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Now a TV series on AMC   Basing his tale on remarkable original research, historian Alexander Rose reveals the unforgettable story of the spy ring that helped America win the Revolutionary War. For the first time, Rose takes us beyond the battlefront and into the shadowy underworld of double agents and triple crosses, covert operations and code breaking, and unmasks the coNow a TV series on AMC   Basing his tale on remarkable original research, historian Alexander Rose reveals the unforgettable story of the spy ring that helped America win the Revolutionary War. For the first time, Rose takes us beyond the battlefront and into the shadowy underworld of double agents and triple crosses, covert operations and code breaking, and unmasks the courageous, flawed individuals who inhabited this wilderness of mirrors—including the spymaster at the heart of it all, George Washington. Previously published as Washington’s Spies...

Title : washington s spies the story of america s first spy ring
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ISBN : 8501386
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Number of Pages : 402 Pages
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washington s spies the story of america s first spy ring Reviews

  • Jeffrey Keeten
    2018-11-27 19:13

    "I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country."Nathan HaleStatue of Nathan Hale at City Hall in Lower Manhattan.Courage in the face of imminent demise. There is some speculation as to whether Hale actually said these words or some version of them. At this point it doesn’t really matter, they have become a part of the lexicon of our history. One thing that is not speculated about is that this young man of 21 went to his death displaying fearless gallantry. When the British hanged him for spying on September 22nd, 1776 they also unknowingly condemned a young man by the name of John Andre. George Washington seethed over the execution of Hale, and even though it was several years in the making, he did finally capture the perfect candidate to serve as an eye for an eye. Nathan Hale was unsuited for spying. He was a Yale graduate, a rather attractive youth, a person that people would notice. One of Nathan’s classmates at Yale was Benjamin Tallmadge, the soon to be leader/handler of the Culper Spy Ring. One of his letters inspired the young Hale to join the rebel cause. Washington was trying to decide what to do about New York, abandon it, burn it, or try and hold it. He realized he needed more intelligence. He asked for a volunteer. Hale still caught up in the zeal of a fresh cause was the only man to step forward. Once in NY he was recognized in a tavern by Major Robert Rogers, one of those men who found the young Hale a bit too privileged. Rogers posed as a rebel sympathizer. Hale, inexperienced and feeling like a fish out of water and probably wanting to impress the crusty veteran, admitted the scope of his task. Things wouldn’t turn out well for Rogers either, but that is another story. Let’s flash forward to 1780. Benedict Arnold an unfortunate traitor.Benedict Arnold after years of battling his enemies in congress and being passed over numerous times for promotion is about to make a very bad decision. He is nearly bankrupt after using most of his personal fortune to pay his troops and furnish them with supplies. Congress is slow to reimburse him and sometimes even refuses to reimburse his expenditures. He is a legitimate war hero best known for his capture of Fort Ticonderoga. He was a commander that led from the front, a dashing man in the mold of George Armstrong Custer. Confidence and competence exuded from him like a musk. His men would have followed him into the pits of hell if necessary, but men like Arnold also collect enemies. Washington had no doubts about his ability, but he was also tired of the numerous letters of complaints he received from Arnold. He was constantly mediating issues between Arnold and Arnold’s enemies in congress. Washington had a war to win, and though Arnold was important to him, he had other pressing things to worry about. Arnold was pissed off. He was also married to Peggy Shippen, a woman from a deeply loyalist family. She was “good friends” with John Andre. (It was rumored that he was also her paramour, but that is on the QT.) Andre was close friends with Sir General Henry Clinton; in fact, being fluent in four languages he wrote a good part of the General’s correspondence. Andre was a handsome man and you would think an intelligent man, but his fiancee broke off their engagement because he lacked “the reasoning mind she required.” Hmmm maybe she was an astute young woman and could see that a life with a dashing, handsome husband might be a life of trouble and heartache. Because of his connection to the Arnolds and his close association with the General, Andre soon finds himself in the awkward position of carrying dispatches between the two parties. He was the lynchpin facilitating the Arnold negotiations for defection. Andre is caught with compromising dispatches. John AndreWashington finally has the man who will pay the price for Hale. Andre asks for a firing squad, but of course he must be hanged. The American officers who held him captive, which shows how charming the young man was, weeped at his execution. Symbolism negates reason. Benedict Arnold has always been an interesting figure to me. I read Willard Sterne Randall’s book Benedict Arnold: Patriot and Traitor many years ago and the author certainly poked holes in my previous opinions about Arnold. I’d always thought of him as the ultimate turncoat. In fact on the school yard I can remember using his name to describe a teammate that suddenly switched sides in the rough and tumble football games that often left me bruised, battered, and elated. He is most assuredly a traitor, but he is also a tragic figure. If he had stayed with the cause schools, roads, counties, and cities would have been named after him. He would have been among the paragon of great soldier patriots. He traded that, out of frustration, for $500,000 and a promise of a knighthood. The thing of it is no one likes a traitor, even the side that benefits from the defection. They can never trust that person and many of them actually despise that person. If his service to his country had been properly recognized. If congress hadn’t been actively trying to destroy his life even to the point of bringing fraudulent charges against him there is no doubt in my mind that he would have stayed a patriot. I might have found myself attending Benedict Arnold High School. We can really only guess how many Americans were Loyalists or Tories, but the high estimate is about 500,000 or twenty percent of the white population. Only about 19,000 of those men actually picked up weapons to fight against the rebels, so people, with a few angry mob exceptions and an occasional burning of a loyalist home, lived side by side with opposite views of the war. As long as you didn’t actively help one side or the other your life could go on with only the normal stresses of living during a time of war. After the debacle of the Nathan Hale situation it became apparent that it was best to recruit people who actually lived where the intelligence needed to be gathered. Poster for the show Turn on AMC.This brings us to Abraham Woodhull. For those that have been watching the series on AMC called Turn this man is the basis for the main character. Major Benjamin Tallmadge is the leader and primary recruiter for the spy ring. He went by the name Samuel Culper. Woodhull signed his dispatches Samuel Culper Sr. and the New York connection Robert Townsend used the name Samuel Culper Jr. Not much imagination being used in the naming of the operatives. None of these men recruited by Talmadge asked for money other than what was needed to reimbursed their expenses. So Robert Townsend was located in NY. He would pass information to a courier who would leave the dispatch on Woodhull’s property. Woodhull would then add his own observations to Townsend’s. Woodhull’s neighbor Anna Strong would arrange her laundry a certain way to signal that the whaler Caleb Brewster was in the vicinity. Woodhull would then pass the information to him for delivery to Tallmadge. Invaluable information was passed to Washington that certainly had an impact on the future of the war. Washington was always impatient for information arriving quicker, but Townsend and Woodhull were always well aware of the precarious nature of their situation and always errored on the side of caution. They used invisible ink (gallic acid) that gave the dispatchers some level of security. Abraham Woodhull to Benjamin Tallmadge.Alexander Rose has done a wonderful job piecing together what is known about the Culper Ring, and certainly filled in some gaps for this reader. Sometimes the information is sketchy because these men and women after the war just went on with their lives. They didn’t write about their experiences or even talk about it. In some degree there is a feeling of shame associated with spying. The reason they didn’t take pay is because they saw it as a duty not as a way to make money. They were working for a better future for themselves and for their descendents. The life of a spy, no matter which conflict whether it be the Cold War, Civil War, or the Revolutionary War, is a lonely existence. The fears and agitations are theirs alone. To alleviate the stresses by talking to a friend only puts people they care about in danger. They are the unsung heroes, the men and women in the shadows, more worried about results than immortality.If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.comI also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  • Rachel Elizabeth
    2018-12-01 20:16

