washington begin breaking the stalemate with the British. . . . [Alexander] Rose’s book brings to light their crucial help in winning American independence.” Chicago Tribune
 
“[Rose] captures the human dimension of spying, war and leadership . . . from the naive twenty-one-year-old Nathan Hale, who was captured and executed, to the quietly cunning Benjamin Tallmadge, who organized the ring in 1778, to the traitorous Benedict Arnold.” The Wall Street Journal
 
“Rose gives us intrigue, crossed signals, derring-do, and a priceless slice of eighteenth-century life. Think of Alan Furst with muskets.” —Richard Brookhiser, author of Founding Father
 
“A compelling portrait of [a] rogues’ gallery of barkeeps, misfits, hypochondriacs, part-time smugglers, and full-time neurotics that will remind every reader of the cast of a John le Carré novel.” —Arthur Herman, National Review

About the Author

Alexander Rose earned his doctorate from Cambridge University, where his prizewinning research focused on political and scientific history. He is the author of Kings in the North: The House of Percy in British History and American Rifle: A Biography, and his writing has appeared in The New York Observer, The Washington Post, and many other publications.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter One


"As Subtil & Deep as Hell Itself": Nathan Hale and the Spying Game


The Yankee soldier, flinty once but now wizened and gnarled, flashed in and out of lucidity. Sometimes his memories of a war fought sixty years before gushed liberally from his lips, but more often, for half hours at a time, he would slouch in vacant-eyed silence. His visiting relative, R. N. Wright, recorded despondently that Asher Wright "is now in the eighty-second year of his life, and besides the infirmities of advanced age, has been affected in his mind, ever since the melancholy death of his young master, Captain Nathan Hale. What is gathered of him, can be learnt only at intervals and when he is in the humor of conversation."1

One evening in 1836, though, Asher was particularly loquacious, and spoke so excitedly his companion taxed himself hard to scribble down the old man''s words. Wright the Younger used whatever came to hand--a blank leaf in the book he had been reading (Hume''s History of England, as it happened)--for he knew that he was listening to one of a diminishing band of brothers of the Revolutionary War. Indeed, Asher was a particularly venerated member of that generation: Not only one of the few remaining men who had known the legendary Captain Hale, Asher Wright was also the last surviving Patriot to have seen Hale alive. He had shaved and dressed him on the very morning of his departure.2

"When he left us, he told me he had got to be absent a while, and wanted I should take care of his things & if the army moved before he returned, have them moved too. . . . He was too good-looking to go so. He could not deceive. Some scrubby fellows ought to have gone. He had marks [scars] on his forehead, so that anybody would know him who had ever seen him--having had [gun]powder flashed in his face. He had a large hair mole on his neck just where the knot come. In his boyhood, his playmates sometimes twitted him about it, telling him he would be hanged."

One of those playmates might well have been Asher Wright. A local boy, he had grown up with Hale, but they had parted ways after Nathan went off to Yale, a place far beyond the modest means of Wright''s family. They met again during the war, when Hale''s first "waiter," his servant, had fallen sick, and though the man eventually recovered (Wright ascribed it to Hale''s practice of praying for him), he could not continue in the post. "Capt. Hale was [of] a mind I should take his place," recalled Wright, "And I did & remained with him till he went on to Long Island."

Tired of his exertions, Wright could add little more to his recollections--apart from one nugget. Nathan Hale, today immortalized as the "Martyr-Spy of the Revolution," wasn''t even supposed to have become a spy in the first place. "James Sprague, my aunt''s cousin . . . he was desired by Col[onel] Knowlton, to go on to Long Island. He refused, saying, I am willing to go & fight them, but as for going among them & being taken & hung up like a dog, I will not do it." No soldiers, let alone officers, in Knowlton''s Rangers--Hale''s regiment--wanted to take the ignoble job of secret agent, an occupation considered inappropriate for gentlemen, and one best suited for blackguards, cheats, and cowards. And it was then, remembered Asher, that "Hale stood by and said, I will undertake the business."3

Born on June 6, 1755, the sixth child in a large family, Nathan Hale was of good and middling, and most respectable, Connecticut stock. The first Hale--one Robert, reputedly descended from a knightly family in Kent--arrived in Massachusetts from England in the early 1630s, and turned his hand to blacksmithing. He was evidently an assiduous one, for he managed to acquire several fields along the Mystic River. His son John attended the newly founded Harvard College, graduating in 1657 and becoming a Calvinist pastor of robust persuasion near Salem, where he participated in the witch trials but later recanted his temporary insanity. One of John''s sons, Richard--Nathan''s father--left for Connecticut in about 1744 and settled in Coventry, twenty miles east of Hartford, where fertile farming land was still to be had. On his mother''s side, Nathan was descended from Elder John Strong, an immigrant who sailed aboard the Mary and John in 1630 from Plymouth. It was his great-great-granddaughter, Elizabeth, who married Richard and begat Nathan.

