(This is a little late because Real Life has been happening…)
WHEW. Did any one catch the series finale of TURN? ALL THE FEELS.
My life, of late, has been a perfect storm of all things Revolutionary, especially all things Culper: The tv series, relocating to Philadelphia, the first 71 episodes of the American Military History Podcast, the Museum of the American Revolution. Add the two recent books on this subject, George Washington’s Secret Six and Washington’s Spies, and I’ve been wallowing in the Culper Ring like a pig in mud. It’s been fantastic.
You see humanity, savagery, unexpected feels, unexpected plot twists (unless you know how the actual history plays out – funny how history has spoilers like that..). You even get to see Virginia star as Virginia as the excitement moves south! You follow everything obsessively on social media, put people in touch with people so you can say, “I know one of the extras!”, and can talk about the show with other fans at colonial balls so you both know what you mean when all you say is, “all the feels!”
But even more important to me: let me take even more time to gush about the production quality and the cinematography. Because it is beautiful and dramatic and adds elegance and authority and drama and so gorgeously underscores everything the characters do. I can’t coherently articulate my thoughts on the cinematography so I will sum it up with, “all the feels.”
I finally cleared out my reading queue and refilled with Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring. What most likely prompted this was the opportunity to meet the author, Alexander Rose, except I hadn’t read his book at the time of the opportunity, so I avoided him in shame.
To belatedly remedy this egregious faux pas, I went to the library specifically for this book. Perhaps the next time I encounter Mr. Rose, I will be able to engage in witty and engaging discussion on his work, but for now I get to share my review of the book with you, Dear Reader(s).
One of my recent areas of fascination, in addition to everything else, and inspired almost wholly by AMC’s (fantasmagorical) TURN: Washington’s Spies, has been the story of the Culper Spy Ring (link 2) (link 3). I wrote a thing a while ago about the cinematography of the show, which for me is a huge part of the attraction, but the storylines are pretty compelling as well.
Thus, imagine my excitement when, at the library, I came across this book titled George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring that Saved the American Revolution. It is not the book on which the show is based, but had a short line between this book and the basis for the show, with a lot of artistic license thrown in for cinematic reasons.
To the best of my ability, I will refrain from doing a comparison with the show, because the show and this book aren’t really related outside of the fact that they occupy the same realms. It would be like me trying to evaluate you based on a run-in with one of your cousins, and that wouldn’t be fair to anybody.
Without further ado, the book:
If you’re at all into history, you’ve probably heard that a new museum opened last week in Philadelphia – the Museum of the American Revolution. If you’re not into history, you’ve probably heard about this new museum. It’s kind of a big deal. Me? I’ve only been counting down the days to its opening since probably last…May.
Apparently this museum has been in the works for a long time. From all the television coverage, it sounded like some people have been trying to get a museum dedicated solely to the American Revolution for at least twenty years, maybe since the 80’s, or even earlier. I find it quite impressive that with all of the politics involved in the museum world, they were able to create this at all.
What a museum it is!
To probably nobody’s surprise, I have a lot of stuff packed away, ostensibly for archival purposes. Apparently my brain is wired like an historian’s. All those high school talent nights? Keep the programs for when everyone is grown up and famous, like our drama teacher’s son who is an actor and has his own IMDB page and was in the recent Snowden movie. Anyway, recently I was going through an old box of programs and pamphlets I had collected throughout my life and forcing myself to throw some away. How many “Actors from the London Stage” programs does one need? How many National Park Service pamphlets dedicated to Gettysburg, Manassas, or Eisenhower does one need?
At one point I became aware of having multiple copies of brochures from Mount Vernon. Only later did I notice the archival opportunity these copies presented, as I had three distinct copies from three separate visits in my life. I doubt few people will care that I have this chance to trace the evolution of the brand, but I’m really excited.
A side effect of this current colonial kick was the desire to watch The Patriot, a story where two Australians get jealous of America’s origin story and act out on said jealousy. Sadly, Netflix doesn’t have it but suggested similar shows, one of which was TURN: Washington’s Spies. The series is an AMC/Netflix collaboration and is about the Culper Spy Ring, a network of patriot spies operating around New York that provided George Washington with vital information. While it’s set in colonial New England, it’s a full on spy thriller, with aliases, disguises, and back alley murders. But in hose and powdered wigs.
I’m a sucker for political intrigue, and I’m a sucker for period drama so it took me all of the first 15 minutes of the first episode to become totally and completely hooked.
This makes the graphic designer in me very happy. Three colors used boldly and sums up the entire series. If Washington has spies, they’re obviously working against the British but they have to be inocuous. Leaving the coats red is also powerful because the majority of Americans know, I hope, that the Redcoats were the enemy. He’s the main character going against the redcoats. It’s a really modern design for a ye-olde show. Loves.
It was either the Fort Lyons Preservation Society guy that my Civil War discussion group met on a tour of the DC forts, or it was all the history things I follow on facebook posting things. Or quite possibly, Big Brother has caught on to my search history and offered notice of this event as a paid ad on Google. Whatever it was, I was given ample notice of a reenactment at Mount Vernon.
Colonial history was my first love, long before I ever met Col. Chamberlain of the 20th Maine. When I was young, this series of books called American Girl were popular (years before the company sold out to Mattel, btw). My favorite was Felicity and she lived in Colonial Williamsburg. She had a horse and the dress and red hair – everything I had wanted when I was that age. I read the Felicity books over and over again, but it never really went anywhere serious. (I did get to see Monticello, which was far cooler than I expected-can I say I love Jefferson?)
The pantheon of American gods