Benjamin Tallmadge

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Benjamin Tallmadge
Benjamin Tallmadge by Ezra Ames.JPG
Tallmadge c. 1800
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Connecticut's at-large district
In office
March 4, 1801 – March 3, 1817
Preceded byWilliam Edmond
Succeeded byThomas Scott Williams
Personal details
Born(1754-02-25)February 25, 1754
Setauket or Brookhaven, Province of New York
DiedMarch 7, 1835(1835-03-07) (aged 81)
Litchfield, Connecticut
Mary Floyd
(m. 1784; died 1805)

Maria Hallett
(m. 1808)
Children7, including Frederick A. Tallmadge
Alma materYale College
Known forOrganized the Culper Spy Ring
Military service
AllegianceUnited States
Branch/service2nd Continental Light Dragoons
Years of service1776–1783
Battles/warsAmerican Revolutionary War:

Benjamin Tallmadge (February 25, 1754 – March 7, 1835) was an American military officer, spymaster, and politician. He is best known for his service as an officer in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. He acted as leader of the Culper Ring during the war, a celebrated network of spies in New York where major British forces were based. He also led a successful raid across Long Island that culminated in the Battle of Fort St. George. After the war, Tallmadge was elected to the US House of Representatives as a member of the Federalist Party.

Early life[edit]

Tallmadge was born February 25, 1754, the son of Susannah Smith (1729–1768) and Rev. Benjamin Tallmadge Sr. (1725–1786), a clergyman in Setauket, New York, a hamlet of the Town of Brookhaven, New York, on Long Island.[1][2] He graduated from Yale in 1773, where he was a member of Brothers in Unity[3] and was a classmate of American Revolutionary War spy Nathan Hale.[4] He served as superintendent of Wethersfield High School from 1773 to 1776.[2]

American Revolutionary War[edit]

Major Tallmadge of the 2nd Continental Dragoons.

Tallmadge was a major in the 2nd Continental Light Dragoons and was initially commissioned on June 20, 1776.[2] He was given the position of director of military intelligence by George Washington after Nathaniel Sackett was relieved of his duties because he did not gain any ground from the enemy.[5] Tallmadge was in charge of bringing intelligence from British-controlled New York to the Continental army, and he did so by assembling a network of spies known as the Culper Spy Ring, with the help of Abraham Woodhull and Robert Townsend.[6]

The Culper Ring was involved in revealing the betrayal of Benedict Arnold. Benedict Arnold's British contact John André was caught and taken to North Castle, where commander Colonel Jameson ordered lieutenant Allen to take the incriminating documents found with André to their commander Benedict Arnold at West Point. Tallmadge suspected André to be a spy and Benedict Arnold to be his accomplice, and he 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. Allen still reported 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 awaiting execution.

On November 21, 1780, Tallmadge and his dragoons rowed across Long Island Sound from Fairfield, Connecticut, to Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai, New York. The next day, they proceeded to the south shore where they captured and burned down Manor St. George. On their march back to Mt. Sinai, Tallmadge stopped in Coram, New York, 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.[7]

Tallmadge served at Washington's headquarters from March 1781 until the Continental Army was disbanded in November 1783. He was admitted as an original member of The Society of the Cincinnati in the state of Connecticut when it was established in July 1783[8] and brevetted to the rank of lieutenant colonel on September 30, 1783.[9] He subsequently served as Assistant Treasuer (1785–1789), Treasurer (1789–1793), Vice President (1793–1796) and President (1796–1801) of the Society of the Cincinnati in the state of Connecticut[10][11][12] and continues to be represented by a living descendant in the society today.[13]

Later life[edit]


In 1792, Tallmadge was appointed postmaster of Litchfield, Connecticut. He served until he resigned to assume his seat in Congress.[14] He established a successful mercantile and importing business[15] and was the first president of the Phoenix Branch Bank, a position he held from 1814 to 1826.[16]

House of Representatives[edit]

On March 4, 1801, Tallmadge succeeded William Edmond as a Federalist Party member of the US House of Representatives to represent Connecticut's at-large congressional district. He served until March 3, 1817, when he was succeeded by Thomas Scott Williams.[17]

Benjamin Tallmadge with son William 1790

In 1829, Tallmadge was among a group of Federalists who defended Uriah Tracy against accusations by John Quincy Adams and William Plumer. Adams and Plumer had claimed Tracy was a leader of an 1804 effort to lead New England to secede from the United States.[18]

Personal life[edit]

Tallmadge married Mary Floyd (1764–1805) on March 18, 1784, daughter of William Floyd, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a U.S Representative from New York. Their children included:[9]

