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Monday, November 28, 2016

British Spies against the Colonies

I have always been fascinated with spies. I have been to the Washington DC Spy museum. While I was working on research for this capstone I wanted to cover some of the women that were found out to be British Spies.
I present to you the next part of the capstone.   I hope you are enjoying reading it as much as I am sharing it.

Miss Jenny
British Spy
Miss Jenny was a British Spy who was able to infiltrate the French troops that were aiding the Patriots. Miss Jenny is not her real name, for her true identity will always remain a mystery. She risked a lot while she was collecting information to pass back to the British. “According to this letter, Miss Jenny moved boldly through the French and American troops, meeting their first guard near Kingsbridge.  The guard took Miss Jenny back to the French camp where he tried to force his amorous attentions on the female spy.  Miss Jenny managed to escape his clutches and continued to claim that she and her seamstress mother were looking for her father who had gone to France from Canada six years ago.”[1] She was however captured and her hair was cut as punishment. By cutting her hair it was seen as a humiliation. Women did not cut their hair during this time period unless they were ill or disgraced. This was the French way of saying: We may be releasing you, but you will suffer for our suspicions.  After sticking to her story for two days, she was released and able to pass back to the British Forces.
Once she was back with the British forces she told: “Baron Ottendorf.  She reported that the American troops were ready to advance and that General Washington was reportedly planning on attacking New York City in two places.  Based on Miss Jenny's and other spies' reports, Clinton decided to keep his troops in New York.  However, just days after Miss Jenny left the French camp, Rochambeau received a letter from the Admiral of the French navy, Comte de Grasse, announcing that he was bringing twenty-nine ships and three new French regiments to Chesapeake Bay.”[2]  This was important to note. The French and Patriots used French ships to transport their men from Chesapeake Bay. This led to the surrender of Lord Cornwallis in the Yorktown Theater. Sir Henry Clinton and his army were still in New York. This would also be Clinton’s downfall and beginning of the disgrace.
Unfortunately for Miss Jenny this was her last mission for the British. She was not seen nor was she heard from ever again. Her true identity is as secretive as her disappearance. Her punishment was severe and degrading for women. One thing to note is that women were not punished by imprisonment or sentenced to death by hanging. This was because women during this time period were not taken seriously, and considered to be somewhat of a nuisance. They also were thought to not understand military strategies.
Ann Bates
British Spy

Another woman that was involved in Spy activities was Ann Bates. There is not a lot of information about her background or how she got involved in espionage. Unfortunately for Ann, she was spying against America and was giving the information to the British. What we do know is that Ann Bates worked as a school teacher in Philadelphia and was married to a British Soldier. Ann felt that it was her job to report illegal activities that took place with the colonists. Ann would inform her husband’s superiors. There is not a lot written about her background and upbringing. There can be no assumptions made on why her loyalties aligned the way they did.
One of the things that Bates picked up on was being able to identify different types of weapons and artillery. By learning this information it would help as she would spy against America. A letter that is undated and unsigned that is thought to be written by Major Drummond, the leader of Clinton's spy network, regarding the loyalist spy, Ann Bates.  The letter states: (including some of the unreadable portions) “That a woman whom Craig / has trusted often came to town / last night She is well acquainted / with many of the R. A. 2 particular / known to Chambers one who / C.B. transacted a great deal of  / business with it is proposed to / send her out under the Idea / of selling little Matters in the / R.C. she will converse with / Chambers: I will return whenever / she may have learned anything / that shall be desired to be known”[3] This shows that she played an important role within the Clinton’s spy network.
Bates, whose cover name was “Mrs. Barnes” would pose as a peddler. She would sell her goods while she followed the soldier’s camp. While she was “peddling” she would count the number of soldiers, the type of weapons they had, and other useful information throughout the Clinton Spy Ring. They say that one of her greatest accomplishments was the fact that she was able to gain entry/access to General George Washington’s camp.
 “There is not much information about the women who spied for both the loyalist and patriot causes, although they played an important role in the Revolution.  Women were often able to overhear secret information because, at the time, they were considered unable to understand the complexity of military strategy.”[4] She had informed to Clinton that the Patriot troops had not gone to Rhode Island and were planning on landing in Long Island. This information that Ms. Bates passed on influenced Clinton sent more troops up to Rhode Island. After this she left the spy game and went to work with her husband repairing guns with the British Army.

[1] "Women Spies - Miss Jenny." Women Spies - Miss Jenny. Accessed July 06, 2016.

[2] Ibid.
[3] "Letter--Undated/Unsigned." Letter--Undated/Unsigned. Accessed June 18, 2016.

[4] "Women Spies - Ann Bates." Women Spies - Ann Bates. Accessed June 18, 2016.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks! The other parts of my capstone are posted if you want to learn about them :)

  2. Totally enjoyed reading about these two women and their spy activities.

  3. I love mysteries and spy related things, I suppose I was a spy in a previous life heheheh

    1. I feel like a spy when I put together pieces of my teens story lol

  4. We don't often think of women as spies, but for sure, a long history of females in the role. Loved this one.

    1. Thanks. The civil war spies that are coming up on a few posts were my favs to learn about

  5. I have always wanted to play a spy in a movie. Lol like it just seems so mysterious and brave.