As was only to be expected of strict New England Congregationalists, Nathan was taught to revere magistrates and ministers as God''s chosen servants, and to observe each Sabbath as if it were his final one on this earth. He pronounced grace thrice daily, attended church twice on Sundays, and declaimed prayers once before bed.

When Nathan was twelve, his mother died, and the Strongs took his education in hand. As there were several men of the cloth on the Strong side, Nathan was marked down for a clerical career, for which a college education was essential. In preparation for his entry to Yale--where the Strongs had connections--Nathan had Cicero, Cato, and Horace beaten into him by the Reverend Dr. Huntingdon, a man of pronounced liberal tendency, who, in between his classes on Latin declensions and conjugations, subjected Nathan to a series of jeremiads on the iniquity of the Stamp Act.

By the summer of 1769, young Hale, all of fourteen, was at last ready to go up to Yale. Along with thirty-five other promising teenagers, he entered that September as a member of the Class of ''73 (there were about one hundred students at the college). For freshmen, Yale could be a most forbidding and mystifying place, a Bedlam of confusing rituals and hierarchies where no rule could be bent, no corners cut, no blind eye turned. A fearsome regime of fines, ranging from a penny (for missing mandatory chapel services) to twelve shillings for graver misdemeanors (missing them twice), ruthlessly controlled the pupils'' behavior. Every student doffed his hat when the president approached, and bowed as he passed, or faced his wrath. Freshmen, meanwhile, acted as flunkies for the upperclassmen, who exacted a very painful form of punishment on those unwise enough to tell them where to go.

The first priority, apart from striving to avoid attracting an upperclassman''s attention, was work. Hale imbibed a curriculum of Hebrew, Latin, Greek, logic, rhetoric, disputes, geometry, classics, natural philosophy, divinity, astronomy, mathematics, metaphysics, and ethics. Roger Alden, a good friend of his, told Hale that he dreaded the curriculum as much as he did "the morning prayer bell or Saturday noon recitations." That prayer bell rang at 4.30 a.m. in the summer, and at 5 a.m. in the winter; as for the Saturday recitations, terrified pupils were interrogated by their tutors in the three classical languages.4

Still, college days were not all drudgery. Hale evidently managed to have a good time. His father, confronted with mounting bills for Nathan''s living expenses, instructed him in December 1769--just three months after his once-studious boy arrived in New Haven--to "carefully mind your studies that your time be not lost." He also asked his errant son to remember to attend chapel to avoid more fines. A year later, Hale Senior heard that Hale minor was not minding his studies as carefully as he ought, and anxiously urged him to "shun all vice, especially card-playing." (Yale students, if caught three times gambling, were expelled from the college.)

One baleful influence on Hale was his classmate Benjamin Tallmadge, the son of a churchman who had diligently taught him his Virgil and Plato. He had more time for mischief making than his peers, for, as Tallmadge self-mockingly wrote in his memoirs, "being so well versed in the Latin and Greek languages, I had not much occasion to study during the first two years of my collegiate life."5 In March 1771, Tallmadge, Nathan, and Nathan''s older brother Enoch (also attending Yale) were fined heavily (a shilling and five pence) for breaking windows following a prolonged visit to a local tavern. Tallmadge, who had drunk deeper of the amber nectar than the Hales, was amerced another seven pence for additional damage to college property.6

Students entertained themselves. Debating societies were always popular: In 1773, for example, Hale and Tallmadge debated the motion "Whether the Education of Daughters be not, without any just reason, more neglected than that of sons." (They argued for the pro-daughter side, and won, an event that James Hillhouse, a Yale contemporary, said "received the plaudits of the ladies present.")7

He was a member of the Linonia, the most "social" of the debating clubs, and it was noted in the minutes that the meeting of December 23, 1771, "was opened with a very entertaining narration by Hale." Hale also took part, with relish, in amateur theatrical productions; contemporaries thought him excellent in Robert Dodsley''s frothy farce The Toy Shop (a hit on the London stage in 1735). When they weren''t arguing or acting, the students joined such literary societies as the Brothers in Unity, whose members adopted nicknames derived from classical myth (Hale chose Damon, while Tallmadge went with Pythias). Ostensibly, they intended to improve their rhetorical writing style, but all too often, being bored with the starchy formality of Latin, they fell into the kind of flowery purplishness popular at the time in artistic circles in England and America.8

A letter from Tallmadge to Hale gives an indication of the predominant style: "Friendly Sir, In my delightsome retirement from the fruitless bustle of the noisy, with my usual delight, &, perhaps, with more than common attention, I perused your epistle--replete as it was with sentiments worthy to be contemplated, let me assure you with the strongest confidence of an affectionate friend, that with nothing was my pleasure so greatly heightened, as with your curious remarks upon my preceding performance, which, so far from carrying the appearance of a censuring critick''s empty amusement, seemed to me to be wholly the result of unspoted regard & (as I may say) fraternal esteem."9

Tiresome to read today, but the letter, and the several others like it between the two men, signals how immensely fond Tallmadge and Hale were of one another. Leafing through their correspondence, it''s still touching to read the encomiums "I remain your constant friend" and "a heart ever devoted to your welfare."10 If anything malign ever happened to one, the other would be merciless toward his assailants.

