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Book Review over Washington’s Spies



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    The Truth About Washington’s Spies Madeline Carlson America’s first spy ring, better known as the Cupler ring, was Washington’s carefully thought out solution to gain intelligence on the overpowering British troops. The revolution was happening; there was no turning back and no denying that America was going to gain independence from Great Britain. Washington needed a plan, a way to foresee what the British planned to do next. Washington’s only solution was to resort to spying.

    Washington desperately needed to gain intelligence of General William Howe’s next plan of attack, however there were few who wanted to risk partaking in such a dishonorable task as spying. Hale was the first, and most well known, of the many spies to scout for Washington, though Hale was most widely known for his famous (and false) last words. Hale was just the first of Washington’s spies and inevitably foretold some of the future flaws of Washington’s plan. Washington found many flaws in his system of sending scouts. The traditional system of spying was failing and something new was desperately needed.

    A new system was mentioned by Washington’s appointed military intelligence contact, Benjamin Tallmadge. Tallmadge’s idea of an “underground railroad” approach to spying was just what Washington was looking for. The formation of the Culper ring, Washington’s new ring of spies, was the turning point in the system used to pass along intelligence. Along with this new approach to spying, a new approach to the system of passing messages was introduced as well. The punishment for accused spies, especially spies with evidence, was unavoidable. Suspected spies were hung without question, spies with evidence were walking death traps.

    New measures needed to be taken in order to protect the spies. Advances in anything from coded messages and fake identities to invisible ink were now being utilized to insure the spy’s safety. The Cupler ring unlocks a completely new side of history not well known by the public. Alexander Rose’s vivid tales show the secret lives of the spies who helped free our country from British control. The tales show anything from the exciting tales of close encounters to the invisible ink and coded messages to the life of deception Washington’s spies embraced.

    Rose not only reveals the exciting tales of danger, but also shows how the deceptive spies and Washington gained mutual trust through the difficult situations. Rose’s thesis statement declared how honor affected the spies who were a part of the Culper ring. He first mentioned honor in the first chapter, quoting Nathan Hale, “Spying, he agreed, was not an honorable undertaking, but ‘if the exigencies of my country demand a peculiar service its claims to perform that service are imperious. ’” The spying game was not considered gentlemen’s work, for the title “spy” was dishonorable in itself.

    Throughout the book, Rose proved his thesis by mentioning how it affected each of the members described in his book along with some internal conflict they had about it. Rose concluded the book with an epilogue sharing how each of the spies lived their lives after the war was over, and how many could return to their normal lives without the criticism of partaking in Washington’s dishonorable tasks. Rose’s tales evaluated how the individuals themselves, in a way, altered history. Each individual in the Culper ring motivated history and altered what could have been in some way.

    Whether Nathan Hale’s death made him a revolutionary hero, or Benjamin Tallmadge’s idea of the Culper ring each individual was significant. The individuals in this book each played a role in the outcome of the Revolutionary War. Rose evaluated how each member specifically helped Washington’s cause. Rose went extremely in depth while writing this book. His broad research and extensive information provided a very detailed account of the tales of the Culper ring. Though the book was informational, it could almost be considered too informational.

    If you read too much of Rose’s chapter at once, your mind has a hard time comprehending all the information he provides. Rose was so focused on giving you the information he lacked essential key elements of writing such as using voice to hook the reader and build suspense. Luckily, the genuine facts of these events in history were exciting enough to somewhat hold your attention. The book seemed to be best read right before going to sleep. It had just enough action to interest you for at least three pages. Then the lack of suspense egan to sink in and it did not entertain your attention for much longer. The book was best tackled if read three to five pages at a time. The chapters covered a vast amount of information about several related topics. Each chapter could be broken into several more chapters to give the reader easier stopping points. As you read the chapters of the book, you notice that the chapters did not flow easily. Rose began each chapter with a topic, from that topic he went into extensive detail about the history of that topic and finished the chapter with how it related to the Culper ring.

    The book gave complete history on every topic and came around full circle just in time for the chapter to start winding down. Even though the chapters were informational, the overall idea of the chapter got lost in the extensive information provided. Rose connected the chapters well by clearly stating how the information from the previous chapter was going to connect to the chapter you were about to read. Sub-sections or smaller chapters would be one change beneficial to the reader, for the chapters contained a vast amount of information relating to the main topic for that chapter.

    The chapters were informational and interesting, but the book could not be tackled by reading it chapter by chapter. Though plenty information was given about the main topics throughout the book the author assumes the reader is knowledgeable about the setting of the book. Without former knowledge of the events around and during the Revolutionary War one may want to consider researching major events around this time. Rose assumes that the reader has a basic knowledge of the topic and does not go into detail about the setting.

    Without this necessary background knowledge, the reading’s difficulty is increased significantly. The validity of the information Rose provides is remarkably accurate. However, the stories are biased, for the British are made out to be the villains in the book. Washington’s spies are considered heroes in helping bring American freedom, while the British are standing in the way. Rose took the only approach to take while making this book; however, it is still considered biased against the British. Though the book is biased, Rose did not exaggerate or diminish the British in his stories.

    The information provided by him was purely factual and contained little of his own opinion on the matter. In conclusion, the book shed light on information not well known to the public and a part of history many never knew about. The book may not be the easiest read, but contains information worth reading about. If the proper amount of time is taken, the book will be informational and just interesting enough. Background knowledge about the American Revolution is essential for understanding this book.

    The stories of the spy’s adventures, techniques and hardships are all interesting parts of history that creates a new understanding for the American Revolution not seen before. Overall, Rose created an exceptional and very informational piece worth reading. Works Cited Rose, Alexander. Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring. New York, NY: Bantam Dell, 2006 ——————————————– [ 1 ]. Alexander Rose, Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring (New York: Bantam Dell, 2006), 17.

    Book Review over Washington’s Spies. (2016, Dec 02). Retrieved from

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