IntroductionBy the end of 1776 the American Revolutionary War was not going well for George Washington and his army. The British had forced him to abandon New York City and to flee across New Jersey. Washington desperately needed information on British plans and troop movements. He had sent the famous patriot Nathan Hale to spy on the British and gather crucial information; but on his first mission he was captured and hung for spying. The Culper Spy Ring, organized in 1778, would end up being the most important spy ring organized by the Americans during the war and would supply General Washington with crucial information that helped win the American Revolutionary War.
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The list of Culper Spy Ring facts below has information, written for both kids and adults, about the members of the spy ring and their covert operations.
Culper Spy Ring Members
- The Culper Spy Ring was organized and directly controlled by American Major Benjamin Tallmadge (spy ring alias "John Bolton"), who was later promoted to Colonel. His superior, General George Washington, occasionally directed the rings operations.
- The ring consisted Benjamin Tallmadge's friends and acquaintances from Long Island New York.
- Abraham Woodhull and Robert Townsend were the main members. Woodhull used the alias Samuel Culper Senior and Townsend used the alias Samuel Culper Junior. The name "Culper" was actually a name George Washington came up with; he derived it from Culpeper County in Virginia.
- Besides Robert Townsend and Abraham Woodhull other members of the spy ring included Caleb Brewster, Austin Roe, Anna Strong, James Rivington, Amos Underhill, Jonas Hawkins, Sally Townsend, and Mary Underhill.
- The name of a women member of the spy ring to this day remains unknown; she is referred to by her spy code number as Agent 355.
- A spy named Hercules Mulligan who owned a business in New York City was a spy for the Continental Army. He is not considered a member of the Culper Spy Ring, but is known to have worked with them.
Culper Spy Ring - Interesting Facts
- The spy ring conducted covert operations against the British Army from late 1778 up until when the British evacuated New York City in 1783.
- The group's headquarters was in the town of Setauket on Long Island, New York.
- Operating mostly in New York City, on Long Island, and in Connecticut the Culper spies supplied George Washington with important information about the activities and movements of the British in and around New York City.
- Important information obtained by the Culper Spy Ring included uncovering General Benedict Arnold's treason, a plan to attack newly arrived French troops coming to the aide of the Americans, and a British plan to counterfeit the colonist currency.
- Learning from earlier mistakes, including the capture and hanging of the famous American spy Nathan Hale in 1776, George Washington insisted the members of the Culper Spy Ring conduct their operations with extreme secrecy. In fact there was so much secrecy that George Washington himself did not know who all the members of the ring were.
- The ring used many clever methods to produce messages about the information they gathered, these methods included coded newspaper articles, invisible ink, and a numbering system used to represent people and places.
- Many members of the rings names were almost lost to history. The identity of the spy referred to as "Culper Junior" was not discovered until 1929 to be Robert Townsend. This was due to the dedicated research of historian Morton Pennypacker who matched the handwriting on some of Townsend's letters to those sent by Culper Junior to George Washington.