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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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3.75  ·  Rating Details ·  2,027 Ratings  ·  271 Reviews
Turn: Washington’s SpiesNow a new original 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
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ebook, 384 pages
Published December 18th 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
Feb 09, 2015 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 ...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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Ron
Jan 11, 2016 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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Nicole Nathanson
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
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
Jun 12, 2016 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.
Brian
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 ...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 ...more
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
Aug 17, 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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Jays
Jun 01, 2014 Jays rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Bjoern
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Anna
Jun 26, 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 18, 2012 Kathleen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 18, 2014 Gretchen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a fascinating story. I loved the book.
Butch
May 13, 2015 Butch rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating look at the work of our first spies during the Revolution!
Richard
Nov 30, 2016 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent look into the tradecraft of espionage in the 18th century. The sort of things that seem tame and common to us now were being invented and/or being put to this use for the first time.

I decided to read this after watching the TV show it spawned (AMC's TURN) and this book has made it clear that TURN takes a large amount of creative license with the history. If you like that show, check out this book. If you enjoy early US History, check out this book. If you like neat glances
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Andrew
I really wanted to deeply like this book. Spies. The American Revolution. What's not to love? Plus I really am into the show it inspired. However, the way this thing is written takes so much away from the depth of research and information it contains. Within a given page, Rose keeps switching between describing American activities and British activities, different years and times, and different locations. It makes it very difficult to follow, where it might have been simpler with a heavier ...more
Ryan
Dec 10, 2016 Ryan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the second book that I read about the Culper ring, and by far the best. Alexander Rose digs deep to uncover the the activities of the members of a spy ring that was so secretive that even George Washington, the commander that the ring served, was unaware of of their names. This book covers many critical incidents that had repercussions throughout the war, such as the hanging of Nathan Hale, the capture of Major John Andre, and the defection of General Benedict Arnold.
Jamie
Dec 08, 2016 Jamie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book, it was interesting to delve into the life of a spy. The codes they came up with, and the way they protected each other made their story amazing. The writing style was not too dry, it was really well done, you can tell that A LOT of research went into this book. Very well done, I'll be be checking out other books by this author.
Anna
Oct 24, 2016 Anna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! There was lots of interesting information. There were times, as other reviewers have noted, when the author went into certain things with a level of detail that maybe wasn't exactly necessary, but it didn't really bother me so much.

I listened to this on audio, so there were some things I missed when my mind wandered, but the narration was very well done.
Karen
Nov 12, 2016 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was an interesting read. It made me want to delve a bit more into the history of our fight for independence. I recently toured Mount Vernon and after reading this book I have gained respect for George Washington the man rather than the myth.
Jason Grose
Dec 03, 2016 Jason Grose rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good read.

Good book. If you like the show Turn, this is the historical story. The show is actually fairly accurate. Recommended
Abby Olson
Dec 01, 2016 Abby Olson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Utterly fascinating and blisteringly dedicated to accuracy. A bit dense to get through, but the information is impeccably-researched.
Charity
Nov 30, 2016 Charity rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Research
Nikolas Larum
Oct 24, 2016 Nikolas Larum rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-history
Very educational look into the factious society of revolutionary America. Not surprising that less than 100 years later, we managed to kill over half a million of our selves in the Civil War! The early spy craft was fascinating. Had the opportunity to hear the author speak on 7/14/16. Mr. Rose is much younger than I had expected. Fascinating chap, knows his subject.
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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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“His anguished mind writhed with contradictions. He was a man of parts and halfs, in a time of wholes and absolutes.” 3 likes
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