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The Yankee Doodle Spies series follows the adventures of Jeremiah Creed, an immigrant newly arrived in America who is caught up in the American struggle for independence, joins the Continental Army and reluctantly enters the world of intelligence.


Chapter Excerpt




The Patriot Spy

military historical novel


S. W. O'Connell





In the summer of 1776, Great Britain had almost two thirds of its army and half of the Royal Navy in North America. Their mission seemed straightforward: crush the nascent American rebellion and assert Royal authority in the wayward colonies. After a prickly rebel army forced them from Boston in 1775, a reinforced British armada carrying almost thirty thousand men made its way down from Canada into New York Harbor and seized Staten Island in order to use it as the springboard for a campaign to wrest New York from the rebels. Doing this would establish a central strategic position aimed at dividing the rebelling colonies. To counter the British move, Lieutenant General George Washington moved his army of twenty thousand men from Boston to New York City by overland marches. Washington immediately put his ill-equipped and underfed army to work digging entrenchments and building fortifications. These covered the approaches to lower New York Island – as Manhattan was then known – and, later parts of Long Island. There, he concentrated about one-third of his army in a defensive cordon near a Dutch farming village called Brooklyn.

On August 22, 1776, the British Army came ashore at Gravesend, a sandy area just to the east of the Brooklyn narrows. The campaign for control of New York and the central position in the colonies had begun.



Chapter 1

New York, July 20th, 1776

Colonel Robert Fitzgerald finished his letter to the commander-in-chief. As George Washington's intelligence advisor, Fitzgerald had engaged in an unending stream of talks over the past several weeks with the general. The subject was their enemy, the largest force ever to descend on the continent. Both Fitzgerald and his commander-in-chief agreed on one thing: they needed a superior intelligence arm to win. Fitzgerald decided to put his thoughts on paper, both for his own purposes, but also to influence Washington. They agreed on broad principles but could not agree on how best to achieve their aims. The British had a long history of using their "secret service" to great effect and had agents and Loyalists up and down the east coast. They had a powerful navy, which could dominate and control the coastline, ports, and coves. They had tremendous influence over the Indian tribes throughout the north and west. Moreover, they had gold to buy plenty of spies and informants. To counter all this and thwart the British would take extraordinary efforts – and extraordinary people.


New York
20th July 1776
Continental Army

Your Excellency,

After great Rumination on the subject so often discussed between us, I have come to some Thoughts that I felt best put in writing, so that our mutual Understanding with regard to this Enterprise brooks no confusion or hesitation. Our greatest Resource is our People, both our Soldiers and the Patriots who support the cause. Of these, we must find a special Group who are loyal and dependable and will endure much for little or no recognition. They must be intelligent, remain undaunted in the face of adversity, and exhibit calm resourcefulness under pressure.

And they must be brave….

As for the Organization, it is of secondary importance but of course, relevant. A small organization is better, operating clandestinely wherever possible. They may be organized as part of a "regular" unit, but their true role must be known to only a very few. Such a unit, made up of Men who can both spy and counter enemy spies, is indispensable if we are to obtain necessary Intelligence in a timely manner.

Very Respectfully,

R. Fitzgerald


An orderly knocked on the door. "Sir, I have a note here for you."

Somewhat peeved by the interruption, Fitzgerald looked up. "Who is it from?"

"I don't know sir. A lady delivered it. Said she worked for a Mister Smythe."

Fitzgerald cocked his head quizzically. "I cannot recall knowing a…'Mister Smythe.' Very well."

When the orderly left, Fitzgerald sliced open the envelope with his jackknife and read the contents. The message startled him. Written in block letters so as to disguise the handwriting, it contained a simple message.

My Dear Colonel Fitzgerald,

Things may go badly for the Cause if the British come to New York. In that event, you will need Information. I may be of some help.

Meet me at the corner of Ryndert and Bayard at noon. I shall be taking a midday stroll near the Deep Pond. I will wear a dark blue hat and a dove gray suit. Do not be surprised at my appearance…for Appearances often deceive.

A Patriot!

