Silver Bullet Trick

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Silver Bullet Trick

SILVER BULLET TRICK. Messengers or spies would sometimes carry a message in a hollow, silver bullet that could be swallowed to prevent incrimination if they were captured. In his journal entry of 14 October 1777, Dr. James Thacher wrote:

After the capture of Fort Montgomery, Sir Henry Clinton dispatched a messenger by the name of Daniel Taylor to Burgoyne with the intelligence; fortunately he was taken on his way as a spy, and finding himself in danger, he was seen to turn aside and take something from his pocket and swallow it. General George Clinton, into whose hands he had fallen, ordered a severe dose of emetic tartar to be administered. This produced the happiest effect as respects the prescriber; but it proved fatal to the patient. He discharged a small silver bullet, which being unscrewed, was found to enclose a letter from Sir Henry Clinton to Burgoyne (p. 106).

The spy was tried, convicted, and executed. It is not known how common was this method of secreting messages.

SEE ALSO Clinton's Expedition.


Thacher, James. A Military Journal during the American Revolutionary War, from 1775–1783. Boston: Cottons and Barnard, 1827.

                              revised by Michael Bellesiles