Anna: “You don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to.”
Abigail: “We’re just making conversation, right?”
What exactly is loyalty in a time of love and war? Ask that question to 10 different characters in Turn: Washington’s Spies, and you might get 10 different answers — especially from Robert Townsend, Mary Woodhull, and Abigail. Their allegiances have been tenuous, complicated, and extremely personal, but the fate of the revolution and its heroes in Setauket now seems to rely on their honor.
The Culper Ring was shattered when Robert discovered Abe had staged the raid of his father’s farm to push a stubborn Robert into the patriot camp. Without Robert’s eyes and ears in British-occupied New York, the rest of the Culper chain is useless, bad news that Benjamin Tallmadge finally mustered the courage to tell his boss, George Washington. “I feel like my eyes have been gouged out,” the general says through clenched teeth. “We are blind to the enemy in New York once again.”
Though Washington chastises Ben for the self-inflicted setback, he refuses to accept Ben’s subsequent resignation. “Why are you deserting me now?” asks Washington, a slight reversal in his attitude towards Ben when his intelligence operation previously fell short. Even with Culper Senior and Junior out of commission, Washington holds out hope that Abigail might still be an asset. Of course, Washington is already on the record doubting Abigail, and for good reason. She’s a freed slave living under the liberty of John André and the British Empire. Why would she trust the plantation-owning commander-in-chief, or any of the rebels oblivious to the hypocrisy of their freedom-loving cause? More on her circumstances later.
Ben approaches Anna to arrange a meeting with Major Hewlett in New York in order to contact Abigail. That’s a tall order for Anna and her conscience, since she has as much blood on her hands from crushing the poor sap’s heart at the altar as Ben does looking at the stained American flag that served as a tourniquet for a dead soldier in Franklin Township. “Think of it as doing your duty,” he tells her. “We make sacrifices so that others don’t have to.”
In New York, a new correspondence from Benedict Arnold offering his services to the Crown — for a price, mind you — has renewed André’s spirits. But his boss, General Clinton, doesn’t trust the American general, and is clever enough to decipher a clue from the letter: Arnold’s court-martial took place in Middlebrook, meaning Washington and his inner circle are there. Clinton has no need for a turncoat general when he can decapitate the American military leadership in one fell swoop. “You’re seeking to win back a woman,” Clinton tells André dismissively, “while I’m trying to end this war.”
Battle plans are drawn and news of the imminent attack is leaked to the Rivington Gazette. Even though Robert intends to sell his interest in the tavern and live out the rest of the war in the country, he can’t stand by and do nothing — especially once the tavern starts singing cruel anti-American verses to “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” Abe and Caleb wronged him, there’s no doubt about it. But even if it was for the wrong reasons, Robert chose sides, and his Quaker resolve is not so easily broken. As soon as he sees the in-advance headline — “Washington Trounced in Tryon Triumph: Rebels Massacred at Middlebrook” — he sets off on horseback, Revere-like, for Setauket.
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All of Setauket is in danger, because there’s no crazier Capt. Simcoe than a wounded Capt. Simcoe. He barely escaped Mary’s assassination attempt, and her misinformation has Simcoe and his Queen’s Rangers fearing that vengeful Robert Rogers is lurking behind every tree. Mary’s loyal to Abe and Thomas, period, and her daring audibles illustrate that her convictions only partially overlap with the patriots’. She never flinched from setting the Rangers upon Caleb, a realization that is slowly sinking in to both Caleb and Abe. “She used me as a bloody decoy, Abe. Who the hell did you marry?” barks Caleb, who’s hiding out in Abe’s pee pile. “I’m still finding out,” says Abe.
One-eared Simcoe rides out to Abe’s farm and demands they visit Robeson, the rogue “molly” Abe outed as Rogers’ spy in order to save his own scalp. Simcoe is many things, but he’s not a very good interrogator. (Who recalls the time he stabbed a spy in the throat at André’s dining room table?) When Simcoe confronts Robeson at De Young’s tavern, he can’t even keep him alive for two minutes before impaling him on the fireplace wood rack. “It was an accident,” Simcoe says innocently, in his most Simcoe-esque tone. “He should’ve been more careful.”
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