Thus, Yale of the 1770s, despite its addiction to protocol and pomposity, was a place where comradeship and camaraderie flourished. Paradoxically, too, the college inspired a rebellious, insubordinate ethos, not least when its inmates frequently (and loudly) complained about the dire food served in hall and the usurious cost of books for sale. On no other issue, however, were the students more agitated than that of relations with the Mother Country. In the years before the Revolution, Yale was notorious for its politics. Afterwards, one fierce Loyalist, Thomas Jones, recalled bitterly of his alma mater that it was nothing but "a nursery of sedition, of faction, and republicanism," while General Thomas Gage, commander of the British forces in North America, branded the place "a seminary of democracy" full of "pretended patriots."11 For all Gage''s disparagement, Yale students were the first American students to organize a boycott against British-made goods, and when Hale was entering, the graduating class voted almost unanimously to appear "wholly dressed in the manufactures of our own country" at their commencement ceremony.

Upon graduation, Hale was obliged to find a job, the clerical life having lost whatever attractions it may once have had. He became a schoolmaster in East Haddam (Tallmadge taught in Wethersfield), a town sixteen miles from the mouth of the Connecticut River, in the fall of 1773. The school was rather small, and worse, isolated, and still worse, paid poorly. Even had the wages been sufficient, there was nothing in East Haddam to spend it on. He boarded with James Green: His descendants were reported some time ago to possess the only chair that Hale is known to have sat upon. Unsurprisingly, considering that East Haddam''s nightlife consisted of sitting on chairs, Hale was bored numb, mentally as well as physically. By March 1774, he couldn''t bear it any longer and applied to New London, to the Union School, a wealthy private academy.12

In the meantime, he fell in love. Or rather, re-fell in love, with the same woman. In his last year at college, Hale had been introduced to Alice Adams, a pretty, vivacious thing, but one, alas, about to be married off to a wealthy man, Elijah Ripley, considerably older than herself. Fortunately for Hale, Mr. Ripley''s talents did not include longevity, and he died on December 26, 1774. Hale waited, decently, until her period of mourning was over before launching his suit. In early 1775, Alice was overjoyed to receive a Hale-penned poem:

Alicia, born with every striking charm,
The eye to ravish or the heart to warm
Fair in thy form, still fairer in thy mind,
With beauty wisdom, sense with sweetness joined
Great without pride, and lovely without art. . . .


The two began to court, but Hale put duty before pleasure.13 Just a few months into his wooing, the Revolution came to Connecticut. The battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, galvanized young men into joining the colors--including two of Hale''s brothers, who signed up for the Connecticut militia marching to Massachusetts. Of the thirty-five members of Yale''s 1775 class, for instance, thirteen continued into the ministry, but no fewer than thirteen others joined the Continental army.14

Inescapably shaped by his background, his milieu, and his education, Hale was by temperament and inclination a pronounced Patriot. Tallmadge, who wrote to him on July 4, 1775, allows us a penetrating glimpse into what two young American idealists felt at the time: "I consider our country, a land flowing as it were with milk & honey, holding open her arms, & demanding assistance from all who can assist her in her sore distress. . . . [W]e all should be ready to step forth in the common cause."15

While Tallmadge would join the Continentals the following year, Hale went to the recruiting station just two days after that inspirational letter was written. It was the same day--July 6--that the governor of Connecticut commissioned officers in the newly raised Seventh Regiment. Hale''s name is on the list as first lieutenant of the third company. The Seventh was commanded by Colonel Charles Webb, whose own first lieutenant was William Hull, one of Hale''s friends from Yale. On September 8, Washington requested Governor Jonathan Trumbull to send his new Connecticut regiments, and within two weeks, Hale was on the march. From his diary--albeit abbreviated, and hurriedly jotted down--we know that the Seventh marched to Providence, then through Massachusetts to Cambridge, headquarters of the American forces surrounding Boston, where they had Gage and his forces bottled up. Once there, the regiment was assigned to General John Sullivan''s brigade at Winter Hill; Hale was promoted to captain-lieutenant, and signed up for another contract of service for 1776 at a time when many refused to reenlist when their terms were up. His regiment was then renamed the "Nineteenth Foot in the service of the United Colonies," as part of Washington''s effort to mold his gaggle of ragtag militias into a professional volunteer force.

