Culper Spy Ring

“The Culper Spy Ring was assembled in 1778 by Major Benjamin Tallmadge (alias: John Bolton) at the request of General George Washington and operated on Long Island and New York City during the Revolutionary War.

Robert Townsend (alias: Samuel Culper, Jr.) gathered intelligence in British occupied New York City by Abraham Woodhull (alias: Samuel Culper, Sr.). It was then passed to Austin Roe for transportation to Setauket, Long Island. Once in Setauket, the intelligence was carried across the sound by Caleb Brewster to Major Tallmadge in Connecticut.
Washington thought highly of Townsend’s reports, according to letters he later wrote to Tallmadge. Although the British captured a Washington letter to spy Abraham Woodhull that referred to “Culper,” they never figured out his identity and Townsend took his secret with him to the grave in 1838.

His double life remained a secret until the 20th century when Long Island historian Morton Pennypacker sought to match the handwriting in “Culper Jr’s” letters to Washington with the script contained in ledgers and other documents found in Oyster Bay, belonging to an obscure New York and Long Island merchant, who turned out to be Townsend. Pennypacker retained the services of graphologist Albert S. Osborn to make this determination. This discovery by Pennypacker was first announced at a meeting of the New York State Historical Society on September 27, 1930, when he read a paper that he prepared on Nathan Hale and Robert Townsend” (source: The New York Times, September 28, 1930)