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The Culper Espionage Ring in the American Revolutionary War Ashley Bell INTL 412 Espionage/Counterespionage Professor Subero April 17, 2017
1 Throughout time there has been a requirement during times of War to discover what ones adversary is planning. Before the time of spy satellites, aerial reconnaissance and signals intelligence there was were spies. The use of espionage and counterespionage human intelligence officers to spy on the enemy can be traced back within the United States to the Revolutionary War. General George Washington understood the importance of countering the British before they could go forth with any plans; thus he ordered many different intelligence organizations to be created within the Continental Army. One particular intelligence organization that was established was the Culper Spy Ring. Under the orders of General Washington, Benjamin Tallmadge generated a five to twenty person espionage network that would span the northern east coast of North America. As the leader of the Culper Spy Ring, Benjamin Tallmadge established a secure message route, an encryption code book for the messages and used invisible ink in order to safeguard their intelligence. This was one of the first examples of foreign intelligence reporting within the U.S. and the use of espionage tactics in order to assault and deceive the enemy. The Culper Spy Ring during the U.S. Revolutionary War was the foundation for the U.S. intelligence community as it was the first structured and established American espionage organization. The intelligence contributions of intelligence from the British held New York City from the Culper Spy Ring were essential for the American triumph on their War for Independence. General George Washington understood the importance of knowing what the enemy was planning. Prior to his transition to a General in the American Revolutionary War, he was a British soldier sent to discover French military capabilities in the Ohio territory. (Rose, 2007) General Washington transitioned his espionage and counterespionage skills from the British to the American military and began establishing intelligence networks throughout the east coast of
2 North America. During the American Revolutionary War General Washington “spent more than 10% of his military funds on intelligence operations.” (CIA, 2007) Due to the fall of New York City in 1776 to the British and the large British military forces that were stationed that, General Washington found a vunerablity for espionage and an essential need for the creation of American intelligence networks in New York City. (Rose, 2007) Many different forms of intelligence networks were created to gather intelligence on the British forces throughout the territories. General Washington established the first military intelligence organization under Thomas Knowlton, had single intelligence spies such as Hercules Mulligan and the most successful spy ring of the time, the Culper Spy Ring. (CIA, 2007)

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