Title: A Peculiar Service
Author: Corey Ford
Ford, Corey (1965). A Peculiar Service. Boston: Little, Brown
- United States–History–Revolution, 1775-1783–Secret service.
- New York (State)–History–Revolution, 1775-1783.
Date Posted: October 20, 2016
Reviewed by George C. Constantinides
General William Donovan inspired Ford to write this book. Ford’s interest in intelligence history probably was stimulated by his assignment on Donovan’s staff in OSS. This is not a history of all U.S. intelligence in the American Revolution, as Donovan had suggested, but of portions of it. Covered are the cases of Nathan Hale, Major André, and Benedict Arnold and the work of the Culper ring in New York and Long Island; these incidents are supplemented by descriptions of other intelligence activities such as Washington’s imaginative use of deception. Ford claims he brought together for the first time the “complete file” on the Culper ring. He was scrupulous in indicating where he used the device of filling in unknown events by recreating the most likely explanation of them. Where the facts are known, he created conversations to give an air of reality. These techniques did not offend Richard Morris of Columbia University, who in his introduction called the book “scrupulously documented and thoroughly researched.” Ford was to be credited for tackling the question of who was the real head of U.S. intelligence during the revolution and for his careful dissection and disposal of earlier flights of fancy on the circumstances of the André capture. See also Pennypacker’s General Washington’s Spies and Van Daren’s Secret History of the American Revolution.
Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf
In an introductory note Professor Richard B. Morris of the Department of History, Columbia University, writes: “Corey Ford has given the fullest and most convincing account of the extraordinary operations of Washington’s Manhattan agency, known as the Culper Ring. . .. A scrupulously documented and thoroughly researched book.” An excellent selected bibliography of books and manuscript sources has been appended.
 Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, p. 195
 Pennypacker, Morton (1939, 2005). General Washington’s Spies on Long Island And in New York. Cranbury, NJ : Scholar’s Bookshelf
 Van Doren, Carl (1941, 1973). Secret History of The American Revolution: an account of the conspiracies of Benedict Arnold and numerous others, drawn from the Secret Service papers of the British headquarters in North America, now for the first time examined and made public. Clifton, NJ: A. M. Kelley
 Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., p. 162