Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Secret History of US Spies

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

The United States has been in the spy business since before it became a nation. It all began with Nathan Hale, America's first spy. Now there are many spy organizations in the United States government with the CIA being the most well known.

America's First Spy: Nathan Hale is considered America's first spy. He wasn't really the first spy, but he was the first to be executed as a spy. He volunteered for a dangerous mission into New York City to spy upon the British. Unfortunately he was caught and hanged. Reportedly his last words were, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."

Revolutionary Spies: Benjamin Franklin and Paul Revere are amoung the most well-known spies of the Revolutionary War, but there were many spy rings. The biggest was the Culpepper Spy Ring in New York. Major Benjamin Tallmadge recruited Caleb Brewster and Abraham Woodhull (code name Samuel Culpepper) to gather intelligence on the British. Historians still don't know the identity of some of the spies in that ring, only their code names.  One piece of intellegence the Culpepper Ring gathered was the betrayal of Benedict Arnold and his secret meeting with John Andre.

Washington's Secret Service: George Washington, our first president understood the importance of intelligence gathering. One of his first acts as president was to work with the Congress to establish the Secret Service which comprised 10% of the federal budget. A few years later, Thomas Jefferson used the Secret Service to overthrow the government in a small North African country to stop Barbary pirate from raiding US ships. Madison used spies to influence the Spanish to relinquish Florida. Congress tried to oversee the secret fund, President Polk insisted that emergencies require oversight to be the prerogative of the president.

Civil War: During the Civil War, both Union and Confederate armies were involved in spying. They used the first spy satellites, hot air balloons, to record movements of the enemy troops. Neither side had an organized intelligence gathering organization run by their governments. The Union contracted
Allen Pinkerton and Lafayette Baker. The South had many individuals involved in spying including three infamous women: Rose Greenhow, Belle Boyd, and Nancy Hart.

First Formal Spy Agencies: The first formal US spy agencies were formed in the 1880s. They were the Office of Naval Intelligence and the Army’s Military Intelligence Division. They were involved heavily in the Spanish-American War in 1898. The Secret Service was still in operation but was in charge of domestic counter-intelligence only. The Secret Service broke up a Spanish spy ring in Montreal during the war.

World War I: US spy agencies had suffered greatly from budget cuts until World War I when the National Security Agency was established as a department of the US Army. The Secret Service, the New York Police Department, and military counterintelligence also were involved in intellegence and stopped German spying inside the United States. Another significant organization to be created during the First World War was the Justice Department's Bureau of Investigation (later called FBI) which enforced the first US Espionage Act of 1917.

World War II: As the Nazis rose in power, the US put it's energy into code breaking and intellegence gathering on Germany and Japan. The Black Chamber Organization was formed to do that.  As the war drew closer, President Roosevelt established a new spy organization in 1941 called the Office of the Coordinator of Information to organize the activities of the various spy organizations. After the failure to detect the Japanese plot to bomb Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt dissolved the OCI and established the wartime organization, the Office of Strategic Services. The OSS and FBI worked closely with the Armed Services spy organizations to do intelligence gathering throughout the war.

Cold War: The OSS was abolished when the war ended in October, 1945 by President Truman, but it soon became obvious another central intelligence organization was needed. In January, 1946, Truman and others planned out the new spy organization called the Central Intelligence Group. This group had access and oversight of all foreign intelligence gathering and spying. The CIG also functioned under the direction of a National Intelligence Authority, composed of a presidential representative and the secretaries of State, War, and the Navy. In 1947, the National Security Act disbanded the CIG and the National Intelligence Authority and replaced them with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency forming our modern day spying organizations.

Tamera Lynn Kraft has always loved adventures and writes Christian historical fiction set in America because there are so many adventures in American history. She has received 2nd place in the NOCW contest, 3rd place TARA writer’s contest, and was a finalist in the Frasier Writing Contest. Her novel Alice’s Notions and novellas Resurrection of Hope and A Christmas Promise are available on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble.


  1. I love Nathan Hale. He is one of my very favorite historical figures. :)
    A very interesting post, Tamera. Thank you for sharing and congratulations on your new release!

  2. I love Nathan Hale. He is one of my very favorite historical figures. :)
    A very interesting post, Tamera. Thank you for sharing and congratulations on your new release!

  3. Great post about the secret history of US spies. I enjoy books set in America, too. Congratulations on your new release, Tamera.