Colonial Spymaster (#14) — Hidden Compartments

Spies sometimes need to transport things in secret through enemy territory. Simply refusing to comply with searches at border crossings or military checkpoints will immediately raise suspicion to they must find a way to allow themselves to be searched while keeping the messages or other contraband safe. To accomplish this, they often employ the smugglers’ …

Colonial Spymaster (#15) — Exploiting Potential Turncoats

All spying tools and techniques have little worth unless you have a reliable source of information.  A great deal of useful information can be acquired passive observation.  Troop counts and movements, rumors, and observations of the comings and goings in the enemy camp can give you insights on what they plan to do but the …

Colonial Spymaster (#12) — Disguises

If you are routinely going places where the enemy discusses, either intentionally or unintendedly, matters of military or political significance, you may wish to remain anonymous.  To do this, spies employ disguises.  The most common disguise is to simply change your clothes.  Sometimes soldiers sent on reconnaissance missions would wear civilian clothes such as when …

Colonial Spymaster (#11) — Letter-locking

Long before email, text, and instant message, important words were passed discreetly from closed palm to palm. To keep the messages private, these hand-written notes were often elaborately folded, sealed with wax, and rigged with anti-tamper devices.  The technique of “locking” letters involves folding the parchment, papyrus, or paper securely so that the letter functions …

Colonial Spymaster (#13) — Dead Drops

A common procedure used by spies to pass information to their contacts is through the use of a “dead drop.” The spy places the message in a prearranged unattended location, often hidden, and leaves it. Later, his or her compatriot will come and collect the message. Using a “dead drop” means that the spy and …

Colonial Spymaster (#10) — Invisible Inks

One form of secret writing used by both the British and American armies was invisible ink. The secret writing was placed between the lines of an innocent letter and could be discerned by treating the letter with heat or a chemical substance. The recipient placed the paper over the flame of a candle or treated …

Colonial Spymaster (#9) — Disinformation

If you employ spies, it is very likely that your enemy also has spies.  One very effective means of concealing the true conditions or plans in a sea of false options and making those false options more likely and more true.  Today, we call this “fake news” but “fake news” isn’t something recently developed.  It …

Colonial Spymaster (#8) — Steganography

Steganography is the practice of concealing a message within another message. The advantage of steganography over cryptography alone is that the intended secret message does not attract attention to itself as an object of scrutiny. Plainly visible encrypted messages, no matter how unbreakable they are, arouse interest whereas, steganography both conceals the message and hides …

Colonial Spymaster (#7) — How the Culper Ring Relayed Information from New York to Washington

The Culper Ring developed a complex method of gathering and relaying information to General George Washington. Below is the sequence of steps the Ring would take to gather and relay the valuable information. (The process of replaying information has many different variations due to its complexity and secrecy.) Abraham Woodhull (Samuel Culper) would visit his …

Colonial Spymaster (#6) — The Culper Ring and its Codes

Benjamin Tallmadge established a small group of trustworthy men and women from his hometown of Setauket, Long Island. Known as the Culper Spy Ring, Tallmadge’s homegrown network would become the most effective of any intelligence-gathering operation on either side during the Revolutionary War. Tallmadge recruited his childhood friend, the farmer Abraham Woodhull, and Caleb Brewster, …