Washington's Spies: The Story of America's First Spy Ring

3.78 avg rating
( 2,651 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9780553804218: Washington's Spies: The Story of America's First Spy Ring

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.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Born in the United States, Alexander Rose was raised in Australia and Britain. A military historian and former journalist, he is the author of Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring, and his writing has appeared in the New York Observer, the Washington Post, Studies in Intelligence, 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 ...

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

Buy New View Book
List Price: US$ 26.00
US$ 119.91

Convert Currency

Shipping: US$ 4.99
Within U.S.A.

Destination, Rates & Speeds

Add to Basket

Top Search Results from the AbeBooks Marketplace

1.

Alexander Rose
Published by Bantam (2006)
ISBN 10: 0553804219 ISBN 13: 9780553804218
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
Ergodebooks
(RICHMOND, TX, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Bantam, 2006. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0553804219

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 119.91
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 4.99
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

2.

Rose, Alexander
Published by Bantam
ISBN 10: 0553804219 ISBN 13: 9780553804218
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
M and N Media
(Acworth, GA, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Bantam. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 0553804219 We guarantee all of our items - customer service and satisfaction are our top priorities. Please allow 4 - 14 business days for Standard shipping, within the US. Bookseller Inventory # XM-0553804219

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 128.34
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 3.99
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

3.

Alexander Rose
Published by Bantam (2006)
ISBN 10: 0553804219 ISBN 13: 9780553804218
New Hardcover First Edition Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
Irish Booksellers
(Rumford, ME, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Bantam, 2006. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0553804219

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 134.57
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

4.

Rose, Alexander
Published by Bantam (2006)
ISBN 10: 0553804219 ISBN 13: 9780553804218
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 2
Seller:
Murray Media
(North Miami Beach, FL, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Bantam, 2006. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110553804219

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 142.73
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 1.99
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds