“This is my kind of history book. Get ready. Here’s the action.” —BRAD MELTZER, bestselling author of The Fifth Assassin and host of Decoded
When George Washington beat a hasty retreat from New York City in August 1776, many thought the American Revolution might soon be over. Instead, Washington rallied—thanks in large part to a little-known, top-secret group called the Culper Spy Ring. He realized that he couldn’t defeat the British with military might, so he recruited a sophisticated and deeply secretive intelligence network to infiltrate New York.
Drawing on extensive research, Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger have offered fascinating portraits of these spies: a reserved Quaker merchant, a tavern keeper, a brash young longshoreman, a curmudgeonly Long Island bachelor, a coffeehouse owner, and a mysterious woman. Long unrecognized, the secret six are finally receiving their due among the pantheon of American heroes.
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About the Author
Don Yaeger has written twenty-three books, including seven New York Times bestsellers. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida.
Read an Excerpt
Hold New York, Win the War
New York, without exaggeration, is the pivot on which the entire Revolutionary War turns.
The execution of Nathan Hale on September 22, 1776, was the lowest point in a month of low points for General George Washington. First, the British had taken New York City and Long Island—the cornerstones of Washington’s strategy because of their valuable geographic and economic positions at the heart of the North American colonies. Now, Washington’s attempt at building an intelligence network to recoup that loss had failed spectacularly. Just two months after the fledgling country’s declaration of independence, there seemed to be no future for the new nation.
And yet there had been so much hope just a season ago, in spring. After successfully sending the British packing from Boston in March after a prolonged siege, Washington had begun ordering troops toward New York City, whose harbor was of tremendous tactical—and psychological—importance. If the Patriots could hold that other great port of the Northeast, victory might be within reach.
As Washington left Massachusetts on April 4, 1776, to begin his own march southward to rejoin his men, the cheerful reports sent back by the advance parties were confirmed: Farmers and tradesmen were greeting the American troops as they passed through rural villages, pressing gifts of food and drink on the soldiers who had displayed such courage and pluck fighting the redcoats.
“Enjoy this bacon,” urged local butchers, heaving slabs of salted meat onto the supply wagons.
“Fresh milk!” announced the housewives who scrambled out of their cottages wielding buckets and dippers.
Gaggles of little boys wearing homespun blue jackets gathered to parade in front of the men as they traversed through town—one child held up a twig as if playing a fife; another pretended to beat a drum in a marching rhythm; the rest chanted the popular refrain “Join or die!” as they reveled in the Patriotic fervor and holiday atmosphere.
Even the sophisticated city crowd, usually much more reserved in their displays of celebration than the country folk, had cheered in the streets as Washington crossed into Providence, Rhode Island. In roadside taverns and stylish urban coffeehouses across Connecticut, toasts were raised to the unlikely homegrown heroes and their quiet but imposing leader. As word spread up the Hudson Valley that the Continental Army was on the move, settlers who now considered themselves Americans, rather than Dutch or German or British subjects, had whispered prayers for the protection and advancement of the cause of independence.
Throughout his nine-day journey spanning four states and nearly three hundred miles of forest roads soggy with springtime mud, Washington had seen increasing hope among the people. There were dissenting voices—those whose closed shutters and drawn shades as the Continental Army passed bespoke their loyalty to King George III and the motherland. But it was clear that there was a sense of growing excitement that this wild, untested experiment in personal freedom and individual rights just might prove more powerful than the most disciplined and well-equipped fighting force on earth.
Despite the buoyant spirits of the people, Washington’s own hope was kept in check by a sober view of facts. While the Patriots had enjoyed some early victories in Massachusetts, these wins came at a high cost when compared with their tactical significance. The Battle of Bunker Hill in June 1775, however, had gone to the British, though with heavy loss of life and limb on both sides. The Siege of Boston, which ended the following March, had been a win for the Patriots, but their success was due more to the position and strength of the American fortifications than any great offensive maneuvers to rout the enemy. In the end, the British gave up on the city, leaving voluntarily rather than fleeing in an all-out retreat. General William Howe, commander in chief of the British army in North America, had his sights set on a much bigger and more agreeable prize than belligerent Boston.
