"But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.”"
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To fight and win our independence, the fledgling United States needed shrewd military leadership, dedicated troops…and a well-organized intelligence service. The Continental Congress had established a commission to search out and apprehend British sympathizers. General George Washington, who relied extensively on military intelligence, enlisted Mr. Nathaniel Sackett, a New Yorker who had proven himself a valuable spy catcher, as his "intelligence director."
In this original letter, written on February 4, 1777 by George Washington engages Sackett to create a spy network, pass along disinformation to British intelligence, and harass the enemy.
To Mr. Nathaniel Sackett
The advantage of obtaining the earliest and best Intelligence of the designs of the enemy, the good character given of you by Colonel Duer added to your capacity for an undertaking of this kind have induced me to entrust the management of this business to your care till further orders on this head.
For your care and trouble in this business I agree on behalf of the public to allow you Fifty Dollars pr. Kalendar Month and herewith give you a warrant on the Paymaster Genl. For the sum of Five hundd. Dollars to pay those whom you may find necessary to imploy in the transaction of this business, an acct. of the disbursements of which you are to render to me.
Given under my hand at Morris town this 4th day of Feb., 1777
PRESERVING AN AMERICAN TREASURE
The Washington Spy Letter is the International Spy Museum's most revered and guarded artifacts. It was this letter, written 240 years ago next month (February 2017), which served as the launching point for an intricate and secretive intelligence network known as the Culper Spy Ring that would in large part save the American Revolution.
For the scores of decades since it was written, the document remained in Nathaniel Sackett's family until it was acquired by the International Spy Museum and publicly exhibited for the first time in 2002. To insure its preservation for future generations, the letter has undergone extensive conservation treatments over a 12-month period. Due to its age and fragility, the letter is privately stored offsite ten months out of the year, with an exact replica in its place. It is exhibited under a low light and can be displayed for only two months each year - President's Day Weekend.