Dec 17, 2018 in Book Review

George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring that Saved the American Revolution

The early American history is very fascinating. Undoubtedly, everyone who is interested in it should read the book written by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger, which is a non-fiction historic story called George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring that Saved the American Revolution. Thereafter, the objective of this paper is to provide a book review of the mentioned masterpiece. 

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The book attempts to reveal the secret of the extremely sophisticated spy network created during the American Revolution in order to unveil the very important information that was proven to have been used as a tool in fights of the American colonies for the possibility to become free and independent from the UK. Actually, according to the arguments of the authors, without the Culper Spy Ring, the United Stated would have never won the war.

 The first American spy was Nathan Hale, who has pushed George Washington to find a person, who could help to make the British leave New York by developing a spy ring. The authors have used the research by Morton Pennypacker, who was a premier historian from Long Island and who has found very valuable information about the book character Robert Townsend. According to the book, George Washington has depicted Maj. Benjamin Tallmadge to become the main developer of a spy network. He hired six spies, who all together have altered the outcome of the Revolutionary War.  

The book is about adventure, intrigue, and history. The mentioned six agents show their courage, confidence, and leadership when they move between the British army soldiers and loyalists in order to fulfill their mission. The six protagonists were Robert Townsend working as a newspaper editor, a bartender Austin Roe, a traveler Abraham Woodhull, a dockworker Celeb Brewster, a coffee shop owner James Rivington, and a female agent called Agent 355. It is hard to imagine what they must have felt and experienced by living among the enemies during four years in a row and knowing that they could face the same fate as Nathan Hale. The book has a very surprising moment that is about the mindset of the heroes, who were just passionate about what they were doing, as they never wanted any credit for that; only one of the protagonists has actually met with George Washington. They did great things as they found serving the country the most important goal in their lives. 

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Besides the six spies, the authors of the book also drew much attention to the character of George Washington who was an excellent strategist and a great general. He knew that neither weapon, nor manpower or force could become a solution that would help to defeat the British; only a battle of wits could possibly bring a victory. This mindset has helped Washington to come to the decision to hire spies in order to create the network that would reveal the British strategy and help to get them out of Long Island and New York. Moreover, Washington was a good leader and had a strongly developed critical thinking and analytical skills that enabled him to assess the character of the hired agents so that they would get the information in a more specific and time-bound manner. His words “The Americans did not outfight us, they out spied us.” show how smartly everything was done; thus, the victory was definitely given to those who really deserved it. 

One of the most fascinating parts of the book is about how the Culper Ring has managed to prevent Benedict Arnold from surrendering to the British of the West Point and the Agent’s 355 ability to foresee that Arnold was a betrayer. Actually, the book itself is very fascinating as it also includes the description of how the protagonists invented their pseudonyms and established secret black codes so that they could use the compartmentalized intelligence to communicate. It was like a pre-Morse Code that included the numbers stating for the places and names, inscription and invisible ink. The information revealed in the book is a proof that the British not only wanted to make the economy of America collapse, but also used Benedict Arnold as the main instrument in their mission. Thankfully, the spies have managed to obtain the naval codebook of the British due to which the Battle of Yorktown has ended in a way it did. Only one member of the Culper Ring, who was a female, was revealed during the five-year operation. There were suggestions that she hung her clothes in a special secret way to pass the information regarding troop’s movements to Americans. However, the authors of the book do not provide a deep analysis of that fact, which leaves a possibility for other researchers and scientist to find more proof and continue the study (Kilmeade& Yaeger, 2013).            

To conclude, I would like to mention that after reading this book, I have understood that there are many things I did not know about the history of our great country. The book also gave me an incentive to think about many other untold stories of heroism, as the members of the Culper Ring were not specially trained and skilled military agents, but just those who risked their lives for the country of which they were real patriots. The book is definitely worth not only reading, but also being kept in mind and heart by every American citizen.    

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