Background[ edit ] Washington became convinced that well-organized intelligence was a necessity after several intelligence failures, including the capture and execution of Nathan Hale. Before Howe moved from Staten Island, Washington received information of varying utility from individual agents such as Lawrence Mascoll, who obtained some intelligence on Staten Island before August Washington soon directly asked Tallmadge to recruit people who could be trusted to collect intelligence in New York City. He was communicating directly with Tallmadge as early as October 22 about setting up a network with Woodhull and Brewster.
These complex operations required rebels to not only gather information on British intentions, but also plant false information on American movements to mislead British military leaders.
Operating behind enemy lines, the spies had to get detailed information past enemy lines without revealing themselves or the recipients of their intelligence.
To do this they made extensive use of covert methods including: Benjamin Tallmadge and the Culper Ring successfully utilized dead drops and invisible ink many times to get vital information out of British occupied cities.
Among the most successful invisible ink formulas used by patriot agents was a potent agent-reagent ink mix created by Sir James Jay, brother to John Jay of Jay Treaty and Supreme Court fame.
The specially formulated invisible ink could only be revealed by its equally unique counterpart and was used almost exclusively in the all-important dispatches between spy leaders such as Tallmadge and George Washington. To ensure security of information, agents in the field were only ever in possession of the invisible ink, the revealing reagent was kept safely at headquarters to safeguard it from being compromised by British capture.
The British officials made more use of novel encryption techniques such as the mask letter, used extensively by Sir Henry Clinton to hide a message within a message, as well as concealing his messages within hollow quills.
Many of the tactics used by spies in the Revolutionary War are still standard practice among the modern intelligence community. In addition to complex, covert operations, more basic methods of intelligence gathering involved regular troops and such simple actions as intercepting enemy correspondence.
City and camp security along with picket lines and patrols ensured the capture of some secret correspondence in the war. It was during this foray that Washington, disguised as an ordinary trader, dined with some French leaders who, affected by the wine, told Washington the name and location of the four French forts in Ohio.
Using these observations and his skill as a surveyor, Washington drew a map of the Ohio River valley displaying the French dispositions and his thought on their intentions.
Washington also came across hundreds of French canoes on the river, which he deduced were built for offensive action.
After his release by the French, Washington accompanied General Edward Braddock on the ill-fated Wilderness Campaign which saw the British regulars, marching in bright red uniforms and in straight line formation, were defeated by the more practical camouflage and tactics of the French and their Native American allies.
Most importantly, it awoke in Washington the realization that accurate intelligence was an essential part of any military campaign. Washington would use the experiences of his early military career to develop his military genius and his appreciation for strong intelligence networks.
In addition to political and military strife, the division of American society into Patriot and Loyalist camps created a hotbed of subversion and secret activities. The spy rings developed and used extensively in the coming war by George Washington had their root in the secret societies that rose in opposition to British policies.
The oppressive actions by British Parliament, beginning with the Stamp Act and the occupation of the North American mainland by professional British troops, led to enormous tensions between the colonists and the crown. In addition to the overarching political strife, the conflict between Patriot and Loyalist colonials tore American society apart.
With public outcries of dissent against British policies expressly forbidden, patriot activists developed extensive secret societies to marshal and organize colonial resistance without fear of reprisal.
The largest of these was the Sons of Liberty whose resistance to British oppression became more and more violent. In addition to stirring public support for the rebel movement, the Sons early rosters included several important political and military leaders of the new United States and the precursors of the wartime spy rings.
Most importantly for the war effort, these secret societies allowed wealthy, yet established, American benefactors to covertly fund the rebellion. Beginning in the Spring of the development of hostilities accelerated dramatically.
The next month British commander General Gage commences aggressive actions against colonial militia stores, drawing strong reactions from the colonial assemblies.
The first shots of the war were fired at Lexington and Concord where colonial militiamen were driven off by British regulars. Loyalist informants scored several early victories that allowed arriving British troops to strike rebel militias before they could fully muster.
Well-known American scientist Benjamin Thompson sent a message in invisible ink to General Gage which listed the movements and numbers of the rebel army. Further successes in the beginning of forced the British to withdraw from vulnerable Boston when Washington moved his artillery to the heights above the city.
With these victories the French and Spanish began funding and supplying the American Revolution through the use of front companies, a decidedly covert activity. Based on their naval superiority, the British held the major coastal cities and courted Loyalist support, especially in the South and in Canada.
Washington spent much of the early years of the war reacting to British initiative. Recently withdrawn from Boston, William Howe landed 20, British soldiers on Long Island in August of and defeated patriot resistance.
Despite his successful withdrawal, the British remained on the offensive, capturing New York City and holding it for the remainder of the war and moving German mercenaries into New Jersey. As the center of British occupation in America, New York City became the primary target for patriot intelligence gathering missions.
It was into this dangerous situation that schoolteacher Nathan Hale reluctantly volunteered to enter occupied New York and scout out British fortifications.
The same day he was caught, members of his regiment had set pre-planned fires throughout the city to disrupt British operations. December of was a dark time for the rebellion, which had seen itself defeated on several fronts. Realizing the need for a symbolic victory to raise the morale of his troops, Washington began inquiries about Colonel Johann Rall and his Hessian mercenaries stationed in Trenton, New Jersey.
Rebel financier Robert Morris paid former British soldier John Honeyman to spy on the German dispositions, location of picket guards and guard routines.General George Washington Sets Up Espionage Ring on Long Island By Steve Balestrieri | February 5, espionage, Heroes of U.S.
Special Operations, History, SOF, SpecOps In February , with the Revolutionary War not going well, George Washington was intent on finding out more information about the British disposition in New York. Among other honorifics, George Washington—known as Agent in the Culper Spy Ring—is often heralded as a great “spymaster,” and indeed, he was.
Under Washington’s astute watch, several networks of spies operated in both close-knit circles and far-reaching leslutinsduphoenix.comees: Learn about the important role that espionage played during the Revolutionary War and George Washington’s role as one of our nation's first leslutinsduphoenix.comees: The Letter That Won the American Revolution.
In , George Washington faced a losing war. George Washington dabbled in espionage when, as a year-old, he spied on the French in the Ohio. The Culper Ring was a spy ring organized by American Major Benjamin Tallmadge under orders from General George Washington in the summer of , during the British occupation of New York City at the height of the American Revolutionary War.
Therefore, Washington strove to include citizens in the war effort. The director of the Culper Ring was a man named Benjamin Tallmadge (spy name of "John Bolton"). Many of the primary leaders in the spy ring were close friends of Tallmadge himself.