Richard, to Anna: You’re no longer welcome in this house.
Hewlett: Actually, we’re getting married, so she’s staying.
Richard: I’m sorry, I just started hearing really loud circus music in my head, what did you say?
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In provincial warfare, proper intelligence can be worth an entire brigade of troops! George Washington developed a cunning reputation as a Spymaster during the Revolutionary War, carefully cultivating agents behind enemy lines to report on the British Army’s troop movements, defensive positions, and crucially accurate counts of materiel like cannons, warships, and supply trains.
Washington’s efforts had several major failures. Nathan Hale was captured and hanged as a spy, famously (perhaps apocryphally) stating “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Though certainly brave, Hale was arguably a terrible spy, conducting operations in broad daylight and carrying his Yale diploma with his full name in his pocket everywhere he went. And of course, though some operatives suspected Benedict Arnold’s loyalties were questionable, the Continental Army was completely unprepared for his betrayal…
The American intelligence network bore fruit in the Culper Ring, a group of agents in occupied New York City and Long Island Sound who posed as loyal subjects of the king. Through their efforts, Washington was able to discover several counterfeiting operations to devalue the Continental Dollar, British plans to attack his French allies docked in Rhode Island, advance reports of new offensives in the South, and even reportedly an assassination attempt on his Excellency.
Later during the War of 1812, much of the fighting took place in the Northwest Territory. In this sparsely populated frontier, both sides relied on disinformation campaigns and their Native American allies to gain the upper hand. During the Siege of Detroit, the brilliant warchief Tecumseh used a ruse de guerre to make his force seem much larger than it was. While British regulars lit a large number of fake watchfires, Techumseh set out with his warriors in an elaborate deception.
According to a militia captain, “Tecumseh extended his men, and marched them three times through an opening in the woods at the rear of the fort in full view of the garrison, which induced them to believe there were at least two or three thousand Indians.” The ruse worked perfectly. Though the American forces in Detroit actually outnumbered Tecumseh and the redcoats 2:1, they surrendered the fort with barely a shot!
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