    I picked this up because I am in love with Turn: Washington's Spies, the AMC show that you may have guessed is based on this book, and for which author Alexander Rose is also a credited writer. Given the scant amount of information available about the Culper Ring, I knew the show had to be heavily fictionalized. I did not set out to read Washington's Spies expecting to learn about personal relationships between characters such as you might see in a multi-season TV show. What I did hope for was a narrative, of the Ring's espionage efforts and also the workings of the British secret service (particularly, the recruitment of Benedict Arnold) led by universally beloved stud, Maj. John Andre. I also hoped to see some of the evolution of Gen. Washington's leadership and decision-making. Alexander Rose can be a great writer of historical narrative: he's witty and deft on the subject of the aforementioned Arnold and Andre collusion, for one, which resulted in Andre's capture and execution and a failed kidnapping attempt of Arnold. I was pleased to see that the humane final impression of Washington's intelligence officer, Benjamin Tallmadge, re: Andre was faithfully portrayed in the show (which, in its fictionalized but compelling relationships, is in large part about how the American Revolution was a civil war between neighbors who happened to have opposing loyalties to US Independence and to Britain, but who were for the most part decent people capable of acting honorably toward one another, even if they had to follow orders). I also, personally, enjoyed learning more about Robert Rogers -- who wasn't (just???) a campy mercenary with a Scottish accent, but was also the man responsible for the capture of America's most famous spy, Nathan Hale -- and Robert Townsend, the reluctant junior member of the Culper Ring who provided Washington with some of his most valuable information from New York. I was pleased at the aside that Maj. Richard Hewlett, the historical basis of my (fictional) favorite character of the show, also seemed to revere horses. The single fact in this book that gave me the most glee was learning that Capt. John Graves Simcoe really DID write a terrible love poem about a Patriot woman, though we can assume it probably wasn't mocked publicly.In terms of criticism, I found the focus to be very scattered, with irrelevant histories about minor characters taking up too much of the page and distracting from the narrative action at key moments. I understand that histories of lesser-documented subjects tend to have some padding, but the information given often did not feel necessary.I also was less interested in the minute cryptographic details that made up a large portion of the chapters on the Culper Ring, and in the philosophies of various religions towards the American Revolution. Other readers may find more of interest in those subjects. This is ultimately why I can't love the book as much as I'd like, even though I enjoyed sections of it very much.

