When British forces occupied New York in 1776, there was no reliable intelligence network that Commander George Washington could trust. The Continental Army needed a way to get information on British troop movement in the area. That's when cavalry officer Benjamin Tallmadge decided to form a spy ring with only his most trusted confidents, known as the Culper Spy Ring.
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Tallmadge first recruited his childhood friend Abraham Woodhull who ran the ring's daily operations from Long Island. He also traveled to New York's harbor to observe naval movements and report back to Washington. By 1779 the ring had recruited several other members, and were able to gain a plethora of useful information on British military plans and whereabouts.
Throughout the Revolutionary War, the Culper Spy Ring was able to gather more information than any other British or American intelligence agency. Their greatest achievement was likely the information gathered on the British army's plan to ambush newly arrived French troops in Rhode Island in 1870. Without knowledge of this planned attack, the recently formed American-French alliance may have been completely destroyed and might've cost the Patriots the entire war.
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History: The Culper Spy Ring