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A footnote to history providing personal letters from 1774 to 1864 with the majority during the Revolutionary War time span of 1777-1778. Discovering new information that connects the participants (related to Aaron Burr) to the intelligence efforts of Gen. Geo. Washington.
I DID IT!
General George Washington must had a wonderful sense of humor as exhibited in his mocking of the British when he named Culper Jr. and Culper Sr. of the Long Island Culper Spy Ring.
Obama’s slogan “Yes we can!” could be matched by Washington’s “We did it!” Washington was recognized when he was elected President of the union as the man that did it. What has not been acknowledged is that he knew it and said it by assigning the name Culper to his major spies. Latin was a predominant subject amongst all educated men in the 1700’s. In fact it was still taught in my day in the 40’s as a college requirement. Therefore, when members of the audience at my presentations question where the Culper name originated “mea culpa” ( I am guilty) immediately came to mind. The root “culp” (blame) along with the suffix “er” (that which identifies it as the person who does the action of the root) illustrates what George Washington was musing, i.e. “I am the one responsible for this action.” In essence “he did it.” The significance of this word surely could not have been lost upon the scholars of the day.
George Washington received full credit for the victorious outcome of the Revolutionary War, but it included concerted efforts by an entire patriot populace along with his brilliant planning and choosing of efficient, organized individuals such as his choice to integrate all the scattered spy units into a rapid close knit intelligence operation. Washington knew that just gathering the information was useless unless he had forehand knowledge to deploy his troops where they could block the British from attack. Therefore, he choose Long Island Major Benjamin Tallmadge who co-ordinated all the North, South, East and West intelligence groups.
What is known is that Townsend in New York City, a dry goods store owner, received and distributed intelligence to Austin Roe, a Tavern owner who then delivered by horse back, messages into a hidden box in the middle of a Woodhull’s cattle field. The simplicity of the scheme was that no one became a full time operator, but continued the daily chores so that they were never suspected. Then, Anna Strong watched for the flag signal from Strong Neck Cove for Caleb Brewster’s whaleboat. Anna signalled by placing a black petticoat along with a number of handkerchiefs to determine which cove Brewster docked in order that Woodhull might contact Brewster giving him the important missives to deliver across the Long Island Sound and place the information into the waiting hands of another patriot. Current information about the Culper Spy Ring states that Benjamin Tallmadge is that person. Yet, Tallmadge’s memoirs places him there infrequently and for very short periods of time.
Benjamin Tallmadge states in his memoirs that General George Washington wished the spy ring to continue right up to the close of war duties. Since the war raged in later years in the South and the West it proves that Tallmadge had supervised those units as well using the Culper Spy organization to inform General George Washington of all activities. Benjamin Tallmadge’s memoirs also state that Caleb Brewster and General Parsons forayed together against the British in the Long Island area. This is a significant fact in that General Parsons was mentioned in the personal letters of Reverend Andrew Eliot of Fairfield Connecticut to his father in Boston Massachusetts, when he mentions that General Parsons makes daily trips to the sound to pick up intelligence. History is not complete until all the Revolutionary War letters that detail the conflict are gathered to present a more accurate presentation of the times.
Reverend Andrew Eliot‘s missives are a footnote account along with other letters found in the book by Bernadine Fawcett, “Missing Links To The Culper Spy Ring?” They, also disclose the fact that the First Continental Congress of 1774 was already planning ahead by making certain that the First Congregational Church of Fairfield Connecticut had a patriot minister. Letters by James Dana and Ebenezer Silliman detail who and what credentials were being required for the ministry to be filled. Political appointments as well as religious maintained the focus of the conflict because of the minister’s prestige and influence over large segments of the population. Reverend Elliot complained to his father that he was distressed and aghast that the signers of the constitution separated the church from the state. He felt this as a moral indiscretion.
Moreover, Reverend Eliot’s letters depict Thaddeus Burr (first cousin to AAron Burr) as the recipient of much secret information that was forwarded to him from his father who was also a minister with the same appellation. Reverend Eliot's’ continual mention of Thaddeus Burr attests to the fact of their friendship and common cause toward the Republic. Thaddeus Burr was the Fairfield Sheriff and the head of the town conclave as mentioned in Morton Pennypacker’s historical accounts and the conclave was also discussed in the book “In Olde Connecticut” by Charles Burr Todd. Reverend Elliot assures his father that the sensitive facts which he received would only be given into the hands of Thaddeus Burr.
Certainly this actively known Fairfield Connecticut covert operation would not have been ignored by Benjamin Tallmadge in his efficient organization of unifying the disorganised links into one whole and indeed it is acknowledged by history. There seems to be a disconnect with historians to believe that this group and the one that Reverend Eliot depicts are not connected. If that were so then Tallmadge would not have been as effective as he most certainly was. In fact, the British burned down the entire town of Fairfield Connecticut in 1779 because of its efficiency. Since Thaddeus Burr was the head of the total unit, and Reverend Elliot was so intimately involved with Thaddeus Burr as well as with receiving packets of information that he was to study and then send as much out as he received, obviously identifies links that previously were not known or acknowledged.
We can learn a great deal from past victories. England’s Chief of Intelligence was reported as remarking in a British newspaper after the war, “Washington didn’t win the war, his spies did”.
“Culper,” He did it!
Just as Obama realizes success is a grass roots movement involving all the people his motto is also, “Yes we can!”