Spies in the American Revolution
The job of a spy was and still is to seek out information concerning the enemy. This includes numbers of soldiers, amounts of food or weapons, locations of the enemy and future attack plans. Without a number of spies seeking these facts, an army is lost. They do not know where to move or how to fight. A spy has to be someone dependable. If they forget to record some detail, many lives can be lost so they learn to be specific.
A secret agent must also be very brave. Spies had to conceal their gathering of facts from the enemy or they would be under suspicion.Soldiers were told to always be alert to questioning people. If information was not gathered secretly, the life of the spy is in danger. The punishment of an enemy spy was death or imprisonment. Usually a spy was killed because the job of keeping an extra person alive required food and guards. By killing a spy, leaders threatened unknown spies.
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Once a spy has an amount of important information concerning the enemy, their job is only half over. Now they must transport the valuable facts to someone important who will know what to do with them, and of course you Anton be caught with suspicious material.Messages were relayed by many different techniques. Spies used a great variety of secret methods to send their information. Secret ink was popular because the ways of revealing the messages were different. A letter was written in regular ink concerning nothing of importance. Then a spy would write in invisible ink between the lines of the false letter.
A small mark would be put in one of the corners of the letter to let the reader know how to make the hidden message appear. Most letters were either heated or had chemicals poured over them to let denied messages be known.If a reader was not familiar with the mark in one of the corners, they might heat a paper that should be chemically treated or vice versa. The letter would be ruined because it was not read properly. This prevented enemy leaders from reading the letter, but it also resulted in confusion between the spy and the receiver. Some letters were meant to be read by the enemy. These were called “captured letters”.
A letter would include false information concerning an army, which would be “captured” by the other side. The enemy would act according to the message, and thus be aught unawares.A complicated form of cipher used published books to reveal codes. Using either Commentaries on the Laws of England by Blackstone or Nathan Baileys Dictionary as a key, the cipher writer would first find the word he wanted to write in the key. Instead of writing the word directly in the letter, they would write down the page number, the line number and the number of the word counting from the left. Therefore, three numbers represented each word. Letters with secret information were also concealed inside of small spaces.
A quill letter had a letter rolled up and edited inside a quill pen.Some shoes were constructed with hidden compartments in the heel to hide messages. Spies usually carried their letters on small pieces of paper so that on capture, they could swallow the condemning news. A mask letter took two letters to mail. First, a mask, which consisted of a piece of paper with a shape cut out of it, was mailed to the receiver. The letter writer used the same shape to write his message. After he wrote the letter, the blanks were filled with other words to make the letter seem ordinary and unimportant.
This second letter was mailed and hen the receiver placed the mask over the second letter, they could read the mystery words. Spies were occasionally single people who gained information and reported back to someone with the message, but more often they were parts of organizations dedicated to spying. The most famous was called the Committee of Correspondence. This started out as a group of people who were in charge of communicating with other countries. They did their work openly until the Revolutionary war started and they became the Committee of Secret Correspondence.The five members communicated with France and eventually gained the support from them that helped to win the war. The French sided with the Patriots because the Committee of Secret Correspondence and gained supporters by telling them how the British were fighting with them.
Another well-known group was called the Culler Ring. This was a network of secret agents based around New York City and Long Island. Major Benjamin Talladega formed it in August 1778. The British forces led by General Henry Clinton were hard to defeat, so these spies focused on his troops.The main leader was Abraham Hoodlum whose code name was Samuel Culler, Sir. He kept the others in the Culler Gang informed of changes in locations and transfer of information. This was one of many organizations dedicated to the importance of secretly gathering information about the enemy.
Some people may believe that spies were especially trained people who dedicated their life to spying and who had all of the latest gadgets. This may be the way of spying today, but was not so during the Revolutionary War. Spies and secret agents of this time were ordinary people. They were not trained and not all could read and write.These people decided that they loved their country more than themselves and were willing to risk their lives for a cause that would influence the future of their country. Most of the spies had jobs as shopkeepers or something similar to that. Many of the women spies became spies b accident.
The British soldiers took over houses of Patriots to use them as barracks or meeting places. The family that lived in the house was forced to live with the soldiers. This was a great way to gain important information because the soldiers would speak freely when they felt well at ease.One woman over heard some soldiers talking about an attack and she gave a passing soldier the information who relayed it to Washington and the army was saved. Most spies left their occupations to become spies. They would move to a new town where no one knew them and change their name and occupation. Some times a spy would enlist in the army of the enemy.
This was one of the sideways to gain information, but they had to fight against those that they were trying to help and thus occasionally they would not be trusted. Most spies became peddlers or sold goods that they knew the enemy needed.This way they associated with the soldiers and sometimes the generals and gained facts. Paul Revere was one very important spy. He was originally a silversmith who gained much appreciation from his trade. Paul was an active Patriot in Boston and Leader of the Sons of Liberty. He made engravings of the Boston Massacre as propaganda.
He was also involved in the Boston Tea Party. Paul Revere gained most of his fame from his daring ride on April 18-19. Mr.. Revere rode from Boston telexing to warn Patriot leaders John Hancock and Sam Adams that the British forces were marching to capture rebel arms.