New York, tenuously held by a few American troops, was desired by both sides. In the north, the Americans had secured Boston for the moment. To the south, the action had not yet reached a critical point, though its time was coming. Right now, the most pressing concern was in the middle states, where Philadelphia and New York lay vulnerable. Philadelphia was the largest city in the colonies at the time and held great symbolic status as a seat of innovation, boasting one of the first hospitals and public libraries, as well as hosting the meetings of the Continental Congress. Capturing the seat of the fledgling nation’s government would be a great victory for the British. And New York City was the linchpin—if the British won it they could bring the colonies to their knees.
As the second-most-populous city in the colonies, New York was their northern economic hub. But even more significant was New York’s location and situation—right in the center of Britain’s North American settlements and home to both a large deep-water harbor and access to the Hudson River. The army that held New York City and its waterways had a strategic advantage not only in controlling the import and export of foodstuffs and dry goods (which, in turn, affected the economic stability of the region) but also in securing a key foothold for transporting troops up and down the coast.
Maintaining control of New York would give the American fighting corps and the colonial populace a tremendous boost in confidence. Failing to capture and hold New York City and New York Harbor would certainly be an embarrassment to the British army and navy, but they would survive the blow. For the Americans, however, losing the region would be a tragedy, destroying morale, cutting off trade, and drastically lowering the odds that the Patriots would win the war.
New York’s strategic significance, from a trade perspective, was not lost on General Howe. The loss in Massachusetts was a disappointment, but Boston was not the ultimate prize for the British. Howe wanted to choke off the Revolution by isolating the northern colonies from the southern ones. If the political radicals in the somewhat geographically clustered northern cities were segregated from their counterparts in the more spread-out south, they could not cross-pollinate ideologies, and the various factions might be more easily eliminated. It was a classic case of divide and conquer, with New York City as the essential element in creating the chasm.
After regrouping in Halifax, Nova Scotia, following their defeat in Boston, the British set out for New York. On June 29, 1776, three British ships sailed into lower New York Harbor, with General Howe aboard one of them. Both sides knew a battle was imminent.
As Washington marched south in anticipation of Howe’s attack, he must have nursed the hope that the Continental Army’s muscle and moxie were enough to outfight the British and hold Manhattan. Being a seasoned fighter and a brilliant strategist, he would have understood, perhaps better than anyone else in North America at the time, that control of New York City was essential for the cause of liberty—and that keeping the city would be a daunting task.
Washington and his men arrived in New York in mid-April 1776 and settled in Manhattan. That summer news arrived that both cheered and sobered them. Fifty-six delegates had convened in the midst of stifling July heat in Philadelphia to form the Second Continental Congress, and had forged the Declaration of Independence. If ever there was a point of no return, this was it.
Knowing the attack on New York would not be long delayed, Washington made a short trip to New Jersey and Pennsylvania to meet with his generals. They discussed New York’s defenses and supplies—all while trying to anticipate the exact mode of attack. The British, meanwhile, began amassing troops on undefended Staten Island in advance of storming the American positions just across the water in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
As August dragged on, tensions mounted. A copy of the July fourth declaration had been put before the Crown, which meant that King George finally understood the seriousness of the colonists’ determination to fight. No longer would King George order his generals to show restraint in their efforts to squelch the rebels or maintain that a mere show of force would be enough to subdue the Revolution. He would not hold back. He would not show mercy. Of this Washington felt sure, and the weight of the “lives, fortunes, and sacred honor” pledged in the name of freedom rested heavily upon his shoulders.
Across the river from Washington, General Henry Clinton had arrived to help lead the attack upon the American positions in New York. As August waned, the British ships loomed large in the harbor, the growing number of redcoats on Staten Island intimidating the sparse American troops.
