So the saying goes: “a spy’s name is always lost to history if indeed that spy was truly a successful one”. And that saying is certainly apt when describing the Culper Ring, a group of six individuals who played compelling roles in turning the tide of the Revolutionary War on American’s behalf. This book tells the tale of those unsung heroes, many of whom had names unknown even to Washington himself, thereby emphasizing the strict secrecy and imminent danger under which they worked. Five men and one lady (the lady’s identity and fate remain a riddle to this day) worked together across various levels of society to take down the likes of Benedict Arnold and John Andre, helping to ensure America’s victory and the eventual departure of the British army from the country.
In this book, new light is shed on this little-known spy ring, which was spearheaded by a man, Robert Townsend, whose involvement was only uncovered during the 20th century through the matching of handwriting samples. The members of the ring did everything possible to conceal their identities in every way and those identities remained secret for years after their deaths. The ring passed crucially important information from British-occupied Manhattan in a circuitous route across Long Island Sound to Setauket, from there back across the sound to CT, and then into the hands of Washington’s trusted officer (and Setauket native) Benjamin Tallmadge, who took the information by courier to General Washington. Washington desperately needed this information if he was ever to recover New York City from enemy hands. All the agents faced arrest and execution on a daily basis if their roles were discovered, and it is presumed that “Agent 355” (the sole female member and only member that remains unidentified today) was arrested and died because of her espionage.
If you want a look into the “real backstory” of the AMCTV show “Turn” or to hear more about true-life American heroes who have remained unrecognized for hundreds of years, then this is a place to start. The tv show is, as usual, much different than the book, but the book gives you a more in depth look at the lives and courageous actions of these individuals and the parts they played. The book contains fascinating details, many never before revealed, about the ring, the work they accomplished, and the dangers they faced. In fact, it leaves the reader hungry for even more details on all that these people accomplished. This book pays great tribute to this heroic band of individuals.
The writing is admittedly uneven and even amateurish in parts, but those who knock the work because of the political views and associations of its author(s) do the book an enormous disservice. I believe opinions of an author’s political views that distort one’s view of the book (unless those views are openly stated and/or are an integral part of the work itself) have no place in honest book reviews. So I hope that people will ignore the “trolls” on Amazon and Goodreads and approach this book and its story on its own merits. This is an eye-opening, true-life adventure story that highlights the importance and patriotism of some of America’s earliest, unacknowledged heroes. It would be a shame to miss it.
Amazon link for the book is here.