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“The ultimate purpose of our education and training is to enhance the knowledge of prevention and deterrence for professionals whose primary mission is the protection of human life. It is evident to all that the need for such training is rapidly growing.” 
- Nirmalya Bhowmick, Chairman and Founder

History Behind Our Name

At the outbreak of the War of Independence, there was not a single professional spy or intelligence officer in the United States. No intelligence-gathering or counter-intelligence agency existed. There were neither manuals nor instructors to impart hard-won knowledge and craft to new recruits. No one had any concrete conception of how to spy: Every aspect of espionage that we currently take for granted, from verification to encryption to financing to even the most basic security procedures, had to be invented by George Washington and his commanders.

General Washington, fortunately, enjoyed the qualities of a natural spymaster—and he could call on the talents of the Continental Army’s quickest learners and keenest patriots to help him establish what would become a formidable intelligence apparatus. Chief among them were Colonel David Henley and General Israel Putnam, in whose honor this University is named.

Each personified a different approach to the practice of espionage. Henley, contemplative and precise, specialized in organizing streams of raw data and extrapolating from this mass of facts and figures the true condition of the enemy’s strengths and weaknesses. Putnam, conversely, focused on acquiring intelligence through the active use of agents, debriefing deserters, and interrogating prisoners.

To help win the War of Independence, Washington integrated both Henley’s brilliant analytical skills and Putnam’s robust physical methods into his planning and strategy. Henley-Putnam University similarly believes that these two approaches to intelligence are complementary, not competitive, and its curriculum is designed to reflect this key principle.

DAVID HENLEY (1749-1823)

In November 1778, Washington confirmed Colonel Henley, then aged only in his late 20s but already an accomplished soldier, as his chief intelligence officer and gave him the following instructions:
“You might make out a table, or something in the way of columns, under which you might range [the British] magazines of forage, grain and the like, the different corps and regiments, the works, where thrown up, their connexion, kind and extent, the officers commanding, with the number of guns &ca. &ca.”

Irritated at the haphazard, wildly inaccurate collection of spies’ reports he had been receiving, Washington directed Henley to produce the eighteenth-century’s version of an Excel spreadsheet. “This table,” he advised, “should comprehend in one view all that can be learned from deserters, spies, and persons who may come out from the enemy’s boundaries. And tho’ it will be a gradual work, and subject to frequent alteration and amendment yet it may be, by attention and proper perseverance, made a very useful one.”

Henley did not fail him. On November 23, he dispatched an assessment entitled “Enemy, Strength, Situation, Magazines, in and about New York.” In neatly lined columns, Henley dutifully catalogued the exact state of the British army and navy in the foe’s most important stronghold. For the first time since the war erupted, Washington possessed a snapshot of the enemy’s capabilities. Previously, it had been an American assumption that the British were lavishly supplied and well defended, but Henley’s report surprised His Excellency by demonstrating precisely the opposite.
From Henley Washington learned that the enemy’s provisions—including such staples as salt, bread, and fresh vegetables—were running dangerously low. Though the number of regiments remained outwardly impressive, the Royal Navy (which safeguarded the army’s communications- and supply-lines to Britain) had suffered greatly in a storm. By consulting Henley’s detailed breakdown of each vessel’s condition, Washington learned that, among several others, both the feared 74-gunner Bedford and her sister, H.M.S. Richmond, had lost their masts. Henley also received intelligence that morale among the troops and sailors had plunged owing to their rations having been cut by a third. French attacks on their shipping was the cause. Henley’s revelation that the British war effort had begun to falter confirmed Washington’s earlier, and risky, decision to seek French military aid. In 1781, exactly three years after Henley’s report, Lord Cornwallis’s surrender at Yorktown would be among the most momentous consequences of this strategic choice.

ISRAEL PUTNAM (1718-1790)

Even from Putnam’s youth, his bravery and ferocity were renowned. Oral tradition relates that he single-handedly killed the last wolf in Connecticut, and his exploits with Rogers’ Rangers—the forerunners of today’s Special Forces—during the French and Indian War were legendary. Putnam’s gallantry during the Battle of Bunker Hill first brought him to Washington’s attention. On February 20, 1777, the general instructed him “to give me the earliest Intelligence of the Enemy’s approach.” Soon after, he clarified that Putnam’s task was to “be attentive to their motions, and give me immediate information of every thing you can discover tending to unfold their designs and ascertain the time when they will be ripe for execution.”

As an intelligence officer Putnam applied the lessons he had learned in his Ranger days: Always be on the offensive, and extract timely information as rapidly as possible from prisoners and deserters. Moreover, throughout 1777 and 1778 Putnam diligently sent his own officers to reconnaissance enemy positions and upgraded the Continental Army’s counter-intelligence capabilities. Tory guerrillas based in New York, he told Washington, had been “playing no small game” in American-held areas. That would soon stop, Putnam promised, because he was going to send some “scouting parties round their lines continually” to harrass them. “In my opinion,” said Putnam, such low-intensity operations “had hitherto been too much neglected.”

Putnam was merciless towards captured agents—particularly if they were Americans working for the British. For him, “the speedy execution of spies is agreeable to the laws of nature and nations and absolutely necessary to the preservation of the army.” Most famous was his treatment of Edmond Palmer, a lieutenant in a Loyalist regiment who had been, Putnam reported, plundering and assaulting civilians as well as “recruiting for the enemy and spying on our army.” In reply to a plea from Sir Henry Clinton, the British commander, Putnam brusquely declared that Palmer, “an officer in the enemy’s service, was taken as a spy, and shall be executed as a spy.” Soon afterwards, Putnam, as good as his word, added a postscript: “And has been accordingly executed.”
Despite complaints that Putnam had exceeded his authority, Washington implicitly trusted his subordinate’s judgment and backed him to the hilt. Palmer had, he believed, “suffered for being found lurking about our posts, and was a spy in the truest sense of the word.” For Putnam’s good and faithful service, at war’s end Washington assured him that now that “we have struggled for the preservation and establishment of the rights, liberties, and independence of our country” …“the name of Putnam is not forgotten; nor will it be.”
 -By Alexander Rose, Ph.D., author of Washington's Spies. The story of America's first spy ring.

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