Long Island was a center for spy activity during the Revolutionary War and was credited by General George Washington for the 'behind the scenes' help patriots here gave in winning the war. Although Long Island became a captured British stronghold early in the war at the Battle of Long Island, the 'spy ring' here was extremely active despite extreme danger, due to its close proximity to British military headquarters in New York.
You can call to hear the George Washington Culper Spy Ring audio tour at 631 498-4740.
General Washington made a well-documented journey to Long Island after the war to personally thank members of this spy ring. Many of the historic sites along what is called the 'George Washington Spy Trail,' primarily along Rte. 25A, hold rich stories of the Revolution. This area is also known as the 'Long Island Heritage Trail.'
Visit the Huntington Militia Arsenal where you can experience what life was like for the common soldier and his family during the Revolutionary War (open Sundays only). Also nearby in Huntington is the 1750 David Conklin Farmhouse, which survived the advance of the British who overtook the town during the American Revolution. Just north of Huntington in Lloyd Harbor is Target Rock National refuge, an 80-acre refuge composed of mature oak-hickory forest, a half-mile rocky beach, a brackish pond, and several vernal ponds. The park gets its name from a large rock there that the British used for target practice during the Revolutionary War. Traveling east on 25A from Huntington, take note of the historic marker in Ft. Salonga, honoring the battle of Ft. Slongo, which took place there, and where American forces defeated the British fort there.
Explore Suffolk County's many history and heritage museums
In Stony Brook, the Country House restaurant holds an interesting history as a stage coach drop-off dating back to the Revolutionary War, and is rumored to be haunted by a young girl hung there for treason. North of the house is an old cemetery where patriots from the Revolutionary War were buried.
In fact the entire Stony Brook and Setauket area was the center of spy activity for the Revolution. It is said that the intelligence transmitted by the spies led to the capture of Major Andre, hung as a spy on George Washington’s orders, and the uncovering of the plot by Benedict Arnold to give over West Point to the British. The spies also supplied Washington with the information he needed to prevent the British from capturing Newport, Rhode Island where the French fleet was stationed.
Benjamin Tallmadge, the leader of the Revolutionary War Setauket Spy Ring, was born in Setauket and the home where he was born still stands at the end of Runs Road. Tallmadge enlisted Abraham Woodhull a Setauket farmer, Robert Townsend a merchant, and a Setauket tavern keeper named Austin Roe who acted as a courier. Whaleboat man Caleb Brewster carried messages across Long Island Sound where Tallmadge waitied to carry them to Washington’s headquarters. The Brewster House in East Setauket still stands, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Anna Strong, also a local resident, helped pass messages from the spy ring by posting signals, such as a black petticoat or various colored handkerchiefs, on her wash line to indicate when one of the spies was ready to submit intelligence data and in which of the hiding places Brewster might be located. She is buried in the Smith-Strong family graveyard along Cemetery Road on Strong's Neck.
In November 1780 Caleb Brewster (who served in the spy ring) acted as an officer under Major Benjamin Tallmadge, who captured Fort St. George at Mastic. In 1784 leader Benjamin Tallmadge married Mary, eldest daughter of General William Floyd of Mastic - Long Island's signer of the Declaration of Independence.
On the South Shore of Long Island is the home of William Floyd, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. The mansion house and 35 acres of land remain and are maintained by the National Park Service in Mastic Beach.
Also on the South Shore is Sagtikos Manor in West Bayshore. After the Battle of Long Island, British soldiers and top ranking officers stayed at the manor. But when the war was won, President George Washington toured the area, and according to his personal journal, also spent the night at Sagtikos Manor.
Plan your visit to historic Suffolk County with a Free Long Island Travel Guide