Benjamin Tallmadge

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Benjamin Tallmadge
Benjamin Tallmadge by Ezra Ames.JPG
Benjamin Tallmadge portrait
by artist Ezra Ames (c. 1800)
Member of the United States House of Representatives from Connecticut
In office
March 4, 1801 – March 3, 1817
Preceded by William Edmond
Succeeded by Thomas Scott Williams
Personal details
Born (1754-02-25)February 25, 1754
Setauket or Brookhaven, Province of New York
Died March 7, 1835(1835-03-07) (aged 81)
Litchfield, Connecticut
Spouse(s) Mary Floyd
(m. 1784; d. 1805)

Maria Hallett
(m. 1808)
Children 7, including Frederick A. Tallmadge
Alma mater Yale College
Known for Organized the Culper Spy Ring
Military service
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch 2nd Continental Light Dragoons
Years of service 1776–1783
Rank Lieutenant Colonel
Battles/wars Revolutionary War:
 • Battle of Fort St. George

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. In this conflict, he acted as leader of the Culper Ring, 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. Following the war, Tallmadge was elected to the United States 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 in the Town of Brookhaven on Long Island.[1][2] He graduated from Yale in 1773 and was a classmate of American Revolutionary War spy Nathan Hale.[3] He was the father of New York City Police Commissioner Frederick A. Tallmadge. He remained in Connecticut and served as the superintendent of Wethersfield High School from 1773 to 1776.[2]


American Revolutionary War[edit]

Tallmadge was a major in the 2nd Continental Light Dragoons. He was initially commissioned on June 20, 1776.[2] Major Benjamin Tallmadge 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.[4] Tallmadge was in charge of bringing intelligence from British controlled New York to the Continental army. He did so by providing one of the most successful and famous network of spies to ever be assembled, The Culper Spy Ring. With the help of Abraham Woodhull (Culper Sr.) and Robert Townsend (Culper Jr.), they were able to supply the Rebels with information right from under the enemies' noses. Tallmadge put into effect a system that would be able to relay the information with as little suspicion as possible. First a messenger named Austin Roe would ride fifty-five miles from Setauket to New York. Next, Robert Townsend would then proceed to give Roe the information along with other articles and papers to disguise the real message. Austin Roe would then ride all the way back to Setaucket and place the valuable information in a box buried in the ground that belonged to Abraham Woodhull. Woodhull would then transfer the letter to an inconspicuous bag and wait for a signal from Mrs. Anna Strong. Mrs. Strong would hang a black petticoat and several handkerchiefs, which would convey the proper meeting place for Woodhull to meet up with Caleb Brewster. From there Brewster would take the message to Major Tallmadge or John Bolton as he is known in the Culper Code Book. Tallmadge, in the end, would give the information to Washington where it would then be used against the British forces.[5] This system worked flawlessly for Tallmadge's crew and helped bring the war to an end with their valuable information. The Culper Ring is thought by some to have revealed the betrayal of Benedict Arnold, though this is disputed.

Benedict Arnold's British contact John André was caught and was 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 the Long Island Sound from Fairfield, Connecticut to Cedar Beach in present-day 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 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.[6]

Tallmadge served at Washington's headquarters from March 1781 until the Continental Army was disbanded in November 1783. He was breveted to the rank of lieutenant colonel on September 30, 1783.[7]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

On March 4, 1801, Tallmadge succeeded William Edmond as a Federalist Party member of the United States House of Representatives representing Connecticut's at-large congressional district. He served until March 3, 1817 when he was succeeded by Thomas Scott Williams.[8]

In 1829, Tallmadge was among a group of Federalists who defended the honor of the late Connecticut Senator Uriah Tracy against accusations by John Quincy Adams and William Plumer that Tracy, beginning in early 1804, was a leader of a conspiracy to separate the New England states into a distinct confederacy. Said Tallmadge to his neighbor and Tracy's son-in-law [9] James Gould: "General Tracy never conferred with me on the subject of forming a separate government in New England; nor have I any reason to believe that such a project ever seriously entered into his mind. Although Messrs. Adams and Plumer assert their belief that certain leaders of the Federal party from New England actually entertained the idea of forming a separate New England government, and that a combination was actually formed for that purpose, I have no belief that such combination or project was formed (unless the aforesaid Adams and Plumer, then passing for Federalists, will allow that they entertained the idea); nor can I suppose that General Tracy would have countenanced such a nefarious conspiracy for one moment."[10]

Tallmadge was the first president of the Phoenix Branch Bank and an original member, and later president, of the New York Society of the Cincinnati.[8]

Personal life[edit]

On March 18, 1784, Tallmadge married Mary Floyd (1764–1805), daughter of Maj. Gen. William Floyd, signer of the Declaration of Independence and Governor of New York. His children included:[7]

In 1808, after his first wife's death in 1805, Tallmadge married Maria Hallett (d. 1838), daughter of his friend, Joseph Hallett.[7]


The Tallmadge Trail is marked along the route that Tallmadge and his dragoons took from Mt. Sinai to Mastic Heights.

Tallmadge Hall at Fort Huachuca, Arizona (home of U.S. Army military intelligence) is named in honor of Tallmadge and his distinguished leadership role in the service of Continental Army intelligence.

Tallmadge, Ohio is also named after Tallmadge.[11]

The Benjamin Tallmadge District is named after Tallmadge, serving the north shore of Eastern Long Island.[12]

In popular culture[edit]

Tallmadge is a main character in the AMC series Turn: Washington's Spies. He is played by Seth Numrich and holds the rank of captain until the sixth episode, where he is promoted to major by General Washington.[13]

Tallmadge is portrayed 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 George Washington. The game's protagonist Connor follows Tallmadge to New York in order to foil the plot. Although he is present in the main story, he is not present in the Benedict Arnold downloadable content missions which focus on Arnold being exposed as a traitor.

Tallmadge appears as a recurring character in the webcomic and graphic novel series, The Dreamer created by Lora Innes. He first appears in Act I of Issue #12 as a lieutenant in the Continental Army and a friend of Captain Nathan Hale.[14]

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 - Biographical Information
  3. ^ Nathan Hale
  4. ^ "The Letter That Won the American Revolution". 2017-07-03. Retrieved 2017-11-03. 
  5. ^ Pennypacker, Morton (1939). General Washington's Spies on Long Island and in New York. New York: The Long Island Historical Society. 
  6. ^ Bayles, Thomas R. "The Early Years in Middle Island, Coram, Yaphank, and Ridge." Ed. Suzanne Johnson. Middle Island, NY: Longwood Public Library, 1989.
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ a b "TALLMADGE, Benjamin - Biographical Information". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved November 10, 2016. 
  9. ^ Henry Adams, ed. Documents Relating to New England Federalism, 1800-1815. New York: Burt Franklin, 1877, p. 102.
  10. ^ Henry Adams, ed. Documents Relating to New England Federalism, 1800-1815. New York: Burt Franklin, 1877, pp. 103-104.
  11. ^ "Tallmadge, Ohio". Ohio History Central. n.d. Retrieved May 4, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Benjamin Tallmadge BSA". Benjamin Tallmadge District. n.d. Retrieved August 9, 2015. 
  13. ^ Andreeva, Nellie. "TCA: AMC Picks Up 'Halt & Catch Fire' & 'Turn' To Series". Deadline. Retrieved March 22, 2014. 
  14. ^ The Dreamer

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

March 4, 1801 – March 3, 1817
Succeeded by
Thomas Scott Williams