One of the most enjoyable aspects of documentary editing at The Washington Papers is making annotated transcriptions of relatively inscrutable manuscripts readily available, manuscripts like spy letters with incomplete decryptions. On Sept. 9, 1780, Maj. Benjamin Tallmadge (alias John Bolton) wrote Gen. George Washington from North Castle, N.Y., and forwarded two letters addressed to him that he had received from Abraham Woodhull (alias Samuel Culper), a farmer and spy on British-controlled Long Island, New York. A preliminary transcription of Tallmadge’s letter to Washington, dated September 9, can be found on Founders Online. No transcription, however, is currently available of the enclosed Woodhull letters, which are among Washington’s papers at the Library of Congress.
George Washington’s 20 February 1797 letter to John Adams is an interesting document for many reasons. The president and vice president rarely corresponded by letter in the last months of Washington’s administration, presumably having most of their exchanges in face to face interactions. The letter is also of a private—not public—nature, with Washington giving his personal opinion of Adams’ son. Perhaps most remarkably, the letter has the first president writing to the incoming second president about the future sixth president, John Quincy Adams.