  • Lauren
    2018-12-10 16:10

    Easily one of my favorite books I've ever read. It's engrossing, exceptionally well researched, - as well as written - and plunges you so deep into the world of those who worked in the Culper Ring that it feels very personal. Mind you, this is all coming from one who had little to no interest in the Revolutionary War before I came upon the book hiding on the lower shelf at the airport [every other book whose summary I read was a promise of disappointing dreck]. Though I will admit I am a total history nerd. I honestly can't say enough good things about this book. I was swept away by the intimacy and so affected by the accounts of the personal lives coupled with the scenes set by Rose of the entirety of the war that reading his book is something that will always stand out in my mind. I can understand some reviews invoking the word 'dry,' I would call it vividly descriptive. I have passionately recommended this book to just about everyone I know and I think I've startled them all with my zeal on the subject. Read it, do yourself the favor.

  • Nicole
    2018-11-30 14:14

    I was inspired to read this after enjoying the TV show Turn, and I think I would've found the book frustratingly discursive and disorganized if I hadn't seen the show and been able to use the "main characters" as a sort of anchor. I loved hearing the real life stories behind the characters - and small wonder it got turned into a show, because it's pretty screen-worthy stuff. I also, of course, appreciated all the Yale references - Benjamin Tallmadge and Nathan Hale met there as students - and it sounds like the left-leaning, rebellious spirit that I knew it for goes way back. It's a really fascinating look at the earliest days of American intelligence, with Sackett as the first sort of American spymaster, inventing and pioneering tradecraft. The Culper ring out-performed their more experienced British opponents, who stuck to the more "gentlemanly" tradition of tactical military intelligence obtained by scouts; spies were regarded with distaste. But the vastness of the American territory and guerrilla nature of the conflict necessitated better intelligence and spies (it wasn't like Europe where units stuck to predictable lines of communication and movement was easily predictable based on the location of supply depots.) The British approach changed with Benedict Arnold (run by Tallmadge's British counterpart, the dilettante John Andre) as they realized the value. Washington truly understood how to play the game and was a sophisticated consumer of intelligence reporting, seeking corroboration and displaying patience with what was always a tedious jigsaw puzzle, where each piece could be interpreted differently. Tallmadge managed the ring personally, because he'd grown up with members Woodhull and Brewster), and knew how best to deal with them; the British system suffered by being more impersonal, although it was more durable, since Tallmadge was indispensable.Lots of interesting tidbits abound about the dynamics in colonial American that turned people toward Patriotism (or against it), like the role of Thomas Paine's Common Sense in getting people to turn Patriot, or the corruption and abuse by the British troops stationed on Long Island alienating the local Loyalist population and having the same effect. The glimpse of the Whaleboat War (starring the pugnacious and adventurous Caleb Brewster) is also interesting. It was also really satisfying to hear how life turned out for the members of the Culper ring, since I've grown emotionally attached to them. Woodhull became a county judge, and two of his offspring married Brewster children. Brewster himself, ironically, joined the predecessor of the U.S. Coast Guard. Tallmadge became a wealthy humanitarian and also member of Congress.

  • Jean Poulos
    2018-12-01 13:23

    The key thing I discovered reading this book was that General George Washington was a natural spy master. This book is about the Culper Spy Ring. The spy ring operated during the American War of Independence and provided Washington with information on British Troop movements.In 1778, General George Washington appointed Major Benjamin Tallmadge as director of Military Intelligence, charged with creating a spy ring in New York City. The ring operated for five years and no member was ever unmasked. The ring developed a sophisticated method of conveying information to Washington.Obtaining information about spies is normally a difficult task as they usually keep information about themselves secret. Alexander Rose tells he found all the letters from the spy member to and from General Washington in the Library of Congress. He used these letters as the bases for his story. The book is well written in fact it reads more like a novel than a history book. The author was able to develop a detailed profile on each of the spy ring members. There are Austin Roe, Caleb Brewster, Abraham Woodhall and Anna Strong.I understand that the book is being adapted to television. If you are interested in the American Revolution or in just a good spy story this book is for you. I read this as an audiobook downloaded from Audible. Kevin Pariseau narrated the book.

