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Stony Brook University

George Washington and the Culper Spy Ring

Research Materials about George Washington, the Culper Spy Ring, and the American Revolutionary War

Primary Sources

George Washington letters. Stony Brook University, Special Collections and University Archives
Letters written in 1779 and 1780 by George Washington to Benjamin Tallmadge about the Culper Spy Ring.

James Jay letter. Stony Brook University, Special Collections and University Archives
James Jay (1732 -1815), American physician and politician, and elder brother of John Jay, supplied medicines to George Washington during the American Revolutionary War and developed an invisible ink used by Washington, Thomas Jefferson, his younger brother, John Jay, and members of the Culper Spy Ring.

Robert Townsend Account Books
Account book of Robert Townsend, merchant, of Oyster Bay Township, N.Y., and New York, N.Y. American Revolutionary War spy, of Oyster Bay, L.I.  Source: East Hampton Library, Long Island Collection.

American Memory, Library of Congress: Culper letters
The George Washington Papers contain a large collection of the letters of Samuel Culper and Samuel Culper Junior (enter "culper" in the search box).

Boston Athenaeum
Autograph letters of Major André and his captors.
Author: André, John, (Archival Material) Accession Number: 71659937.

Clements Library, University of Michigan: Spy Letters of the American Revolution
This collection includes but is not limited to the following letters:

May 10, 1779 -- John André to Joseph Stansbury

June 27, 1779 -- George Washington to Benjamin Tallmadge

July 12, 1780 -- Benedict Arnold to John André

July 15, 1780 -- Benedict Arnold to John André

September 29, 1780 -- John André to Henry Clinton

Connecticut Historical Society
Papers of: Oliver Wolcott; John Adams; John Quincy Adams; Fisher Ames; Joel Barlow; Theodore Dwight; Robert Fulton; Chauncey Goodrich; Alexander Hamilton; Rufus King; Timothy Pickering; Josiah Quincy; Benjamin Tallmadge; George Washington; Noah Webster. This collection includes information on West Point as a military post (1786). OCLC: 42706359.

Correspondence of the American Revolution: being letters of eminent men to George Washington, from the time of his taking command of the army to the end of his presidency.  Washington, George, and Sparks, Jared. Boston : Little, Brown and Company, 1853.  

The Culper Code Book
George Washington's Mount Vernon

Diary of George Washington: Travels to Long Island, April 19 to April 24, 1790

East Hampton Library: Long Island Collection
Author Morton Pennypacker donated his notes on the Culper Spy Ring to this collection.

Fairfield Museum and History Center
Papers, 1783-1976: “Correspondence, deeds, writs, maps, military papers, legal and court documents, family Bible, and other papers, relating to Brewster's land holdings and his activities as commander of a fleet of open whaleboats, running out of Black Rock Harbor, which attacked British vessels in Long Island Sound during the American Revolution and his later duties as captain with U.S. Revenue-Cutter Service for the district of New York.” Prominent Citizens: Their lives and contributions to Fairfield.; artifacts and documents related to Caleb Brewster.

Founders' Online
The National Archives, through its National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), has entered into a cooperative agreement with The University of Virginia Press to create Founders Online and make freely available the historical documents of the Founders of the United States of America.

Through this website, you can read and search through thousands of records from George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison and see firsthand the growth of democracy and the birth of the Republic. In this initial phase, Founders Online contains nearly 120,000 fully searchable documents.  As work continues on each of the ongoing publishing projects, newly annotated and edited records will be added. When it is complete, Founders Online will include approximately 175,000 documents.

Fraunces Tavern Museum
Manuscript collection, 1759-1829 (bulk); this collection includes Papers of Benjamin Tallmadge (1773-1815), including letters concerning military operations in Connecticut and on Long Island Sound (1780-1782), business and political matters, and Tallmadge's diploma from Yale (1773).

George Washington Papers: Library of Congress
"The complete George Washington Papers collection from the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress consists of approximately 65,000 documents. This is the largest collection of original Washington documents in the world. Document types in the collection as a whole include correspondence, letterbooks, commonplace books, diaries, journals, financial account books, military records, reports, and notes accumulated by Washington from 1741 through 1799" (description from website).

