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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

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  1,290 ratings  ·  186 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
"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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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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
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
Fascinating look at the work of our first spies during the Revolution!
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
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
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.
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
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
Tyson Heck
While I've made a habit of dragging my way through historical non-fiction books, partially to my dismay but also somewhat a fault that is not mine (attention span is short), this book was on the easier of ends to read from cover to cover. While in some places the language will slow most readers down-- mainly quotes from historical documents and resources-- the content is more than fascinating to have kept me going. I have begun watching TURN on AMC, and I credit the show for engaging my interest ...more
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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.
CoCo Milardo
I'm reviewing this from the perspective of one who doesn't read history books.

I loved this book. It immediately sucked me in detailing a part of American history I want to learn more about. Everything about it fascinated me. It painted a vivid picture of how life was like for not only military personnel living in New York, Long Island and Connecticut but this book delved into the lives of the civilian population - both Tories and Patriots - and how they adapted to their disrupted lives getting
As someone who fully enjoys spy stories and history, this book was right up my alley (as well as great supplement to watching AMC's show based on it). At times the writing could have been a bit more flowing or cohesive, but overall it was pretty good at keeping the history story-based and interesting.

I can't tell if the author was in love with Major Tallmadge, if he was just that cool of a person, or if the fact that he wrote his own memoirs to draw from just gave more material than others, but
Emily Huber
Overall, the book was ok. The concept and premise is great, but it is stuffed full of facts that don't add to the big picture. I was excited to read this book for my history class, and there were many interesting tidbits that gave insight to the American Revolution. However, I could not focus on the text for very long because there seemed to be too many people to keep straight (see: talking about the ancestry of almost everyone for pages and pages). You can see this in the first chapter talking ...more
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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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