Select one of the keywords
George Washington's Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution    by Brian Kilmeade & Don Yaeger order for
George Washington's Secret Six
by Brian Kilmeade
Order:  USA  Can
Penguin, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Long ago, when I began my studies as a freshman at a northeastern university, not far from the site of George Washington's first military defeat during the French and Indian War (Fort Necessity in southwestern Pennsylvania), I was so fascinated by the history of America's formative years - especially the years leading up to the American Revolution and all that followed in the final decades of the 18th century - that I immediately enrolled as a history major. Unfortunately, my undergraduate studies were interrupted (thanks to the draft lottery, the Vietnam conflict, and what turned out to be nearly three decades in the United States military service), but I later completed my education and - going in a different direction - became a professor of literature and drama. Even though I had not followed through on my earlier goal of becoming a professional historian, I have throughout my life remained an avid student of American history: hundreds of books on my library shelves at home testify to that passion.

So it is with great anticipation that I seized upon the opportunity to read and review what has turned out to be a great new book about George Washington and his amazing network of spies. Before I comment more specifically about the highly recommended book by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yeager, I invite you to consider the next paragraph.

Most people in the United States, when they think about the American Revolution, tend to think only of the most famous places, such as Bunker Hill, Valley Forge, and Yorktown, and they also recall a few of the most prominent names, including perhaps only Washington and Cornwallis, but very few Americans know of many others. However, with that limited knowledge, people mistakenly overlook one of the most important places - New York City - and six of the most important people - Austin Roe, Caleb Brewster, Abraham Woodhull, James Rivington, Robert Townsend, and a woman known now (and largely then) only as Agent 355. These six, with Townsend in charge, made up the Culper Ring, a small band of fervent patriots whose contributions to the success of the American war effort cannot be overstated. The simple facts were these: If George Washington and the Continental Army could not seize and maintain control of Manhattan and the immediately adjacent boroughs, the tide of the American Revolution would almost certainly turn irreversibly in favor of the British; and if the Culper Ring had not defied all sorts of dangers in their wide-ranging efforts to spy upon the British forces and apprise Washington of the British plans, then New York would never be controlled by Washington's forces. Then, almost certainly, the American cause would be lost.

Backed up with exhaustive research (some of which has been previously unavailable to readers) and characterized by gripping, page-turning narrative prose - Kilmeade and Yaeger's book is a superb examination of the Culper Ring's contributions on behalf of the Americans' glorious cause. The names of Townsend (reserved), Roe (sacrificial), Brewster (impatient), Woodhull (nervous), Rivington (attentive), and Agent 355 (charming) deserve to be included among the names of the most famous founding fathers and military leaders. Why do the members of the Culper Ring deserve such elevation in the minds and hearts of 21st century Americans who value this nation's heritage of freedom and courage? The persuasive answers to that question can be found in the exciting, informative, and fascinating George Washington's Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution. Finally, I would offer you this recommendation: If you have time to read only read a handful of books about American history, make sure Kilmeade and Yaeger's book is among them. Enjoy!

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more NonFiction books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews