How Close Our Revolution Came to Failure!

 

 Lovers of history know that George Washington used spies, and that US spy Nathan Hale was just 21 when, after saying that he regretted that he had but one life to give to his country, he was hanged by the British. 

But there is a great new book, “George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution” (by Kilmeade, Brian and Yaeger, Don (Nov 5, 2013) and its title is no exaggeration. Just as one thing (among many) I didn’t know: George Washington was just an hour away from West Point where the Commander of that fort, Major General Benedict Arnold had lured the Commander-in-Chief to both surrender the fort and George Washington himself to the British, when the spies alerted Washington!

The “Secret Six” were not all known to Historians — the final one still isn’t. Four were fairly well known a few decades after the Revolution, and only a chance recognition of a researcher’s look at a famous family’s handwriting told him a fifth member in 1929. The only female member of the group was apparently captured and may have died in the squalid hold of a British prison ship in New York harbor.

Many of Washington’s spies were known and trusted Loyalists to the King, who were seriously in danger to the Patriots when the British troops left New York. Loyalists had to leave the newly formed country to Britain or Canada, but General Washington took pains to provide protection for those spies he knew of the Secret Six, but he didn’t know but a couple of them. Ever.

Compartmentalizations worked well then, then and now.

The spies used many of the well-known means, invisible ink, codes, blind drops…

The saving of the very life of George Washington was just one spy victory. The exposure of the treachery of Benedict Arnold caused him to flee to the arms of the British just in time to save his neck.

The Cornwallis defeat at Yorktown was secured when the printer for the British in New York, who was one of Washington’s Secret Six, turned Cornwallis’s battle plan and the code signals for the British Fleet over to Washington.

This was a good read. I commend it to readers of American history.

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