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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

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  2,764 Ratings  ·  364 Reviews
Now a TV 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 and code breaking, and unmasks the co
Paperback, 384 pages
Published March 25th 2014 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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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
May 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: own, true-story, 2017
I picked this up because I am in love with Turn: Washington's Spies, the AMC show that you may have guessed is based on this book, and for which author Alexander Rose is also a credited writer.

Given the scant amount of information available about the Culper Ring, I knew the show had to be heavily fictionalized. I did not set out to read Washington's Spies expecting to learn about personal relationships between characters such as you might see in a multi-season TV show. What I did hope for was a
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
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.
Dec 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-books-i-own
"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
Dec 28, 2015 rated it liked it
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
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
Feb 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
absolutely a fantastic read! I highly recommend it for anyone that enjoys Revolutionary history.
A.L. Sowards
Jun 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Prior to reading this, most of my knowledge about spies during the American Revolution was that Nathan Hale was caught and hanged. It turned out that even my knowledge of that was shady. His famous final words, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country,” weren’t what he actually said. A British officer present at the hanging recorded this about Hale’s final moments: “He behaved with great composure and resolution, saying he thought it the duty of every good officer, to obey ...more
Aug 28, 2017 rated it liked it
All I really knew about New York during the Revolutionary War was that it was occupied by the British. This book showed me there was certainly a lot more going on! I enjoyed learning about the undercover spies- the tactics they used, their motivations, and how they helped Washington.
Apr 29, 2014 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
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 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
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
May 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Chad Geese
Nov 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have to be honest I watched the first 3 seasons of turn on Netflix and decided to read the book because the 4the season wasn't provided yet. You hear how the book is better than the movie all the time which I agree but the tv series provided a face I could take with me while reading the book which helped out a lot considering the amount of characters. If you're into this time period/history you will absolutely love this book. An easy read with short chapters of 30 pages on average I would gues ...more
Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Read this book for the real story about the 'small band of rebels' (thank you, George Lucas) who carried out numerous spy missions against the British during the War for American Independence. Then, check out AMC's 'Turn: Washington's Spies' for which the author was a historical consultant (even as the show takes numerous dramatic liberties, it's still a very, very good show).
Elizabeth Meyette
Nov 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was one of my main resources as I wrote my latest historical romance/saga set during the American Revolution. Filled with primary documents, quotes from historical figures and detailed explanation of the creation of the spy ring, I found this book to be incredibly helpful. I highly recommend it for history buffs and fans of the AMC series TURN.
Terry Bain
Jul 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great recounting of the Revolutionary War, told from the point of view of the first spy ring, based in Setauket, Long Island, Manhattan and Connecticut. Highly recommend!
Oct 14, 2016 rated it liked it
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.
Rio Ippoliti
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
I was, as many were, inspired to read this book because of Turn: Washington's Spies , the fantastic AMC show based off of Alexander Rose's original research. The book does not let you down and makes you even wish the show stuck more to the facts, rather than a dramatization of what truly happened. Rose does a great job of helping you get into the minds of these early American spies through their actions and reports which establishes a sort of narrative that normally has history on the denser si ...more
Jun 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A fun and intriguing read. I could scarcely put it down!
Jul 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
May 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jeremiah Lorrig
Feb 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
Mary Havens
Finally I'm done!! Alright: I knew nothing about this subject prior to picking up this book for Work Book Club. It was like going from 4th grade history class to Advanced American History in college.

The positives: extremely well-researched (90 pages of endnotnes, bibliography, and index) and there are glimmers of very interesting information a la Erik Larson-style. Chapters 8-Epilogue were more interesting but still dry.

The negatives: extremely dry, too many names of people, and, I felt, disorg
Jun 10, 2016 rated it liked it
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
Nicki Markus
Nov 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-non-fiction
Washington's Spies was an excellent read that combined clean and easy prose with a wealth of historical research. I've read many books lately on John André and the Revolution in general, but this was the first that focused on Continental Intelligence and, as such, provided some wonderful new information and perspectives I'd not come across before. Although full of detail, it did not read like a stale history lesson, but rather a story, and that makes this a book that will appeal to both the seri ...more
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Spy Thrillers: Espionage Non-fiction 4 22 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...
“His anguished mind writhed with contradictions. He was a man of parts and halfs, in a time of wholes and absolutes.” 3 likes
“Winter was traditionally a quiet time for armies, summer being the accepted and most civilized season to recommence killing the enemy.” 3 likes
More quotes…