Fitzgerald read the note several times as his mind raced with speculation on the possibilities this offer presented. How did this person know of him? Could this be a Loyalist trap? Should he inform Washington? Although Washington and his staff remained buoyed with confidence at repulsing the anticipated British invasion, Fitzgerald himself felt that if the British acted boldly enough they would drive the rebel army from New York with ease.

Fitzgerald decided to keep the matter to himself. If there was a Loyalist plot behind this it would be better to keep the commander in chief distant from it until after. He would attend the meeting and decide what it meant, and what to do based on his assessment of the "Patriot."


The midday sun turned an already sultry day into a steamy cauldron that suffocated and stifled any unfortunate enough to be out in it. Dust from the occasional passing cart or rider swirled in plumes and then gently hung in the air that choked the pedestrian foolish enough to neglect a kerchief. Fitzgerald rode slowly north on Nassau Street, his lanky frame on the small horse giving him a comic appearance. He passed neat houses of brick and mortar interspersed with the occasional wood frame house with shutters. The city seemed cleaner, more livable to him once he got north of Wall Street. The crisp mountains and meadows of his Pennsylvania home seemed so far away now.

Fitzgerald looked about fifty although he was ten years younger. He was tall, just over six feet, very thin and wore steel-rimmed spectacles that usually lay perched at an angle on his long thin nose. His white hair was tied in the back with a queue. His dark blue uniform did not quite fit, hanging loosely on his thin frame.

When he reached the northern edge of the city, he tied his horse near the intersection of Ryndert and Bayard and walked west towards the pond. The unbearable weather had kept the usual strollers indoors; this 'Patriot' had chosen the time and place wisely. Fitzgerald walked south and then west around the pond. A few stray sea gulls had winged in from the harbor and now flew low across the still water in search of a quick meal, their shrill calls the only sound to break the noon silence. Nobody was in sight. He walked for another fifteen minutes, his officer's sword clanking clumsily against his boots. The sweat oozing from pores had already made his dark blue woolen tunic a soppy mess. Fitzgerald did not wear a uniform very well.

The trail around the pond wended through a stand of shrubs. When he cleared them, he saw a slender figure in a gray suit, wearing a blue hat. He stopped and grew at once nervous and suspicious. Could this indeed be the "Patriot"?

"A fine day for a stroll, although it could be a bit warmer I suppose…Mister?" Fitzgerald fumbled for the words.

"Smythe…rhymes with blithe. 'Mister Smythe' it is. You received my note?" 'Mister Smythe' replied.

Fitzgerald nodded. "This is all very…unanticipated…and new to me."

"To me as well. I do not often correspond within an intelligence officer and offer my services as a spy. You read the note. I think I may be of assistance if things go badly – as I fear they will."

Fitzgerald looked left and right to see if anyone was watching. He saw nobody. "You offer information on the British if we are forced out of the city. That presupposes many things…."

"Is that not your job, colonel? To presuppose many things?"

Fitzgerald glanced behind him. There was no one there. "How do you know of me? And…my duties? I am a simple staff officer, unfit for a line command. A glorified clerk at best."

"Quite simple, colonel. The press, Rivington's specifically, announced the arrival of General Washington's staff and conveniently published a list of his key officers. You were identified but not as a Commander, Aide de Camp, Adjutant or Quartermaster. I surmised your role to be something special. Something more discreet. The British and Tories have many spies, colonel. You must beware what you allow the press to release. Make them earn their keep."

Fitzgerald put his hand to his head and laughed. "Your prescience and sagacity impress. Now what exactly do you propose to do, Mister Smythe? Assuming we do wind up evacuating this lovely island."

"I sense from your tone you are less than impressed with our fair city? Well, I cannot promise very much help – only that I will assist when and where I can. Should the British arrive, I will likely have access to information and perhaps to some of their officers. Through connections that I will explain, so that you will know the source and value of any information that I glean."

Fitzgerald tingled all over. He knew immediately that this was not a Loyalist provocation. A Loyalist would promise anything to get Fitzgerald's interest. Mister Smythe… this "Patriot," was refreshingly circumspect. He regained his composure and began a long stroll along the pond with Mister Smythe. They had much to discuss.


