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Chapter Twenty. George Washington Spymaster

John A. Nagy

Subject History » Military History

Place Americas » Northern America

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1700-1799

Key-Topics American War of Independence

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781444331035.2012.00022.x


George Washington, a farmer from Virginia, during the American Revolutionary War developed a spy system which rivaled the intelligence network of the British army in North America. Washington outperformed the British commanders in the military application of the intelligence the spies collected. Washington's first known experience with espionage occurred in 1753, when he was 21 years old and serving in the Virginia militia. At the time the British and the French both claimed the Ohio territory. Washington was sent as an ambassador to the French traders and Indians in the disputed region. Serving with the rank of lieutenant colonel, Washington realized that deception could be a beneficial tool in meeting his objectives. At an Indian Council he found the French had sent spies, and he made sure “those treacherous devils” were sent back with some “tale ready prepared to amuse the French, which may be of service to make our own designs succeed.” These spies had told him there were “sixteen hundred French, and seven hundred Indians, on their march, to reinforce those at the garrison.” Washington said, “I perswaded the [Seneca] Indian Half King to send three of his men to inquire into the truth of it… these Indians were accordingly sent in a secret manner, before the Council broke up, and had orders to go to the fort, and get what information they could from all the Indians they should ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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