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Letter Discussing Female Spy, American Revolution, n.d.

Undated and unsigned letter concerning a female Loyalist spy

Undated and unsigned letter concerning a female Loyalist spy

Other, Clements_Clinton_V234_27
Document Description
Letter discussing female spy, American Revolution, n.d.
That a woman whom Craig has trusted often - came to town last night - She is well acquainted with many of the R. A. - 2 particular known to Chambers - one who C.B. transacted a great deal of business with - it is proposed to send her out under the idea of selling little matters in the R.C. she will converse with Chambers: I will return whenever she may have learned anything that shall be desired to be known
Infer what the author means when he states “She is well acquainted with many of the R.A”.
What “little matters” would she have sold to the enemy to gain useful information?
Where might she meet with Chambers to divulge information gained?
How might Chambers and the army use this important intelligence to help their cause?
Historical Challenges
Research the different spy codes created during the Revolutionary War.  How did collected intelligence impact the outcome of the war? How do codes and ‘hackers’/spies utilize intelligence to gain advantage in 21st century?
Interdisciplinary Connections
ELA: Develop a secret code and write a secret code letter.
For more information about the Clinton letter, the Culper Gang, Miss Jenny, or Ann Bates, see the Clements Library University of Michigan website at

Historical Context
Secret communications and spy networks were a very important part of the process of intelligence-gathering during the Revolutionary War. Coded letters and spies often conveyed information that was pivotal to the outcomes of individual battles and the whole war itself.
This undated, unsigned letter is thought to have been written by Major Drummond of the British Army about Ann Bates, a female spy who gathered intelligence about soldiers and weapons while selling supplies in the American camp. Intelligence that she gave to the British about American troop movements led to the Americans’ withdrawal from Rhode Island in August of 1778.
Miss Jenny was another female spy for the British who infiltrated the camp of the French soldiers fighting for the Americans and gathered intelligence about the Americans’ plans to attack New York City. Because of this information, the British decided to keep their troops in New York, leaving Yorktown with too few men to defend it. When the Americans decided to attack Yorktown instead of New York City, the British surrendered the battle, leading to their disgrace and the eventual end of the war.


Essential Question
What were some of the methods used by armies to communicate and gather intelligence about the enemy?
Check for Understanding
Divide the class into two groups representing Loyalist and Patriot armies.  Each group writes a battle strategy letter (created in a code) which the group decides upon.  Create a diversion or, spy scenario allowing the opposing army to “intercept” the letter and try to crack the code. (For more about battle strategy, see the primary source set Military Aspects)