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Agent 355: Female Spy Who Changed the Course of the American Revolution

Readmikenow has written about various medical conditions. He has previously written a series of articles on Polyarteritis nodosa.

Artist's tribute to Agent 355

Artist's tribute to Agent 355

The Mystery of Agent 355

The Revolutionary War spy known as Agent 355 played a pivotal role in the Colonial Army’s victory over the British. Her identity is unknown to this day. There are some facts about Agent 355 that are clear, however.

This was the name of a woman who worked during the American Revolution with the Colonial Army as a spy. She was part of a spy ring that used a very complicated cipher system to transmit codes. The number 355 from this system referred to a lady. It is believed she lived in New York City and had contact with Benedict Arnold. There is evidence that Agent 355 is the one who played a major part in exposing Arnold as a traitor as well as the arrest and hanging of Major John André. He was found guilty of assisting Arnold with the attempt to surrender the fort at West Point in New York.

Many believe she must have been from a prominent British Loyalist family. This would have made it possible for her to have easy access to British commanders.

Some of the members of the Culper Spy Ring

Some of the members of the Culper Spy Ring

Culper Spy Ring

During the American Revolution, there was a group of spies known as the Culper Spy Ring. They were active from 1778 to 1780. The spy ring maintained a spy network from the British-occupied New York City to Long Island, Setauket as well as northern Connecticut. The Culper Spy network was extremely effective in obtaining important information from careless conversations that took place between British sympathizers and members of the British military.

Culper Spy Ring code book

Culper Spy Ring code book

Creation of Culper Spy Ring

Benjamin Tallmadge was a young officer in the Colonial Army in 1778 when General George Washington made him his intelligence chief. Tallmadge was given the task of organizing a top-secret spy network. Washington told Tallmadge that not even he should know the identities of the spies. It is not certain who all were recruited, but it is known that a society reporter and good merchant named Robert Townsend was recruited. His code name was Samuel Culper, Jr.

Tricks of the Trade

The Culper Ring used many different types of tricks to provide timely and accurate intelligence to General George Washington. This included invisible ink, ciphers, and more. Townsend was the Culper Ring's central figure. He would gather information about British forces and pass the information on to Austin Roe who was a Setauket, New York, tavern keeper. Roe would ride over 100 miles to purchase supplies as he carried the dispatches from the spy ring. Within two months after the creation of the Culper Ring, they were able to regularly supply General George Washington with high-level intelligence on the British military.

Into Hiding

Right before the capture of Major John André, Robert Townsend and many members of the Culper spy ring left New York City. They went into hiding. After two weeks, they returned. This is when Townsend was informed that several members of the Culper spy ring had been arrested.

British Ship HMS Jersey

British Ship HMS Jersey


After the capture and hanging of Major John André, the British had suspects who they believed may have provided information about him to the Colonial Army. According to documents at the time, Agent 355 was arrested by the British. She was pregnant at the time. Agent 355 refused to provide the British with any information on the Culper Spy Ring, her spy activities, or even the name of the father of her child. Agent 355 was then taken to the notorious British prison ship HMS Jersey. It was located in the New York harbor. The living conditions on the ship were so horrible that those sent to the ship usually only lived a few months. During this time, Agent 355 gave birth to a son. Her child died aboard the ship.


It is believed that agent 355 died aboard the HMS Jersey from severe mistreatment. Her legacy continues to live on. Many believe that agent 355 represents all covert agents whose true identities are never revealed. Their stories are never told, but their contributions and sacrifices for their country are incalculable. They may never be truly acknowledged by history but all of them deserve recognition.

The Work of Selfless Sacrifice

It is difficult to discover all the details concerning Agent 355. Because espionage is a secretive business, good spies will leave very little documentation about themselves. There has been enough information from this time to determine a group of citizen spies made major contributions to the success of the Colonial Army during the Revolutionary War. They provided some of the most important intelligence. It is acknowledged that one of the heroines of the time for her work and selfless sacrifice is Agent 355.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Readmikenow


Readmikenow (author) on September 07, 2020:

Mary, thanks. Wow...she was such a good spy she was able to keep her name from being discovered even when she was captured by the enemy.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on September 07, 2020:

This is very interesting, especially because her name has never been revealed. She must have been known because she was arrested.

Readmikenow (author) on September 07, 2020:

Pam, thanks.

Readmikenow (author) on September 07, 2020:

MG, thanks.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on September 07, 2020:

We have watched "Turn" on Netflix, which tells the story about the culper spy ring. I think it is somewhat accurate although it seems no one knows the real name of this woman.

This is a very interesting article about an important part of our history. You have explained it very well.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on September 07, 2020:

Fascinating tale of a spy. Such tales thrill me. Thank you.

Readmikenow (author) on September 07, 2020:

Eric, thanks. There is so much speculation to who this person may have been.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on September 07, 2020:

How very interesting. Spying is such a business.