  • ~Bellegirl91~
    2018-11-16 15:08

    "Like the rest of the Ring, Tallmadge cast off the cloak of the secret world for the raiment of a brave new one, but just once, he felt compelled to break his self imposed silence in order to honor the memory of the sacrifices made by his friends. In 1817....Tallmadge was one of the few surviving members (in congress) who had fought in the war....Like Tallmadge, Major John Andre (British officer) had worked out of nothing but a sense of duty to his country...and so too, had the Culper Ring, whose brave participants had had the decency, modesty, and honor not to keep demanding pensions, medals and recognition for their services....in short, Tallmadge fought to protect his old friends, Woodhull, Townsend, Brewster, Hawkins , Roe, and their assistants. He could not abide to see villains profiting while good and faithful men languished unheeded, untrumpeted, and unknown."This book has been made into a tv series on AMC called TURN: WASHINGTONS SPIES which is why I had bought the book a few years back and decided to pick it up this year back in January. I already LOVED the series and the acting (Jamie Bell caught my eye and I love anything he does haha and despite the drama) but I also ended up loving this book more than I thought and found it to be WELL WRITTEN! Even though I don't read a ton of these non fictions and get one in a year if I wanted or if I'm lucky. But whether this is your genre or not, at least read it because I seriously learned more of what truly happened behind Washington's army of intelligence and those behind it all even the Benedict Arnold exposure. The show is on Netflix however, someone who doesn't own a ton of shows on DVD, unless I KNOW for a surety I'll watch them again, I'll get it and that's how I felt with this show Turn. The fourth and final season (10 episodes each) is ending next spring :'( which is sad considering the amount of information in this book and could go into the show. It's like one big gigantic soap opera and Alexander Rose did an AMAZING job at writing this and actually made it fun in a way and kept you wanting to know more. One thing I "hated" if I'm being honest here is one particular key player on the British side was their man who too was on the same job as Major (got promoted to that rank at some point early on) Benjamin Tallmadge as army intelligence. The show made him HUGE and his name was Major John Andre played by JJ Feild (who was in austenland) and yet Rose didn't talk of Andre a whole lot which kinda bugged me considering how he's written into the show perfectly and you kinda feel for him. But I DID however love his capture and death scene in this last season, despite the drama parts, was actually in a way PERFECTION up until the end. I was fangirling a bit considering I'd read that part waaaaay before I even saw it in the show. I would skim here and there during the second season last year and January decided to pick it up and now I'm DONE! Now I'm sad but also a tad excited to see how this show will end next spring. But yeah, if you're really not into these kinds of books at least make an exception to read this one since you're not going to find this story anywhere else (I've looked and it's rare!) or in textbooks. This story I'm glad got told and these men and women involved now have this recognition for the risks they put into their hands and to their families, the sacrifice, courage, integrity and heart into this Spy Ring. It was truly successful and had a huge part in winning the war and our freedom.Reading this had made me feel even more appreciation for this country and know that no MATTER what happens, it's not the governments, or the presidents, or congresses country, no. This is Gods gift to us and His country. I'm truly grateful for the sacrifice and love for those who fought and gave their lives in this war, all the miracles that occurred to help this spy ring and those behind the scenes as well. They too were risking their lives and seriously had too many close calls but miraculously escaped. In the words of Benjamin Tallmadge at the beginning of the war to his friend Nathan Hale, "I consider our country a land flowing as it were with milk and honey, holding open her arms, and demanding assistance from all who insist her in her sore distress...we all should be ready to step forth in the common cause....Our holy religion, the honor of God, a glorious country, and a happy constitution is what we have to defend." So overall, this book now is one of my new favorites and actually wish I knew more of these men and women who were a part of this operation. DEFINITELY a high recommendation that's for sure! And same with the tv series. Even if you don't end up reading this, at least watch the first two seasons of Turn on Netflix. It'll be worth it I can promise you that and sooooo much fun! Oh and the guy who played Benjamin Tallmadge, Seth Numrich....... Holy MOTHER SNICKERDOODLE he is WOW!! ;) haha