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History 
This website has transcriptions of  letters from Benjamin Tallmadge, Caleb Brewster, and George Washington.   

Harvard University, Houghton Library
Espionage Papers, 1775-1956. [199-?]; archival material.

Huntington Library Art and Botanical Garden, California
Stark, J. (1780). Orderly book of John Stark; “Orderly book of Stark's command at West Point, including general orders of Nathanael Greene regarding the trial of John André.” Accession Number: 122288813.

James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library, Virginia
Tallmadge-Norwood-Wilkins Collection: Col. Benjamin Tallmadge, who developed intelligence service for George Washington during the American Revolution; discovered Major André was a spy; captured Fort St. George on Long Island; was a Society of the Cincinnati officer; and served in the U.S. House of Representatives, 1800-1817 is represented in this collection. OCLC: 30820638.

Kentucky Commonwealth Virtual Library
Charles Henry Todd Papers.

Todd, Charles Henry. 1838-1915.
Filson Club 1848-1917. Computer File.

Library of Congress
Arnold, B. (1970). Benedict Arnold papers. Correspondence and documents relating to Major John André's apprehension and execution for spying for the British Army. Includes documents by Arnold giving the defenses and strengths of the garrison at West Point, N.Y., and related correspondence between Arnold, Henry Clinton, James Robertson, and George Washington. Also includes copies of related material from collections in the Library of Congress.”

Library of Congress
Lafayette, M. J. P. Y. R. G. D. M., Jarnac, G.-A. R.-C., Jarnac, L. C. G. R.-C., Jarnac, P.-F.-A. R.-C., Lafayette, G. W. L. G. D. M., Lafayette, M. A. N., La, F. M. L. C. R. G. M., ... Périer, N. M. L. F. (1457). Papers of the marquis de Lafayette.

Includes Lafayette's annotated draft of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and a holograph ms. of the secret code used by Lafayette and George Washington during the American Revolution.

Library of Congress
McHenry, J. (1970). James McHenry Papers.

Library of Congress
Mooers, B. (1970). Papers of Benjamin Mooers. “Orderly book (1780 September 16-November 19) kept by Mooers as adjutant, 2nd Canadian Regiment of the Continental Army, containing general, division, brigade, and regimental orders issued at Orangetown (i.e. Tappan) and West Point, N.Y., relating in part to Benedict Arnold's attempted surrender of West Point to the British, the capture and execution of Major John André, and routine military matters.”

Library of Congress
Tallmadge, Benjamin. Benjamin Tallmadge Correspondence. This includes ALS (1782 March 24; Philadelphia, Pa.) written by Tallmadge to Jeremiah Wadsworth pertaining to British military activities on Long Island, N.Y. Accession Number: 70980354.

Library of Congress
United States. (1970). U.S. Continental Army orderly book; “photocopied fragment of a headquarters orderly book relating to the treason of Benedict Arnold and the execution of John André.”

Litchfield Historical Society 
Benjamin Tallmadge Collection 1777-1864.

Major Andre’s Arrest and Execution
New York, NY H. De Marsan, 1860. Broadside. Lyrics – text of 11 four line stanzas, of the song: Major Andre’s Arrest and Execution (music is not included).

Massachusetts Historical Society
Letter to Abraham Gould. Hart, J., & Gould, A. (1780). Letter to Abraham Gould; “Letter dated 4 Oct. 1780 at Tappan, N.Y., from Dr. John Hart to his father-in-law Capt. Abraham Gould. Hart gives an account of the treason of Benedict Arnold and a description of the execution of Major John Andre as a British spy during the Revolutionary War.”

Massachusetts Historical Society
Papers, Tallmadge family.; Benjamin Tallmadge; Farnsworth family.
Letter to Abraham Gould, John Hart; Abraham Gould, 1780
Letter dated 4 Oct. 1780 at Tappan, N.Y., from Dr. John Hart to his father-in-law Capt. Abraham Gould. Hart gives an account of the treason of Benedict Arnold and a description of the execution of Major John Andre as a British spy during the Revolutionary War. Accession Number: 25045737

Memoir of Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge
Memoir of Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge / edited by Henry Phelps ...
Tallmadge, Benjamin, 1754-1835.; Johnston, Henry Phelps, Publication: New York: Gilliss Press, 1904, 1858.

