Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Review of "George Washington's Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution" by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger

The book begins with this paragraph, "September - 1776 He was twenty-one years old and knew that in a matter of moments he would die. His request for a clergyman - refused. His request for a Bible - refused. After writing a letter or two to his family, this Yale grad uttered, with dignity, the famous statement 'I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.'"

It is quite difficult to imagine Eric Snowden ever saying the words that Nathan Hale said just before his death. Of course, Snowden might be more competent at stealing and communicating information than Hale ever was. But Hale was easily a greater man.

Kilmeade and Yaeger begin with the story of Hale, ill equipped for the tasks of a spy, but initially the only man the courage and willingness to do the job. Hale's story has been told in history books for the last couple of centuries. The story of the six spies that aided Washington and the Revolution's cause are much less known.

In fact, the identity of one of the spies, Robert Townsend was unknown for a century and a half until he was uncovered by the work of a diligent historian. The book follows the quiet work of five men and one woman who worked in British occupied New York. The deeds of the spies allowed the French to come to the Rebels aid unmolested, helped foil the treachery of Benedict Arnold and helped win the battle of Yorktown.

The spies didn't seek fortune and after the war, for the most part, sought no fame. It is impossible to imagine them running off to a totalitarian country to avoid capture and then bask in celebration as fighters for freedom.

The book is a quick read at two hundred pages and a pleasant read. It's good to celebrate these heroes, even if they didn't seek celebration.

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