George Washington Papers

II. Samuel Culper to John Bolton, 15 August

Samuel Culper to John Bolton

No. 21. Setauket. August 15th 1779.


Jonas Hawkins agreeable to appointment met Culper Junr not far from New-York, and received a letter; but on his return was under the necessity to destroy the same, or be detected:1 but have the satisfaction to inform you that there is nothing of importance to advise you of. There have been no augmentation by ships of war or land forces, and every thing is very quiet. Every [letter]2 is opened at the entrance of New-York—and every man is searched that for the future every letter must be writen with the Ink received.3 They have some knowlege of the rout our letters take. I judge it was mentioned in the letter taken,4 or they would not be so vigilant. I do not think it will continue long so. I intend to visit New-York before long and think by the assistance of a lady of my acquaintance,5 shall be able to outwit them all. The next appointment for C. Brewster to be here is the 1st of [September.]6 It is7 very long but it cannot be altered now. It is on account of their vigilance that it is so prolonged. It may be better times before then I hope there will be means found out for our deliverance, nothing could induce me to be here but the earnest desire of Culper Junr—Friends are all well—and am—your &

Culper Samuel

Copy (translation), in James McHenry’s writing, DLC:GW; LS (in code), DLC: GW. The LS is partly written in code using Maj. Benjamin Tallmadge’s code “dictionary.” The LS was mistakenly docketed as from “Samuel Culper Jun.”

1For Robert Townsend’s notice that Hawkins had destroyed two of his letters, see Samuel Culper, Jr., to John Bolton, 11 Sept., quoted in GW to Tallmadge, 24 Sept., n.1.

2In the LS written using the code “dictionary,” this word is “356,” which is the code for “letter”; however, Washington’s assistant secretary James McHenry appears to have mistakenly read it as “256” and translated the word as “house.”

3The “Ink” refers to invisible ink, or “stain” (see Culper, Jr., to Bolton, 29 July, enclosed in Tallmadge to GW, 28–30 July).

4Woodhull is referring to one of Benjamin Tallmadge’s letters captured by British lieutenant colonel Banastre Tarleton during his 2 July raid on Tallmadge’s camp. For Tallmadge’s loss of Culper letters in this raid, see GW to Tallmadge, 5 July. For letters known to have been captured, see GW to Tallmadge, 29 May and 27 June (first letter); see also Rose, Washington’s Spies, description begins Alexander Rose. Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring. New York, 2006. description ends 112.

5The lady of Woodhull’s acquaintance was Anna Strong, wife of Woodhull’s neighbor and relative of Selah Strong, who was an ardent Patriot and former delegate to the New York Provincial Congress. The British suspected Selah Strong of being an insurrectionist and had jailed him aboard a prison ship. See Rose, Washington’s Spies, description begins Alexander Rose. Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring. New York, 2006. description ends 173.

6McHenry left a blank space in the place of this word on the copy, apparently because the code translation did not correspond directly to a month. In Woodhull’s LS written in the Tallmadge code, the number written here is “616,” which translates as “severity,” and probably was a mistake for “618” which translates as “september.”

7These two words do not appear in the LS.

Index Entries