He was stationed as a spy, acting as a slave in Lord Cornwallis' camp. He relayed much information about the British plans for troop deployment and about their arms. His intelligence reports espionage were instrumental in helping to defeat the British at the surrender at Yorktown.
Because he was an intelligence agent and not technically a soldier, James could not qualify for emancipation under the Act of 1783, so with the support of William Armistead, he petitioned the Virginia State Legislature for his freedom. He received a letter of commendation dated November 21, 1784 from the Marquis de Lafayette
African-American American Revolutionary War hero
Spied on the British, obtaining valuable information for the revolution.
Was given his full freedom from slavery by the Virginia legislature in 1792:
“In consideration of many very essential services rendered to this Commonwealth during the late war … full liberty and freedom … as if he was born free.”
Born in France.
Traveled to America with Lafayette to fight in the Revolutionary War
Settled near Vincennes, Indiana, becoming a trader.
Commanded the Company of Spies and Guides
Dubois drowned in 1816 while crossing the Little Wabash River
Mom Rinker’s Rock
A scenic outlook in Wissahickon Valley, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
It is located on a ridge on the eastern side of the park just a little north of the Walnut Lane Bridge
The name of the outlook is derived from legendary stories about an event that supposedly occurred during or after the Revolutionary War Battle of Germantown
American spies took advantage of the rugged terrain of the Wissahickon valley to retrieve information from an informant named Mom Rinker, who allegedly perched atop a rock overlooking the valley to drop balls of yarn which contained messages about British troop movements during the occupation of Philadelphia.
A female spy in the American Revolutionary War on the side of the British loyalists.
Miss Jenny, a French-speaking woman, infiltrated the French troops who were fighting on the American side and reported the movements of French and American troops to the British headquarters in New York.
In the late summer, she reported to the British that the French and Americans where planning an attack on the city of New York. She was on her way to cross the lines to the city to confirm this when she was caught by a French guard, she was turned to the French camp, where she was questioned.
She claimed to be searching for her French-Canadian father. The French turned her to General George Washington's camp, where she was further questioned, but she held to her story. She was then turned over to French custody again, and after a last try to make her confess, they gave up.
The French and the Americans inflicted the informal punishment of cutting off her hair. In the 18th century, women's hair was only cut if they were sick or if they were criminals. Thus, their act of cutting of her hair can be seen as a way of labeling her as a criminal.
Miss Jenny continued on her way to the British camp in New York and reported everything she had observed about the French and American troop movements and camps both before and after her arrest and confirmed the plans of an attack on New York.
Miss Jenny is considered an important factor in the British military movements in the summer of 1781
Organized by Benjamin Tallmadge under the orders of General George Washington
Infiltrating British-controlled New York City and reporting troop dispositions and intentions.
Conducted covert operations until the end of the American Revolutionary War
General Washington was well aware of the need for good intelligence, and he asked Tallmadge, to recruit people who could be trusted to collect it in New York City.
Tallmadge enlisted the services of Abraham Woodhull, a farmer, and Robert Townsend, a merchant,
They agreed to supply much of the information and tavern keeper named Austin Roe served as the courier
Once Townsend’s reports reached Setauket, whale boatman Caleb Brewster and his men ferried it across Long Island Sound where Tallmadge’s dragoons waited to carry it to Washington’s headquarters.
Perhaps with Hale in mind, Washington made sure that these spies had more support. Through Tallmadge he provided them with codes, invisible ink, dead drops, and aliases.
Woodhull became known in dispatches as Samuel Culper Sr., and Townsend was referred to as Samuel Culper Jr.
Secrecy was so strict that Washington himself didn’t know the identity of all the operatives. Townsend's role was finally determined in 1939 by handwriting analysis, and has since been confirmed by other evidence.
One of those who allegedly aided the Culper Ring is the operative known only as “355,” the group’s code for “lady.”
Some claim that she gave birth to Robert Townsend's child while she was a prisoner aboard the British hulk, The Jersey.
Credited with having helped uncover Benedict Arnold's treachery in surrendering West Point
Aiding in the capture of Major John André, the head of British intelligence in New York.
Washington offered the British to trade André for the return of Arnold, but without success, so he reluctantly ordered André hanged, as had been Nathan Hale.
The British would soon capture agent 355 as the spy who must have compromised André. She was imprisoned onboard a ship where she would die from abuse, illness, and neglect.
American patriot who served in the French and Indian War and acted as a Colonel during the American Revolution.
Considered America's first Intelligence professional,
His unit, Knowlton's Rangers, made a significant contribution to intelligence gathering during the early Revolutionary War.
Killed in action at the Battle of Harlem Heights.
Served in the French and Indian War with his older brother Daniel and is known to have joined Daniel on scouting missions into enemy territory.
