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

3.73  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,825 Ratings  ·  244 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
ebook, 384 pages
Published December 18th 2007 by Bantam (first published May 2006)
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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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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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
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
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 in ...more
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!
Feb 19, 2016 Hannah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
This is by far one of my most favorite books. I have yet to read a non-fiction historical novel that has gripped me as much as this. I love Alexander Rose's writing style; he manages to switch between giving facts, dates, and names to giving short and gripping stories. He teaches without boring, brings the people to life, and offers deep narratives that drag you into the time period.

If you have watched AMC's adaption, "Turn", and are planning on reading this with the idea that it will be a story
David Orphal
What a fantastic read!

I'm not sure how many Americans know the story of Nathan Hale. I imagine that most of us who do, like me, only know the myth. Caught behind British lines, Hale only regretted that he "had but one life to give for his country!"

The author only spends the first paragraph on Captain Hale. He dispels the myth by giving us Hale's actual last words after his bumbling disaster of an attempt to spy behind the lines. Hale's can be admired for volunteering for a job others refuse, ev
Sep 04, 2015 Judith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I turned to this book after seeing the first year's episodes of TURN. I am hooked on the series and eagerly wait season 2 and season 3 (recently announced in the making). If you are also hooked, I urge you to read this book. The series is based on the book, but amplified with romantic drama, of course--this is inevitable. But the people are real, which surprised me as my survey courses in American history had never mentioned spying, but were rather bland--as survey courses can be. I was happy to ...more
Apr 24, 2015 Stephanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alexander Rose exhaustively researched this book - the story of one spy ring who provided him with valuable information during the Revolutionary War. I am a fan of the TV show TURN, based on the book, so I decided to read it. Although I love history, I confess that I started this book and put it down for about six months before picking it up again and starting over. There are some tedious details - for example of the accounts kept by Woodhull. But overall, the information is interesting. Rose co ...more
James F
Feb 04, 2015 James F rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, us
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
Jun 01, 2014 Cara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
Jun 11, 2014 J.f. Dargon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 19, 2014 Angie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Reggie Brink
I've been doing a lot of reading on the Culpers. The author of this particular book postulates that Agent 355 was simply Anna Strong. I would disagree, Anna Strong didn't seem to spend much time in New York and it would have been difficult for Woodhull to present her as his wife. What if somebody at some checkpoint knew both of them from Setaquet. I think more likely, as others have speculated, 355 was a debutante from a rich loyalist family that rubbed elbows with the British hierarchy includin ...more
Joni Graybill
After being absolutely blown away by how completely riveting AMC's "Turn" is, I knew that the book the TV show is based on was going to be my next foray into the daunting world of historical non-fiction.

The book is meticulously researched and there are some fascinating insights and tidbits into what the dangerous lives of George Washington's Secret Six must have been like, but overall it's a bit too dry for my taste. It reads more like a history text book and less like a story where the histori
I read this book because I'm a big fan of the AMC show, TURN. And I recently found out that the show was based on this book.
I almost gave the book four stars but I held back. As much as I enjoyed it, I had a problem with the way it was setup. A chapter is several dozen pages. Rose would lay out fact after fact, constantly switching subjects. At times it was a bit confusing, trying to remember who was on which side, what year it was, or where everything was happening. If he had just put in a few
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
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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
More about Alexander Rose...

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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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