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Undated/Unsigned Manuscript regarding Ann Bates. Henry Clinton Papers.

Undated/Unsigned Manuscript regarding Ann Bates. Henry Clinton Papers.

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.

This letter is thought to be written by Major Drummond, the leader of Clinton’s spy network, regarding the loyalist spy, Ann Bates.  Bates was a schoolteacher in Philadelphia and joined Clinton’s espionage network sometime in 1778.  Because Bates’ husband was a soldier and gun repairman in Sir Henry Clinton’s army, she could identify the weaponry and report on important military information such as the numbers of cannons, men and supplies.  Ann Bates disguised herself as a peddler and freely traveled amongst the American soldiers and camp followers, observing the numbers of weapons and men in each camp she visited.  Later, when all her supplies had been sold, Bates would return to the British camp and report her findings to Clinton’s men.

Ann Bates had just returned from spying on the American troops in New York where she had been arrested, searched and imprisoned for a day and night and then released.  Bates reported to Major Drummond and was sent out again on July 29, 1778 to spy on the American troops.  Ann was told to look for a disloyal American soldier, a man named Chambers, to share information.  However, Chambers had been killed in battle about three weeks earlier.  For three or four days, Bates wandered about the American camp, counting 199 pieces of cannon and 23,000 American men.  Bates also tried to gather information on the American troops movement to Rhode Island and erroneously reported back to Clinton on August 6, 1778 (this report can be found at the Library of Congress in the British Intelligence Book) that the American troops had not yet gone to Rhode Island.  As soon as Bates returned from this mission, she was sent out again to spy on the American troops.  Bates went back to Washington’s headquarters in White Plains, New York and overheard one of Washington’s aides say that boats were being prepared for landing on Long Island and that part of Washington’s troops had already left for Rhode Island.  Bates was back in New York to warn Clinton of the American troops movements on August 19, 1778 and her information influenced Clinton’s decision to send more men to defend Rhode Island, forcing the American and French armies to withdraw from Newport on August 31.

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See the Letter: Undated/Unsigned Manuscript regarding Ann Bates

See the Timeline:  1778