‘George Washing’s Secret Six’ Book Review by Ron Fortier

george-washingtons-secret-six
GEORGE WASHINGTON’S SECRET SIX
By Brian Kilmeade & Don Yaeger
Sentinel Books
232 pages

If like us, you are a devoted student of history, the title alone will have you wanting to know what this book is all about. What it reveals, in carefully research documents, is that during the American Revolutionary War, when George Washington battled the greatest military empire in the world of that era, he was aided by a band of colonial spies who made it possible for him to outwit his foes and win our independence. The story is one of unbelievable ingenuity and courage on the part of six brave Americans, five men and one woman, who would become known as the Culper Spy Ring.

Early on in the battle for freedom from England, Washington understood he could never defeat the British by overpowering them in combat. Militarily the British forces were far superior in numbers and hardware. Were Washington to challenge them through combat alone, he knew his cause would be lost. But if he forestall the British, making the war a protracted costly affair then in the end the British Parliament would capitulate and sue for peace.

To do this he had to outwit his enemies; i.e. out-spy them. In any struggle the combatant who has the most knowledge of his enemy’s strengths and weakness will ultimately learn to circumvent them to his benefit. Once New York had fallen to the British, Washington set about creating a spy network that would operate throughout that vast metropolis from the streets of Manhattan to the villages of Long Island. Cunning agents whose identities would be known only to the army officer who would lead them, Colonel Tallmadge.

Tallmadge had gone to school when Nathan Hale and when Hale was captured and executed because of an ill-advised reconnaissance mission, it was a personal blow to the young officer. Washington then made clear that only Tallmadge would know the name of the person he chose to assemble a band of citizens to spy on the British forces that surrounded them daily. This person in turn would give each of his people a code name by which to operate. Thus neither Washington nor Tallmadge ever knew who their daring spies were.

This book is a revelation shining the light on a long hidden aspect of the Revolutionary War that may have been its most crucial element. So brilliant were the methods devised by the Culper Spy Ring to serve their mission, they are still taught today at C.I.A. headquarters in Langley, Virginia. And there the story of the Culper Spy Ring is kept alive to inspire today’s American agents, reminding them that all wars are not fought solely with guns and bombs but with clever intelligence gathering.

Kilmeade and Yaeger have done a wonderful job in bringing to life each of the secret six of which history eventually unmasked years after the war’s end. In fact the true identity of the only female member is still unknown to this day as well as her final fate. It is in these gripping accounts that we found ourselves empathizing with these ordinary citizens tasked to dare extraordianry feats of courage all for the glorious idea of a free democracy. “George Washington’s Secret Six,” is an amazing book and one that should be thought to every high school student in American today. There are no monuments to these spies and that is how they would have preferred it but their stories should be known and memorialized. Freedom is never free, it has a price and these six amazing people were willing to pay it with their lives if need be. We owe it to them to keep their legends alive.

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