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Top reviews from the United States

Crisman Cooley
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
How Common Americans Helped Win the Revolutionary War
Reviewed in the United States on January 21, 2018
After watching the first three seasons of Turn: Washington’s Spies, I felt a kind of desperation to hear the rest of the story. I read an announcement that said that AMC, the studio that was making the show, had committed to a 4th and final season, and that (because I don’t... See more
After watching the first three seasons of Turn: Washington’s Spies, I felt a kind of desperation to hear the rest of the story. I read an announcement that said that AMC, the studio that was making the show, had committed to a 4th and final season, and that (because I don’t have cable), I’d have to wait at least a year to watch season 4.
If you haven’t seen TURN and you like historical fiction, watch it. The best series I’ve seen since Roots. Maybe the best ever.
A cliffhanger series is as close as fiction can ever get to being as addictive as cocaine or heroin. Although I didn’t see the point of committing a crime to get my fix (it wouldn’t have helped!), I did scour the globe for something more about the story, about this set of characters that had so captivated my imagination.
Finally, on Amazon, I found this book that actually inspired the series to begin with. Even better than a novel, TURN is a history book. It provides a 3rd and 4th dimension to the story. I was pretty astonished to discover how many of the characters are historical.
Major Benjamin Tallmadge, Major Robert Rogers, Captain John Simcoe, Nathaniel Sackett, Abraham Woodhull and Robert Townsend all were real people. This book of history contains actual correspondence between Tallmadge and Woodhull--and between Woodhull and General George Washington. The letters discuss the business of spying down to its most mundane details: the fact that Woodhull (like most people in Washington’s armies) was not getting reimbursed for his expenses.
This book is a fascinating addition to the story for anyone into the series and excellent standalone reading for someone interested (as I am) in American History. I recommend it highly.
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Applewhite MinyardTop Contributor: Pets
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The true story, not the fictionalized TV version
Reviewed in the United States on January 24, 2018
Most people reading this book will have been turned onto it by the TV series "Turn," including me. I know quite a bit about the historical period and many of the major players, but little about Benedict Arnold and what compelled him to "turn." The series... See more
Most people reading this book will have been turned onto it by the TV series "Turn," including me. I know quite a bit about the historical period and many of the major players, but little about Benedict Arnold and what compelled him to "turn." The series covered this to some extent, though I wasn''t sure it was accurate because of the melodrama they surrounded the historical facts with. That is true in large part of events in the TV series. They dramatize them to make it a compelling story, but historically, I was convinced this could not be the true, though "based on true events." The "based-on" is the key. The screen writers have taken enormous artistic license. This book is more accurate and since I was hoping for some background on many of the events depicted in the series, I was, of course, disappointed because they are not true historical events, but extrapolations for story telling reasons. This tells the known facts, and it is not nearly as dramatic as the series makes it out to be, though compelling for its own reasons. For those hoping to learn more about the events in the series, they will be disappointed. For those wanting to know the true history, they will be enlightened, though without all the drama. In a sense it is a shortcoming of the book and of Rose as a storyteller, as events sometimes get bogged down instead of the narrative moving forward. However, it is a good companion piece, with a quite different perspective.
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T. Graczewski
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The true story behind AMC''s "Turn"
Reviewed in the United States on June 15, 2020
I suppose many prospective readers of “Washington’s Spies” will also be enthusiastic viewers of the AMC Original Series “Turn,” which is loosely based on the book. The key word, readers will find, is “loosely.” The core cast of characters in “Washington’s Spies”... See more
I suppose many prospective readers of “Washington’s Spies” will also be enthusiastic viewers of the AMC Original Series “Turn,” which is loosely based on the book. The key word, readers will find, is “loosely.”

The core cast of characters in “Washington’s Spies” will be familiar to any faithful watcher of “Turn”: The Yale educated intelligence chief of the Continental Army Benjamin Tallmadge, the swashbuckling Caleb Brewster, the antsy Long Island farmer-turned-spy Abraham Woodhull and his even more antsy New York-based accomplice Robert Townsend. Other key characters in “Turn" (such as Robert Rogers, Anna Strong and John Simcoe) are only bit players in Alexander Rose’s narrative. In other words, the writers at AMC used Rose’s rich tableau of real life characters to create a largely fictionalized account of the famed Culper Ring.

New York City served as the headquarters for the British Expeditionary Force from 1776 till the end of hostilities in 1783. Washington desperately needed timely and accurate intelligence from inside the enemy-held city in order to most effectively husband his resources while parrying British offensives. He presented the challenge of establishing an espionage network to the young and enterprising Major Tallmadge, who was, according to Rose, “one of Washington’s most promising golden boys.” He used boyhood contacts from his home in Setauket on the northern shore of Long Island to crack the British veil of secrecy around New York. Rose describes in fascinating detail the tradecraft employed by the so-called Culper Ring (after Woodhull’s alias of Samuel Culper) to communicate via ciphers and codebooks and clandestine dead drops.

