George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution (a Review)

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I just finished reading George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring that Saved the Revolution. I mentioned this book for my Gift Guide for Adult Readers, solely on the basis that one of my dearest friends helped develop the book. I knew it would be good, but now I can unequivocally say this without reservation: I loved it!

The book uncovers a little known story about the American Revolution: The Culper Spy Ring. Toward the beginning of the Revolutionary War, General George Washington suffered a huge blow in losing New York City to the British, and after this humiliating loss, Washington knew he would need to outsmart the British because he could not out man them.

But after young Nathan Hale had faced execution for spying for the Americans (“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country”), Washington knew he would need more than just agents sneaking into the City to retrieve information. He would need secret agents planted within New York City as well as agents outside of the City who knew the land, people, and culture of Long Island.

Washington appointed Benjamin Tallmadge, a Long Island native to develop the ring, and Tallmadge soon added a landowner, a longshoreman, a tavern owner, a small businessman, a newspaper writer and printer, and a woman, who remains anonymous to this day – only identified as Agent 355.

As the ring grew and as the stakes of war kept growing higher, the spies worked together to build an intricate web of relaying information as quickly and covertly as possible to General Washington’s camp in New Jersey.

With the help of a few insiders to get information from British soldiers and a couple of people from Long Island keeping an eye on troop and ship movements in the Hudson River, Washington was able to make the best decisions for his men and his country. The ring played a crucial role in snuffing out Benedict Arnold and his plans, which had those plans succeeded, would have surely ended the war in favor of the British.

The book reads like a novel more than a historical account, using letters and facts from research to create dialogue. I liked the author’s decision to do this because it made the narrative arc flow easily. I also appreciated how the author included plenty of historical information to create the scene, but it did not overburden the reader with dry facts and historical data.

I recommend anyone read this book. It reminded me that the Revolutionary War was not only won with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and the other “Founding Fathers.” The War found victory for the Americans because every day citizens felt compelled to play a part, despite the odds.

About Kelly Wiggains

Kelly Wiggains, a high school English teacher turned homeschool mom, likes to surround herself with good literature, beautiful things, and big ideas, and she wants her home to reflect those things, too. She blogs, where she talks about everything From Literature to Living.

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