Lucia St. Clair Robson, historic novelist -
Shadow Patriots, a novel of the Revolution
Lucia's eighth book,
tells of the Culper Ring, a group of George Washington's spies operating out of
New York City during the Revolution. The story includes familiar names --
Washington, Hamilton, Benedict Arnold -- and one unfamiliar number, the
mysterious 355. 355 was the Culpers' code for "lady," and after
225 years she remains a nameless heroine who, many historians believe, died for
The Culpers transported their intelligence from British-occupied Manhattan to Setauket, then across Long Island Sound to Washington's troops in Connecticut. The book covers more than secret codes, invisible ink, double agents, and aliases. An estimated 11,500 American soldiers died in British custody here. "The prison ship martyrs," as they're called, are part of this story, as well as intrigue in Philadelphia, the battles of Brooklyn, Monmouth, and Stoney Point, the betrayal of West Point, and the hardships of the winter encampments at Valley Forge and Morristown.
History is not always pretty. Experience what
those real patriots went through for our freedom.
Shadow Patriots in paperback
the hardcover from Amazon
Lucia to arrange for a signed copy of the first edition.
Talking points for
Patriots, a Novel of the Revolution
This excerpt from Common Sense by Thomas Paine reminds
Lucia why it was the runaway bestseller of December of 1776 and
was inspiration for the title, Shadow Patriots:
"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it
now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated."
"This is historical fiction as it ought to be written and seldom is."
--Palm Beach Post
"A superb book that may break your heart in places, but will give you a new understanding of the struggle that created our nation."
--Thomas Fleming, best-selling author
Dreams of Glory
"If you like American history, you'll love
Shadow Patriots; a gritty, yet tender story of everyday people caught up in extraordinary times."
--Bertrice Small, author of Lara.
added a personal note: "It really was a
marvelous story, and its ending came as a
complete surprise, but it was perfect.")
rousing story of a courageous young woman making her way through
pestilence and war as the American Revolution breaks all around her,
delivered with brilliant attention to detail that puts you precisely
into the Revolutionary milieu even as the love story seizes your
--David Nevin, bestselling author of
"There are so many
ways to love this book: for its rollicking view of the American
revolution, for the intrigue of spies in petticoats, for the lure of
the period, or for Lucia St. Clair Robson's spicy humor. Shadow
Patriots is historical fiction that lets you smell the corn cakes
in the oven as the muskets are loaded."
--Marlin Fitzwater, Press Secretary to Presidents Reagan and Bush
and author of Call the Briefing and Esther's Pillow, a
Author's note (Who was 355?) and more reviews for Shadow
~ ~ ~ ~
General Washington’s other aides were curious about what
Captain Alexander Hamilton was doing, but they did not glance at him,
hunched over a desk in a far corner. Their goose quill pens quivered as they filled out
requisitions, wrote reports, and transcribed directives.
They had hung their dark blue jackets over the backs of their
chairs and rolled up their shirtsleeves.
August of 1779 was not as hot here in the highlands of West Point
as elsewhere in New York, but the room was small, and the air stifling.
Hamilton would be decoding the Culpers’ latest letters in
Washington’s office upstairs, but the Commander-in-Chief had had
another attack of rheumatism. The
surgeon was up there now, bleeding and blistering him.
Hamilton poured sand on the fresh ink to dry it.
He shook the sand into a pot, rolled up the letters, and tied
them with a blue ribbon. He
surveyed the table top to make sure he had left nothing behind that
would get Samuel Culper, Jr., and Samuel Culper, Sr., hanged if seen by
the wrong eyes. He
didn’t like to think that a traitor might be in this room, but they
lurked everywhere else, so why not here?
headed for the door, dodging chairs and tables, and the sprawl of black
boots and portly cuspidors. He
avoided the sabers, plumed helmets, and a banjo dangling from the chair
backs. He reached the
hallway and took the narrow stairs two at a time.
Halfway up he stood aside to let the surgeon pass on his way
down, with his basin of blood in one hand and his lancet and blistering
iron in the other.
Hamilton found Washington sitting with his breeches rolled up,
his feet propped on a stool, and his knees bloody.
Martha Washington knelt beside him, wrapping strips of cloth
around a muslin poultice to hold it in place over the sores.
The Washingtons’ alliance mystified Alex.
The general was so tall and imposing in his perfectly-tailored
uniform that if people noticed he wasn't handsome, they soon forgot it.
He had an aloof air that attracted women of all sorts, yet he
loved his plump, plain, little wife with a solemn passion.
wiped her hands on her apron and spread out the leftover muslin.
She put the makings of her poultice---the packet of flour and the
soothing herbs, the mortar and pestle--- into the middle of it.
She tied the four corners together, and picked it up along with
her kettle of hot water.
spends too many nights sleeping in the cold and damp.”
She gave Alexander a beseeching look, as if her husband’s
favorite aide could help her George more than the surgeon could.
nothing to be done about it, my dear,” Washington said.
“Except to send the British packing once and for all time.”
then we can return home." She
laid a hand for a long instant on his shoulder before she left the room.
her full skirts cleared the door Washington turned to Hamilton.
"You should get you a wife, Alex."
is my most earnest desire, sir, as soon as we send the bloodybacks
packing." Hamilton was
more than handsome. He had
the brooding appeal of a puppy with an injured soul.
