Sally Townsend, George Washington’s Teenage Spy

Sally Townsend of Oyster Bay, Long Island was a petite, vivacious, intelligent, and remarkably attractive young lady with beguiling hazel eyes. A 1779 Valentine poem from an admiring British officer reads: Thou know’st what powerful magick lies Within the round of Sarah’s eyes.”

Sally was the sister of Robert Townsend, a principal member of the “Culper Ring,” General Washington’s most effective spy network that operated in the midst of British occupied New York and Long Island. During the British occupation of New York (1776-1783), Loyalist and Hessian troops were quartered in and around Oyster Bay, and in fact two Redcoat officers were billeted in the Townsend Home.

Sally assisted her brother in gathering intelligence while coyly flirting with the enemy. During that time, she was the romantic interest of German Jäger officer Ernst Wintzingerode, and she dallied with Major John André, who was the British Adjutant General and confidant of British Generals William Howe and Henry Clinton. Sally was actively courted by Lieutenant Colonel John Graves Simcoe, commander of the Queen’s Rangers, whose duties ironically included ferreting out the American spies on Long Island.

In 1780, Sally was instrumental in thwarting the infamous Benedict Arnold treason plot, which likely saved the Revolution, but for which she paid a heavy price.

The book also explores the possible identity of the mysterious “Agent 355” who was mentioned in a cryptic Culper Ring message.

Publisher: McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson, N.C.

Publication Date: 2014

ISBN 978-0-9864-9987-8

Key words:

  1. United States – History – Revolution – 1775-1783 – Secret Service – Culper Ring
  2. Spies – United States – Biography
  3. Spies – Great Britain – Biography
  4. Espionage – United States – History – 18th Century
  5. Agent 355 – Long Island – Oyster Bay