Recommended Reads: The secret spy ring that saved the American Revolution


george washingtonGeorge Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger

Here is an historic example of ordinary people living extraordinary lives. These people acted with heroism and patriotism that they had to keep secret from their friends, family, and community. This book is centered on General George Washington’s persistence to win New York back from British occupation. The General had learned about the value of spy information as a younger man, with his personal experience during the French and Indian War. He looked to engage spies in New York. General Washington hit the jackpot, ending up with a ring of spies who provided him valuable information.

At the beginning of the book the author sets the scene for today’s reader, and then it’s so interesting to learn how the members of the spy ring were recruited. These members did not know the others in the ring. Each individual story is unique, and that is part of what made the team so successful. Because the citizens were from different walks of life, they added their own information from diverse sources which gave Washington a broader overall picture.

This book has been a work of love by Brian Kilmeade, who has worked for a decade to research what is known as the Culper ring. In an interview he spoke of the bravery of these unsung heroes. “I believe that fundamentally Americans are good and have heroic qualities. It’s not just about Michael Jordan in basketball and George Washington in history…I believe we all have that in us, and I believe this story backs up my belief.” He said of the spies: “One’s a farmer. One’s a tavern owner. One is a dry goods owner. One is a woman who’s a socialite. One person’s an editor. And they sit there behind enemy lines every day for four years, knowing that at any moment they will suffer the fate of Nathan Hale if they are uncovered.”

British intelligence officer during the Revolution, Maj. Gen. George Beckwith wrote: “Washington did not really outfight the British, he simply outspied us!” It’s so interesting to read what British plans were foiled, and what contributions these people made to the Revolution. There is also a comparison made to the spying that the infamous Benedict Arnold did for the British.

After the war is over, many of the British Loyalists fled to Canada, but the danger was not over for the brave people of the Culper ring. Having posed as sympathetic to the British in order to garner information, some of them faced violence at the hands of their own winning side. Read on in the book to see how each of them dealt with that threat.

The secret six had fought for country and liberty on their own terms. Not all lived to tell the tale, and not all who lived chose to tell the tale. Much of the research done to tell this true story started with invisible ink letters and other communications from the spies that Washington kept hidden among his private belongings, for posterity.

And thereby hangs a tale . . . .


– By Wendy Kendall


wendy kendallWendy Kendall is a writer, project manager and volunteer at the Edmonds Library. She’s enjoyed living in Edmonds for over 20 years. Follow her via her blog here or on Twitter @wendywrites1.



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