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Home » Public Programs » Online Exhibits » Spy Letters of the American Revolution » About the Project

About the Project

Importance of Secret History to Understanding War

The Revolutionary War was not fought by proclamations and battles alone.  A major component of the war was the challenge of organizing military strategies over thousands of miles of battlefield.  From the very beginning of the war, a complex network of spies, double agents, and traitors began to emerge in an effort to learn the plans of the enemy before they were enacted.  The preservation and availability of the Sir Henry Clinton collection at the Clements Library provides an amazingly complete look at the everyday intelligence operations of both the British and American armies.  Many of the letters highlighted in this digital exhibit were pivotal to the success and failures of sieges, battles, and surprise attacks.

Navigational Structure

The exhibit aims to showcase the spy letters of the Sir Henry Clinton Collection and to situate them in an educational framework.  The letters form the core of the exhibit.  Because the exhibit provides large, readable images of the letters as well as transcriptions, the letters may be used substantively in the classroom.  Furthermore, the letters may be accessed and understood in multiple ways. The letters may be reached through their stories, their methods, a timeline, biographies, or a map.  The stories provide background contextual information about each letter; while the methods describe their techniques and formats.  The map provides a visual representation of the letters’ travels.  Biographies and a timeline provide supplementary information for further reference.  Prints, portraits, and maps also supply additional background to the contents of the letters.

Credits and Acknowledgements

Conception and Development:  Kate Foster, Cynthia Ghering, Michelle Light, and Melissa McCollum

Many other people helped us throughout the project.  We extend our sincere thanks.

Map of the Spy Letters: Patrick Florance
Transcription and translation of “Miss Jenny’s Deposition:” Mona Logarbo

Advisor for the project at the School of Information, University of Michigan: Professor Maurita Holland

Reference assistance with the William L. Clements Library’s Manuscript Collection: John C. Harriman
Reference assistance with the William L. Clements Library’s Maps and Scanning: Brian Leigh Dunnigan
Reference assistance and identification of the William L. Clements Library’s Images: Arlene Shy
Assistance with the slides from the William L. Clements Library: Laura Daniel
Permission and approval of the project: John C. Dann, Director of the William L. Clements Library, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Advice and assistance with conceptualization: John Weise and John Price-Wilkin of the Digital Library Production Service, University of Michigan
Assistance with scanning: Cynthia Fandl of Digital Library Production Service, University of Michigan.

Information about spies in the collections of the William L. Clements Library: John Nagy.

NB:  In August 2019, this website was re-created in a WordPress template, preserving the interconnected parts of the site.  The materials were re-scanned from the original items in order to provide higher resolution images. – Cheney J. Schopieray