“I’ve just completed my mission. The recruitment of a young, talented agent who is willing to apply said talents in service of the Crown, for the aim of ending this reckless war. Tell me — have you ever been to New Jersey?” — Major John Andre to Philomena in Episode 2, “Who By Fire”
To evaluate the loyalty of one of his spies (an as-yet-unseen mole in a New Jersey unit of the Continental Army), John Andre recruits an enchanting actress named Philomena to serve as a “honey trap.” With a keen eye for human weakness, Andre knows a honey trap is the best tool to use to test his operative.
Spies often use gadgets and other tricks of the espionage trade to collect information, but one of the simplest and most effective ways to garner intelligence is decidedly low-tech: Human intelligence, especially when coerced under compromising circumstances. The term for a spy who uses sexuality to extract information is “honey trap” (aka “honey pot”), and refers to a woman who dabbles in the trade. However, the art of enticement is not exclusively female — men, known in spy circles as “ravens,” sometimes also get in on the action.
“Take note that the famed Major Robert Rogers, celebrated for his exploits as the White Devil of the French and Indian War, and now the revered leader of the Queen’s Rangers, is once again soldiering for His Majesty King George III across these great colonies. Armed with an eclectic collection of trained fighters at his side, this son of Massachusetts and his cohorts are renowned for raising their mercenary ranks to dispatch their enemies far and wide. The Major’s past addled exploits of being too free with the creature are long forgotten as he forays into the fight to beat back General Washington and his tattered rebel Army.
“Many may be aware that inside the Major’s chest beats the heart of a lion, yet few among you may be apprised that he contemporaneously nurses the soul of a poet. Robert Rogers is not only esteemed for his abilities as a soldier, but has reached acclaim for his unrivaled work as an author. The ferocious and riveting battle accounts Major Rogers encountered were penned in his Journal of the French and Indian War, which went on to be published in 1765.
TURN is based on the true story of the Culper Ring, America’s first spy network established by George Washington during the Revolutionary War. Learn more about the real-life locations and events seen on the series by exploring the TURN interactive map. Check out points of interest from the series premiere, “Pilot,” now, then return on Mondays throughout the season for new content related to the latest episode.
As I write this letter you are upstairs in your mother’s arms, sleeping peacefully. There is nothing I love more than watching you in your crib, but tonight I am wide awake, alone with my thoughts, unable to rest as dark intentions keep my mind preoccupied. I saw an old friend today. A young man who I have known since I was only a few years older than you are now. His name is Benjamin Tallmadge, and he has asked me to do something dangerous.
The war is raging now, and General Washington has been driven out of York City and the Royal Army has taken over there. They continued their march across the Sound, spilling over onto Long Island and into Setauket. Now there are redcoats everywhere, swathed in every nook of our hometown. They have taken over everything, using brute force and the heels of their boots to make their presence known. Washington and his rebel army are fighting back and Ben is a part of that resistance, battling the Royal Army alongside thousands of other brave men. But while their passion is thick, their numbers are overshadowed by the fastest and largest navy in the world.
Ben has asked me to assist in balancing the scales. Now that York City is dark to the rebel army, they need a man who can get inside and gather information. This is a dangerous endeavor. If I am caught, I could be hanged as a traitor and a spy. Even if they decide to spare my life and send me to a prison ship, I would still leave you, your mother, my father, and our entire family disgraced. It is a choice that comes at a heavy price.
In “Pilot,” Abraham Woodhull’s search of Major Hewlett’s bedroom uncovers what appears to be an ordinary letter, accompanied by a thin metal object with boxes cut out of it. As he slides the letter into place behind the metal object, he is amazed as the boxes reveal a secret message regarding a rebel safe house in Connecticut. The object, a simple cryptography device called a Cardan Grille, has been a trick of the trade since the 16th century.
