Issue Date: February 22, 1982
City: Mount Vernon, VA
Printed By: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Photogravure
U.S. #1952 was issued on the 250th anniversary of George Washington’s birth. While every school child learns Washington’s story, few know about his talents for espionage.
America’s First Spymaster
One of George Washington’s lesser known accomplishments was his role as spymaster for the Colonial Army. Washington set up a complex spy network in New York City. He organized his efforts by a numbers code: Washington himself was 711, Long Island was 728, Major Benjamin Talmadge, who headed the “Culper Spy Ring,” was 721.
One of his earliest spies was Nathan Hale, who was caught and executed by the British, but not before uttering the famous statement, “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” Other spies included a woman known only as Agent 355, who helped uncover Benedict Arnold’s treachery. She also was captured and died aboard a British prisoner ship.
This part of the war held great danger for its participants, but it was critical to a Colonial victory. Washington’s success at managing his spy networks prompted the head of British Intelligence, Major John Beckwith, to say after the war, “Washington didn’t really outfight the British, he simply outspied us!”