By 1762, Knowlton had returned home and married Anna Keyes. He and his wife raised nine children. At the age of thirty-three, Knowlton was appointed a Selectman of Ashford, Connecticut.
On April 18, 1775, General Thomas Gage dispatched a contingent of British troops to Lexington and Concord, about fifteen miles from Boston, Massachusetts. This action led to the outbreak of hostilities that became the American Revolution.
On learning of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the militias of Massachusetts and Connecticut communities mobilized their members.
Thomas Knowlton joined his militia, the Ashford Company, which became part of the 5th Connecticut Regiment, along with the men from Windham, Mansfield and Coventry, Connecticut.
Knowlton was chosen unanimously as Captain and led 200 men into Massachusetts. His force consisted of farmers, without uniforms, primarily armed with shotguns.
Knowlton was ordered to Charlestown to join Colonel William Prescott. Knowlton’s troops were sent by Colonel Prescott to oppose the advancing British grenadiers, and took their posts on the side of Breed's hill.
Using a rail fence as a base, the men threw up a parallel fence and, filling the space between with new-mown grass, formed an effective breastwork.
There they held their ground until the general retreat, and were among those providing cover as the troops retreated. Only three men from Knowlton’s company died in the battle.
Years later, Colonel Aaron Burr said: " I had a full account of the Battle from Knowlton's own lips, and I believe if the chief command had been entrusted to him, the issue would have proved more fortunate. It was impossible to promote such a man too rapidly. "
In June 1775, for his bravery at Bunker Hill, Knowlton was promoted by Congress to Major. One of his men later remembered that Knowlton was courageous to a fault, never crying, Go on, boys! but always, Come on, boys!
On August 12, 1776, General of the Army George Washington promoted Knowlton to Lieutenant Colonel.
He was ordered to select an elite group of men from Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts to carry out reconnaissance missions.
America's first official spies, "Knowlton's Rangers" were also the first organized American elite troops, analogous to a modern special forces unit.
The famous American spy, Captain Nathan Hale, was under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Knowlton.
The date "1776" on the modern U.S. Army's intelligence service seal refers to the formation of Knowlton's Rangers.
On September 16, 1776, Knowlton's Rangers, outfitted as a regiment of light infantry, were scouting in advance of Washington's Army at Harlem Heights, New York.
Battle of Harlem Heights
They stumbled upon the Black Watch, an elite Highlander British unit with an attachment of Hessians. They managed a successful retreat but re-engaged the enemy with the support of a unit led by Major Leitch of Virginia. General Washington ordered the units to fall on the enemy's rear, while a feint in front engaged the British troops’ attention.
An American premature shot into the right flank of the British ruined Washington's plan and placed Knowlton's Rangers and the Virginians at risk. Once the premature shot had been fired, Knowlton rallied his troops to carry on the attack. Both commanding officers were killed in front of their men.
Knowlton's loss was lamented by Washington in his general orders for September 17, 1776 with the statement " The gallant and brave Col Knowlton, ... would have been an Honor to any Country, having fallen yesterday, while gloriously fighting ... ".
The Knowlton Award
In 1995, the Military Intelligence Corps Association established the Knowlton Award , presented to individuals who have contributed significantly to the promotion of Army Intelligence.
Knowlton is shown in the white shirt holding a gun.
Widely considered America's first spy
Volunteered for an intelligence-gathering mission, but was caught by the British
Best remembered for his speech before being hanged following the Battle of Long Island
"I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country“.
Long considered an American hero
He disguised himself as a Dutch schoolteacher, carrying his Yale diploma to prove his credentials.
Major Robert Rogers met Hale in a tavern and saw through his disguise
Lured Hale into betraying himself by pretending to be a patriot himself
Rogers and his Rangers apprehended Hale near Flushing Bay, in Queens, New York
British General William Howe questioned Hale and physical evidence was found on him.
Rogers provided information about the case.
According to tradition, Hale spent the night in a greenhouse at the mansion.
According to the standards of the time, spies were hanged as illegal combatants
He was 21 years old.
Left dangling from the gallows in his stockings for three days as a reminder and deterrent to other potential spies
By all accounts, Hale comported himself eloquently before the hanging. But it is not clear if he specifically uttered the famous line:
"I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."
If Hale did give the famous speech, it is most likely he was actually repeating a passage from a play
How beautiful is death, when earn'd by virtue! Who would not be that youth? What pity is it That we can die but once to serve our country.
A British officer, wrote this diary entry for the day:
He behaved with great composure and resolution, saying he thought it the duty of every good Officer, to obey any orders given him by his Commander-in-Chief; and desired the Spectators to be at all times prepared to meet death in whatever shape it might appear.