Faced with an impending attack, Washington sighed one August day as he surveyed the undisciplined, ragtag army at his command in lower Manhattan; his aide-de-camp shifted nervously behind him. The general cleared his throat. “General Howe is rumored to have more than thirty thousand men in the Royal Navy assembled offshore, and twenty thousand men amassed on Staten Island. And we have . . . ?”
His aide was reluctant to reply: “Ten thousand.”
If the number was a blow to Washington, he did not show it. Ever the stoic, he refused to allow this dismal news to throw him into despair. Washington was famed as a man who never lost his nerve in battle. The sound of musket fire, the crash of cannonballs, the smell of smoke—none of that seemed to shake his calm, measured way of surveying the chaos and keeping his wits about him as he led his men forward.
But despite Washington’s steely nerve, the Americans were in grave trouble. Even substantial numbers of troops meant little without proper training and equipment, and Washington’s men lacked both. Washington had the utmost confidence in his officers, but to say that the rank and file of the Continental Army was rough around the edges was an understatement. City men who had never before wielded a rifle stood with country folk who had never had a day of formal schooling. Hardy homesteaders struggled to cooperate with young men of landed wealth who had never known a moment of discomfort or hunger in their lives. Old men lined up with boys who had lied about their age to join the rebels in pursuit of adventure. They came from all over the country: from as far north as the mountains of New Hampshire and as far south as the swamps of Georgia. Many of Washington’s men had never before been more than fifty miles from the place of their birth, let alone met anyone with such a strange accent as could be found in the hills of Virginia or the Puritan settlements of Massachusetts. They were all on the side of liberty, but there the unity ended.
Most were brave, to be sure, and loyal—perhaps to a fault. And they were all passionate about their liberty. Washington knew he had the hearts of his men, but whether the passion of an undisciplined few could hold New York against the meticulously trained British forces was another question.
“Hang together or we all hang separately,” Washington mused, reciting one of the familiar mantras of the Patriot cause, as he caught a few strains of a bawdy pub song led by the Marylanders sitting around a campfire. All possible preparations against the British onslaught had been made, and he and his men would have to trust it would be enough.
Knowing that an attack was imminent, Washington had made the strategic decision to divide his men into five groups. One had already crossed the harbor to Long Island, and another was stationed in northern Manhattan to fend off a British encroachment from that direction. The other three groups were situated to defend the lower end of Manhattan. There were several land routes the British might take, but Washington felt confident that all but the least likely and somewhat untraveled route, through Jamaica Pass, were secure. And now . . . they waited.
BETRAYAL AT JAMAICA PASS
The battle was swift and devastating.
Tipped off by someone—whether a spy within Washington’s own ranks or a disgruntled Loyalist in New York was unclear—the British learned that Jamaica Pass was guarded by only five men and set out in that direction.
William Howard Jr., a young Patriot who ran a tavern with his father near Jamaica Pass, Long Island, woke about two hours after midnight on the morning of August 27 to a British soldier standing beside his bed. The soldier ordered him to get up, dress, and go downstairs. He quickly obeyed and found his father cornered by three redcoats pointing their muskets with fixed bayonets at him. A glance out the window revealed that a whole fighting unit stood at the ready upon the grounds.
General Howe waited for the two men in the barroom. Sipping a glass of commandeered liquor, he attempted, rather absurdly, to make small talk with the terrified father and son before finally getting to the point. “I must have some one of you to show me over the Rockaway Path around the pass,” he remarked, setting down his empty glass.
“We belong to the other side, General,” the father replied, “and can’t serve you against our duty.”
Howe’s reply was kind but curt. “That is all very well; stick to your country or stick to your principles when you are free to do so. But tonight, Howard, you are my prisoner, and must guide my men over the hill.”
The senior Howard began to protest, but Howe cut him off: “You have no alternative. If you refuse you will be shot.”
Shaking, and unaware of just how damaging their compliance would prove, the Howards directed General Howe safely up the winding footpath. Behind them marched ten thousand men through the vulnerable pass, arriving at the other side in time to effectively flank the Patriot general Nathan Woodhull and his men, who were occupied with the frontal assault waged against their defenses in Manhattan when daylight came. As the battle continued throughout the day, Washington recognized his miscalculation that the full contingent of British troops would storm Manhattan—the redcoats were also bringing heavy force to bear on Brooklyn. Washington shifted more men and matériel to Brooklyn, but it was too late for the Americans to recover and hold their ground. By day’s end, Brooklyn and the surrounding area was largely in British hands, with the retreating Patriots trapped in Brooklyn Heights. Manhattan alone still held, but Washington was sure it was only a matter of time until the British overtook it, too.
Washington’s troops were decimated. All told, the Americans had lost more than 300 men that day, in addition to nearly 700 wounded and 1,000 captured. The British (and their German mercenaries, the Hessians) had lost a mere 64 men, with 31 reported as missing, and 293 wounded.
A MIRACLE IN THE MIST
Things could not have gone more badly for the Continental Army, and both sides knew it. And it wasn’t over, though the cannons had ceased to fire. The fighting had taken Washington across the East River, but now he was essentially trapped in Brooklyn Heights, surrounded by the British and with no way to escape. If his troops pursued a retreat by land, they would walk directly into the British camps and be either shot on sight or captured and hanged for treason. If they took to the water to escape to Patriot-held Manhattan, they would be sitting ducks as the British fired cannonballs into the rowboats. Then again, that was likely too messy—the British prided themselves on their extreme pragmatism. No, they would probably take the more gentlemanly route of allowing their marksmen to pick off the retreating Americans one by one.
Just like that, the Revolution was all but over. Washington must have reeled at the turn of events. Maybe it was inevitable; after all, who were the colonists to think they had a chance against the mighty king of England and an empire that encircled the globe? Washington had been entrusted with the hopes, dreams, lives, and futures of every American Patriot—and he was standing on the brink of failure.
The Americans needed to get out and get out fast. If the bedraggled and punch-drunk Patriot soldiers could somehow manage to escape, they could regroup with the friendly troops waiting in American-controlled territory. It was a big “if.”
“We have no other options?” Washington asked the officers assembled with him at his makeshift headquarters in Brooklyn Heights.
There was a pause as each man looked around the table with raised eyebrows, as if asking his comrades, “Have you got any miracles to spare?”
But Washington already knew the answer. Unless he could somehow ferry nine thousand men undetected across New York Harbor, currently patrolled by the might of the Royal Navy, he would be forced to surrender or ask his men to die in a siege from which there was no foreseeable escape. And with the betrayal regarding their vulnerability at Jamaica Pass, and no individual able to convey intelligence from the British positions, there was no way to anticipate what the redcoats’ next move might be.
Washington was near despair, but he was also a man of faith. No one knows what prayers passed his lips during those tense two days as he faced almost certain defeat. As night fell on the evening of August 29, he peered over New York Harbor and knew he had no other hope. Escape by water was the only chance—and even that would take a miracle. Ordering a hasty retreat, Washington oversaw the efforts to ferry his army and their possessions—every man, beast, cannon, and rifle—safely across the water under the cover of darkness. To his relief, the British sentinels failed to spot the shadowy silhouettes of the escaping soldiers. But as the sky began to lighten, there were still men to move—and it was then that Washington’s prayers proved effective. A thick fog began to roll in, like the benevolent breath of God, providing cover and protection until every last soldier and piece of equipment reached safety on the other side. Washington’s boots were the last to leave the Brooklyn Heights side of the harbor, and the last to alight in Manhattan, which the Patriots still held.
By the time the fog had fully lifted and the British realized what had happened, the Americans were already out of the reach of British cannons. They were down, but not out—though just barely. Washington knew it would be only a matter of days before General Howe ordered an attack on the remaining American fortifications in Manhattan, which would surely fall.
Moving north to Connecticut, Washington and his men rejoiced in their escape, though the all-but-complete loss of New York was a serious blow. Gone was the optimism created by the Boston victory. Troop morale was low. Backed into a corner, Washington now realized what every small child comes to recognize when faced with the brute strength of a school-yard bully: He could not defeat his foe with manpower, arms, or any other show of force. He would have to beat the British in a battle of wits.
The Need for a Spy Ring
As if the loss of most of New York weren’t bad enough, Washington’s autumn was about to get worse. While the defeat at the Battle of Brooklyn had been a blow, the retreat had gone better than planned. Washington’s next endeavor would not be so fortunate, ending instead in disaster.
The few American troops still holding Manhattan were hanging on by a thread, and Washington was desperate to strengthen their position. To do so, he would need a spy to collect information on British plans. Espionage was not a new activity to Washington. Having fought in the French and Indian War and served as a spy himself, he understood the roots of the present conflict—an insight that would frame his use of an intelligence network in the Revolution.
THE FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR
Two decades earlier, in 1754, the British army (consisting of both soldiers from the motherland and local colonial militias) had launched a war in North America against the French army and native tribes who were attacking British citizens in regions granted in previous treaties to the British government. For the next nine years, the continent was embroiled in battles to control the various outposts and forts sprinkled across the wilderness regions of the Ohio River and Appalachian Mountains.
The previous year, Washington, just twenty-one years old, volunteered to engage with the French soldiers and learn whatever he could about their intentions and fortifications through leading conversations, as well as whatever was carelessly shared over wine bottles. As it did throughout his life, Washington’s temperate nature had served him well on that mission; he maintained his sobriety and clearheadedness so that he could report back to his superiors that the French had no intentions of quitting the country without a fight.
This conflict, in which Washington came of age, was part of the international unrest rooted in ancient rivalries and grudges resurrected by modern ambitions. But world attitudes had changed following the Treaty of Paris in 1763, and Washington’s role would change, too. France’s claims to its overseas colonies were devastated. Britain gained several of France’s North American colonies along the northern Atlantic and in the Caribbean, as well as the Florida territory held by Spain. People suddenly found themselves subject to a new crown and a new flag—sometimes even those of a former enemy. For the American colonists, who had long been subjects of the king of England (despite their Dutch, German, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, or West African ancestry) and necessarily viewed his enemies as their own, the expulsion of the French and Spanish from bordering regions lifted much of their fear of invasion and need for protection. Now they could focus more on their own interests. Recognizing that their rights and freedoms were being neither defended nor advanced by the king they had faithfully served, they began to rebel against the very government they had once relied upon for security.
ACTS OF AGGRESSION
In 1764, the British Parliament determined that the cost of the French and Indian War had been too high. Troops remained stationed in the colonies, adding to the financial strain, so additional revenues were needed to pay for their presence, as well as to tighten trade restrictions on the colonies. Over the next few years, Parliament voted to levy a series of taxes against the American colonists. The Sugar Act and the Currency Act restricted trade and the issuance of colonial money. Then Parliament expanded its reach in 1765 with the Stamp Act, which required that all printed matter—newspapers, legal contracts, pamphlets—must be produced with paper from London and embossed with a seal of verification.
This action was, in itself, not unreasonable—the colonists could be expected to help pay for their own defense. But the independent-minded colonists reacted angrily because of the act’s broader implications. All English citizens were supposed to be afforded the right of representation in Parliament, but there were no members of Parliament for the American colonies to agree to the taxation and insist that it be reasonable. The cry of “no taxation without representation” was sounded, and a Stamp Act Congress convened in New York City in October 1765 to protest the measure. The Stamp Act was eventually repealed, but others followed in its wake as King George continued to expand the power and grasp of the Crown, while simultaneously diminishing the rights of his colonial subjects.
