Author Topic: Non Sequitur- LI Spy Ring  (Read 187 times)

Chairman of the Board

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Non Sequitur- LI Spy Ring
« on: August 06, 2014, 03:22:57 pm »
for the history buffs out there: http://longislandgenealogy.com/patriots.html#spy

Quote
Long Island's Spy Chain
    One of the best kept secrets of the American Revolution was the spy system that operated on long island, from the village of Setauket, and kept General Washington supplied with important information about the movements of the British troops in New York and on long Island.
    All but one of the members of this spy ring were Setauket people.  The details of the origin of the spy system are not clear, but about 1778 major Benjamin Tallmadge was head ot this organization, and reported to General Washington.  Mr. Tallmadge was born in Setauket in 1754, the son of the local Presbyterian minister, and it was natural hr turned to his Setauket neighbors for help.  For five years or more he and the men picked out by him operated this spy ring under the noses of the British in New York and on Long Island, without any of them ever being caught.  So successful were they in concealing their idenity that General Washington never knew who the members of the spy chain were.
    News of the British plans and monements were gathered in New York city by Robert Townsend, who operated a coffee shop near Wall street.  he was known to General Washington only as "Culper, Jr."  Information gathered by him was taken to Setauket by messenger on horseback, who was Austin Roe of Setauket..  He in turn left it in a secret hiding place for Abraham Woodhull, who was the middleman in the spy system and went under the name of "Culper, Sr."  He turned it over to Caleb Brewster, who took it across the sound in one of his boats and delivered it to Major Tallmadge's headquarters in Connecticut.  From there it was delivered to General Washington, wherever he might be.
    Robert Townsend was the chief figure on the New York city end.  he posed as a young Tory merchant in partnership with james Rivington, and they operated a general merchandise store and coffee shop.  mr Townsend was a well educated man, and soon became widely acquainted in british circles.
    The man who carried the messages from New York to Setauket was Austin Roe. who operated a store and tavern in Setauket.  Disguised as a country merchant, hr traveled back and forth without detection.  it is almost impossible to realize what Austin Roe had to contend with as he rode the 55 miles from Setauket to New York through the enemy's country, often several times a week.
    If it had been possible to follow a message from New York to Setauket and across the sound to major tallmadge's headquarters we might have seen Austin Roe enter Mr. Townsend's coffee shop in new York.  he was tired and hungry, for he had just finished a long ride from Setauket.  When Mr. Townsend saw Mr. Roe come in he knew General Washington was expecting a message from him, so he soon left and went to his quarters nearby.  he was soon followed by Austin Roe, who handed him a letter from John Bolton (Major Tallmadge) which read, "I wish you to send by bearer 1/2 ream of letter paper."  Mr Townsend paid little attention to this message but went to a secret closet and brought out a bottlr of liquid which he brushed over the letter.  Soon another message sprang to light on the paper.  It was from General Washington, requesting certain information.  In the meantime Mr. Roe had started down the street to the printing office of James Rivington, where he purchased a half ream of paper and went back to Mr. Townsend's rooms.  carefully it was unwrapped, so that it could be sealed again without showing without showing it had been opened.  Mr. Townsend began counting the sheets until he arrived at a number previously agreed on.  That sheet was taken out, and mr. Townsend, reaching for another bottle of a different liquid, began to write his message to Washington.  As soon as the stain was dry it disappeared giving no hint it was there waiting to be developed by another liquid.  The sheet was replaced in its proper place in the package of paper and resealed.  Austin Roe packed his saddle bags with a variety of articles needed by those in the Setauket area, and set out for home, crossing the Brooklyn ferry and arriving at Setauket in time to give attention to his cattle which were kept pastured in a field belonging to Abraham Woodhull.  He was a young farmer from Setauket and the middleman in the spy ring, who used his farm on Conscience bay as a base for operations.  because his house was full of British Troops, he arranged for Austin Roe to pasture his cattle on his land, which gave Mr. Roe a place to hide the messages he brought from New York.  mr Woodhull then picked up the messages from a secret box behimd a fence, and latter turned them over to an exwhaler by the name of Caleb Brewster, with carried them across the sound with his boat to Major Tallmadge's headquarters in Connecticut.  In addition to this, Mr. brewster, with his lightly armed whaleboats, captured several supply ships headed for the British army at New York, and also led his men on raids across the island, burning and wrecking whatever they could find belonging to the British.  He led the attack on the British Fort St. George at Mastic in November 1780, which proved a complete success.

during the revolutionary war (which i studied at SB) a spy ring was established by the continental army, passing messages from NYC to connecticut through... setauket, ny!  some of the spies were located just off campus in setauket, in what is now millie lane and also strong's neck and conscience bay in old field.  anyway here is more information about the spy ring here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culper_Ring

thought you might find this bit of history interesting. 
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Seawolf97

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Re: Non Sequitur- LI Spy Ring
« Reply #1 on: August 06, 2014, 08:14:32 pm »
I have heard of this  spy ring and it's network.  Really interesting. Sometime ago  I read that a path used used by these folks  cuts across what is now SBU, somewhere south of the main entrance  when Nichols Road
was a dirt path. Sometimes we forget out local history and how important it is .

sbugold

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Re: Non Sequitur- LI Spy Ring
« Reply #2 on: August 06, 2014, 10:22:04 pm »
By the way, incase you aren't aware, AMC the cable network has had a TV series on the air based upon the history of the spy ring and all it's characters.  Much of the personal histories has been greatly fictionalized for entertainment value, but many of the historical elements are part of the series.  The first season just completed around June.  But, the second season of the TV series begins in the fall on the AMC network.  It's called "Turn".  You may want to tune in.  But, if possible it would be better if you could find a way to begin with the first season's episodes.

Chairman of the Board

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Re: Non Sequitur- LI Spy Ring
« Reply #3 on: August 07, 2014, 08:44:28 am »
Thanks- i thought some of you guys might find this interesting. 

Ive been meaning to watch Turn but im bogged down in another show right now (Dexter).  Also the History Channel ran a very good program on the Culper Ring, ill have to dig up the details.
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jaghatai

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Re: Non Sequitur- LI Spy Ring
« Reply #4 on: September 06, 2014, 09:09:41 pm »
The Culper Ring is especially interesting to me because other than some specific items, nobody really knows how much information was gained.  Many of the local scholars believe that the intel was extremely detailed and accurate, and given what we know, that seems legit.

Turn is really good. Fictionalized, granted, but still entertaining.  Definitely worth a watch.
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