I am Ann Bates. I used to be a school teacher in Philadelphia. My husband John Bates was a soldier in the British Army enlisted under General Clinton. I was persuaded to join the British spy network. In the summer of 1778, the army marched to New York City where I received my spy training.
In a secret base in New York City, I was trained extensively. I was taught to recognize different types of weapons and learned some basic skills and techniques. For example, I learned to disguise myself by changing into different voices and accents. I also learned to survive in extreme situations in case I was captured or was lost in rural area. After two weeks’ training, I became much more skillful and was ready for my journey as a spy.
My first mission came just one day after my training had ended. My mission was to go to George Washington's camp in White Plains, New York and deliver some important messages to the British who were posted there. On the next day, John asked his captain for a leave to see me off. He stood at the edge of the harbor, saw me board on the ferry to the colonies, waved to me, and smiled to me. As the ferry began to sail farther, I heard him shout “Darling, take care! I am proud of you!” Standing on board, I could not help crying since it was probably the last time I would see my lover and my homeland. However, I felt proud of myself because it was time for me to contribute to my glorious country. As a spy, I must keep calm and strong. From that day on, I was no longer Ann Bates; instead, I was Mrs. Barnes, a peddler from Britain.
After several weeks, I finally arrived at my destination. I found an empty house in the village which was close to George Washington’s camp. I heard that many people in the village had fled away because of the war. I rambled beside the George Washington’s camp as if I was finding customers. But actually, I was observing his camp, its surroundings, and the geography of the environment. One afternoon I got a chance, I found a black soldier in the colonial army. He was injured, sitting on the grass and looking at other soldiers training. I walked to him and tried to chat up: “Nice weather, isn’t it? Would you like a cigarette?”
“Sure,” the soldier looked up, drawing out few coins and handing them to me, “but only one. I have no extra money.”
“Thanks,” I replied, looking for some topics to get more information, “life during the war is terrible, isn’t it?”
“True. But it is worth to fighting even if it is costly,” he replied while seeming to be more excited. “The king was a tyrant since he deprived our rights and ruined our lives. We have to fight for our rights, for our freedom, and for a new independent nation!” he uttered.
I was shocked. How can this black man say bad words about the supreme king? But to protect my identity, I responded “Sounds interesting. I come from Britain and came here just to earn some money to support my family. Could you show me around this camp? I want to sell my goods to other soldiers.”
“Ok, I understand,” he nodded, stood up, and led me into the camp.
Following him and walking through the camp, I got a chance to observe the troops and their weapons. I tried to count the number of the soldiers and the types of the weapons they used. Besides, I found the room where George Washington and some generals were having a meeting. I thought it was a great opportunity to hear some important information about their military strategy. But to protect myself, I had to leave the soldier without being suspect so I told him “I will stay here for a while to sell my goods. Maybe you can return to your unit and leave me here. Thank you for your kindness.”
“All right. Hope you adapt to your new life here soon,” he replied, going away without hesitating.
I walked towards the meeting room and sat below an outside window of the room where I could hear the generals talk clearly. I heard that they were planning a campaign and they would move to Rhode Island. I tried to keep some important points in mind. However, when I was about to go away, a guard with a gun noticed me and came to me, “Young woman, get away from that house!”
“Sorry, I was just going to leave,” I answered in a low voice. I thought I may have been suspected, so I left the camp immediately.
I went to the village where I lived and entered my room. I drew out a piece of paper and wrote down everything I remembered such as the plan for the Rhode Island Campaign, the number of soldiers, and types of weapons to be used. Also, I drew a map of George Washington’s camp and its location.
It was late in the evening when I finished the paper. Next morning, I ran to a town four miles away to deliver the message. I had to find Mr. Brown in the drugstore- the loyalists’ new intelligence station.
“Mr. Brown? This is Mr. Barnes,” I said, entering the drugstore.
Surprisingly, a familiar person came out, smiled, and said firmly “I am Mr. Brown. Nice to meet you.”
“John?” I burst into tears, “I… I have never thought it would be you. Aren’t you in Britain?”
“Darling, I followed my unit and arrived here,” John explained, “I knew you were here so I chose to leave my unit and volunteered to be a member of the intelligence station so that we can meet frequently.”
We hugged, tightly. Nothing could separate us, even war.