Paulhus Hook, New Jersey, August 20th, 1776

The First Maryland Continental Line regiment began crossing the North River in barges from a point in New Jersey known as Paulhus Hook. More than two hundred miles of marching had brought them to what seemed to the simple men from Maryland to be the edge of the earth.

Private Jonathan Beall beamed with excitement as he gazed south onto the great bay of New York. The expanse of water was blocked by the green hills of Staten Island but past it they could see the silver beaches of Long Island and the Jersey Highlands beyond. "It is fantastic, is it not? Have you ever seen such a sight Simon?" He asked his cousin, who was the company sergeant.

His cousin, now his Acting Company Sergeant, Corporal Simon Beall frowned. "Not recently, Jonathan. Not since Baltimore anyways. Besides, we came to see the backs of the British, not the sights of New York."

An older private of thirty named Jorns removed the pipe from his mouth and spat out into the salty water.

"Just because we came to kill some British doesn't mean we cannot enjoy the fruits of this place."

The rest of the company laughed. Jorns had the reputation of the town rake back home. "I hear there are some really nice sights at a place these New Yorkers call 'the Holy Ground'.

More laughter and a few whistles followed. The "Holy Ground" was the euphemistic term for New York's largest red lamp district.

Although excited by the new sights and sounds, each man secretly nurtured fears. Fear of the enemy. Fear of death. Fear of a wound so horrific it made death a pleasure. Fear of disfiguration. Fear of capture by the hated lobster-backs or the more hated Tory Loyalists. Trained and drilled by their commander, Lieutenant Jeremiah Creed, they had confidence in what they could do. But even Creed had warned them that no amount of drill could remove the nausea felt at impending battle, or the sick feeling as the enemy closed on you and your friends began falling to the earth screaming in agony and desperation. However, their greatest fear was that they would fail: fail in their duty…fail their commander…fail their comrades and friends.

Creed sensed the tension behind the men's banter. "Come now lads, every large city has its 'Holy Ground,' although none a finer one than Paris. Or so they say…"

The men laughed again, even the taciturn Simon Beall.

Simon then turned serious. "Where do you think the British will land when they come, sir?"

"Why, they could land nearly anywhere, Corporal Beall. You see, the British are experts in warfare on land and at sea. We will have to match them on both to win our liberty. However, if I were Billy Howe I would start right there."

Creed pointed at Staten Island. "See that island? It provides a perfect base for action against New York, Long Island or points north. The British know that General Washington can likely defend any one place but he will have a devil of a time defending everything."

Creed eyed the harbor while fingering his rosary beads, out of a curious mix of nerves and piety. Sometimes he did not know where one ended and the other began. The island of New York seemed quite defensible – if the army gathered up enough troops and cannon to cover the numerous landing points. Creed watched his men banter as the salt sprayed around them. He was proud to command such a unit, this elite infantry company. To lead these men in battle appealed to him more than anything but he shuddered at the thought of what they would soon face. He knew his men were up to the task. He had trained them. The question was - could he face the challenge himself?

The bosun suddenly stood at the stern. "Prepare to debark!"

Twenty stout oarsmen heaved in the locks and the barge slid effortlessly into the slip. Minutes later, Creed was leading his company north along the Broadway. They were to be quartered north of the city near an area called the Bouwery. The Dutch settled New York more than a hundred and fifty years earlier, and their influence still dominated the area, most noticeably by the many quaint names derived from their language.

As they tramped north they all gazed in wonder at the sturdy brick and timber buildings. Jonathan Beall could not control himself and marveled aloud. "What fine houses these Dutch New Yorkers build…I wonder if we will get to sleep in one?"

Jorns eyed a buxom Dutch Vrau busy watering her front garden. "It's not one of their houses I want to sleep in…"

"Enough of that rubbish from you, Jorns. And you too, Private Beall! No talking in the ranks!" Corporal Simon Beall cried.

Simon Beall exercised his rank with a firm authority. His men were some of the toughest in the regiment, perhaps the Army. And he made sure that none could accuse him of favoring his younger cousin. Their closeness was well known as most of the company came from the same small town. Now they were brothers in arms serving a great cause–the cause of liberty.