  • Ron
    2018-12-04 14:06

    “The event we leave to heaven.”A competent history of espionage during the American Revolutionary War. Not to be confused with the romanticized fiction of the television series TURN, purportedly based on it. (See below) Well research and well-written. Explores the motives, means and outcomes for the spies and spy masters on both sides. In 1776, following a series of victories in August and September, the British commanded New York City and Long Island and were chasing the defeated colonial army toward Philadelphia. Then came Christmas and the miracle at Trenton. But Washington had only survived to fight another day. To engage a larger, better equipped, more professional army, Washington needed to cheat. He did.“Everything in the matter depends on intelligence of the enemy’s motions.” G. WashingtonThis book unearths facts about those people who put themselves at great risk, starting with the martyred Nathan Hale, to provide Washington (and Clinton) information about the whereabouts, strengths (and weaknesses) and intentions of the British (and Americans) in New York City and Long Island. In addition to history and biography, you get the development of cipher codes, invisible ink and counterfeiting. (Continental dollars were so worthless because the British printed them, too.) The Culper ring, starting from nothing, became a vital, though occasionally unappreciated, asset in winning the war. Their exploits and tribulations would make a fine movie or TV series.“The business will be quickly over now.” British General Clinton (in New York City) to Burgoyne, August, 1777, not knowing the latter had already surrendered near Saratoga, NYUnfortunately, for reasons known best to themselves, AMC turned the real story of bravery, ingenuity and self-sacrifice into a soap opera where passion competes with patriotism. The production values of TURN are high, but don’t watch it expecting to learn anything about what really happened.“We planted irrevocable hatred wherever we went, which neither time nor measures will be able to eradicate.” Charles Stewart, loyalistModern applications suggest themselves. The British returned to the rebelling colonies (after fleeing Boston in March 1776) with what should have been overwhelming force and were welcomed by many of the colonials themselves. Despite defeating Washington’s ragtag Continentals almost every time they could bring him to battle, they gradually lost their grip on both the land and the hearts of America. Excursions to Philadelphia and Charleston only made matters worse. Cornwallis’ defeat at Yorktown shouldn’t have been any more fatal than Burgoyne’s at Saratoga, but by then even the British thought they’d lost.“We lost the war because we lost the hearts which already supported us. The rebels did not win.” British General James RobertsonRead the book.

  • Bookworm
    2018-11-28 13:10

    Eh. I had heard such great things about this book and decided to pick up the paperback after seeing it was in paperback and was now serving as the basis for a cable series. I just couldn't get into it.The book follows the tales and adventures and missions of the spy ring that worked for George Washington during the Revolution. It follow various historical figures from their methods to their travels to some of their ends, sadly or not. However it is not a history on the American Revolution. Battles and the politics are mostly left aside, although they do get mentions here and there. George Washington is a secondary player who gets the info. I'm not into military history and haven't had much luck reading espionage history. I felt the book tended to be uneven, drag in spots but have some really great information in others. It was interesting to see what happened when a mission goes wrong, if a spy gets caught, what methods these agents used (which went from codes to invisible ink). The most poignant parts are Washington's decision to hang a traitor after all, even though the man was under the impression he'd get a military-style firing range. For someone who is interested in the period, any of the people involved in this spy ring, espionage and spying history, this is a good book. It seems especially relevant in light of the NSA revelations and will pick apart anyone who argues that the Founding Fathers would have never have spied. If you're just a casual reader or just curious, recommend the library.

  • Kris
    2018-11-18 19:18

    Dry, dreary, and tedious.Just a report of facts, names, and dates, all jumbled together. Not enough of a narrative to be entertaining for me. I rushed through the entire thing just to be done with it. Skip the book and just go watch the show instead.

  • Stephanie G
    2018-12-07 16:09

    absolutely a fantastic read! I highly recommend it for anyone that enjoys Revolutionary history.

  • A.L. Sowards
    2018-11-15 16:16

    Prior to reading this, most of my knowledge about spies during the American Revolution was that Nathan Hale was caught and hanged. It turned out that even my knowledge of that was shady. His famous final words, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country,” weren’t what he actually said. A British officer present at the hanging recorded this about Hale’s final moments: “He behaved with great composure and resolution, saying he thought it the duty of every good officer, to obey any orders given him by his commander in chief; and desired the spectators to be at all times prepared to meet death in whatever shape it may appear.”The more famous line came from a play, Cato by Joseph Addison. It was put into Hale’s mouth by a friend who remembered discussing the brilliance of the play with Hale while they were at Yale together. Learning the truth behind Hale’s last line shattered a few happy illusions for me. (Next thing I know, someone will tell me Henry V’s St. Crispin’s Day speech was made up by Shakespeare—which is maybe why I keep putting off reading a real history book about Agincourt. I’m happy with Shakespeare’s version.) Another illusion was shattered when I read Hale was caught by Robert Rogers, the colonial who founded the Rangers during the French and Indian War. Yes, the founder of the Rangers lured in poor, inexperienced Hale and turned him over to the British, who executed him. The majority of the book isn’t about Nathan Hale. It’s mostly about the Culper Spy Ring that operated in the Long Island, New York area for most of the war. They had some big successes, like warning the French that the British knew they were coming to Rhode Island and had set a trap for them (the British knew because Benedict Arnold told them—he also makes his way through the chapters of this book). Benjamin Tallmadge was the central figure in running Culper, and I’m adding his memoir to my to-read list. The book included interesting stuff about whale-boat raiders, early cryptographic techniques, and the attitudes and motivations of those who lived through the revolution. The information was fascinating, but it was sometimes hard to follow, so I’ll rate this one four stars. Worth reading, but probably only once.