Women purred around him wherever his commander established his
was right, you know. 'By
all means marry.'"
knew the reference. "'If
you get a good wife, you will become happy; if you get a bad one, you
will become a philosopher.'"
have got me a good wife, which may be why I am not a philosopher."
Washington winked at him.
don't win wars, sir." Hamilton set the roll of letters on the general’s desk.
"Speaking of marriage, did you hear of the country woman who
signed for ownership of a cow?”
say as I have.”
seller asked, 'How is it you made a circle instead of an ‘x?’
The woman said, 'Oh, I got married again and changed my
chuckle cheered Alex. The
general had so few occasions for laughter.
slid the ribbon off the parchment. "The latest from the
sir. One of Major
Tallmadge’s dragoons just arrived in a lather with them.
The top one is dated the 15th of this month.
It arrived expeditiously, given the distance their correspondence
using Tallmadge's new numerical code, I see.”
Washington unlocked his desk drawer and took out a small notebook
with columns of entries written in Major Benjamin Tallmadge’s neat
read the letter silently, his finger moving along the lines of script.
The finger stopped at the sentence that read, “I intend to
visit 727 before long and think by the assistance of a 355 of my
acquaintance, shall be able to out wit them all."
Washington looked up. "727
stands for New York, but what is 355?"
"It means ‘lady,’ sir."
"Who is she?"
"We don't know."
"That's good." Washington
stared at the number 355 as though he could see in it some image of this
mysterious lady, what she looked like, if she was high-born or servant
class. "The less we
know about her the better."
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"The answer to the question, " Who was 355, " is " I don't know. " She's the main character in Shadow Patriots, my eighth historical novel, but I don't know who she was. After three years of researching her story, I would feel bad about that except no one else can identify her either.
"When George Washington asked one of his officers to recruit intelligensers to spy on the British army garrisoned in New York City, the patriots who took on the job became known as the Culper Ring. Using the aliases Samuel Culper, Sr. and Samuel Culper, Jr. , the group's two leaders used invisible ink and codes to smuggle information out of the city. One of their letters states, " With the help of a 355 we shall outwit them all. " 355 was the Culpers' code for " lady. " And therein lies the mystery.
"Historians have had 225 years to speculate, and speculate they have. In creating the persona of Kate Darby, I used what seemed the most likely of the speculations, that she was a young woman living in a Tory family well acquainted with the charming Major Andre who became Benedict Arnold's " handler. "
"If any readers think they know who 355 was, please clue me in."
for Shadow Patriots
"Lucia St. Clair Robson's Shadow Patriots (Forge) immerses us in the Revolutionary War, which used to be the subject of good fiction — my childhood was spent devouring the novels of Kenneth Roberts — but not lately. Robson's book, however, redresses that unfortunate imbalance as it tells the story of a Quaker woman who falls for the English Major John Andre and negotiates a tenuous tightrope between her sympathy for the American cause and her feelings for Andre, which are complicated by her family's Loyalist sympathies.
It's unusually well-researched — the period gradually envelops you as you read — and carries the author's frequent air of dash and narrative conviction. Nor does it shy away from unpleasant accompaniments to war such as sudden death and other tragedies. This is historical fiction as it ought to be written and seldom is."
--Palm Beach Post ~ September 04, 2005
fascinating detail, the book offers a panoramic picture of America
on the brink of freedom. Familiar characters such as George
Washington and Benedict Arnold reveal new facets, while the
assortment of fictional characters Robson has created carry the
story forward at a breathtaking pace."
--Morgan Llywelyn, author of 1916 ~ A
Novel of the Irish Rebellion
espionage in a decidedly stinky, dangerous Old New York.
Few novelists working now have a better grasp of early American
history than Robson (Fearless, 1998, etc.), who, among her other
virtues, understands that not every colonist talked like a pirate
and shuns outré and anachronistic dialect.
In this spirited --- and entertaining--- confection, she turns her
attention to a Quaker clan in a New York whose administration isn't
quite working at the dawn of the Revolution, with all the mounds of
uncollected garbage that entails. The likes of General Howe
and suave spy Major André wish very much to see royal governance
restored, and Rob Townsend hasn't been doing much to stop them; he
"had watched the Continental Army straggle into the city four
months ago, but this was not his fight. He was a Quaker, and
he swore loyalty to no one but God." Hearing the
Declaration of Independence proclaimed changes Rob's mind, and
fellow Quaker Seth Darby and his 17-year-old sister Kate likewise
opt for the rebel cause, all prepared to give their lives just as
good Nathan Hale is about to do.
Rob has a thing for Kate ("He clasped his hands behind his back
so she would not see them trembling"). So does Major André,
and Kate has, well, reciprocal views: "He did have the most
beautiful teeth and eyes. Kate felt the usual flutter in her
chest whenever he was near." Even Benedict Arnold, André's
onetime bete noir and ally-to-be, notices Kate, and he's got his
hands full with the tenacious Peggy Shippen, a figure nicely drafted
out of real history to do duty here.
Chests heave, flintlocks discharge, and history takes its ever
unpredictable twists and turns as spy meets spy, George Washington
tells fibs that would make Parson Weems wince, Alex Hamilton takes
offence at everyone and everything, and the Revolution suffers its
Wholly believable, confidently realized, attention-holding
Kirkus Reviews (www.kirkusreviews.com) March 15, 2005
Talking points for Shadow
Patriots, a Novel of the Revolution
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