Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Culper Spy Ring

         When I first wrote Patriot Secrets well over ten years ago, the book was longer. When I revised the book, I decided to break the book into two halves. There was no way to finish the story in one book. During my research for Patriot Secrets, I discovered the Culper Spy Ring. The more I read, the more fascinated I became. Inspired, you could say. Within Patriot Secrets, more so in the sequel Winds of Betrayal, I have a spy ring loosely based on the Culper Spy Ring. The whole of the story holds everything one could wish to write a thriller- action, intrigue, danger, love...
          When the British occupied New York in August 1776 after the devastating lost of the Battle of Long Island, New York became a British stronghold and a major naval base for the duration of the Revolutionary War. Information on British troop movements and other plans was critical to General George Washington. Any intelligence that had been set in New York was extinguished with the British occupation. Then all changed in 1778 when Major Benjamin Tallmadge established a small group of trustworthy men and women from his hometown of Setauket, Long Island. This group became known as the Culper Spy Ring, Tallmadge's homegrown network would become the most effective of any intelligence-gathering operation on either side during the Revolutionary War.   
         The danger of living the life of a spy was enormous. They lived with the constant fear of discovery. And if discovered they faced the hangman's noose as was seen with the death of Nathan Hale. During occupation of New York, Nathan Hale was caught by the British authorities and was hanged without trial in New York City. In mid-1778, General George Washington appointed Tallmadge the head of the Continental Army's secret service. With that, Tallmadge established the Culper Spy Ring. Secrecy was of the utmost importance. If I researched the information right, I don't think that Washington even knew the names of those in the ring. He knew them only by numbers or an alias.
       Tallmadge recruited childhood acquaintances starting with Abraham Woodhull. He asked only those he could absolutely trust. One of the most colorful and daring was Caleb Brewster. He commanded a fleet of whaleboats against British and Tory shipping on Long Island Sound. Brewster. one of the most daring of the group, was also the only member whom the British had definitely identified as a spy. Tallmadge went by the code name John Bolton, while Woodhull went by the name of Samuel Culper. The ring was well organized with each knowing their task. Robert Townsend was set in New York, posing as a Loyalist. Austin Roe and  Anna Smith Strong rounded out the ring.
          Over the next few days I'm going to talk about the Culper Spy Ring and their importance. I will also look over the heroes of the American Revolution up to the Battle of Saratoga. I hold these people who willingly placed their lives in danger for a cause in high esteem. Inspiring.

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