They arrived at their appointed bivouac, a large meadow north of the Bouwery. Across the lane sat a picture-perfect house. Not the sturdy brick and timber house of the Dutch but a pleasant English-looking house of solid wood frame painted neatly and adorned with flower boxes at every window. The sign above the veranda announced it as the "Stanley House."

In short time the men had set up tents, foraged for firewood and found the well near the house to draw cool water to quench their thirst. The army was under strict orders to quarter themselves outside the homes in New York. The rebellion was driven in part by the British custom of forcing soldiers on the civilian populace and Washington aimed to avoid that. Officers were another matter. Despite that, Creed decided he would sleep with his men and near his fine horse, Finn. Yet, he had tired of the army's coffee ration and allowed himself the prerogative of inquiring if the fine house possessed itself of any tea.

Creed knocked at the door and removed his neat black tricornered hat, which he tucked formally under his arm. The door opened and Creed came face to face with the most beautiful young woman he had ever encountered.

"May I be of any assistance...captain?"

A mature and well-read woman of nineteen, Emily Stanley was on the tall side with long limbs, a narrow waist and the widest eyes of a shade of bright blue green. The fairest and finest skin Creed had ever seen complimented her finely-shaped nose and high cheekbones. She wore a simple blue dress with a white apron and her dark honey colored hair was tied up in a fashion that highlighted her stunning features. It took Creed a few seconds to compose himself.

"Uh, um, that would be lieutenant, not captain, missus. Lieutenant Jeremiah Creed. I command the unit camped across the lane. Part of the Maryland Line."

"Maryland? You are quite a long way from home, lieutenant."

"Indeed. Several weeks of hard marching for the lads. Not including the long march from Frederick. We are from western Maryland."

"I watched the boats bringing the army across. The men look determined. The city is all abuzz with excitement."

Creed's lips tightened a bit. "War is a terrible thing. It begins with excitement but too often ends in a whimper, with little but grief in between. Still, the lads appreciate the show of support from the people. We thought New York was Tory."

"It largely is," Emily said. "However, the Patriots here are very dedicated and make up in ardor what they lack in numbers."

They stopped speaking and for a brief moment just stood there, taking each other in.

Creed broke the silence. "I should not be troubling you, but I have a terrible craving for tea and was wondering if I could buy some. The army coffee…well…I have had my fill of it, missus."

Emily giggled with delight at the handsome young officer who appeared before her door so magically.

"That is miss, not missus. You talk awfully funny, Lieutenant Jeremiah Creed. You are not from around here, are you?" They both laughed – his accent guaranteed he was not local.

"No missus… I mean miss. I told you, we are from western Maryland."

"I heard you the first time, lieutenant. That is not what I meant."

"I know, miss. Tis all I'll allow, however. Does my manner of speech reveal me?"

She laughed. "Just a little. Although I sense a trace of something else there as well, lieutenant. But I will allow you your privacy."

Creed bowed his head in assent. "But sure I am now at some disadvantage miss, as I don't have your name."

Emily's smile melted him. "I do beg your pardon. My name is Emily Stanley. I operate this boarding house for my father."

Creed looked around, exaggerating each turn of his head. "And where is the good Mister Stanley?"

Emily arched her eyes, but then smiled gently. "Not Mister Stanley – Doctor Stanley. Father is away, with the Army. They need surgeons. But enough of this. I run the house now. Please come in and I shall see if we can brew you up some tea."


Creed's company remained in bivouac for two days. During the mornings the men drilled. In the hot afternoons, they took what shade they could and cleaned and oiled their weapons and equipment. At night, they sat in camp, fighting the mosquitoes and gnats while listening to the crickets. Some stole time to write home or play cards but most just slept, never knowing when the next opportunity would present itself.

On the second evening in bivouac, Jonathan Beall took some time to continue work on the letter to his family back in Maryland. He worked against the waning daylight, carefully crafting it just as his mother had taught him back on their Maryland farm. Although they could not send him to formal school, his parents made sure that each of their children could read and write, as well as do basic numbers.

