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Using Spies to Win the American Revolution

Below is an excerpt from an article by A.J. Baime for about how George Washington used spies to win the American Revolution. From secret agents, invisible ink, ciphers and codes - read on to explore the gritty and dangerous underworld of the colonial insurgency. Click the link at the end of the excerpt to read the full article on the website.

How important was George Washington’s network of spies to winning the American Revolution?

It’s hard to imagine that the fate of the American cause would rest so heavily in the hands of a tailor, an enslaved double agent—or a judge’s wife who sent surreptitious signals on her laundry line. But as General Washington struggled to win a war with an army that was perpetually undermanned, undertrained and undersupplied, he relied increasingly on his unseen weapon: a secret intelligence network. Throughout the war, Washington’s spies helped him make bold, canny decisions that would turn the tide of the conflict—and in some instances, even save his life.

The story of Washington’s underground spy network, and how it helped Americans win their revolution, is replete with intrigue: letters written in invisible ink; a rare female agent who went by the mysterious moniker Agent 355; the gruesome execution of the spy Nathan Hale. Indeed, according to the Central Intelligence Agency, “General Washington was more deeply involved in intelligence operations than any American general-in-chief until Dwight Eisenhower during World War II.”

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