October 31, 2002
7:02 AM   Subscribe

"You will have heard, Dr Sir I doubt not long before this can have reached you that Sir W. Howe is gone from hence. The Rebels imagine that he is gone to the Eastward. By this time however he has filled Chesapeak bay with surprize and terror." - Sir Henry Clinton

Spy Letters of the American Revolution is an excellent site offering such gems as a captured letter written from Rachel Revere to husband Paul, a message from a colonial scientist written in invisible ink, and Benedict Arnold's encrypted message to the British offering to surrender West Point for £20,000. The site includes photos of the documents, back-stories on each letter, profiles of the people involved, and descriptions of methodology, as well as a timeline and route map.
posted by taz (8 comments total)
The letters, part of the Sir Henry Clinton Collection at the University of Michigan's Clements Library, provide a tantalizing glimpse into the world of 18th century spycraft as practiced by both sides in colonial America. For more Revolutionary War espionage, check out the CIA page detailing the Committee of Secret Correspondence, America's very first foreign intelligence operation, led by Benjamin Franklin (among other notables) and charged with conducting covert operations, devising ciphers and codes, employing secret agents and supporting propaganda activity. The revolutionaries had to work fast to develop and implement new intelligence techniques; with England's long, colorful history of intrigue and espionage to back them up and geographic integration in their favor, Loyalist spies posed a profound threat to Patriot military security.
posted by taz at 7:06 AM on October 31, 2002

One British spy, carrying a message from Henry Clinton to John Burgoyne in a silver ball the size of a rifle bullet, was captured at New Windsor. He swallowed the silver ball, but was forced to drink a strong emetic. The spy, Daniel Taylor, vomited the ball, instantly snatched it up, and swallowed it again.

Now that's dedication!
posted by PenDevil at 7:15 AM on October 31, 2002

I was a bit dissapointed by the spy codes, I was hoping for some bodgy 18thC. cryptography along the lines of -

"atch-way ut-oway or-fay the itish-bray"

Nice link taz
posted by backOfYourMind at 7:20 AM on October 31, 2002

When I was younger and more idealistic, Nathan Hale was one of my heroes.
posted by starvingartist at 7:22 AM on October 31, 2002

I spy, you spy etc...wonderful stuff. I need merely lift this stuff daily and post at my blog, toss in a few naked babes, and all is well with the universe. Thanks.
posted by Postroad at 7:45 AM on October 31, 2002

Very cool site. Thanks!
posted by ptermit at 8:03 AM on October 31, 2002

backOf: ice-nay ost-pay!
posted by LeLiLo at 8:05 AM on October 31, 2002

taz, I spent some time reading at these links today - nice post! Thanks.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:26 PM on November 1, 2002

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