The Culper Ring was the most extensive and successful espionage network of the entire war, but it was far from the only effort. The Continental Army spent just under 2,000 pounds total on acquiring intelligence during the war, according to Rose, a full quarter of which went to supporting the Culper Ring. What Rose does not do is detail how the other 75% was spent, although he does emphasize that third party verification of information was critical to the commander in chief of the Continental Army. “Washington … appreciated the craft of intelligence far more than did [British commander] Clinton (or other senior commanders),” he writes, “and naturally grasped the need to acquire reports from myriad, often contradictory sources behind the lines, to cross-reference their information to distinguish between fact and fiction, and to analyze and evaluate their timeliness and utility before acting.” Unfortunately, we hear almost nothing about these other “myriad, often contradictory sources.”

“Washington’s Spies” is more than just the story of the Culper Ring, however. It is also a history of life in British occupied New York and Long Island. If the British were fighting a Patriot insurgency, Rose argues that they did a terrible job of pacification and winning the hearts & minds of the locals. “Loyalists had sided with the British, who they believed were defending their rights as free Englishmen against the tyrannical American revolutionaries,” he says, “yet in the very epicenter of Loyalism [western Long Island], such customary Englishman’s rights as trial by jury, privacy, sanctity of property and elected representation did not exist.” Indeed, one of the key members of the Culper Ring, Robert Townsend, was likely converted to the rebellion in response to British depredations he witnessed in and around New York. In the words of one British officer, “We planted an irrecoverable hatred wherever we went, which neither time nor measures will be able to eradicate.” Washington took advantage of such alienation to the fullest.

Finally, Rose also tells a number of fascinating side stories often neglected in other narratives of the American Revolution. For instance, shortly after the defection of Benedict Arnold in 1780, Washington approved an audacious plan to kidnap the traitor from British-held New York, a story told in a dramatic way in Turn. A young and ambitious sergeant from Virginia, John Champe, volunteered for the assignment. He succeeded in “defecting” from his Continental Army unit and made it behind enemy lines to New York to join Arnold’s new Loyalist unit. Arnold barely escaped the attempted kidnapping and Champe managed in a harrowing journey to defect back to his American compatriots. It’s an incredible story and one that I had never heard before.

In sum, “Washington’s Spies” is an informative and satisfying read. Fans of “Turn” may be disappointed to learn that what they watched over four seasons was almost completely fictionalized, but they will be better off knowing the true story of Benjamin Tallmadge and his Culper Ring.
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bru888
5.0 out of 5 stars
Comparing Two Books
Reviewed in the United States on March 11, 2014
I live on Long Island, near Setauket, the scene of much of the action in this book. A local historian wrote a review of this book for our hometown newspaper in which she compared "Washington''s Spies" to the currently popular "George Washington''s Secret Six"... See more
I live on Long Island, near Setauket, the scene of much of the action in this book. A local historian wrote a review of this book for our hometown newspaper in which she compared "Washington''s Spies" to the currently popular "George Washington''s Secret Six" by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yeager. Here is some of what she had to say:

"Kilmeade and Yaeger have spun more than one story here. This non-fiction book hovers dangerously close to the side of fiction" [whereas] "Historians can refer with confidence to Alexander Rose’s book."

The reviewer provides this side-by-side comparison of Rose’s book with Kilmeade’s and Yaeger’s:

“Washington’s Spies”
Bibliography: 16½ pages, including 4½ pages of primary sources alone.
Notes: 60 pages, documenting every quotation and inference.

“Secret Six”
Bibliography: 6 pages, with 3 primary sources listed.
Notes: None.

I will add this: Not only is "Washington''s Spies" the better history, it is well-written history that will keep you reading from cover to cover. It''s not just about the Culper Spy Ring; it''s also an interesting look at life in New York City and on Long Island during the Revolutionary War. You will gain added insight as to why the British lost that war and their American colonies by indulging in neglect, greed, corruption, and brutality that ultimately hardened the resolve of Patriots and lost the allegiance of many disheartened Loyalists.

I give 5-stars to "Washington''s Spies: The Story of America''s First Spy Ring."
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Along Red River of the North
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
belongs on every "top ten" list of books about the American Revolution
Reviewed in the United States on March 9, 2014
Alexander Rose''s book is certainly on my "top ten" list of books about the American Revolution. Is has a taut narrative that, despite all of the characters and plot twists and turns, is easy to follow. The book is also scrupulously researched, with the author delving into a... See more
Alexander Rose''s book is certainly on my "top ten" list of books about the American Revolution. Is has a taut narrative that, despite all of the characters and plot twists and turns, is easy to follow. The book is also scrupulously researched, with the author delving into a myriad of original sources, as well as addressing the small body of secondary sources and their weak spots (sixty pages of footnotes and a great bibliography). There is a photo section (even in the paperback edition) with copies of some key documents accompanied by thorough decryptions, and two valuable maps. But that said, this scholarly work of non-fiction reads like a novel.