In March 1770, the so-called Boston Massacre illustrated just how high tensions were running. British soldiers fired into a crowd of protesting Americans, killing five and wounding six. After the grassroots Sons of Liberty staged their famous Boston Tea Party in December 1773, dumping 342 chests of tea into Boston Harbor, London responded the following spring with harsh laws designed to make an example of Massachusetts as a warning to the other colonies not to challenge the Crown’s authority.
The warning was heard loud and clear, but it did not quell the fires of rebellion as Parliament had hoped. In fact, it had the opposite effect. In response to the Intolerable Acts, as the laws had been dubbed by the Americans, the First Continental Congress met in Philadelphia in September and October of 1774. Fifty-six men representing twelve of the thirteen colonies (Georgia opted not to attend) voted to unite in a series of boycotts against British goods; prominent Patriots, including Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and Henry Lee, were among the outspoken dissenters. They also resolved to send a petition of their grievances to King George in a last effort to prevent an escalation of hostilities.
The petition went unanswered. In April 1775, combat broke out between colonists and British troops at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts; the following month, the Second Continental Congress convened to prepare for a full-scale war. Among the delegates from Virginia was the tall, soft-spoken surveyor, farmer, and former spy widely regarded for his valor in battle and exemplary leadership in the militia during the previous war: George Washington.
HOW TO WIN A WAR
Following his brief stint as a spy, Washington had led thousands of troops into battle, riding tall and remaining calm through even the heaviest bombardment. Later myths grew up around Washington—that he was spoken of in native prophesies as a man favored by the gods, that no arrows could touch him. If not actually invincible, he was at least regarded as unflappable by his peers, a sober-minded man of vision, wisdom, humility, and experience. For these reasons Washington was asked to serve as the commander in chief of the Continental Army. Now, two decades after his first spying mission, he would be engaged in a battle of his own to drive from that same land the British government he had once faithfully served. Who could have imagined such an outcome? But life was a strange pageant; he understood that well enough. And Washington knew that espionage would play a more important role in this new war.
In traditional wars that pitted monarch against monarch, there was a mutual respect for the authority of the crown even if there was a deep hatred for the person who wore it or the land claims he or she recognized. In those battles, it was all about might; the armies fought until someone was finally overpowered. Or, as had happened so often in new territories, one army fought with weapons, manpower, disease—whatever they had—until the other population was simply eradicated. Washington quickly realized that this revolution was different. King George respected no one and recognized no authority, certainly not whatever makeshift government the colonies could cobble together. His increasingly oppressive laws and his silence in the face of organized protests had made that clear. Yet the king would not seek to completely decimate the population of the colonies; dead subjects cannot pay taxes.
No, this war would be different from any other that had come before it. Of that Washington felt sure. It would not be a fight to the death, nor could it be simply a clash of armies. If the Americans wanted to emerge victorious from this conflict, they would not try to overpower their enemy; they would simply refuse to back down or go away. They didn’t need to be conquering heroes—they just needed to survive.
Table of Contents
Authors' Note xiii
Chapter 1 Hold New York, Win the War 3
Chapter 2 The Need for a Spy Ring 15
Chapter 3 Launching the Ring 33
Chapter 4 Grossing the Sound 41
Chapter 5 The Ring Springs into Action 55
Chapter 6 Townsend Joins the Fight 69
Chapter 7 Creating a Code 89
Chapter 8 Mounting Tensions and Double-Dealings 99
Chapter 9 Washington Demands More 109
Chapter 10 The French Connection 119
Chapter 11 Benedict and Peggy 127
Chapter 12 Negotiations and Treachery 141
Chapter 13 The Deal Is Done 151
Chapter 14 Another Spy at the Gallows 163
Chapter 15 The Ring in Peril 175
Chapter l6 The Beginning of the End 185
Chapter 17 Retaking Mew York at Last 197
Chapter l8 Life After the Ring 209
Selected Sources 221
What People are Saying About This
“James Bond is a rank amateur compared to the heroic efforts of the Culper Ring. Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger’s work demonstrates why the story of the secret six should be anything but a secret in American history.”
