Thursday, January 17, 2008

in the days long before James Bond...

Title: Washington's Spies: The Story of America's First Spy Ring
Author: Alexander Rose

Apparently this was a December of random book choices (yes, it's January now, but I read it then).

The book presents a very detailed history of the spying done by the American side during the Revolutionary war, including information about the men's (there was a possibility of involvement of one woman, but otherwise all men) lives, excerpts from their letters, and some examples of codes used, as well as stories of near-misses and actual captures (usually resulting in death). If you're into the Revolutionary War, this would probably be fascinating. I don't remember why I got this out from the library, since that's not exactly one of my interests. A few things struck me while reading. First, it reinforced the amazing advances in technology that have taken place in a very short (relatively speaking) time. It was considered good for a letter to leave a spy's hands and travel by courier(s) to a commanding officer in the space of about a week. A week! More importantly, I have forgotten anything I may have learned in AP US History (that was the class, right?). I had a hell of a time keeping track of who was on which side, because there were so many labels involved - Tories, Redcoats, Loyalists, Whigs, and several others that I now forget. And anytime there was talk of someone being at a fort, or going to a fort, or spying on a fort, that was even worse, because all the forts on both sides are named "Fort [British name]". There's no good excuse for confusing Tories and Whigs, but I seriously needed a chart of the lesser-known officers and their forts. There was a very happy moment for me after getting about 2/3 through the book - it abruptly ended and we hit the footnotes section!

Not really recommended for the casual reader. Find a trashy novel instead.

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posted by ket at 3:38 PM


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