In the summer of 1778 (after Nathan Hale was discovered by the British and executed for spying), General George Washington desperately needed to know where the British (ensconced in their New York City North American HQ) would strike next. To that end, he unleashed his secret weapon: an unlikely ring of spies in New York, Long Island, and Connecticut charged with discovering the enemy''s battle plans and military strategy. As noted by Washington''s top general Nathanael Greene, "intelligence is the life of everything in war," and the American War of Independence was no exception to this insight.

Washington''s small band included a young Quaker (Robert Townhend, Samuel Culper Jr.) torn between political principle and family loyalty and posing as a Loyalist, a swashbuckling sailor (Caleb Brewster) addicted to the perils of espionage, a tavern owner (Austin Roe), a Yale-educated cavalryman (Major Benjamin Tallmadge, alias John Bolton who bcame Washington''s chief intelligence officer) and friend of the doomed Nathan Hale, and a peaceful, sickly farmer (Abraham Woodhull, Culper Sr.) who begged Washington to let him retire but who always came through in the end. Personally guiding these brave, flawed, everyday heroes was Washington himself. In an era when gentlemen were officers, and gentlemen did not spy, he possessed an extraordinary talent for deception--and proved an adept spymaster.

Among the Culpers'' greatest successes were thwarting a British attempt to counterfeit Continental currency in Connecticut in an attempt to devalue it completely, and deceiving and diverting the British in New York away from interfering with the arrival of a French fleet and troops in Newport, Rhode Island.

The men he mentored were dubbed the Culper Ring. The British secret service tried to hunt them down, but they escaped by the closest of shaves thanks to their ciphers, dead drops, and invisible ink (also known as "sympathetic stain" courtesy of John Jay''s brother, Sir James Jay). Washington''s Spies tells a little known story of the American Revolution--one encompassing a deadly intelligence war, gunrunning, kidnappings, and defections--that has not received its due in many history books. The story is also a spirited, touching account of friendship and trust, fear and betrayal (the Culper''s were almost exposed by Benedict Arnold''s treachery), amid the shadowy world of divided loyalties and spies.

In my original review I wrote, "I can''t wait for new offerings from AMC on April 6, 2014 will be Turn, billed as "the story of America''s first spy ring," based on the book. You can google the two minute trailer or a C-SPAN lecture by Dr.Rose." Unfortunately, while TURN provided some decent Revolutionary War era TV entertainment, it deviated too sharply from Dr. Rose''s book. When it comes to history, there continues to be something sadly lacking in TV and movie script-writing. The true stories researched and narrated by Dr. Rose are so much more compelling than the history-as-soap-opera of AMC''s TURN. For great reviews of the 10-episode series, go to the denofgeek website and search for TURN or J.L. Bell (another great scholar: check out his blog Boston1775).

PS - Dr. Rose was kind enough to answer an email inquiry from me.
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William J. Bahr
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
I spied a great book!!
Reviewed in the United States on March 28, 2019
Rose’s work is truly fantastic. Well-researched and well-written, it is very much an informative page-turner, not just for those who’ve watched “TURN,” but for those who’ve read a lot (and I have) of Revolutionary War history books. If Rose hasn’t already picked... See more
Rose’s work is truly fantastic. Well-researched and well-written, it is very much an informative page-turner, not just for those who’ve watched “TURN,” but for those who’ve read a lot (and I have) of Revolutionary War history books.

If Rose hasn’t already picked up on it, I would like to point out, however, a couple items which conflict with my understanding: 1. p 159 "Patric Ferguson, a Loyalist militia officer...." Ferguson was actually a British major leading a loyalist militia force. 2. p 205 “In the event, not unreasonably given the sentry’s warning about Tory activity and that one of the party [militiamen stopping Andre] was wearing an ancient British redcoat, Andre misjudged the situation [and gave himself away]….” Actually, the coat was a stolen, green (with red facings) Hessian light-infantry (Jaeger) coat the militiaman had used in his own recent escape from British lines. 3. p 208: “…Arnold galloped to the nearest British outpost and made his escape.” I believe Arnold galloped to the nearby Hudson River and forcefully persuaded some barge boatmen to take him downriver to the British ship Vulture. I think the TV series corrected this. 4. p 271: “Heightening the American suspicions of France’s motives was the arrival of some twenty-five thousand Jacobin [French revolutionary] refugees after Robespierre’s execution.” IMHO, this is a quite interesting comment, given that these 1795 White Terror refugees are thus asserted to be more than half the number of the 1793-4 Terror refugees to America, reputed to be around forty-five thousand. This comment was made within three pages covered by one footnote, which collected three sources. Be that as it may, on a quick web-search, I could not find anything close to corroborating this relatively large number. In fact, I could hardly find any mention at all of these White Terror refugees to America, although I am certain there were many. I welcome any further specific information on the subject.