National Archives and Records Administration: 1st Cong, House, Sec War Reports, RG233
The Secretary for the Department of War to Whom was referred the petition of Caleb Brewster, Papers of the War Department. Report - Secretary of War approved the pension for Brewster who was wounded during his duty keeping the seaway between Long Island and Connecticut open for military communication.

New York Historical Society
Account Books 1773-1784: “They consist of a receipt book, 1779-1784, with some receipts made out to Robert Townsend and Co.; a daybook, 1773-1774, which has a receipt laid in related to the estate of Townsend's father, Samuel Townsend; a daybook of Samuel Townsend dated 1773, and a daybook of Robert Townsend's brother Solomon dated 1778.”

Minutes, 1776 Dec. 11-1778 Sept. 23 by New York (State). Commission for Detecting and Defeating Conspiracies (1777-1778); New York (State). Committee for Detecting and Defeating Conspiracies (1776-1777). Archival Material. Meeting minutes of the New York Committee for Detecting and Defeating Conspiracies, 1776 Dec 11-1777 Jan., and the Commission for Detecting and Defeating Conspiracies, 1777 Feb. 15.-1778 Sept 23.

New York Public Library
Manuscripts and Archives Division, Miscellaneous Personal Name Files, Culper, Samuel Jr. Box 28. Also see the Thomas Addis Emmett Collection, 1483-1876, bulk (1700-1800).

New York Public Library: Benedict Arnold Cipher Letter
Authors: Benedict Arnold; Peggy Shippen Arnold
This is a reproduction of one of Benedict Arnold’s coded communications with the British while he was negotiating what eventually became a failed attempt to surrender the fort at West Point in 1780.

New York State Archives
New York (State)., & Arnold, B. (1780). Papers found on British spy Major Andre ("Andre Papers"); “Most of the documents in this series were created by Major General Benedict Arnold to supply information to the British Army concerning the conditions, personnel, and ordnance of the American fortifications at West Point, New York. Types of information include disposition of troops and artillery pieces in case of alarm; reports of ordnance in the different forts, redoubts, and batteries; report of the condition of the various fortifications; and estimates of the number of men necessary to fortify the works and numbers actually present.”

New York State Historical Documents
Title: Papers, 1776-1814
The Sackett Family Papers, “draft of a letter from Sackett to Washington concerning his intelligence work and the use of a woman informant, 1777.” Accession Number: 155524947.

The Washington Papers: University of Virginia
More than 135,000 documents. Established in 1968 at the University of Virginia, The Washington Papers is working to publish comprehensive letterpress and digital editions of the Washington family's correspondence.

Princeton University, Manuscripts Division
Tallmadge, B., & Washington, G. (1756). Benjamin Tallmadge Collection.

Raynham Hall Museum, Oyster Bay, NY
Archives of the Townsend family.

Society of the Cincinnati Library, Washington D.C. or Library of Congress
Society of the Cincinnati Manuscripts Collection. (1760).

The University of Nottingham, England: Papers of Henry Fiennes Pelham-Clinton, 2nd Duke of Newcastle under Lyne (1720-1794), in the Newcastle (Clumber) Collection
“Of particular interest is his correspondence with his cousin, General Sir Henry Clinton, during the American War of Independence.”
United States - History - Revolution, 1775-1783.

University of Virginia
Rochambeau, J.-B.-D. V., Denommé, R. T., Greene, N., Knox, H., McKean, T., & Washington, G. (1780). Papers of the Comte de Rochambeau; “papers from Rochambeau's headquarters in Yorktown, Va., include correspondence with other Revolutionary figures, concerning Benedict Arnold, the Wethersfield conference (May 1781), the Dobb's Ferry conference (July 1781), and the Philadelphia conference (July 1782).” Correspondents include George Washington.