The March north had most of the boys staggering from heat and the burden of our Packs. Most of the Srgnts pushed the men along with Curses and Oaths. Frtuntely for us, Simon is our Srgnt. He moved us along with a firm but decorous hand. As for Lieutenant Creed (I wrote of him in letters past), he marched along with us, sometimes in front, sometimes alongside the column. And always with a smile or a joke. So unlike the other officers. Not that he does not love his horse. Finn is a fine animal. Simon says one of the best he has seen. Bred in Maryland, you see. Most times, Lieutenant Creed allowed some of the Sick and lame among us to ride Finn, in turns.

We have camp'd here north of New York. They have not allowed how long we shall remain here. The Homes are lovely but the Weather is hot. So sticky that I marvel the ink hasn't run off the Paper. We have tolerable food…on rare occasion. The water here is cool and sweet…until it spends ten minutes in our flasks. Lieutenant Creed drinks tea…boys have noticed him sneaking over to the nearby boarding House where they say…a lovely Mistress attends him with tea and cakes and such. But none of us begrudge him that…he is our officer and we are blessed by God to have him.

While Jonathan wrote his note, most of the men tried to sleep before the ants, spiders, flies and mosquitoes circled in on them. The Continental Army quartermaster did not include nets for poor infantrymen like them.

Creed finished rubbing down Finn and decided to pay a visit to the Stanley House and inquire about a spot of tea. He walked through the flower garden under a trellis of rosebuds. On a whim, he plucked a small one and nearly skipped to the back door, facing a large neat stable.

A servant answered his furtive knock. She had a creamy cocoa complexion. She had that look of indeterminate age: she could be thirty…or fifty. Her hair was thickly coiled, dark and glossy, and she had large eyes. She had a figure well-rounded, but not plump. He had heard Emily call her Nancy. Creed removed his hat and bowed. "Good evening Nancy. I was wonderin' if I could trouble you for a spot of tea. We drilled all day with little but water to wet the whistle. My tongue could use a change in refreshment."

Nancy's smile gave her round face a golden tinge. "Why come right in, sir. I think I could boil up something. Step into the parlor. Miss Emily is gone into the city on business but I do expect her back soon."

Creed followed her in and before long, was sipping weak but very tolerable black tea with a couple of biscuits to go along.

"Does Miss Emily go into town often?" Creed asked as Nancy moved about.

"Yes sir. Quite often. We have many fine boarders here and they need things. Miss Emily has many connections in the city."

He noted her West Indies accent, she was likely the result of a transient sailor's dalliance with one of the African slaves working the plantations or the bordellos.

Nancy beamed at her mistress' importance but she sensed Creed's discomfort. "Not what you might think, sir. Miss Emily has no beau. Not that many – very many – have not asked. Her daddy's being a British officer and all…"

Creed nearly spat his tea. "A what?"

"She didn't tell you? He is a surgeon with the British Army. Many folk, if not most, here ‘bouts are loyal to the king, sir. Just the way it is, sir. Myself – I'm not political."

Creed nodded. He understood too well the divisions caused by the rebellion. Suddenly the back door flew open and they could hear Emily enter the kitchen. Nancy hurried back to help her with her bundles and Creed followed like a puppy wagging its tail.

"Lieutenant Creed, what a pleasant surprise. I hope Nancy provided to your needs. Unfortunately, I had to go down into the city and purchase some goods."

Creed bowed and stammered. "I...I simply came by to purchase a cup of your lovely tea, Miss. I did not mean to be a bother."

Creed followed Emily back into the parlor. They sat together on a small calico divan near the window. They both stared out at the garden and watched the shadows lengthen against the chestnut and maple trees. Across the lane they could see movement, shadows of the soldiers who moved about the camp at dusk.

After some time Creed turned to Emily and fumbled until he produced the rose. "I plucked this for you. Truth be told, it came from your own garden but I thought it would look lovelier on you then a …stem."

She giggled. "Why thank you, lieutenant. I have not received one of my own flowers before…nor any at all for that matter."

He blushed, as did she. The veiled insult was not intended.

"What I meant…it is very thoughtful of you. Thank you." She placed the rose in a button loop on her dress, which had a wide V shaped front revealing her fine neck and upper bosom.

He looked at her wondered how anyone so beautiful and lovely could be Loyalist and a Tory.

"Nancy says your da' is with the other side. Does the same hold for you?"