There is also one interesting point Rose makes on p. 198: "Benedict Arnold sold West Point for today'' equivalent of half a million dollars and the promise of a knighthood." Actually, Arnold''s terms were 20,000 pounds if successful, 10,000 pounds if not successful. It turns out that the British gave him only 6,315 pounds. I could not quickly find any information about the knighthood and was curious about the half-million dollar claim, as a couple sources valued it at much, much less than half a million dollars. Then I found a website that claims it can convert pounds in 1776 into today''s pounds (UK Inflation Calculator). With this information, whether one wants to calculate the value of 6,315 pounds in 2006 (715,000 pounds when Rose wrote his book) or pounds in 2019 (1,026,000 pounds when I''m writing these comments), the total in today''s dollars either way exceeds a million dollars. So, on the money or not, my congratulations to Rose for reporting a relatively high value on the sum the British gave Arnold.

The book is also a bit of an education on a dozen or so certain uncommon words, often from British slang, leading one to the dictionary and leaving one to wonder why the author used them. My theory: while the author was born in the US, he grew up in Australia and Britain, and was educated at Cambridge…where I presume he received his doctorate in history.

All this said, and again my points above are very minor, the book is outstanding. One can easily see why it was made into a movie; although one will notice the movie took more than a few departures to make things more “interesting," which Rose fairly admits in the acknowledgments. Bottom-line: highly recommended!!

If you like reading about the Revolutionary War and George Washington, check out one of William J. Bahr’s books, a best-seller at Mount Vernon: George Washington''s Liberty Key: Mount Vernon''s Bastille Key – the Mystery and Magic of Its Body, Mind, and Soul , a best seller at Mount Vernon.
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Able Devildog
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Offers an interesting glimpse into one of the more mundane aspects of the Revolutionary War
Reviewed in the United States on November 2, 2018
Though some parts of the book are boring, nevertheless it is an interesting book, worthwhile reading for readers that are interested in the more mundane events in the Revolutionary War. Not the reading one gets when studying the Revolutionary War in college history courses... See more
Though some parts of the book are boring, nevertheless it is an interesting book, worthwhile reading for readers that are interested in the more mundane events in the Revolutionary War. Not the reading one gets when studying the Revolutionary War in college history courses because nothing happens in the book that any effect on any major event during the Revolutionary War. It is mostly trivial information, although interesting. For example, a reader gets an insight into the conditions in New York such as how the British Army lived as well as the privations many citizens faced.

The author though, gets off subject with extraneous detailed explanations of the history of crytograpy, most of which is irrelevant to what the spies were using. A simple explanation of the system they used would have sufficed. Nor was it necessary for the author to provide extensive biographical information about the individuals involved. A short summary would have been sufficient.

One shortcoming of the book is that while the title of the book is “Washington''s Spies: The Story of America''s First Spy Ring”, it focuses only on one spy ring. Readers would be better served it the book also included some mention of other spies or spy rings that served Washington in order to place the subject spy ring in context.

Nevertheless, the book offers much in the way Washington used spies and despite the fact he was never cbnsidered a bright general, he did a much better job of using spies than his British counterparts.

Most history students are aware of Nathan Hale and Benedict Arnold. The book provides a much more detailed account of their actions and fates which is of particular interest.
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N. Moser
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Interesting, Incredibly Detailed History Refresh
Reviewed in the United States on April 1, 2017
Incredibly detailed depiction of the spy rings in the Revolutionary War. Seriously the amount of research and data needed for this book is ridiculous. Every paragraph has multiple quotes from the characters in the story. I read the kindle version and there were over 1500... See more
Incredibly detailed depiction of the spy rings in the Revolutionary War. Seriously the amount of research and data needed for this book is ridiculous. Every paragraph has multiple quotes from the characters in the story. I read the kindle version and there were over 1500 "kindle pages" of references to sources at the end.

