Skip to main content

Learn about the important role that espionage played during the Revolutionary War and George Washington’s role as one of our nation's first spymasters.

Both the British and American forces during the Revolutionary War employed a wide range of spy networks and spycraft to gain critical information about the other side. George Washington quickly recognized the need for effective intelligence gathering efforts and developed a number of spy rings and other secret agents to gather information behind enemy lines. Washington was also particularly adept at supplying the British with misinformation that purposely misled his enemies as to his true intentions.

Spy Techniques of the Revolution
Espionage

Spy Techniques of the Revolution

Spycraft during the American Revolution consisted of a complicated system of hidden networks and cunning.

Learn more

George Washington, Spymaster

Spies, secret codes, dead drops, and double agents. Learn how George Washington created a network for intelligence and espionage.

Learn more

Benedict Arnold: From Triumph to Traitor

Historian James Kirby Martin describes how George Washington and Benedict Arnold, once brothers in arms, became bitter enemies.

Learn More

James Lafayette

James Lafayette was a spy who helped secure American victory during the Revolutionary War. With his owner's permission, James joined the Continental forces under the Marquis de Lafayette and posed as a runaway slave to intercept British intelligence.

Learn more

Dead Drops and Invisible Ink

John A. Nagy, one of America’s leading scholars on espionage during the American Revolution sat down with us to share his observations on the important role that spies and spying played during the war.

Learn More

Agent 711: Revolutionary Spy Adventure App

Go undercover and test your spycraft skills as you solve ciphers, decode messages, and tackle challenges.

Download the App

The Culper Spy Ring

The Culper Spy Ring was an American spy network operating during the War of American Independence that provided George Washington with information on British troop movements. In November 1778, George Washington appointed Major Benjamin Tallmadge as director of military intelligence, charged with creating a spy ring in New York City, the site of British headquarters.

This network became known as the Culper Spy Ring and operated successfully in and around New York City for five years, during which time no spy was ever unmasked.

Learn more about the Culper Spy Ring

Benjamin Tallmadge oversaw the Culper Spy Ring operating out of New York (litchfieldhistoricalsociety.org)

The Culper Code Book

Under the orders of General George Washington, Major Benjamin Tallmadge organized the Culper Spy Ring in 1778 to gather information on British troop movements, fortifications, and military plans in the New York area.

It was essential in protecting the vital communications and identities of this important intelligence gathering group. 

View the Culper Code Book
Espionage
mv-webfeat_play_icon.png

America's First Spymaster

The History Channel examines George Washington and the origins of spying in America.

Watch the video