Military Intelligence --this week in history August 19, 2012
August 16, 2012
In 1776, Benjamin Tallmadge followed his friend and Yale classmate, Nathan
Hale, into military service and quickly became a close advisor to General
George Washington. General Washington asked Tallmadge to assist in the
gathering of intelligence on Long Island in August of 1778. Major Tallmadge
established a small group of trustworthy men and women (all civilians) from
his hometown and the group became known as the Culper Ring.
For their secret correspondence, Tallmadge created a simple code with 710
commonly used words. The words were written alphabetically and then numbered
consecutively. He then added 53 numbers at the end to represent proper
names. Thus General Washington became 711, and Tallmadge, whose alias was
John Bolton, became 721. For words or numbers not in the dictionary, he
created a mixed-alphabet scheme. The Culper Ring also used sympathetic
inks, writing the real message in invisible ink between the lines of an
Tallmadge and the Culper Ring were one of Washington's best kept secrets of
the war. They had some critical successes during the war, including
uncovering a money counterfeiting operation, preventing a British surprise
attack on arriving French troops, and exposing Benedict Arnold's treason.
Their adventures were not discovered and made public until 1939.
Because of these innovations and accomplishments, Benjamin Tallmadge and the
Culper Ring can be credited with establishing the foundations of American
To learn more about the 2012 MI Branch and Corps Commemoration, see the
public website at https://www.ikn.army.mil/apps/mi_comm/