I enjoyed this book. I didn''t know anything about the spy ring and was interesting to read about both sides implementing them and how they went about it. It was hard to follow at times. Backstories on people would get very in-depth (sometimes necessary) but would take away from the story being told. I would sometimes forget what the actual story was once getting back to it. There were also some very long sentences, which made it hard to follow as well. At times it was hard to read as well, with language from the period, which I''m not that used to.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and would recommend. It was good to refresh my history, not having studied our history in some time. Some of the stories were fascinating as well. Not war altering or history altering, but still had a big impact or revealed things I didn''t know about either side. There are other books about some of the people in this book that I may check out next.
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Julie Bennett
2.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Shoddy reaearch
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 13, 2018
I can''t speak of the Culper Spy ring as I have no knowledge of that but the John Andre information contained in this book is wildly inaccurate. He was not born and raised in Geneva ( he spent two years there at school). He was not engaged to "someone called Anna...See more
I can''t speak of the Culper Spy ring as I have no knowledge of that but the John Andre information contained in this book is wildly inaccurate. He was not born and raised in Geneva ( he spent two years there at school). He was not engaged to "someone called Anna Seward" who, incidentally was a very famous writer and poet! How can be say his father was "a cold Swiss merchant"? The evidence says otherwise. The sad thing is there were three very comprehensive Andre biographies available where he could have found the correct information. He has taken the bulk of his other research solely from Van Doren''s book so perhaps he couldn''t manage to read another book! I don''t suppose he cares as with the TV series "Turn" being based on this book (and not historical fact either) Rose is probably laughing all the way to the bank. Not recommended if you want historical accuracy.
I can''t speak of the Culper Spy ring as I have no knowledge of that but the John Andre information contained in this book is wildly inaccurate. He was not born and raised in Geneva ( he spent two years there at school). He was not engaged to "someone called Anna Seward" who, incidentally was a very famous writer and poet! How can be say his father was "a cold Swiss merchant"? The evidence says otherwise. The sad thing is there were three very comprehensive Andre biographies available where he could have found the correct information. He has taken the bulk of his other research solely from Van Doren''s book so perhaps he couldn''t manage to read another book! I don''t suppose he cares as with the TV series "Turn" being based on this book (and not historical fact either) Rose is probably laughing all the way to the bank. Not recommended if you want historical accuracy.
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Justinian
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Washington''s New York Spies in the Revolutionary War
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 20, 2013
Whilst this book explains in some detail the workings of General Washington''s intelligence operations in New York it does not set them in the context of what was an Anglo-American Civil War. Whilst the reader is informed about the New York spy ring and how Washington...See more
Whilst this book explains in some detail the workings of General Washington''s intelligence operations in New York it does not set them in the context of what was an Anglo-American Civil War. Whilst the reader is informed about the New York spy ring and how Washington received reports as well as how there were local skirmishes, we are not told the big picture.The real question that requires answer is how and in what way did this intelligence contribute to the American victory. Apart from the capture of the Crown agent Major Andre and the exposure of US General Arnold as a British spy the effects of such operations appear pretty negligible save for certain reports of troop movements. The book was disappointing, for although it was well researched with many extracts of original documents and reports, it was not set in context of the war and how such reports etc., affected the military operations. What it does tell us is something about how effectively such intelligence might be obtained in those times.
Whilst this book explains in some detail the workings of General Washington''s intelligence operations in New York it does not set them in the context of what was an Anglo-American Civil War. Whilst the reader is informed about the New York spy ring and how Washington received reports as well as how there were local skirmishes, we are not told the big picture.The real question that requires answer is how and in what way did this intelligence contribute to the American victory. Apart from the capture of the Crown agent Major Andre and the exposure of US General Arnold as a British spy the effects of such operations appear pretty negligible save for certain reports of troop movements.
The book was disappointing, for although it was well researched with many extracts of original documents and reports, it was not set in context of the war and how such reports etc., affected the military operations. What it does tell us is something about how effectively such intelligence might be obtained in those times.
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Rockape4241
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
It is a very good read, well written and gives more depth to ...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 17, 2015
Having watched the TV series I was interested in finding out more about this element of the American War of Independence. It is a very good read, well written and gives more depth to the characters depicted in the TV series. If you''re expecting the book to mirror the TV...See more
Having watched the TV series I was interested in finding out more about this element of the American War of Independence. It is a very good read, well written and gives more depth to the characters depicted in the TV series. If you''re expecting the book to mirror the TV series then you can expect a surprise, as a lot of poetic licence has been used. I guess this is to keep viewers in suspense.
Having watched the TV series I was interested in finding out more about this element of the American War of Independence. It is a very good read, well written and gives more depth to the characters depicted in the TV series. If you''re expecting the book to mirror the TV series then you can expect a surprise, as a lot of poetic licence has been used. I guess this is to keep viewers in suspense.
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Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Five Stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 31, 2017
A great read
A great read
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S.F.
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
spannend
Reviewed in Germany on August 28, 2015
Nachdem ich die tv-serie ,,turn Washingtons Spies,, gesehen hatte, wollte ich mehr über das Thema ,, Culperring,, erfahren u habe mir das Buch in der kindle-fassung gekauft. Wenn mir die tv-serie schon gefallen hatte so gefiel mir das Buch noch viel besser. Das Thema wird...See more
Nachdem ich die tv-serie ,,turn Washingtons Spies,, gesehen hatte, wollte ich mehr über das Thema ,, Culperring,, erfahren u habe mir das Buch in der kindle-fassung gekauft. Wenn mir die tv-serie schon gefallen hatte so gefiel mir das Buch noch viel besser. Das Thema wird spannend und humorvoll dem Leser vermittelt. Ein paar Vorkenntnisse über die amerikanische Revolution sollte man aber schon mitbringen.
Nachdem ich die tv-serie ,,turn Washingtons Spies,, gesehen hatte, wollte ich mehr über das Thema ,, Culperring,, erfahren u habe mir das Buch in der kindle-fassung gekauft. Wenn mir die tv-serie schon gefallen hatte so gefiel mir das Buch noch viel besser. Das Thema wird spannend und humorvoll dem Leser vermittelt. Ein paar Vorkenntnisse über die amerikanische Revolution sollte man aber schon mitbringen.
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