Benjamin Tallmadge Autographed Signed Letter: July 8, 1781
Benjamin Tallmadge, 1754-1835
Acquired by purchase in 2003.
Scope, and Content Note
This original manuscript letter was authored and signed by Benjamin Tallmadge on July
8, 1781. Written from Wethersfield, Connecticut, it is directed to Colonel John Broome
(1738-1810) and signed "Benj Tallmadge." The scope is the delivery of goods for the Second
Regiment of Continental Light Dragoons, also known as Tallmadge's Dragoons.
1 leaf, 14 cm. x 21 cm.
Arrangement and Processing Note
is housed in frame with a copy of a portrait of Tallmadge (1790) by Ralph Earle and
the "Dragoon" head and shoulders pencil sketch of Tallmadge by Colonel John Trumbull.
Processed by Kristen J. Nyitray in August 2004. Finding aid updated in April 2019.
This letter can be viewed online at:
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Benjamin Tallmadge Autographed Signed Letter, July 8, 1781, Special Collections and
University Archives, Stony Brook University Libraries.
Benjamin Tallmadge (1754-1835) acted as principal director of George Washington's
secret service from 1778-1783, after the death of Nathan Hale. He won distinction
as a field officer, notably at the capture of Fort St. George, Long Island, in 1780.
With his leadership, Washington was able to create a strong and successful chain of
spies throughout the New York area, beginning the secret service in America. These
agents, primarily the Culper Spy Ring, gathered information for Washington, which
greatly aided in winning the war.
Tallmadge was born in Setauket, Long Island. He was extremely bright and attended
Yale University at the age of fifteen. He embarked on a career in education and soon
became a headmaster of a school in Wethersfield, CT. When war broke out, Tallmadge
became interested and decided to join. He began his army career as 1st lieutenant
in Colonel John Chester's Regiment of Wadsworth's Connecticut Brigade, and eventually
rose up the ladder to become Brigade Major and then captain of a troop in the 2nd
Continental Light Dragoon Regiment. In the summer of 1778, his dragoons were assigned
under Brigadier General Charles Scott, who was Washington's intelligence chief. Tallmadge's
new job was to recruit intelligence sources throughout the Connecticut and New York
area. He contacted old friends from Long Island and New York City, gradually forming
the Culper ring. When Charles Scott had to go home because of family problems in the
fall of 1778, Tallmadge was promoted once again and began to report directly to Washington.
Tallmadge is now remembered as one of the founders of the first organized espionage
operations in America. He developed a numerical substitution code that effectively
withstood British attempts to decipher it. After his successful career during the
war, he was elected to Congress, where he served eight terms. (
Biographical source: Spy Letters of the American Revolution from the Collections of
the Clements Library)
Tallmadge, Benjamin, -- 1754-1835.
Tallmadge, Benjamin, -- 1754-1835 -- Correspondence.
United States -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783 -- Sources.
Long Island (N.Y.) -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783 -- Sources.
New York (State) -- Long Island.
Broome, John, -- 1738-1810.