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Original George Washington Spy Letter On Display

For a limited time, see letter by George Washington initiating America's first spy ring.

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Briefing

In annual recognition of America's first Spymaster, the International Spy Museum has re-installed one of the institution’s most revered and guarded artifacts: an original letter written by George Washington initiating a fledgling nation's first spy network. The letter, which is stored 10 months a year at a private offsite archive for preservation, is once again on public display from Presidents' Day weekend through March.

Penned on February 4, 1777 while he served as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, then-General Washington engaged his covert request to trusted confidant Nathaniel Sackett, commissioning the New York merchant to spy for his country as Washington's "intelligence director."

Sackett was enlisted at the price of $50 per month to create a spy network in New York—for which he was awarded a $500 bonus upfront—to pass along disinformation to British intelligence and collectively harass the enemy. It was this letter, written 240 years ago this month, which served as the launching point for an intricate and secretive intelligence network known as the Culper Spy Ring that would in large part save the American Revolution.

 

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