Sir Henry Clinton, who served as a British general during the Revolutionary War (including as the British Commander-in-Chief in North America from 1778 to 1782), often used a device known as a “grille” or “mask” with an hour glass-shaped hole cut out of the center of it when sending correspondence. Those who were versed in subterfuge knew this was the “Cardano system” of spycraft, named after Giralamo Cardano, an Italian cryptologist. Cardano was a skilled inventor and mathematician known for his contributions to modern algebra, but it was his work in encryption that would become his most famous. In 1550, Cardano developed a means for sending clandestine messages in letters written in longhand by using a grille to reveal a hidden message.
TURN premieres this Sunday at 9/8c, and with it comes the premiere of TURN Story Sync. This live, interactive experience is the ultimate viewer’s companion, featuring polls, trivia and video, plus maps, character details and a history of spycraft, all during the premiere broadcast of each new episode. Check out TURN Story Sync this Sun., Apr. 6 at 9PM ET and 9PT with the TURN series premiere, “Pilot.” Log on to turnstorysync.com via your tablet, smart phone or Internet browser when you tune in to AMC for the broadcast. The rest will take care of itself.
Having trouble? Make sure that…
• Your Internet browser is up to date (Sync will not work in Internet Explorer 6 or 7)
• You have a strong Internet connection
• Your computer clock is set to the correct time zone
On July 4th, 1776 the United Colonies of America declared their independence from England and King George’s tyrannical rule. Within three months, the fledgling Continental Army had been chased into the wilderness and was on the verge of annihilation. By the end of the year, its Commander-in-Chief, George Washington, had lost Boston, New York City and the morale of his soldiers, along with most of the populace. He needed a miracle.
A daring, top-secret mission across the Delaware River on Christmas night resulted in a much-needed victory and gave the Continentals a small shred of hope. It also showed Washington the value of new thinking, of bold approaches… and of secrets. In the ensuing months, he began to improve upon a certain branch of the military, one that had desperately fallen short up until now: Intelligence. Little did he know that at its center would be a group of childhood friends. Helping to turn the tide of the American Revolution, they would go down in history under a special name: The Culper Ring.
AMC’s new spy thriller TURN is based on the true story of four friends from a small Long Island village who changed the course of the Revolutionary War. But what events led Abe Woodhull, Anna Strong, Caleb Brewster and Ben Tallmadge to form what would eventually become the Culper Ring? Find out by reading the TURN: Origins online comic, which traces the roots of their friendship back to their childhood and shows how a British occupation of their hometown of Setauket turned a farmer, a tavern owner, a whaleboatman, and a rebel soldier into Washington’s most valuable assets. Read TURN: Origins now.
Espionage is an ancient craft, often called the second oldest profession. Intrigue, trickery, and guile have king been powerful weapons in a spy’s arsenal. Check out an infographic about the Spy Tools of the American Revolution, featuring information provided courtesy of the International Spy Museum and Alexander Rose, author of Washington’s Spies, the book on which TURN is based. The skills and tools detailed, which largely contributed to the Patriots’ win, date back to the Revolutionary War, and many have since evolved and in some form are still used in the world of modern spycraft today. View the Spy Tools of the American Revolution infographic now.
I can remember clearly the day I stumbled upon the idea of writing the story of The Culper Ring: I had been reading a biography of Benedict Arnold as background for a completely different project idea and I began to wonder whether there was more to his story than the bare bones version we are usually told. A traitor of the darkest dye I of course knew him to be, but found myself wanting to know more about the role of espionage in the War of Independence.
Despite assuming that such an obvious subject had already been done to death — I mean, what aspect of the American Revolution has not been already written about in the minutest detail? — I failed to find much available in any of the major library catalogues I consulted. Put it this way, the last academic article written about Revolutionary ciphers had appeared in… 1917.
So now I had my general subject, but which spies should I write about? That’s where the trouble started. It’s actually quite difficult to write a book about spooks because they are not, to put it mildly, the type of people who habitually keep fatally incriminating documents lying around. But eventually I found my perfect spies: The Culper Ring. Uniquely, their long correspondence with George Washington survives almost intact. From its creation until the very day of its dissolution, there is a written, detailed, sometimes almost daily record of the Ring’s activities, travails, and triumphs.