Culper Spy Ring Facts

Culper Spy Ring Facts
During the early years of the American Revolution there was a debate in the Continental military command about how to gather intelligence. The older, conservative members favored the traditional method of using scouts to do reconnaissance, while many of the younger officers, advocated the use of advanced espionage methods already used by the British and other European power. General George Washington was swayed by the younger officers' arguments and allowed them to establish an espionage program. After the British took New York, Washington approached Major Benjamin Tallmadge about establishing a spy ring on his native Long Island, New York with many of his friends and family members who posing as Loyalists, but funneling important intelligence to the Continental Army. The name of the ring was given by Washington for Culpepper County, Virginia. The two leading agents in the ring, Abraham Woodhull and Robert Townsend, were referred to as Samuel Culper Senior and Samuel Culper Junior respectively. The ring provided valuable information on British troop size and movements in New York and was active in Connecticut and Rhode Island as well.
Interesting Culper Spy Ring Facts:
Washington's first spy on Long Island was Nathan Hale, who was captured and executed on September 22, 1776.
Tallmadge usually traveled with Washington and the army and so gave his orders to Lieutenant Caleb Brewster, who would then deliver the messages to the ring and any intelligence the ring had back to Tallmadge.
All of the Culper Ring members were from Long Island and most grew up together in Setauket.
Anna Strong was the only woman active in the ring. Her job was to relay messages and meet with Brewster. She would hang a black petticoat on her laundry line to alert Brewster that a meeting was needed.
Townsend joined the ring in 1779, giving them a fulltime source in New York City.
The Culper Ring used many modern spy techniques, such as: invisible ink, coded messages, and dead drops.
A slave named Cato is believed to have relayed messages for the ring.
The Culper Ring helped Washington avert a British ambush when he was on his way to meet the French high command in 1781.
Woodhull was from a wealthy and well-connected Loyalist family, which helped with his cover and from being arrested on at least one occasion.
The Culper Ring knew that a high ranking member of the Continental Army was working with British Major John Andre to turn over the West Point Fort to the British, but they did not know that he was Benedict Arnold.
Tallmadge personally captured Andre on September 23, 1780 as he left his clandestine meeting with Arnold. Once Andre was captured, Arnold fled and the plot to turn over West Point was foiled.
The Culper Ring was not publicly known until the 1930s.
The recent television series, Turn: Washington's Spies was based on the people and events in the Culper Ring. The series was based on Alexander Rose' book Washington's Spies: The Story of America's First Spy Ring.


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