Behind the Culper Spy Ring Members: George Washington and Benjamin Tallmadge

by | Mar 13, 2018 | Heidi's Updates

The Culper Spy Ring plays a major part in my upcoming release, The Hidden Side. I thought it would be fun to explore this Revolutionary spy ring, made even more popular by AMC’s series TURN: Washington’s Spies, based on the book by Alexander Rose.

Join me over the next few posts as I explore those who made up the Ring, comparing the actual historical people with those in TURN, and finally, sharing a bit of their place in The Hidden Side.

“There is nothing more necessary than good intelligence to frustrate a designing enemy and nothing requires greater pains to obtain.”

~ George Washington

The father of intelligence, George Washington organized several spy operations during the Revolution. The Culper Spy Ring would become his most well-known and successful. A veteran of the French and Indian War, Washington himself had infiltrated enemy lines to gather information on the enemy’s plans, positions, and movements.

Years later, after defeat at the Battle of Brooklyn and the loss of New York City to the King’s Army, General George Washington sought to plant a man behind enemy lines to obtain not only accurate, but timely (there were no cell phones back then!) information. He turned to Nathan Hale, but this mission ended in tragedy.

After Hale’s demise, George Washington changed tactics. He knew if he was to obtain much-needed information, he had to use men and women who already had a reason for being behind enemy lines.

In TURN: I love the portrayal of George Washington in this series! They do a wonderful job of creating the man behind so much Patriot success. I particularly like how they give him a very human side, giving him flaws where we often imagine a completely perfect hero.

(The picture above is Noah beside a life-size Washington, courtesy of Three Village Historical Society in Setauket, NY.)

Benjamin Tallmadge, Head of the Revolutionary CIA

The son of the minister of Setauket Presbyterian Church, Benjamin Tallmadge entered school at the young age of six, already fluent in Latin. When he attended Yale several years later, he became close friends with Nathan Hale. Benjamin, who encouraged his friend to join the Continental Army, likely felt some guilt over Nathan’s unfortunate demise.

Together with General Washington, Benjamin turned to his childhood friends–Abraham Woodhull, Caleb Brewster, Austin Roe, and Anna Smith Strong. He’d grown up with them. He trusted them. And, being situated on Long Island, they were in a perfect position to take trips to Manhattan (more on this in Abraham’s upcoming post) and bring information back to their hometown of Setauket to be whisked across the Sound to Patriot-occupied Connecticut.

(Photo at left is courtesy of The Three Village Historical Society.)

In TURN: Another dynamic character! I love how the series grounds Tallmadge in his real historical character (as much as possible). In the series, Benjamin convinces his friend Abraham to aid Washington, as he did in real life. As any good television drama has to do, they give him a passing love interest not recorded in history, but this only made him more real to me. (Can you tell I’m a BIG fan of this show?)

In The Hidden SideWhile Benjamin Tallmadge doesn’t play a major role in my novel, he is the means through which my historical heroine, Mercy, meets her fiancé, Nathan Hale. And of course, Benjamin is mentioned throughout as the catalyst that spurs the Culper Spy Ring (and Mercy) into action.

(Photo to the right is courtesy of The Three Village Historical Society.)

Join me next time as we explore more real historical Spy Ring members found in The Hidden Side!

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