The Washington Papers: University of Virginia
More than 135,000 documents. Established in 1968 at the University of Virginia, The Washington Papers is working to publish comprehensive letterpress and digital editions of the Washington family's correspondence.

Witness to the Early American Experience
Letters, broadsides, newspapers, legal papers, and maps recording the events from the early years of the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam through the British occupation of the city during the revolution.

The Writings of George Washington; Being his Correspondence, Addresses, Messages, and other Papers, Official and Private, Selected and Published From the Original manuscripts; with the Life of the Author, Notes, and Illustrations.
Boston, F. Andrews; 1838-1839.

What are Primary Sources?

Primary sources refer to documents or other items that provide first-hand, eyewitness accounts of events.

Some examples of primary source materials are:

  • Printed texts, including books, newspapers, diaries, pamphlets, magazines, and journals
  • Manuscripts
  • Maps
  • Paintings
  • Artifacts
  • Audio and video recordings
  • Oral histories
  • Photographs
  • Dissertations
  • Government documents

Primary sources are different from secondary sources, which are written later and usually comment on or analyze historic events or original documents.

Culper Spy Ring: Primary Source Books

Abbatt, William, Hart, John, Campell, Charles A. (1899). The crisis of the revolution; being the story of Arnold and André, now for the first time collected from all sources, and illustrated with views of all places identified with it. New York: W. Abbatt.

Andre, John. (1865). Minutes of a court of inquiry, upon the case of Major John André, with accompanying documents. Published in 1780 by order of Congress. With an additional appendix containing copies of the papers found upon Major Andre when arrested, and other documents relating to the subject. Albany: J. Munsell.

André, J., Readex., & United States. (1780). Proceedings of a board of general officers: Held by order of His Excellency General Washington, commander in chief of the army of the United States of America. Respecting Major John Andre, adjutant general of the British Army. September 29, 1780. New York: Philadelphia printed--New-York re-printed by James Rivington, opposite the Coffee-House Bridge.

André, J., & United States. (1810). The trial of Major John Andre: With an appendix, containing sundry interesting letters interchanged on the occasion. Palmer [Mass.: Printed by Ezekiel Terry, for James Warner, Wilbraham.

André, J., In Lodge, H. C., & Bibliophile Society (Boston, Mass.). (1903). André's journal: An authentic record of the movements and engagements of the British Army in America from June 1777 to November 1778 as recorded from day to day by Major John André. Boston: Issued by the Bibliophile Society for members only.

André, J., Lodge, H. C., & Willcox, C. D. W. (1930). Major André's journal: Operations of the British army under Lieutenant Generals Sir William Howe and Sir Henry Clinton, June, 1777 to November, 1778. Tarrytown, N.Y: W. Abbatt.

Boynton, E. C. (1871). History of West Point: And its military importance during the American revolution: and the origin and progress of the United States military academy. New York: D. Van Nostrand.

Boynton, E. C. (1863). History of West Point: And its military importance during the American revolution: and the origin and progress of the United States military academy. New York: D. Van Nostrand.

Brooks, E., & Rockland County Historical and Forestry Society (Nyack, N.Y.). (1881). Arnold, the American traitor: André, the British spy; Washington, the defender of constitutional liberty, the father of his country, the commander-in-chief of the American army. New York: The Burr printing house.

Cowper, W., & Readex. (1780). Major Andre: Written while he was a prisoner in the American camp. Boston?: s.n.

Holloway, C. M. (1889). Nathan Hale: The martyr-hero of the revolution : with a Hale genealogy and Hale's diary. New York: Perkins Book Company.

Inglis, C., & Readex. (1780). The case of Major John Andre, adjutant-general to the British Army, who was put to death by the rebels, October 2, 1780, candidly represented: With remarks on the said case. : [Three lines from Lord Clarendon]. New-York: Printed by James Rivington.

Lossing, B. J., & Seward, A. (1897). The two spies: Nathan Hale and John André. New York: D. Appleton.

Smith, J. H., & Seward, A. (1808). An authentic narrative of the causes which led to the death of Major Andrè: Adjutant-general of His Majesty's forces in North America. London: Mathews and Leigh.