Revolutionary Spying

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During the Revolutionary War, the American and British both spent a great deal of money on creating spy networks on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. The Continental Congress had a Committee on Secret Correspondence headed by Benjamin Franklin that paid secret agents as far away as Holland to spy on British activities. The spymaster of the Continental Army was 24-year-old Benjamin Tallmadge. He developed his own secret code (known in the eighteenth century as a cipher) and created vast networks of agents to report on the movements of the British army. The most famous such group was the "Culper gang" that reported on the British in and around New York City. 29-year-old Major John André was the British army's spy-in-chief. His biggest success was perhaps the persuading of Benedict Arnold to change his loyalty.

America and Britain were not the only countries that spied on each other during the Revolutionary War. The French were especially interested in keeping tabs on their potential ally, the Americans, and their old enemy, the British. In February 1776, one French official knew so much about events in Williamsburg, and had such close ties to people there, that he informed his boss in Paris that "things could be helped along in Virginia" to move its people to independence and a bigger war with Britain.

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