She marveled at the question. Most of the men who visited her cared not one whit about her political thoughts…or any of her thoughts for that matter.

"Well, father was born in Derbyshire, England. He was a prominent physician there but came to the colonies to serve in the Royal Army in the war against the French and Indians. He served under General James Abercrombie as well as Geoffrey Amherst but then took sick himself and missed the grand battle on the Plains of Abraham. That is one reason he volunteered his services, once more, to the Crown."

Emily did not have to tell Creed that her father was quite well off thanks to his boarding house as well as his years in a successful medical practice. Creed could tell from the look of the home and its furnishings that Reginald Stanley was among the more prominent residents of the city.

Creed nodded. "Once more taking up the surgeon's knife on behalf of the King. I understand that political conviction might conflict with duty, especially when enshrouded by a sense of honor."

She shook her head. "No, father is indeed a Tory. He believes that many of the grievances of the colonies are justified, especially with regard to self-governance and self-taxation. Nevertheless, he is loyal to his King and still had a strong attachment to the Royal Army."

He sipped at the dregs of his tea. "And you agree?"

Emily placed her hand pensively to her temple. "I believe the one thing worthy of rebellion is a crown. But I keep my innermost thoughts a secret. Even father remains unaware. I felt it safer that way, for both of us."

Creed nodded. "I am honored at your taking me into your confidence, Miss. It shall not be misplaced, I assure you."

Emily beamed at him. "I knew that the moment I met you, Lieutenant Jeremiah Creed."


On their third day in bivouac, Creed was suddenly called to a meeting at regimental headquarters. The eight company commanders assembled at a small tavern on the Post Road. Major Mordecai Gist, the second in command of the regiment, stood before them at the end of an oak plan table in the tavern's back room. Two Continentals guarded the door.

Gist, a ruddy faced man, aged thirty-four, was from the Baltimore area and the son of the famed explorer and pioneer Christopher Gist, who had saved George Washington's life during the French and Indian War. Earlier in the rebellion Mordecai Gist had helped reorganize Maryland's militia and later was instrumental in forming the Maryland Continental Line. For that, the governor appointed him the second ranking officer in the regiment. Now, as they faced their battlefield initiation, he was in sole command.

Gist leaned over the table and addressed the officers in a somber voice. "Something urgent is afoot, gentlemen. The British are landing at Long Island, even as we speak. Although His Excellency fears a deception, he has decided to reinforce General Putnam. We are among the regiments selected for this task. We leave at once. Assemble your companies for a march south towards a place called Peck's Slip where we will board ships. Prepare your men for the worst."

Creed spoke. "They say Long Island is a beautiful place, sir. We should enjoy the viewing of it."

The other officers laughed at Creed's remark but Gist seemed unimpressed. "Colonel Smallwood is to remain in the city until his court martial duty is finished. I am in command of the regiment until his return."

One of the company commanders, a captain named Walter Runyon, spoke up. "Do we know our destination once over, Major? I understand we are building strong defense works around the heights near Brooklyn. We might need our heavy picks and shovels and such."

Gist shook his head. "The boys must travel light, Walter. We are going forward of the defense works. Therefore, we will not have time for our baggage to cross."

A murmur went through the group.

"What? Where are we going?" asked Runyon.

Gist replied. "Beyond the village of Brooklyn. We shall help defend the passes and block the British advance from their landing place. Somewhere near a village called Flatbush."




The Patriot Spy Copyright © 2012. S. W. O'Connell. All rights reserved by the author. Please do not copy without permission.




Author Bio

S. W. O'Connell holds degrees in History (Fordham University) and International Relations (University of southern California). He is a retired US Army intelligence officer who spent the majority of his service in the field of counterintelligence. Most of his time was spent overseas but he does admit to a tour in the Pentagon and a stint at the John F. Kennedy Center for Special Warfare at Fort Bragg.

A native New Yorker, S.W. O'Connell settled in northern Virginia when he returned from his last overseas tour. His long held love of history made it only natural that he would turn to the historical novel when he finally succumbed to a decades-long urge to craft fiction.

The Patriot Spy is his first novel in the "Yankee Doodle Spies" series.

Author web site.











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