Caleb Brewster & The Culper Ring

by Nick Merullo

TEACHER'S SNAPSHOT

Historical Background

This activity is based on a page from the coding index used by the Culper Spy Ring, a group of colonist civilians working as spies who gathered and reported intelligence to George Washington during the Revolutionary War. Caleb Brewster was a key member of the organization. Brewster served as a courier delivering messages to agents in Connecticut and Long Island across the Long Island Sound. His long-standing friendship with Benjamin Tallmadge, Washington’s chief intelligence officer, and his reputation as an expert seaman made him the perfect man for the job.

D1: Potential Compelling Question

In what ways did “ordinary” Americans contribute to the American Revolution?

D1: POTENTIAL SUPPORTING QUESTIONS

  • Why did the Continental army rely on contributions from civilians?
  • How did women contribute to the Revolution?

D2: TOOL KIT


D3: INQUIRY ACTIVITY

Have students do a close reading of the page and consider:

  • What words can they recognize on the page?
  • Why might some of these words need to be written in code?
  • What are some benefits of using numbers instead of words?
  • How might the results of the Revolution changed if these messages were discovered by the enemy?

D4: COMMUNICATING CONCLUSIONS

Have students research the Culper Ring and present findings:

  • Create a map detailing one of Brewster’s excursions from the coast of Connecticut to Long Island.
  • Write a letter from the perspective of General Washington to Caleb Brewster.
  • Have students create their own coding system and write a secret message between spies.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Place to GO
Things To DO

Research the Caleb Brewster Papers: Fairfield Museum and History Center

Read more pages or download the pdf of the Culper Spy Ring Code: MountVernon.org

Websites to VISIT
Articles to READ

ConnecticutHistory.org: Caleb Brewster and the Culper Spy Ring by Andy Piascik.