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Washington's Spies: The Story of America's First Spy Ring
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Washington's Spies: The Story of America's First Spy Ring

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  823 ratings  ·  119 reviews
Soon to be a series on AMC

Based on remarkable new research, acclaimed historian Alexander Rose brings to life the true story of the spy ring that helped America win the Revolutionary War. For the first time, Rose takes us beyond the battlefront and deep into the shadowy underworld of double agents and triple crosses, covert operations and code breaking, and unmasks the co
Paperback, 369 pages
Published May 1st 2007 by Bantam (first published May 2006)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jeffrey Keeten
"I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country."
Nathan Hale

 photo NathanHale_zps4bd12b9c.jpg
Statue 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 han
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 h ...more
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. Battl
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 ...more
Robert Greenberger
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 ad ...more
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 in ...more
James F
Although it begins with the story of Nathan Hale and some other early spy attempts, the book mostly deals with the "Culper Ring", so-named from the code names "Samuel Culper" and "Samuel Culper, Jr." for its two operatives in New York City. (Long Island and New York City are the almost exclusive focus of the book.) Well-documented with lots of endnotes (some with extra information -- I hate endnotes which are not merely references; information should be in the text or in footnotes), this may be ...more
Becky Dartnall
Fascinating and well written look at the "behind the scenes" spy activities of mainly the American Revolutionary forces, but also of the British efforts, (including the shameful case of Major Andre, and Benedict Arnold!) Oddly, the book begins with a chapter or two about the doomed Nathan Hale, early patriot turned captured spy, who is quickly hung, and then there is no more about him. The main portion of the book then shifts to the development & usefulness of the "Culpepper Ring", Gen. Wash ...more
This is a fascinating story of the risks that a handful of people on Long Island and New York City took to provide intelligence to Washington from 1777/1778-1782. Rose paints a picture of a dangerous area; not only did the British occupy New York and Long Island, the area was full of Loyalists. Some of the incidents referenced (for example, the 1776 fire that devastated a portion of NYC) whetted my appetite to learn more about Revolutionary New York. And the chapter about Benedict Arnold's betra ...more
J.f. Dargon
An interesting presentation of Washington's primary concern in winning the War of Independence: intelligence gathering. This book should be a must read for anyone at the CIA or any other intelligence agency. Alexander Rose informs the reader of the difficulties Washington faced as he set up from scratch a network of loyal, intelligent, and prepared spies. The reader soon learns what is required in any situation in which knowledge of an enemy and their plans of attack, supply, and/or retreat migh ...more
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Both the key players and the dangerous times were brought to life. As a result, while at times I was impressed with their bravery, I could still empathize when certain members of the ring gave into fear.

While this book is primarily about the Culper ring, the narrative does seem to diverge at times. For example, the book begins before the formation of the Culper ring, with the account of Nathan Hale. Since Hale's demise seemed to have such an impact on how Tallmadg
Mark C
An interesting addition to the stories of the American Revolution. I was inspired to read by the new TV series TURN. While I found very little resemblance between the series and the book, the book is far superior in many ways (while not wanting for drama). The evolution of spy craft in the New World tells us much about the creativity of the Founding Fathers and the bravery of unsung men and women.
Mark Schlatter
I came to this book via a circuitous route. I first heard of the Culper Ring in Brian K. Vaughan's series Y: The Last Man, in which the female protagonist spies for the Ring in the 20th century. (Note that the actual Culper Ring only existed during the Revolutionary War; in Vaughan's world, the Ring continued to serve presidents.) But I was never really sure if Vaughan was making the whole thing up.

Then, at my local library, I found a copy of George Washington's Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Sav
Davis Farnham
I'm a history buff and wasn't expecting to get much new detail but this offered new facts and background on how George Washington used spies to help win the war. Apparently they're making this book into a AMC tv series but adding some more characters, apparently. While I enjoyed the book and picturing the places in Brooklyn, manhattan, and Long Island referenced in the book, it wasn't compelling reading and a bit dry at times.

NYC was the major focus of the Revolutionary War and GW's usage of sp
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Overall Review:
Washington's Spies: America's First Spy Ring is a comprehensive account of espionage during the Revolutionary War. Author Alexander Rose shares countless details about how spy rings operated in a time when undercover work was not deemed respectable. Rose provides fascinating accounts about a myriad of subjects, including spy code, invisible ink, and the double agent, Benedict Arnold. Maps, photos of original letters and illustrations of char
Amazing. I've studied the war for sometime but the story always had holes. Things that made no sense or seemed to good to be true. This book, and the insight into the men and women who worked behind the scenes and helped Washington stay that two steps ahead of the British, filled in those holes. A must read for anyone who really wants to understand how the war was fought.
This was a fascinating story. I loved the book.
I did enjoy the parts of this book that were related to the title. Unfortunately, that encompassed probably less than 20%. I got the feeling that the author needed more content, so delved into lengthy back-stories and family lineages of the main characters just to use for "filler". The story was also not in chronological order, making it difficult to follow.