  • Sara
    2018-11-26 17:09

    All I really knew about New York during the Revolutionary War was that it was occupied by the British. This book showed me there was certainly a lot more going on! I enjoyed learning about the undercover spies- the tactics they used, their motivations, and how they helped Washington.

  • Jays
    2018-12-08 17:26

    This is a bit of a fun conundrum - it's the story of the American spy ring put into place by George Washington written by an Englishman who (from what I can tell) lives in America. As such, it's one of my favorite ways to read history; that is, it's history told (sort of) from the losing side. I'm always more interested in how the losers tell the story of big historical events and, as an American, there isn't a much bigger event in my cultural mainstay than the American Revolution. Add to the interesting perspective the fact that the book is extremely well-researched and that the author frequently lets his obviously wry sense of humor slip into the prose and you've got a book with a good turn of phrase about an interesting topic. That said, there's a reason for the two stars. Remember how I said well-researched? That's almost to the book's detriment. One other reviewer put it best when he/she said this was a book for which if the author had a purchase receipt as documentation to prove that a payment was made, the book was going to include the entire list of what was bought. Well I like a thorough historical accounting as much as the next guy, constantly running into long lists of letters, purchases, bills, and accounts killed the momentum of the read many times. If you can get past that barrier, however, this is a really interesting part of early American history. Even knowing about the Culper Ring before reading this, I got such a better appreciation of what it actually looked like and how it functioned as well as an understanding of exactly how relatively amateur spies were in the western world during this period of history. The author does a very good job of putting spying into the context of a truly underhanded industry that "proper gentlemen" would think it uncivilized to engage in. He also very clearly uses that context to help the reader understand the actions, heroic and sometimes frankly kind of smarmy, of the early American and British spies. I only wish that there was more discussion of some of the other characters that other books on the subject touch on (355 for example), however given that most of those other sources are not as well researched as this, I assume the author chose not to go down that path for the sake of avoiding speculation. Short version: Great micro-history of a relatively unknown chapter of early Americana, if a bit of a dense one. But seriously, the author's sense of humor and turn of phrase make for some great passages.

  • Brian
    2018-11-16 20:01

    Alexander Rose delivers a well researched and well thought out book on the history of American (and some of the British) spy rings that influenced the battle plans of the American revolutions. From the famous story of Nathan Hale to the operations around New York the first real intelligence organ of the United States is revealed. The book is not only an overview of the lives of the spies who fed intelligence to the Continental Army but goes into the methods in which they used. There is an entire chapter devoted the development of ciphers and code books that were used by the spy masters to encode messages. There is also a chapter devoted to the ways in which routes were developed and the invisible ink that was used to hide the messages of importance. It is a fascinating look at these men who shaped the outcomes of the army and while I will concede to some previous reviewers that it is thick in detail at time it provides a rich tapestry from which to understand the American Revolution. This area is only now being written about in greater detail but this is really the first major book to look at the entire spy operation from start to finish during the American Revolution and it is an excellent start. You do need to be a fan of American history due to the thick detail but if you enjoy the American Revolution this is one you can't miss!Special NoteThere is also a fascinating account of a little know story on the attempted abduction of Benedict Arnold from New York for those interested in how the operation was set up.

  • Sarah
    2018-11-15 16:05

    I feel a little bad giving it 2 stars, because this book isn't that bad, but it also wasn't quite good enough to be 3. Biggest problems with this book:1) Lack of narrative focus2) Way too much time spent on unimportant details (way too many numbers and figures on things I cared nothing about)3) Too little focus on the people involved, what they were like, and their motivationsCertainly, the author put a lot of research in, but it felt like a high school history report (look at all these facts and figures I dug up while researching this!!!) instead of a coherent book. This is a story about a spy ring in the midst of the Revolutionary War- it should not be boring. Yet it managed to be boring on more than one occasion. I was also rather frustrated that I came away from it feeling like I'd learned almost nothing about the people involved.

  • Megan
    2018-11-23 16:16

    I was excited about reading this book, especially since there is a TV show "loosely" based on it. I am going to watch the show (TURN) now that I have read the book. I am hoping that it is better than the book. This is the first book I have ever read by Mr. Rose, and I can say that I probably won't be reading any more of his books. I found it very dry and heavy-handed. Also, in many instances Rose didn't put a year with his date if it was mentioned a few pages ago.... well, I'm sorry, I'm not going to remember the year you mentioned a couple of pages ago, especially since every sentence is jam-packed with facts. Don't get me wrong, the primary sources were amazing and insightful, but it just wasn't a page-turner, and that's saying something, as early American history is of great interest to me. Oh well. Hopefully I'll enjoy the TV show.

