Maj. John Clark was an American spy for George Washington, primarily responsible for running the intelligence network in and around Philadelphia during the British occupation of that city during the American Revolutionary War.
Clark was responsible for operating one of the most notable spy rings organized and run by the Continental Army during the war, one which prevented the destruction of Washington’s army at least three different times.
He originally came to the attention of George Washington during the evacuation of Long Island and Manhattan. He had been used to travel across Long Island Sound and scout troop movements on Long Island.
His most important assignment occurred during the period September to December 1777 when despite a serious injury to his shoulder he was asked by Washington to obtain information about General Howe’s activities in Philadelphia. He set up a group of informants and couriers and sent 30 detailed reports to Washington that allowed the Continental Army to react to British movements. He even set up a hoax and offered to inform on the Americans to General Howe. Howe who decided to accept his offer from this Quaker Loyalist under a false name offered him rewards. His courier who delivered the messages walked around Philadelphia acquiring a lot of information. When Washington learned of this hoax he prepared a false report of the Continental Army’s strengths and planned movements. This was delivered to Howe. In December with his wound still not healed and having not seen his wife in over a year he asked Washington to be released. Washington, thankful of his service, agreed and introduced him to Henry Laurens, who gave him a desk job as auditor of Army expenses. He never did release names of informants or couriers and sank into respectable obscurity.