I was motivated to read this book because I started watching the TV show Turn, which is based on this book. I thought reading the book woul
Wow, and Wow, and Wow!
Should be required reading for those on Long Island. What a thrill to read about Setauket, Oyster Bay, Mastic, The Tallmadge Trail (and Manhattan) and know that these are areas of Washington's major spy ring-The Culper Ring!
Reading this, along with watching the AMC production of Turn, is highly recommended.
I found it fascinating to read about our first spy ring and how brave our early patriots were. Also amazed at how lucky our guys were to have survived and maintained th
I like historical works on lesser known or unknown subjects and "Washington's Spies" is one of those books. I had no idea that George Washington, with all the other things he was doing to keep the fledgling American government and army together, set up a spy ring to keep tabs on the British. Washington never had more than a few spies at his disposal but those few provided information that eventually led to American independence. Every one of those "agents" risked his or her life everything they ...more
I read this as background because I've started watching the AMC television show "Turn." Normally I'm not a huge fan of non-fiction - particularly history books. However, this book reads like a novel - it's absolutely riveting and I found myself unable to put it down. Alexander Rose has researched his subject matter meticulously with footnotes throughout (Don't skip the footnotes! They're just as interesting as the text of the book is!) I found this book to be just fascinating - he brings these p ...more
This book is what AMC bases their television show "Turn" on. AMC certainly has taken quite a bit of creative license with the stories of the people involved in what was known as the 'Culper Ring'. I understand needing to add some drama, but I think if it was my ancestors they were depicting having affairs and other concocted dramas, I'd probably be offended. There are no hints of any of these sorts of things going on in the real story. Rose delves deep into the world of spying in the 1700s - a w ...more
Rob O'Lynn
Overall, this is a very interesting study of early American espionage, recently popularized by AMC's miniseries "Turn." My only critique with Rose's book is that, as is often the case with historical studies that are small-scope in nature, there is a lot of rabbit-chasing. There is certainly a place for fleshing out the major and secondary players. Rose, however, introduces us in-depth (it seems) to every player in the Revolutionary espionage game. Yet, it is a good story throughout, enough to g ...more
This book--basis for the new AMC series "Turn"--is just the kind of book I like to go after. Aside from my hobby of learning about the American Revolution, I absolutely love interesting, but little known, stories from history. After instantly falling in love with the T.V. show, I had to pick up this book and read it.

'Washington's Spies" turned out to be a really good book, though unfortunately not a great one. The subject matter was absolutely fascinating, but the author often struggled to prese
This was a hard one to rate... It was a slow read for me and felt a bit dreary. However, I’ve been reading fiction lately, so that effected my view of this non-fiction work. The writing was wordy and complex; not reader friendly. Awkward phrasing and sentence structure. Old English? It just felt heavy and hard to get through in sections. Not a fast read! The author is oddly opinionated at points; it annoys me when historians impose their opinions on history.

[Note: After writing this, I discovere
It took me over 3 years to read this book.. I have to admit that Turn premiering on AMC on Sunday is the reason why I finally decided to pick it up again and finish it. I would like to up the star rating to 2.5, if I could. It was okay and I liked it, eventually. The beginning was what was difficult for me. Alexander Rose really does an amazing job with primary sources and building the story of Washington's Spies. His writing is fancy (also quoting exact passages from ye olden tymes requires mor ...more
Holly Weiss
Aug 12, 2012 Holly Weiss added it
Shelves: history
I recently moved to Connecticut and became intrigued with how much that state played a role in the spy ring on which Washington relied during the Revolutionary War.

During the war, General George Washington relied on an intelligence-gathering group of barkeeps, neurotics, hypochondriacs and smugglers to keep him informed of British-occupied New York. Most young men were galvanized to join the militia. Other men and women served their country in more covert, creative ways.

Celebrated historical a
I read this 3 to 10 pages at a time, right before bed, for several months. Don't get me wrong. It is an interesting enough tale of Revolutionary War spying, and conveys all sorts of fascinating detail about the politics, religious and cultural dimensions of colonial life, as well as General Washington's challenges in running and maintaining specific famous spies behind British lines, in New York. Some of the tales told here give us a new appreciation for the raw brutality of the guerrilla warfar ...more
Dave Maddock
With AMC's Turn bringing a wider audience to this book, I see some reviewers were disappointed with the book's pacing. It's not meant to be a thriller guys, it's a history book and a well-researched one at that. It brings to light the contributions of important, but otherwise unknown, players in the Revolution in superb fashion. As a resident of Connecticut with family ties to upstate New York, I liked how frequently the story intersected with places that I know.
To be honest, I read the book because I was so intrigued by AMC's Turn. This book didn't live up to my expectations at all. Yes, I know, AMC throws inaccuracies and drama into the show, but that's what makes it so good.

Short story short, it was an okay book. For some reason, I hate Rose's style of writing. In many of the sections, I felt like it was rambling...way too much, which made me bored to death (aka fall asleep). If I wanted to sleep, I'd just read my English book; that'll knock anyone o
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Spy Thrillers: Espionage Non-fiction 4 20 Mar 20, 2014 04:48AM  
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A little about myself. I was born in the United States, grew up in Australia, and educated (to the best of my abilities) in Britain. After that, I moved to Canada, became what was known in the pre-Internet era as a “newspaperman,” and eventually transferred to Washington, D.C. Now based in New York, I am what is currently known as an “historian.”

My writing has appeared in, among other places, the
More about Alexander Rose...
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