A Peculiar Service

Title:                      A Peculiar Service

Author:                Corey Ford

Ford, Corey (1965). A Peculiar Service. Boston: Little, Brown

LCCN:    65020738

E279 .F6


Date Posted:      October 20, 2016

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

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[2] and Van Daren’s Secret History of the American Revolution.[3]

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[4]

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.

[1] Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, p. 195

[2] Pennypacker, Morton (1939, 2005). General Washington’s Spies on Long Island And in New York. Cranbury, NJ : Scholar’s Bookshelf

[3] 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

[4] 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


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3 Responses to A Peculiar Service

  1. Pingback: Benjamin Tallmadge | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  2. Pingback: General Washington’s Spies on Long Island And in New York | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  3. Pingback: Espionage and Counterespionage, Chapter 14 | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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