American Spy: Enoch Crosby Part 5

About the American Spy Enoch Crosby and his places in United States history after James Fenimore Cooper published the book The Spy.

ENOCH CROSBY (1750-1835). American spy.

In White Plains resided the 4 patriots who made up George Washington's secret service--the Committee of Safety--under John Jay. Crosby told his story. To test it, Jay dispatched a company of mounted Rangers to hunt down the Tory gentleman and his friends. The hunt was successful and Crosby was congratulated. He was also asked to serve the Revolution in a new capacity. "It is your intention again to serve your country as a private in the ranks," said Jay. "But you must now be convinced that much greater services may be rendered pursuing a different, though certainly not less hazardous course. The greatest danger which now threatens this country, is from her internal foes." Crosby understood at once. "It is indeed a hazardous part you would have me play. I must become a spy." Jay hastened to re-assure him. "In appearance only. Our bleeding country requires such service at this momentous crisis." Crosby's decision was immediate. "I will be that man. I have counted the cost, and am aware of the danger. I know that I must be content to endure reproach, obloquy, and detestation; to cover my poor doting parents with shame and misery, and incur the hatred of those I dearest love. Perhaps to suffer an ignominious death, and leave a name of infamy behind. I know it all, and yet I will not shrink from the task."

When Enoch Crosby left White Plains, he left as The Spy. His musket was discarded. Instead, he carried a peddler's pack containing the tools of a shoemaker. In the lining of his vest was a signed pass, revealing his true identity and loyalty. "It must never be exhibited," he had been warned, "save in the last extremity." He went on the road as a pro-British cobbler. His secret assignment was to expose 5th columnists and to send back reports on the activities of British forces.

His success was remarkable. One night, seeking lodging in a farmhouse, he was admitted by a woman who wanted her son to have new shoes before he joined the British army. Crosby indicated that he was sympathetic to the Crown. He was shown the hideout, in a cave concealed by hay, of 50 Loyalists. While his hostess slept, Crosby stole off to White Plains, reported to John Jay, and returned to his lodgings before dawn. The next evening, while Crosby and the Loyalists held a meeting, the American Rangers struck. All hands were captured, Crosby among them. While being marched to a prison, Crosby was recognized by a childhood tutor who "started with terror and astonishment, on beholding his favorite pupil, the son of his dearest friend, manacled like a felon, and dragged to prison, with a gang of unprincipled wretches, under the ignominious charge of treason to their country." A few days later Crosby had his next assignment and an opportunity to escape. He went out a prison window, and into a swamp, while 4 musket shots were conveniently fired over his head. Harvey Birch, under the same circumstances, evaded "50 pistols."

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