Thursday, April 10, 2014

America's First Spy Ring

The AMC series Turn is based on Alexander Rose's book Washington's SpiesTurn tells the story of America’s first spy ring during the Revolutionary War.  Turn revolves around Abe Woodhull, a farmer living in British-occupied Long Island who joins with his friends to form the Culper Ring. The group of secret agents helps George Washington defeat the British and develops new tools that became part of modern spycraft.

The Culper Ring was composed Abraham Woodhull, Benjamin Tallmadge, Caleb Brewster, and Anna Strong from a small Long Island town called Setauket. At the beginning of the war, they were  scattered across the eastern seaboard. Caleb Brewster was a whaleboatman in Nova Scotia. Ben Tallmadge left Yale University to join the Continental Army. Anna Strong was married to a local Patriot leader.  Abe Woodhull remained at his farm and tried to avoid involvement in the rebellion.

Under General Washington's support, Ben Tallmadge formed this group into a cohesive spy network. Through their bravery and guile, the Culper Ring obtained valuable intelligence for Washington that helped America win her Independence. They refined their craft and invented new intelligence methods that lay the foundation to all modern espionage tradecraft.

I recorded the first episode and spared myself the constant interruption of ads that AMC features with its programs. In some respects, the series has the usual characteristics of other historic pieces.  The British are total villains overseeing their colony with a tight hand.  The boorish soldiers are quartered with the citizens.  The loyal citizens like Abraham's father are shallow men who are dedicated to their own survival.  There is also a love interest between Abraham and Anna to add to the group's dynamics.  Poor Abraham seems to be a victim of all of the machinations.  He is torn by loyalties and honor. 

I wish there was more explanation presented with the program about the some of the circumstances and spy technology. The web page Turn offers additional details.  Viewers are encouraged to watch the series using resources on the web page.  This might be an excellent way to spend the time during the endless stream of commercials.

My jury is still out on the series and will check out future episodes.