  • William Smith Tallmadge (1785–1822), a lieutenant colonel in the 46th United States Infantry in the War of 1812; he died unmarried in Moscow, New York[9]
  • Henry Floyd Tallmadge (1787–1854), who married Maria Andrews Canfield (b. 1800), daughter of Andrew Adams[9]
  • Maria Jones Tallmadge (1790–1878), who married John Paine Cushman (1784–1848), a member of the House of Representatives from New York's 10th congressional district[9]
  • Benjamin Tallmadge (1792–1831), who died unmarried near Gibraltar while a lieutenant in the United States Navy[9]
  • Frederick Augustus Tallmadge (1794–1869), who married Elizabeth H. Canfield (1793–1878)[9]
  • Harriet Wadsworth Tallmadge (1797–1856),[9] who married John Delafield (1786–1853), brother of Edward Delafield and Richard Delafield
  • George Washington Tallmadge (1803–1838), who married Laura Pease (1807–1893), daughter of Calvin Pease[9]


Mary died in 1805, and Tallmadge married Maria Hallett (d. 1838) in 1808, daughter of his friend Joseph Hallett.[9] Tallmadge died March 7, 1835, in Litchfield, Connecticut. He is buried in East Cemetery in Litchfield, Connecticut.


Fort Huachuca, Arizona, is the home of Army intelligence, and Tallmadge Hall there is named in Tallmadge's honor. The town of Tallmadge, Ohio, is also named in Tallmadge's honor.[19] The Boy Scouts of America's Benjamin Tallmadge District serves the north shore of Eastern Long Island.[20]

Talmadge, Maine is named for Tallmadge, who owned the township in the early 1800s.[21]

Tallmadge is a main character in the AMC series Turn: Washington's Spies, played by Seth Numrich.[22]

Tallmadge is portrayed by Dave Morrissey, Jr. in the 2017 feature film One Life to Give and its sequel Traitor created by TBR News Media.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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 May 14, 2009. Note: the scanned text at the Internet Archive includes a typo error, listing his name as 'Tallmadue, Benjamin, soldier'
  2. ^ a b c TALLMADGE, Benjamin
  3. ^ "A Catalogue on the Society of Brothers in Unity 1841". Google Preview Books. Yale University.
  4. ^ Nathan Hale
  5. ^ "The Letter That Won the American Revolution". July 3, 2017. Retrieved November 3, 2017.
  6. ^ Pennypacker, Morton (1939). General Washington's Spies on Long Island and in New York. New York: The Long Island Historical Society.
  7. ^ Bayles, Thomas R. The Early Years in Middle Island, Coram, Yaphank, and Ridge. Ed. Suzanne Johnson. Middle Island, NY: Longwood Public Library, 1989.
  8. ^ Metcalf, Bryce (1938) Original Members and Other Officers Eligible to the Society of the Cincinnati, 1783–1938: With the Institution, Rules of Admission, and Lists of the Officers of the General and State Societies, Strasburg, VA: Shenandoah Publishing House, Inc. p. 304.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Talmadge, Arthur White (1909). The Talmadge, Tallmadge and Talmage genealogy; being the descendants of Thomas Talmadge of Lynn, Massachusetts, with an appendix including other families. New York: The Grafton press. Retrieved November 10, 2016.
  10. ^ Metcalf, pp. 15-16.
  11. ^ "Hartford: The Society of the Cincinnati of this State". Hartford Courant. Hartford, CT. July 12, 1790. p. 2 – via
  12. ^ The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record. Vol. 35. New York, NY: New York Genealogical and Biographical Society. 1904. p. 290 – via Google Books.
  13. ^ "Officers Represented in the Society of the Cincinnati". The American Revolution Institute of the Society of the Cincinnati. Retrieved April 9, 2021.
  14. ^ Hall, Charles Swain (1943). Benjamin Tallmadge, Revolutionary Soldier and American Businessman. New York, NY: Columbia University Press. pp. 163, 171, 371 – via Google Books.
  15. ^ My Country. Vol. 25–27. Litchfield, CT: Litchfield Historical Society. 1991. p. 11 – via Google Books.
  16. ^ Kilbourne, Payne Kenyon (1859). Sketches and Chronicles of the Town of Litchfield, Connecticut. Hartford, CT: Case, Lockwood and Company. p. 234 – via Internet Archive.
  17. ^ "TALLMADGE, Benjamin - Biographical Information". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved November 10, 2016.
  18. ^ Henry Adams, ed. Documents Relating to New England Federalism, 1800–1815. New York: Burt Franklin, 1877, p. 102.
  19. ^ "Tallmadge, Ohio". Ohio History Central. n.d. Retrieved May 4, 2015.
  20. ^ "Benjamin Tallmadge BSA". Benjamin Tallmadge District. n.d. Archived from the original on September 8, 2015. Retrieved August 9, 2015.
  21. ^ "Benjamin Tallmadge's Will, 1831-1834". Retrieved April 15, 2021.
  22. ^ Andreeva, Nellie. "TCA: AMC Picks Up 'Halt & Catch Fire' & 'Turn' To Series". Deadline. Retrieved March 22, 2014.
  23. ^ info needed

Further reading[edit]

  • 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)
  • Mark Allen Baker, Spies of Revolutionary Connecticut, From Benedict Arnold to Nathan Hale (The History Press, 2014) ISBN 978-1-62619-407-6

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Connecticut's at-large congressional district

March 4, 1801 – March 3, 1817
Succeeded by