George Washington’s Secret Spy War: The Making of America’s First Spymaster

Written by John A. Nagy
Review by Monica E. Spence

Nagy, the late historian, approached this book with a focus on facts, and with them he exploded some of the mythology surrounding Washington’s relationship with surveillance. The first myth: Washington had no skills in espionage prior to the Revolutionary War. In truth, Washington gained considerable experience as a field commander during the French and Indian War where, as a Lieutenant Colonel (later Colonel) in the 1st Virginia Regiment, he employed spies, observers and reports from not only his own troops, but Native Americans in the employ of the British. There have been several books written on the subject of Washington’s spy network, with a singular focus on the one in the New York City/Long Island/Connecticut area. What this book reveals is that Washington had several other spy rings in the colonies, which informed him of British doings in New Jersey, Staten Island and other locations. Nagy uses Washington’s own diary as a primary source for the book, and though it does not “read like a novel,” it is both enlightening and very entertaining.  Very highly recommended.