Researching the Culper Spy Ring during the past few months has been extraordinary. The experience has allowed new facts to emerge that seem to shed light on the identity of Agent #355. The bulk of Culper Spy Ring materials keep reiterating the same substance as fact. The documents all point to Agent #355 as having detailed knowledge of the plot to surrender West Point to the British and Benedict Arnold’s scheming plan associated with it. The informant, referred to as a lady, is very familiar with British activities during this time and even provides details of traveling personnel and their duties. Information of this sort could only derive from a trustworthy and notable source. In other words, from the people themselves who were involved with the situation in some form. Who were these people? Were they residing in the New York area? The main question is, Who is Agent #355?
A letter dated August 15, 1779, from Abraham Woodhull mentions code 355. The letter goes further into describing a possible plan accompanied with 355 that will “outwit them all.” When translated the Culper Spy Ring code, 355 means lady. Understandably, this lady resides in colonial New York and is acquainted with Benjamin Tallmadge. Why would Woodhull recognize 355 in a letter to General George Washington if it wasn’t substantial? The Woodhull letter to Washington can only assume that 355 means much more than just a lady. She is part of a plan to “outwit them all.”
All participants of the spy ring members were unknown to Washington and Tallmadge. Robert Townsend’s name remained a secret to the world until the Pennypacker’s discoveries in September 1930. Only Abraham Woodhull knew the true identity of Townsend, referred to in letters as Samuel Culper Jr. The popularity of naming spies during the war years was certainly top secret and remained so years later. The majority of people who offer warnings and information about the British to Washington remained nameless by choice and did not seek recognition or fame after the war. Compensation was rewarded for expenses and supplies, but not to everyone who supplied the secrets.
While researching this material, evidence suggests possible candidates for agent#355. They consist of Anna Smith Strong, Elizabeth Burgin, Peggy Shippen Arnold, Mary Underhill, Sarah Horton Townsend, and Betty Floyd. The accessibility to data and information would have been available at various times for all of these women, but the addition of a new possible candidate seems plausible. A lady who derives from the early streets of New York. Near Townsend’s shop, the thriving coffee house fills with numerous chatters and activities daily. Rooms are available for rent on the second floor, and many of these rooms are occupied by British officers temporarily. Permanent rooms, such as the one Townsend leases, are just yards away from the coffee house and Townsend’s shop. A lady appears whose main occupation is the management of the boarding house along Broadway. She also supplies housekeeping duties for the rooms above the coffee house. Mary is the only confirmed name for her at the moment.
Although much more research will confirm or deny this possible agent#355, the information that would have been readily available to her is phenomenal. One can only imagine the discoveries and relaying this data to Townsend as he makes his daily rounds. Stay tuned for more findings and possible breakthroughs on the true identity of Culper Spy Ring agent#355.
Categories: American Revolutionary War, Featured Articles, New York
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