Benjamin Tallmadge portrait by artist Ezra Ames
February 25, 1754|
Setauket or Brookhaven, Province of New York
|Died||March 7, 1835
Benjamin Tallmadge (February 25, 1754 – March 7, 1835) was an American military officer, spy master 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 British-occupied New York. 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.
Tallmadge was born the son of a clergyman February 25, 1754, in Setauket, New York, a hamlet in the Town of Brookhaven on Long Island. He graduated from Yale in 1773 and was a classmate of American Revolutionary War spy Nathan Hale. He was the father of New York City Police Commissioner Frederick A. Tallmadge. He remained in Connecticut and from 1773 to 1776 served as the superintendent of Wethersfield High School.
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 lieutenant 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 later turned on the Continentals) 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. 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.
André at his trial had insisted the men were mere brigands; sympathy for him remained in some more aristocratic American quarters (and grew to legend in England, where he was buried in Westminster Abbey). Decades later, giving voice to this sympathy, as a US Representative, Tallmadge persuaded Congress not to grant the men a requested pension increase in 1817, publicly assailing their credibility and motivations. Tallmadge said he believed André's account over that of the three captors and that they were "of that class of people who passed between both armies, as often in one camp as in the other." He claimed that "when Major André's boots were taken off by them, it was to search for plunder, and not to detect treason." And he asserted that "if Andre could have given to these men the amount they demanded for his release, he never would have been hanged for a spy, nor in captivity..."
On November 21, 1780, Tallmadge and his dragoons rowed across the Long Island Sound from Fairfield, Connecticut to Cedar Beach in the Old Man's, 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.
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.
Tallmadge was an Original Member of the New York Society of the Cincinnati.
The Tallmadge Trail is marked along the route Tallmadge and his dragoons took from Mt. Sinai to Mastic Heights.
Tallmadge Hall at Fort Huachuca, Arizona—the 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.
In popular culture
Benjamin 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. Interestingly, though 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 is also 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.
Additionally, Tallmadge appears as a recurring character in the webcomic and graphic novel series, The Dreamer created by Lora Innes. He first appears in Issue #12 of Act I as a lieutenant in the Continental Army and a friend of Captain Nathan Hale.
- 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.
- "Congress- House of Representatives, Monday, January 13" Niles' Weekly Register, January 18, 1817, page 350. Retrieved July 25, 2011
- Bayles, Thomas R. "The Early Years in Middle Island, Coram, Yaphank, and Ridge." Ed. Suzanne Johnson. Middle Island, NY: Longwood Public Library, 1989.
- "Tallmadge, Ohio". Ohio History Central. n.d. Retrieved May 4, 2015.
- "Benjamin Tallmadge BSA". Benjamin Tallmadge District. n.d. Retrieved August 9, 2015.
- Andreeva, Nellie. "TCA: AMC Picks Up ‘Halt & Catch Fire’ & ‘Turn’ To Series". Deadline. Retrieved March 22, 2014.
- 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
|United States House of Representatives|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Connecticut's at-large congressional district
Thomas Scott Williams