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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

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3.76  ·  Rating Details ·  2,187 Ratings  ·  290 Reviews
Turn: Washington’s Spies • Now a new original 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 an
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Paperback, 369 pages
Published May 1st 2007 by Bantam (first published May 2006)
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Nikolas Larum Perhaps by now you have already read the book. If not, you will discover that Turn, though highly entertaining, is a fictional dramatization of the…morePerhaps by now you have already read the book. If not, you will discover that Turn, though highly entertaining, is a fictional dramatization of the actual characters Mr. Rose wrote about in Washington's Spies. In a paraphrase of his words, he had encountered parts of the story in various places but no one work that focused on Washington's role as spymaster. This, and fascination with the subject, decided him on writing the book.

The book is well worth reading, particularly for Turn fans. It provides a view of Washington seldom discussed and his role in developing what became standard intelligence practices in the modern era. It also gives a good sense of the psychological toll of being an information asset in occupied territory.(less)
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Community Reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
Apr 07, 2014 Jeffrey Keeten rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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 ha
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Lauren
May 01, 2014 Lauren rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jean Poulos
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.
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~Bellegirl91~
Dec 10, 2016 ~Bellegirl91~ rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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, whos ...more
Nicole
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 ...more
Ron
Dec 28, 2015 Ron rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, drama
“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
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Bookworm
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
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Kris
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
Feb 21, 2015 Stephanie G rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
absolutely a fantastic read! I highly recommend it for anyone that enjoys Revolutionary history.
Jays
Apr 29, 2014 Jays rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, scoundrels
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
Brian
Nov 01, 2011 Brian rated it liked it
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
Megan
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 goi ...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
Jeremiah Lorrig
Feb 11, 2017 Jeremiah Lorrig rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 selflessn
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Machaia
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.
Nancy
Jul 01, 2016 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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, t
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Sarah
Dec 21, 2016 Sarah rated it it was ok
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 focus
2) 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 motivations

Certainly, the author put a lot of research in, but it felt like a high school history report (look at all these facts an
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Bjoern
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alan Cook
Jan 10, 2017 Alan Cook rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book I've read regarding spying during the American Revolution. Although the author jumps around from year to year, and it is sometimes difficult to know what year he's talking about, the story is interesting and entertaining, and shows a lot of research. During the course of the war Washington received an education on the techniques of using spies, and he probably ended up with better spy networks than the British side.
Anna
Jun 10, 2016 Anna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's hard to judge non-fiction books, especially books on history. But this was a well-written account of a time period I am newly interested in and, in particular, the espionage activities taking place during the revolution. While a little dry at times, this is a hazard common to books of the type and I thought that it kept my interest well for the most part. If I was to truly criticize any aspect of the book, it was the occasional bouncing of time periods where the author's narrative reached a ...more
Mark C
May 12, 2014 Mark C rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Kathleen
Jul 06, 2012 Kathleen rated it it was amazing
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.
Gretchen
Apr 29, 2014 Gretchen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a fascinating story. I loved the book.
Butch
May 09, 2015 Butch rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating look at the work of our first spies during the Revolution!
Dana Reynolds
This is a very well-researched book of an obscure portion of American history. Indeed, much of the Revolutionary War period seems to be neglected, or was in my experience. Beyond Lexington and Concord, or the treason of Benedict Arnold, I would be hard pressed to pass any test on this history. So it was surprising to learn of the extent of espionage during the war, and especially of its development beyond mere scouting out enemy troop movements from afar.

Another fascination for me was how alleg
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Jonson
Feb 18, 2017 Jonson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 entir ...more
Candice
Upon hearing that parts of the AMC series Turn were filmed here in Colonial Williamsburg, we decided to watch the series. And learning that the series was based on this book made me want to read the book. I think what impressed me most about the book was how far the movie deviated from it. While most of the main characters of the show were in the book, there was a lot in the TV show that was pure fabrication. As we watched the shows I remarked that I suspected that the strong female characters w ...more
Wendi Ballew
Dec 17, 2016 Wendi Ballew rated it liked it
6.5/10 Stars. Slow reading due to some confusing information and the discussion of military strategy. For instance, there were three men of import named "Howe" and two named "Clinton", and Mr. Rose does not always provide first names, so the reader is left to contemplate which "Howe" or "Clinton" is being discussed. Still, it was interesting reading about America's first spy ring, how they operated, their techniques, the info they provided. Worth the read for anyone interested in US history or e ...more
Richard R., Martin
This is a history written by a historian. The first part of the dragged but I persevered because I love the AMC program Turn. It dragged because the book jumped around to different characters and events and the author gave the complete back story in all its detail. The later part of the book picked up as the book covered the actual actions of Washington's spies and Culper Ring which is the basis for Turn.
Peggy Donahue
Feb 03, 2017 Peggy Donahue rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Definitive Book on the Culper Spy Ring

I had read previously a poorly written, pale shadow of this well-written book. It was written by some shoddy reporter from Fox News. So glad a friend recommended this one as the antidote. Alexander Rose's version is the real deal. Bravo.
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Spy Thrillers: Espionage Non-fiction 4 21 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
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