Benjamin Tallmadge portrait
by artist Ezra Ames (c. 1800)
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Connecticut's at-large district
March 4, 1801 - March 3, 1817
|Thomas Scott Williams|
|Born||February 25, 1754|
Setauket or Brookhaven, Province of New York
|Died||March 7, 1835 (aged 81)|
|Resting place||East Cemetery|
(m. 1784; died 1805)
|Alma mater||Yale College|
|Known for||Organized the Culper Spy Ring|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Years of service||1776-1783|
|Commands||2nd Continental Light Dragoons|
|Battles/wars||American Revolutionary War|
Benjamin Tallmadge (February 25, 1754 - March 7, 1835) was an American military officer, spymaster, and politician. He is best known for his service as an officer in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. He acted as leader of the Culper Ring during the war, a celebrated network of spies in New York where major British forces were based. He also led a successful raid across Long Island that culminated in the Battle of Fort St. George. Following the war, Tallmadge was elected to the United States House of Representatives as a member of the Federalist Party.
Tallmadge was born February 25, 1754, the son of Susannah Smith (1729-1768) and Rev. Benjamin Tallmadge Sr. (1725-1786), a clergyman in Setauket, New York, a hamlet of the Town of Brookhaven, New York on Long Island. He graduated from Yale in 1773 and was a classmate of American Revolutionary War spy Nathan Hale. He was the father of New York City Police Commissioner Frederick A. Tallmadge. He remained in Connecticut and served as the superintendent of Wethersfield High School from 1773 to 1776.
Tallmadge was a major in the 2nd Continental Light Dragoons and was initially commissioned on June 20, 1776. He was given the position of director of military intelligence by George Washington after Nathaniel Sackett was relieved of his duties because he did not gain any ground from the enemy. Tallmadge was in charge of bringing intelligence from British-controlled New York to the Continental army, and he did so by assembling a network of spies known as the Culper Spy Ring, with the help of Abraham Woodhull and Robert Townsend.
The Culper Ring was involved in revealing the betrayal of Benedict Arnold. Benedict Arnold's British contact John André was caught and taken to North Castle, where commander Colonel Jameson ordered lieutenant Allen to take the incriminating documents found with André to their commander Benedict Arnold at West Point. Tallmadge suspected André to be a spy and Benedict Arnold to be his accomplice, and he tried to have Jameson reverse his orders. He was unsuccessful, but did convince Jameson to send a rider and take Andre to Salem, eight miles east of the Hudson River and to send the documents to George Washington. Allen still reported to Benedict Arnold with Jameson's note outlining the events. Later, Jameson was chastised by Washington for warning Arnold and allowing his escape. André was placed in Tallmadge's custody awaiting execution.
On November 21, 1780, Tallmadge and his dragoons rowed across Long Island Sound from Fairfield, Connecticut to Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai, New York. The next day, they proceeded to the south shore where they captured and burned down Manor St. George. On their march back to Mt. Sinai, Tallmadge stopped in Coram, New York and ordered the burning of 300 tons of hay which the British had been stockpiling for the winter. George Washington, on hearing the news, sent the following letter to Tallmadge:
I have received with much pleasure the report of your successful enterprise upon fort St. George, and was pleased with the destruction of the hay at Coram, which must be severely felt by the enemy at this time. I beg you to accept my thanks for your spirited execution of this business.
Tallmadge served at Washington's headquarters from March 1781 until the Continental Army was disbanded in November 1783. He was breveted to the rank of lieutenant colonel on September 30, 1783.
On March 4, 1801, Tallmadge succeeded William Edmond as a Federalist Party member of the House of Representatives representing Connecticut's congressional district. He served until March 3, 1817 when he was succeeded by Thomas Scott Williams.
In 1829, Tallmadge was among a group of Federalists who defended the honor of the late Connecticut Senator Uriah Tracy against accusations by John Quincy Adams and William Plumer that Tracy was a leader of a conspiracy in 1804 to separate the New England states into a distinct confederacy. He was the first president of the Phoenix Branch Bank and a president of the New York Society of the Cincinnati.
Mary died in 1805, and Tallmadge married Maria Hallett (d. 1838) in 1808, daughter of his friend Joseph Hallett.
Fort Huachuca, Arizona is the home of Army intelligence, and Tallmadge Hall there is named in honor of his distinguished leadership role in the service of Continental Army intelligence. Tallmadge, Ohio is also named after him. The Boy Scouts of America's Benjamin Tallmadge District serves the north shore of Eastern Long Island.