—HARVEY MACKAY, author of Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive
“A rollicking read by Kilmeade and Yaeger, acknowledging a long overdue debt to six American heroes.”
“We would not have won the Revolution and secured our freedom, were it not for the leadership of George Washington and the courage of the spies he set in motion. George Washington’s Secret Six is a gripping and informative read.”
—CONGRESSMAN PETE KING, chairman of the Counterterrorism and Intelligence Subcommittee, House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security
“It would have been an honor to have served with Robert Townsend and the rest of the Culper spies in any of the deep-cover
intelligence operations I spearheaded over twenty-seven years.”
—WAYNE SIMMONS, coauthor of The Natanz Directive; CIA–Outside Paramilitary Special Operations
“Freedom is not free, never has been, and never will be. Kilmeade and Yaeger have done a wonderful job in reminding us all of the cost. Great read.”
—GENERAL TOMMY FRANKS (U.S. Army, ret.)
“A historical gem. I loved it.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
An easy-flowing short read, full facts without bogging down in minutia. History buffs will enjoy details of the way spies of the time operated and passed on the results of their intrigue, as well as details of the British plots and near misses, including Benedict Arnold. The rest of us learn more about the early years of the birth of our nation, men and women who risked all, and how close we came to failure. The Loyalists and the Patriots each had spies during the American Revolution. Relying on historical documents and previous research, the authors follow a group known at the Culpers that operated on Long Island, in New York City, and in Connecticut during the British occupation of NYC 1776 -1783. Their names were known to but a necessary few at the time -- thorough historical research has ultimately revealed all but one, agent 355, a woman.
Awesome book about a little known group in history that you won't read about in high school or college. Interesting parallels of spying linking the past to the present especially in light of the NSA scandals. Great read!
This book is endlessly fascinating. For as detail-oriented and thorough it is, it's an easy read. I read it in nearly one sitting because I couldn't put it down. I will be giving this as holiday gifts to all the history buffs in my life. I can't wait to re-read it!
Couldnt put it down. Exciting and informative. Full of patriotic fervor and lessons of individual sacrifice. The stuff that makes us all proud to be Americans.
An incredible and powerful read that is sure to open your eyes to many previously untold details about the American Revolution. Kilmeade paints of vivid picture for readers leaving no detail untold. I highly recommend this book for readers of all ages. Truly has something for everyone.
This book is a very difficult book to read because his accurate accounts are overshadowed by some astounding inaccuracies. I have found myself checking primary sources in order to counter some of his more outrageous statements. By the author's own admission, conversations were made up, therefore this book should be classified as fiction.
Terrific insight of the beginning of our exceptional country and the people who built it. People who did not ask what their country could do for them but asked what they could do for their country.
I just started reading this book and let me tell you, this guy is a rank armature and has many facts WRONG He starts by touting Townsend as the "big cheese" in this operation. Wrong. In fact he only joined the group in June 1779, a whole yer after the group was established by Tallmadge., The after the loss of the battle of Brooklyn, he quickly has Washington fleeing to Manhattan and the to Connecticut. Wrong again.After loosing Fort Lee, Washington retreated to New Jursey, and then finally to Valley Forge. Where does this guy get his info from. As a resident of Setauket LI, I have know about this group and its activities for many years. This is NOT a new discovery by any means. I would suggest the Mr Kilmeade do more research, specifically talking the Setauket historical Society, and get his facts straight! .
This book is an interesting, easy read that fails in that the author makes bold and unfounded statements that purport to be historical fact.
I bought this book for my husband who loves American History. He read one chapter and said that the historical facts were changed (about George Washington) to suit the authors' "take" on history. He put the book down and won't be reading it. Frankly I was disappointed that this surprise turned out to be such a dud. Well, you know, there are always people who will rewrite history to make the points they want to make. Too bad. Then I looked more closely at the authors and shrugged, it figures.
