Use of Espionage During the American Revolution

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“There is one evil I dread, and that is, their spies. I could wish therefore the most attentive watch be kept… I wish a dozen or more honest sensible and diligent men, were employed… in order to question, cross-question, etc., all such persons as are unknown, and cannot give an account of themselves in a straight and satisfactory manner… I think it a matter of importance to prevent these [Tory spies] from obtaining intelligence of our situation. ” – George Washington The American Revolution was a time when colonial peoples were forced to develop a Patriot identity separate from that of the British. The evolution of espionage provides a paradigm case to support the shift in identity. The role of espionage is really only seen through the eyes of the British and the Patriots, the loyalists in the colonies are absent from the narrative. This paper argues that the use of espionage during the American revolution and the consequences that it brought developed a distinct American identity by analyzing the societal benefit it played in the colonies (the motivation that drove American’s to spy), the exclusion of members with loyalist sympathies found by John Honeyman and Enoch Crosby and its reputation within the colonial side. The Revolutionary War has been seen as a fundamental period into American history. The revolution was not just about politics and rights but also about a social revolution. Some historians like Gordon S.Wood see the revolution in social terms: “If we measure the radicalism of revolutions by the degree of social misery or economic deprivation suffered, or by the number of people killed or manor houses burned, then this conventional emphasis on the conservatism of the American Revolution becomes true enough. B... ... middle of paper ... ...Hidden War: British Intelligence Operations during the American Revolution.” The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, Vol. 47, No. 1 (Jan., 1990). Mahoney, Harry Thayer, and Marjorie Locke Mahoney. Gallantry in action: a biographic dictionary of espionage in the American Revolutionary War. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1999. Pennypacker, Morton. General Washington's spies on Long Island and in New York. Brooklyn, N.Y., The Long Island Historical Society, 1939. Rose, Alexander. Washington’s spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring. New York: Bantam Books, 2006 Sulick, Michael J.. Spying in America espionage from the Revolutionary War to the dawn of the Cold War., Georgetown University Press, 2012 Wood, Gordon S. The Radicalism of the American Revolution. New York: Vintage, 1991.

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