George Washington’s Spy Network Is A Big Reason Why We Have Freedom Today

This July 4th weekend, as we celebrate our Independence Day, we should ponder how exactly our freedom came to be. The Revolution was not just won by strength and heart, but also by intelligence too. 

George Washington was quoted saying there is nothing more necessary than excellent intelligence to confuse the enemy. Back then, the Continental Army was at a complete disadvantage against the dominant British Army.

So, how could the British Army eventually be defeated? The Continental Army used military intelligence in the form of espionage. This tipped the balance scales, leading to a tremendous victory for the Continental Army.  Espionage, by definition, is the practice of spying to gain information about plans and events especially a foreign government. 

Without the help of Espionage networks, the Continental Army would have been immensely defeated. This article will discuss notable spies and the strategies they used to help catapult the Continental Army over the British Army.

The Mechanics Led By Paul Revere

Most of us have heard the famous quote by Paul Revere “The British are coming, the British are coming,” but not many know that he was actually a leader of a spy network called The Mechanics.

The Mechanics, also known as the Liberty Boys, stole a large amount of military equipment from the British soldiers; they also warned the minutemen of the British soldiers’ whereabouts.

This began when Paul Revere and two of his men in 1775 went out for a midnight ride to Lexington in which he warned the minutemen that the British were coming. He also notified John Hancock and John Adams that the British were coming; Hancock and Adams were two of the early Founding Fathers of America.

The mechanics led by Paul Revere had a large part in notifying the minutemen in Lexington and Concord so they could destroy military supplies of the British. The minutemen, after being warned, started to fight the British.

This was the beginning of the Battle of Concord (later on known as the shot heard around the world). Without the warning from Paul Revere and the mechanics, the American patriots would have lost their fighting spirit from the very beginning. 

The Knowlton Rangers

Paul Revere wasn’t the only one saying the British are coming. George Washington created a network of spies during the Revolutionary War because he realized the Continental Army was undermanned and underfunded.

In the year 1776, Washington chose Lt., Col Thomas Knowlton, as commander of the Continental Army’s first intelligence unit, which would come to be recognized as “Knowlton Rangers.”

Washington was extremely anxious to find out the strength and contemplate the movement of the enemy. Washington then gave Thomas Knowlton the job to find anyone brave enough to do this job he asked his regiment and only Nathan Hale offered his services. 

Nathan Hale disguised himself as a Dutch school teacher and was later discovered by the British. He was sentenced to death, but the last words he uttered before being hung was “I only regret that I have but one life to live for my country”. 

Nathan Hale’s dying words were the melody of every spies’ heart and started a fire in every spies’ heart to do whatever they had to do for their country. Washington now realized that the British camp could be infiltrated by espionage but knew it would cost great pain.

The Culper Spy Ring

One of the most impactful espionage networks during the Revolutionary War was the Culper Spy Ring. The Culper Spy ring was an espionage network that gave George Washington key information on British troop movements. 

The spy ring was led by Col. Benjamin Tallmadge; other notable members were Benjamin’s childhood friends Corey Brewster, Austin Roe, Abraham Woodhull, and Anna Strong. The Culper spy ring, led by Major Benjamin Tallmadge, worked in New York City while the area was occupied by Britain.

To advance discreet communications, Tallmadge came up with a code in which numbers were exchanged in place of words. The numbers and letters were random and fixed in their relationship. To read the message, the receiver would need the same codebook that the sender used to create it.

The letters that were being exchanged by the Culper ring were observations about the British military movements. The Culper Spy Ring was the most accomplished military intelligence network. They sent out more spies than any other network too.

The most noticeable accomplishment by the Culper spy ring was in 1780. The British planned to launch an attack on the arrival of the French army in Rhode Island. This plan was halted because the Culper spy ring had undercover spies that had connections to the British army; when they found out about the attack, they notified General Washington immediately.

Without the Culper Spy Ring, the Americans’ relationship with the French troops could’ve been severely damaged and even costing them the War.

Maybe our modern-day intelligence agencies should focus on spying on the enemy instead of U.S. citizens.

Happy Independence Day, my friends!