Their first issue was on the American War for Independence. I asked if they had a particular aspect which they wanted me to cover, and was given the assignment to write about the spies in the war. In the magazine, it is one article; however, I have broken it up into three articles to post here.
When the letter was finished, he would pass it on to Austin Roe or Jonas Hawkins. They would convey the messages to Long Island Sound, where Caleb Brewster would sail them across in his whaleboat, dropping them off with Culper Sr. (the codename for Abraham Woodhull, the leader of the Culper Ring) who had previously been the New York contact. Woodhull, after adding any information of his own, passed the dispatches on to Tallmadge. Tallmadge would render the invisible ink visible, and send the now-complete message, via unsuspecting troopers of the 2nd Continental Light Dragoons, directly to Washington. While the route was long and somewhat tedious, it provided Washington with his only link into the British fortress of New York.
The Culper Ring provided Washington with key information. In 1779, they reported that General Henry Clinton was preparing boats and troops to attack…somewhere. It turned out to be preparations for Colonel William Tryon’s 1779 raid into Connecticut.
But their most important work came in 1780. The Ring warned Washington of a planned British ambush of Rochambeau’s French troops as they landed in Rhode Island. Clinton formed an expeditionary force to sail to Rhode Island, where they would hide on the beach in ambush, waiting for the French to land. When the French stepped off their boats, British troops would blast them with musket fire. After the heavy losses, Louis XVI would probably lose his ardor for the Continental cause, and the American-French alliance would collapse.
Washington sent this information on to Rochambeau, who altered his plans accordingly. Washington also moved a strong part of his army closer to New York, which the British scouts noticed. If Clinton sent most of his veteran British troops to Rhode Island, Washington might capture New York, and Clinton would have to find another seaport city to use as a base of operations. For without a seaport, he could not receive aid from the Royal Navy. Clinton cancelled his expedition, and so did Washington.
Washington had other spies, and British deserters might pass along some information, but the Culper Ring was by far the most professional, and gave Washington the best and most trustworthy information.