You may have caught a screening of “The 355” after it was released in January of this year. The spy thriller, directed by Simon Kinberg, was packed by a women-led cast and followed a CIA agent named Mason “Mace” Brown as she linked up with a rival German intelligence agent.
If so, you probably recall how at the end of the film, “Mace” finally explained the significance of the number “355”– it was in honor of the codename used by a legendary female spy who helped George Washington navigate the American Revolution.
And this mystifying yet true tale actually began back in November 1778. The Revolutionary War had already been underway for over three years, and it was at that point when George Washington instructed Major Benjamin Tallmadge to put together a secret intelligence service.
This service would be specifically used to spy on British operations occurring within New York City.
Tallmadge was originally from a small Long Island village known as Setauket, so it was there that he officially founded the Culper Sky Ring.
Much of the recruits he added to the service were friends from his hometown, including a sailor named Caleb Brewster, his childhood best friend Abraham Woodhull, and an Oyster Bay merchant named Robert Townsend.
Some of these spies went on to make regular pilgrimages to New York City, collecting information via inconspicuous means.
The others would send letters to Tallmadge, where he was stationed in Fairfield, Connecticut. Then, this intel would be relayed to George Washington.
And, of course, spies cannot be true spies without codenames– so each of the recruits had their own.