Found the authors to be vague in their descriptions That being said i was glad to learn about these un sung heroes
I bought the Audiobook and I've only made it to track # 9 of the first CD (out of 5 CDs) and I am already considering returning it. While I am sure the content is probably decent, I feel that tit was a mistake to have the author (Brian Kilmeade) perform the reading. To be blunt, he sucks at it. There are parts where he mumbles and eats the words which makes it hard to understand what he is saying. His pronunciation of certain words is very distracting and he places commas (pauses) in between words that are not meant to be separated. In doing so, he ends up changing the meaning or the intended message of the sentence. It is obvious that Mr. Kilmeade is not well-versed at this and had they taken the time to re-record some of the readings, this would have been a much better product. I cannot say anything pro or con about the book; but I DO NOT RECOMMEND THE AUDIO BOOK unless they re-record it with someone who better suited for the task.
This has been one of the most enlighting books I have ever read on the early history of our great nation. Now I understand how a ragtag group of poorly trained and equiped citizen's army defeated the most powerful army in the history of warfare at that time. Would make a great screenplay.
This is a great historical work that blends an extremely interesting story with good writing.
An interesting book that uncovers some of the covert operations that occurred during the American Revolution and ultimately helped shape our history. Great for any history buffs or spy novel enthusiasts! Grab a copy and flip through it yourself!
Kilmeany is full of crap, and so is his book
Well researched, well written, and highly engaging! George Washington's Secret Six is an easy read for anyone. Definitely recommend!
After getting into the show Turn, this was the 1st book I read on Washington's Culper Ring. I enjoyed it, even the Afterward that dives further into the identity of Agent 355. I enjoyed this book immensely :)
Excellent read. Having a history degree, the American Revolution is my weakness (sadly enough). Really flowed well, not bogged down with too much information. I highly recommend this book.
Excellent story of American History. Leaves you proud of the heritage we have as a nation. Unfortunate our real history is either left out or rewritten for our children's education.
Fascinating and intriguing historical account of courageous men and women in our American history.
Way to go Kilmeade ! Any real history buff will love this book. This would make a great movie if Hollywood wouldn't mess it up.
If I had to sum this book up in one word it would be FASCINATING! I've enjoyed reading about American history my whole life and I would say that I know quite a bit about George Washington, but Brian and Don's book has introduced another side of this great general and later president. I was immediately struck by the honesty that Washington put forth in his shortcomings and outright failures. Without that character trait our nation could have easily been turned in a different direction. While I loved the insight into Washington, what particularly intrigued me was the Culper Spy Ring itself. Here are six seemingly ordinary people who did extraordinary things while staying under the radar. After reading the book it is hard to imagine such a significant outcome in our American history without this brave group of people. The group was made up of five men, whom we know the identity of, and one woman that still remains a mystery. If you are reading the paperback edition of this book then you are in for a real treat. With this edition the authors have included an extensive portion about this mystery woman. This woman was always referred to as Agent 355. Her real identity remains a mystery all these years later but the authors have compiled a list of women who could possibly be the elusive Agent 355. They give the reasons for and against each female being the one. Again, absolutely fascinating. I think every high school student and beyond should read this intriguing book. It makes a pivotal time in our American history absolutely come alive. If you are a homeschool family this really should be worked into your curriculum. I promise you won't regret a moment you spend on reading this book. I received a copy of this book to facilitate my review.
I love the way the authors made a history book read like a spy novel. When the book first came out a year ago, I checked it out at the library. Then when I heard it was coming out in paperback and that it had new information on agent 355, I thought I'd buy it and read it again. This is our nation's history. I strongly recommend it.
This book has been weeks on the NYT best seller list and I don't know why. It's scholarship and style of writing was worthy of a high school paper. George Washington comes across more as a super hero than a mortal and flawed general. The accounts of Nathan Hale, Benedict Arnold and John Andre' were interesting but shallow and I don't know I trust the scholarship behind the work. Not a book for a serious student of the American Revolution but I'm not saying it is devoid of merit either.