At the gallows, he made a sensible and spirited speech; among other things, told them they were shedding the blood of the innocent, and that if he had ten thousand lives, he would lay them all down, if called to it, in defense of his injured, bleeding Country."
"I am so satisfied with the cause in which I have engaged, that my only regret is, that I have not more lives than one to offer in its service."
A Letter to a Brother
On the morning of his execution, Captain Hale was calm, and bore himself with gentle dignity, in the consciousness of rectitude and high intentions.
He asked for writing materials, and wrote two letters, one to his mother and one to Enoch
The letter was never delivered, but Enoch heard of it from another American prisoner, John Wyllys, who knew Nathan.
Cunningham had shown him the letter to taunt him
Quotes about Nathan Hale
Hale is in the American pantheon not because of what he did but because of why he did it."
"And because that boy said those words, and because he died, thousands of other young men have given their lives to his country."
Washington was a master of intelligence, counterintelligence, and military deception.
Upon his return to England, along with the defeated British Army, Major George Beckwith, the head of British intelligence operations in the Colonies made the following statement about Washington at the end of the Revolutionary War:
"Washington did not really outfight the British, he simply outspied us!"
Beckwith had just paid the greatest compliment that one spymaster can make to another.
Washington Learns A Hard Lesson
As a 21-year-old adjutant under British General Braddock during the French and Indian War.
Braddock's forces were ambushed by the French and Indians and virtually annihilated.
Washington escaped after his horse was shot out from under him and Braddock was mortally wounded, as so were 615 of his officers and 914 soldiers.
The French simply had an effective intelligence network and were aware of Braddock's every move well in advance.
Washington would never forget this bitter lesson and never again be so surprised.
Washington's resounding victory in the Revolution can be attributed as much to his skills as a spymaster as to his military leadership.
Beginning of the War - Washington knew he needed eyes and ears inside the British-occupied cities to spy out the secret plans of the British
1 st order of business – creation of his secret intelligence service.
Hasty attempts to place a spy inside New York would end in the death of his first spy, Nathan Hale.
Eventually established extremely effective spy networks inside New York
Kept him well informed, in advance, of the British military tactics, strategies, and plans
Established independent spy networks, each without knowledge of the other, a key commandment in the practice of the intelligence trade
His spies committed their identities to memory, using code numbers instead of names, passing encrypted messages, using invisible ink—all the while running the risk of capture and the gallows.
Washington was referred to only as Code 711.
New York became 727,
Long Island was 728.
Talmadge would use the pseudonym John Bolton as well as the code number 721.
The ring succeeded in preventing the British from interdicting the arrival and safe landing of the French fleet with its seasick and vulnerable cargo of soldiers intent on helping the colonists
Mulligan Spy Ring
Hercules Mulligan, the Irish haberdasher to the British officer corps in New York
Mulligan's brother, Hugh, who ran a bank frequented by the British
Haym Solomon, a Polish Jew who spoke several languages, including German. He became a translator for the British in passing orders to their Hessian troops.
Solomon was Washington's fox in the British hen house. He was however, too zealous as a saboteur in the cause of freedom
He would finally be caught, escape, and become better known historically as a financial supporter of the Revolution.
Washington’s spy inside Trenton - John Honeyman,
Worked undercover as a merchant selling beef to the Hessians
Provided Washington all the details about fortifications, weapons, stores, and the critical timing necessary for the swift victory, all without losing a man
Morale booster that reignited the colonials' sagging trust in Washington's ability to engage successfully the superior, better-equipped, and trained British army.
Valley Forge - British planned a surprise attack to wipe out the Old Fox, Washington, once and for all, and to bring the rebellion to a swift end.
Washington was extremely vulnerable at this time, and his bedraggled troops could easily have been defeated—except for his spy network inside British-occupied Philadelphia.
Lydia Darrow, another of Washington's spies, eavesdropped on the British strategy session planning the attack, learning all the details.
She then drove her wagon hard to warn Washington, claiming to be going to buy flour at Frankfort's Mill.
Along their supposedly secret march to Valley Forge, the British troops were ambushed, sniped at, and harassed by Washington's troops.
The Well-oiled Machine
As the war neared its conclusion, Washington's intelligence services were functioning like a well-oiled machine.
His code breakers were intercepting and decoding the British fleet's codes.
This permitted the French fleet to control the Chesapeake Bay and successfully keep British reinforcements from reaching General Cornwallis at Yorktown.
Washington used his intelligence information effectively to know when conditions were favorable to stand and fight, and when it was more prudent to avoid a battle.
He was, and remains, our nation's past master of intelligence, counterintelligence, and military deception.
His words, written for his spies in 1777, are still valid and required reading at the CIA.