A Photo & 5 · Historic people · The American Revolution

A Photo & 5: The Culper Ring



1.The Culper Ring was a spy ring organized in the summer of 1778 under orders from General George Washington. The purpose of the ring was to spy on the British during their occupation of New York City.

2.The ring exposed many plots against the American forces including plans for a surprise attack on America’s French allies, and a plan to counterfeit American currency. The ring’s efforts also assisted in the exposure of traitor Benjamin Franklin.

3.The two main members of the Ring were Abraham Woodhull (alias Samuel Culper, Sr.) and Robert Townsend (alia Samuel Culper, Jr.). Townsend’s identity as Samuel Culper, Jr. was not known until 1929, when historian Morton Pennypacker noticed similarities between Robert Townsend’s handwriting and Samuel Culper, Jr.’s handwriting after examining old letters in the Townsend family home.

4.In order to maintain secrecy, members of the ring communicated in various ways including coded messages in newspapers, writing in invisible ink in between the lines of typical letters, and code names and numbers. George Washington’s code number was 711.

5.Women were informants for or participants in the Culper Ring. Among them was Anna Strong, a relative by marriage to Abraham Woodhull. Robert Townsend’s sister Sally Townsend, and Abraham Woodhull’s sister Mary Underhill were also associated with the spy ring. There is some debate as to whether there was a female agent known as Agent 355. Because the identity of Agent 355 has not been established, some believe that she was Anna Strong, or that 355 was simply a code number used to refer to a “lady” among members of the ring.




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