  • Robert Greenberger
    2018-12-03 15:04

    Alexander Rose shines an overdue spotlight on the burgeoning world of American espionage. He brings us little known but vital characters in our history, explaining how General Washington built and benefited from the spy ring. Rose's prose is a little dry now and then but the stories are compelling and the background provided puts things nicely into perspective. I am also biased in favor of this book since so many of the locales on Long Island and Connecticut are where I spent my childhood and adult years. However, I have no regrets in selecting this as my Honors 11 summer reading assignment.

  • Ben Zajdel
    2018-12-04 20:15

    Centered around a group of friends who become spies for George Washington during the Revolutionary War, Washington's Spies gives an in-depth history of espionage in the early days of the United States. Alexander Rose does a tremendous job of painting a portrait of America at the time of the Revolution, building the world in which the spies he writes about inhabit. The result is a book which educates you on not only military and espionage history, but the culture of the colonies which rebelled against Great Britain and why they did.Rose expounds upon each spy's background and personality, which in the hands of a lesser writer would come across as tedious and exhausting. But Rose is able to pull interesting tidbits and quirks from each person, giving the reader a full understanding of their personality. Granted, he had a lot of material to work with, because these spies wrote quite a few letters, but it's still an impressive feat.If you have any interest in history, this book will appeal to you.

  • Bob Schnell
    2018-12-01 20:18

    I was a fan of the AMC show "Turn" that was based on the book "Washington's Spies" by Alexander Rose so when I saw it on the library shelf I grabbed it. The TV show, it seems, added some characters and situations not present in the book. However, the book is just as interesting without the romantic intrigue and other dramatic garnishes.It is the tale of spies during the Revolutionary War, a new concept used by both sides. The focus is on the rebel spies from Long Island known as the Culper Ring. It is a bit astonishing that a secret group left so much documentation for historians. However, they wanted recompense for their expenses so they had to keep track of expenditures. From these accounting books and letters to and from General Washington, the story unfolds. What the book lacks in thrills it makes up in fascinating detail.If I had to start again, I would read the book before watching the TV series.

  • Chad Geese
    2018-11-29 19:26

    I have to be honest I watched the first 3 seasons of turn on Netflix and decided to read the book because the 4the season wasn't provided yet. You hear how the book is better than the movie all the time which I agree but the tv series provided a face I could take with me while reading the book which helped out a lot considering the amount of characters. If you're into this time period/history you will absolutely love this book. An easy read with short chapters of 30 pages on average I would guess. If you watched TURN there is so much more going on in the book that I think most viewers of the show would like to know.

  • Andrew
    2018-12-10 16:20

    Read this book for the real story about the 'small band of rebels' (thank you, George Lucas) who carried out numerous spy missions against the British during the War for American Independence. Then, check out AMC's 'Turn: Washington's Spies' for which the author was a historical consultant (even as the show takes numerous dramatic liberties, it's still a very, very good show).

  • Elizabeth Meyette
    2018-11-19 16:10

    This was one of my main resources as I wrote my latest historical romance/saga set during the American Revolution. Filled with primary documents, quotes from historical figures and detailed explanation of the creation of the spy ring, I found this book to be incredibly helpful. I highly recommend it for history buffs and fans of the AMC series TURN.

  • Heather Hess
    2018-11-29 17:04

    I really enjoy history, but the writing was very dry and a little boring. Great story but I struggled a bit to get through it.

  • Terry Bain
    2018-12-11 20:08

    Great recounting of the Revolutionary War, told from the point of view of the first spy ring, based in Setauket, Long Island, Manhattan and Connecticut. Highly recommend!

  • Machaia
    2018-12-11 16:21

    I would not say that this is the most enthralling of books, but I think it is well worth reading. It is a bit dry, but I think that some of the blame of that can be placed on the characters and the fact that they really didn't talk about their spying. Ironically, they are why you read the book - selfless patriots who help the cause out of a sense of duty rather than for the hope of accolades and spoils.

  • Rio Ippoliti
    2018-11-19 14:20

    I was, as many were, inspired to read this book because ofTurn: Washington's Spies , the fantastic AMC show based off of Alexander Rose's original research. The book does not let you down and makes you even wish the show stuck more to the facts, rather than a dramatization of what truly happened. Rose does a great job of helping you get into the minds of these early American spies through their actions and reports which establishes a sort of narrative that normally has history on the denser side of the literary world. Washington's spies (rather Benjamin Tallmadge's spies) took gigantic risks for their country which seems to have actually had a direct impact on the American victory in the war. Fascinating descriptions of the intelligence they would gather and watching the information travel up the ladder and result in such wins for our country. The book really shows Rose's deep knowledge and understanding of the topic but really shows how our Founding Father truly was the incredible man we deify. This book matters.

  • Alex
    2018-12-12 16:08

    A fun and intriguing read. I could scarcely put it down!

  • Nancy
    2018-11-22 14:01

    We have been watching the AMC series Turn about General Washington's Culper spy ring and so dear hubby bought me the book that inspired it, Washington's Spys: The Story of America's First Spy Ring by Alexander Rose.As Nathaniel Philbrick notes in Valient Ambition, the Revolutionary War was also a Civil War, dividing families and communities according to allegiences as Loyalists or Patriots.Then there were those oppotunists who preyed on anyone and allied with whatever side was most profitable, the "vultures, vultures everywhere" always found during war time, coyboys and skinners and piratical whaleboatmen.I like how the series Turn portrays Setauket as under seige from all these angles.Long Island was a British military base and under matial law. Corruption and looting was rampant. Colonel Simcoe of the Queen's Rangers was brutal. Consquently, the British served to increase citizens' Patriot leanings.Washington's Setauket based spy Abraham Woodall, AKA Samuel Culper, resorted to setting up citizens to cover his tracks, even burning down the barn of the father of Robert Townsend, AKA Samuel Culper Jr.Of course there is a lot of fiction in the AMC series and romances and interpersonal conflict to keep things interesting. Rose's book offers the facts, just the facts, which is mighty interesting without embellishment.The book begins with failed spy Nathaniel Hal; it ends with war hero General Benedict Arnold's defection and ignomous end, and the hanging of British spy John Andre'--who earned the respect of countrymen and enemy alike for doing his duty. In between we learn the intricacies of how the Culper ring developed, how it worked, and the impact it had on the war.The main ring was comprised of Setauket friends who trusted each other: Ben Talmadge, Washington's head of intelligence; the Setauket based spy Samual Culper, in real life Abraham Woodall; Quaker Townsend, who had gone to New York to practise business and provided observations on the British; and whaleboatman Caleb Brewster, fearless and bold.We encounter a new side of General Washington as he forged a new kind of spycraft, utilizing advanced methods and emplying flawed, couraegeous, and colorful civilians.In a letter from Rose found at the AMC website,"Instead of remaining faceless names or nameless faces...through their letters the personalities of the spies themselves emerge and we perceive them not as invincible superheros like James Bond or Jason Bourne, but as ordinary individuals coping the best they can in an extraordinary time. These secret agents--because they're frail, because they're flawed, because they're sometimes fearful--come across...as recognizable, symatetic, real people having to make unenviable, hard choices while facing potential lethal challenges. "What I've found most remarkable about TURN is that eveyone involved is willing to throw out the conventional goodies vs baddies narrative of the War of Independence in order to explore these very human factors lying at the heart of that titanic clah of nations and ideologies."

  • Bjoern
    2018-11-23 20:00

    A well presented and researched book, that could have one a bit more appeal to the casual reader by losing sligthly of the academic treatise formate and going a little bit more into narrative retelling.The subject matter is a fascinating part of the revolutionary war and not yet all that well known due to many documents having lain hidden or being part of official secrets for so long and only in the last quarter of a century or so real source work towards the culper-ring has been done. Alexander Rose easily manages to spread out a concise timeline and a most convincing summary of the ring's activities, all embedded in the general tale of espionage in and around the camp of General Washington and his various opponents on the royal side of the war (mostly Clinton though).At the same time he puts the whole affair a bit into perspective when out of all the events during the war only one big incident ever came truly over the ring infrastructure (the attempted assault on Beauchamps recently landed french corps at Rhode Island) and other things like the defection of Benedict Arnold were found out more by happenstance than through the careful and organised spy network so long in preparation.On the other hand "Culper" shows all the sign of the early childhood of cryptography and organised espionage, so while the ring may not have contributed big to the ultimate results of the war effort it was a necessary and successful first step in the long history of secret services.The only small downside to the book is that by now it is marketed as the inspiration of the AMC adventure series "TUЯN - Washington's spies". While it is true that the television program makes extensive use of the motives and persons thematised in Rose's book it is in no manner factual representative of the true accounts about these brave patriots and must be categorized as fantasy due to this artistical freedoms taken from the real events. Despite this, the book deserves the highest respect as scientific summary of the period and actions and the fuzzy treatment of reality on the tv screen should and cannot detract from this.

  • Jeremiah Lorrig
    2018-11-15 17:09

    The details of history don't only add color, these details reveal heroes and villains, innovation and creativity, and the basic humanity of the stories that prance around the edges of great events. This book, delves into a time and set of circumstances that is by it's very nature obscure and mysterious. One gets the feeling that these stories (some only by chance being discovered 100 years later) only scratch the surface of what happened in Washington's spy service. I was amazed by the selflessness of so many, the direct involvement of George Washington himself, and the fascinating personalities involved. Reading Washington's Spies gives the reader an opportunity to see behind the curtain and appreciate in a new way the birth of a nation.