Benjamin Tallmadge portrait by artist Ezra Ames
February 11, 1754|
Setauket or Brookhaven, New York
|Died||March 7, 1835
Tallmadge, the son of a clergyman, was born in Setauket, New York, a hamlet in the town of Brookhaven on Long Island. Tallmadge graduated from Yale college in 1773, and was a classmate of American Revolutionary War spy Nathan Hale.
American Revolutionary War
Tallmadge was a major in the 2nd Continental Light Dragoons. He was initially commissioned on June 20, 1776. Eventually, as the chief intelligence officer for George Washington, he was promoted to the rank of colonel. He organized the Culper Spy Ring based out of New York City and Long Island during the American Revolutionary War, using the code name John Bolton. The Culper Ring is thought by some to have revealed the betrayal of Benedict Arnold, though this is disputed. There is actually very little evidence to prove that Tallmadge had heard from a spy in New York City about the Arnold-André plot. However, it would have been easy for Tallmadge to suspect that Arnold was up to no good, since Arnold had arranged to meet Anderson (Major John André's alias at the time) and Anderson was carrying military secrets back to New York City. The only thing Tallmadge could do was to persuade Jameson to recall lieutenant Allen who was already on his way to deliver the prisoner André into Arnold's custody. However, Tallmadge was unable to dissuade Jameson from informing Arnold of Major André's arrest. Tallmadge's suspicion of Arnold's treachery may not have been strong enough as Jameson later reported in a letter to Washington that neither Tallmadge nor other officers he consulted raised any objections to sending lieutenant Allen with a message to Arnold saying André was now in Jameson's custody.
After Benedict Arnold's British contact, John André, was caught, he was taken to North Castle, where the commander, Colonel Jameson, ordered his Lieutenant, Allen, to take a note and the incriminating documents found with André to their commander, Benedict Arnold, at West Point. Tallmadge, suspecting André to be a spy, and Benedict Arnold to be his accomplice, tried to have Jameson reverse his orders. He was unsuccessful, but did convince Jameson to send a rider and take Andre to Salem, eight miles east of the Hudson River, and to send the documents to George Washington. Lt. Allen was still to report to Benedict Arnold with Jameson's note outlining the events. Later, Jameson was chastised by Washington for warning Arnold and allowing his escape. André was placed in Tallmadge's custody until André's execution.
On November 21, 1780, Tallmadge and his dragoons rowed across the Long Island Sound from Fairfield, Connecticut to Mt. Sinai, New York. The next day they proceeded to the south shore where they captured and burned down Manor St. George, which the British turned into a fort, and captured the soldiers within. On their march back to Mt. Sinai, Tallmadge stopped in Coram and ordered the burning of 300 tons of hay which the British had been stockpiling for the winter. George Washington, on hearing the news, sent the following letter to Tallmadge:
I have received with much pleasure the report of your successful enterprise upon fort St. George, and was pleased with the destruction of the hay at Coram, which must be severely felt by the enemy at this time. I beg you to accept my thanks for your spirited execution of this business.
The Tallmadge Trail is marked along the route Tallmadge and his dragoons took from Mt. Sinai to Mastic Heights.
After War Years
After the war, Tallmadge married one of the daughters of William Floyd, settled in Connecticut. In 1783 Tallmadge settled in Litchfield, Connecticut. He was appointed the town's postmaster in 1792.
Tallmadge was the first president of the Phoenix Branch Bank. He served first as treasurer and eventually as secretary of the Society of the Cincinnati.
He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from 1801-1817. He was a member of the Federalist Party. This meant that during his entire congressional career he was part of the minority party. In 1817, Representative Tallmadge persuaded Congress not to grant a requested pension increase to the men who had originally captured Major André, John Paulding, Isaac Van Wart, and David Williams and publicly assailing their credibility and motivations. Tallmadge was the officer to whom André was taken after his capture, and he said he believed André's account over that of the three captors. He said Williams and the other two were "of that class of people who passed between both armies, as often in one camp as in the other." He said that "when Major André's boots were taken off by them, it was to search for plunder, and not to detect treason." He asserted that "if André could have given to these men the amount they demanded for his release, he never would have been hung for a spy, nor in captivity."
In 1816 he declined to be run for reelection.
Tallmadge died in Litchfield, Connecticut on March 7, 1835. He was interred in East Cemetery.
Tallmadge, Ohio is named after Benjamin Tallmadge.
In popular culture
Benjamin Tallmadge appears in the video game Assassin's Creed III as head of the Culper Ring. In the game, he is the son of a former member of the Assassin Brotherhood and comes seeking the Brotherhood's aid in stopping Thomas Hickey from assassinating General Washington. The game's protagonist Connor follows Tallmadge to New York in order to foil the plot. Interestingly though he is present in the main story, he is not present in the Playstation 3 exclusive Benedict Arnold side missions which focus on Arnold being exposed as a traitor.
- Intelligence in the American Revolutionary War
- Intelligence operations in the American Revolutionary War
- Tallmadue, Benjamin: Soldier Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, Vol. VI, pg.25, D. Appleton and Company, New York, 1889. Retrieved online at the Internet Archive 2009-05-14. Note: the scanned text at the Internet Archive includes a typo error, listing his name as 'Tallmadue, Benjamin, soldier'
- TALLMADGE, Benjamin - Biographical Information
- Nathan Hale
- Van Doren, Carl (1969). Secret History of the American Revolution. Popular Library. p. 341. LCCN 41-24478.
- Bayles, Thomas R. "The Early Years in Middle Island, Coram, Yaphank, and Ridge." Ed. Suzanne Johnson. Middle Island, NY: Longwood Public Library, 1989.
- "Congress- House of Representatives, Monday, January 13" Niles' Weekly Register, January 18, 1817, page 350. Retrieved July 25, 2011
- Benson John Lossing, ed. Harper's Encyclopedia of United States History (vol. 9) (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1912)
- Benjamin Tallmadge, Memoir of Col. Benjamin Tallmadge (Reprint Services Corporation, 1858) ISBN 0-7812-8377-9
- Charles Swain Hall, Benjamin Tallmadge: Revolutionary Soldier and American Businessman (Columbia University Press, 1943)