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Benjamin Tallmadge

General Washington’s Go-To Spy

A great lessons from the story of Major Benjamin Tallmadge is that his success was due to the same qualities every other good patriot has. He was creative, resourceful, persistent, brave, and motivated by a good cause in service to his country. This same descriptor fits so many others who followed in his footsteps, and really flow from character traits dominate in America today. His story is so very worth reading because it is full of episodes that should resonate with you as something you would do if you were in his position.

There are other more strategic points from his operations. For example, the story of Benjamin Tallmadge was almost buried forever. He and his network believed what they were doing was important to keep secrets and the entire story of these first few spies was really unknown till researchers discovered correspondence outlining how the operation worked.

Tallmadge established his capabilities under the direction of General Washington himself. This period of the war included many setbacks in attempts to learn about adversary activities (including the famous capture and hanging of Nathan Hale in the summer of 1776, and the roll-up of another spy ring in New York city in 1778). Washington was in dire need of what Tallmadge could offer and authorized him to initiate his Culper Ring operation in late 1778. Tallmadge was a leading member of this operation, along with Abraham Woodhull.

Another strategic point is that Tallmadge collected information that would only be of use if it was disseminated, read, believed and acted upon. All these steps proved to be very hard, but Tallmadge managed to get his information across enemy lines to decision-makers in a way that readers could understand. Since he established himself as a credible source, these leaders saw him as believable and that credibility ended up proving that good intelligence can drive operations and win battles and even a war.

For a glimpse of some of Tallmadge’s diary see:

For more on Tallmadge see Washington’s Spies: The story of America’s First Spy Ring

Tallmadge is also a main character in the AMC series Turn: Washington’s Spies.

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