Book Review: George Washington’s Secret Six

This site is about first century Christianity but sometimes I take the liberty to digress into other topics and history. Today, I am writing about a wonderful book I just read about the American Revolution entitle George Washington’s Secret Six by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger. The book is about a spy ring General Washington started inside of New York after the British captured that city during the Revolution. This spy ring was so incredibly secretive that it was not fully understood until the 1920’s.

While the book can be used as a textbook, complete with references and an index, it is written somewhat as a novel adaptation derived from the intelligence documents retained by General Washington and the Continental Army Patriots. You may wonder if there are so many documents how it is possible that the ring was not understood until the 1920’s. That is because even General Washington did not know the names of all the players. The ring was set up so that not all the actors would know who the other actors were. It was also set up so that all the players could add intelligence to the documents they passed among each other. This ring is not well known in historical circles but it is taught in the introductory class for agents who join our Central Intelligence Agency to this day.

There are some key takeaways from the book to me. The first has a biblical theme to it. Spying and communication had not changed much, if at all, between the times of Genesis through to the Revolution. Passing information from occupied lands or lands to be invaded was slow and involved incredible risk to people and causes. This book details the dangers of spying very well and can give us a little more perspective on what Joshua and Caleb had to go through when they were sent to spy out Canaan.

Another concept that is well illustrated in this book is an obscure right we Americans enjoy but don’t really appreciate. The third amendment, which is quite high on the list of the ten amendments that comprise the Bill of Rights, enshrines in law that people cannot be forced to quarter soldiers without the consent of the homeowner. The redcoats treated homeowners very poorly. They were an occupying force of the highest order. They would take whatever home they wished and remove the owners to small portions of their own home. Then they would take whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, including the women of the house. George Washington’s Secret Six illustrates this evil very well and one can glean some appreciation of the third amendment by reading this book.

The last thing that jumped out at me is what always jumps out at me when I read about the Revolution: the age of the people who freed us from King George. Robert Townsend, arguably the most important member of the spy ring, turned 30 the day that General Washington rode into a free New York City. He began spying for the Patriots when he was 24 years old. He operated a general store and was a writer for a newspaper during that period. By today’s standards he would not even be noticed by the “grown-ups” at 24 years of age but without this unassuming man, it is very likely the war would have been lost.  I have written about this before in He’s Just Too Young, but it is really worth studying out how old those signers of the Declaration were when they signed that document and how old the officers of the Continental Army were. Most of these men lived another 30-50 years after the United States were liberated. It is rare for a man or woman to be considered for leadership, outside of the US Military, even in their late 40’s today.

Needless to say, I highly recommend George Washington’s Secret Six. It is history put in a very easy to digest form complete with excitement and intrigue. I am having my son read it now so he, too, can know what it took to earn our liberty.