Spook™ 1781: The incredible Double life of James Armistead Lafayette


This is the first 10 pages of the Spook™ Screenplay
What do you think? Does it seem like a film you would want to see?

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Spook™ Movie?


The Spook™ project is a collection of information and images that aren't available anywhere else. It is the only source available to focus on the detail of James' participation in the revolution. There are numerous sources that make reference to him as a subsidiary character, which is not an accurate portrayal of his crucial role as the primary intelligence source for both Lafayette and Cornwallis at the end of the war.


Secondarily my African-American family is the primary audience for this project. If we feel excluded from the story, the mythical making of America, then there may be other families, like mine, that would benefit from this project as well. The viewpoint & perspective of early African-American freemen laborers and slaves are not typically included as essential components to the history of the founding fathers. This I perceive to be a two-fold problem. First, the true goals of the revolution weren't achieved and masters, like Thomas Jefferson, who still needed slavery, systematically ignored the participation of Africans. Second, this led to a general lack of African diarists or biographers of early free Africans in the Americas. In the end, the two things worked in-concert, as a self-fulfilling process that produced an erasure of the African presence in American history.


As Tise discusses in The American Counterrevolution:

Armistead's vital contributions to the astonishing defeat of British forces in America, when joined with those of so many other black Americans made the achievement of American independence a prize shared jointly by whites and blacks. The Black Americans who joined in the war and the families for whom they fought had every reason to believe that the rights of man sooner or later would be extended to them. Not a soul in those heady days of revolution insisted that liberty was just for whites or for men. Although all of the claims were in the abstract and had yet to be made specific, no person residing in America was informed as they chose sides to support or throw off the British rule that, when the conflict was done, the highly vaunted rights of man would not be for him or her. (p. 119)


Spook™ is intended to re-shape and shift this landscape of historical erasure. It recasts the story of the struggle to grasp freedom in the Americas and the people willing to risk their lives for it and includes the viewpoint of a vital group of African participants and laborers.


Finally I believe Spook™ will also be of interest to a general audience internationally. The main characters are international icons; The Marquis Lafayette, a principal figure in Spook™, is not only one of the architects of our American Revolution but also a key activist in the birth of the French Revolution. The second Earl of Cornwallis, who not only presided over the single worst British defeat in the Americas, at Yorktown, also went on to be a premiere to India. Both of these figures, like our own George Washington, have a privileged space in the canon of history and any media portrayal of them will provoke general public interest.




v 1.5

Spook™: James Armistead Lafayette, Intelligence Timeline: Revised 06.20.08


Source Key:

  1. Virginia Negro Sailors and Seamen in the Revolutionary War, Luther Porter Jackson, 1944
  2. Dictionary of American Negro Biography, Rayford W. Logan,1982
  3. The Letters of Lafayette to Washington, Louis Gottschalk, 1944
  4. George Washington, Spymaster, Thomas B. Allen
  5. Virginia Cavalcade, Volume 31 #2 “A mission of the most secret and important kind,” J. Salmon, 1981
  6. In The General's Secret Service, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation    
  7. Cornwallis: The American Adventure, F. and M. Wickwire, 1970
  8. The Correspondence of Charles, First Marquis Cornwallis, ed. Charles Derek Ross, 3 vols. 1859
  9. The Cornwallis papers; abstracts of Americana, Compiled by George H. Reese.
  10. Lafayette, Harlow Giles Unger
  11. His Excellency, George Washington, Joseph J. Ellis
  12. Lafayette in America,
  13. Clinton-Cornwallis Controversy, Stevens
  14. The American Counter Revolution, Larry E. Tise



Historical Event / Fact


History Based James Activity


James is Born New Kent County, VA








Signing of declaration of independence








05.04 Lafayette to Washington that he has no reliable Virginia militia or spies

#3 p. 189

James & William are harassed by the needs of the Loyalists. They are supplying the continentals but can make little good progress due to Loyalist Depredations (food & arms raids.)


05.26 Lafayette anticipates the Cornwallis crossing of the James river and attack on his position in Richmond

#10 p. 144

James arrives with a message from the commissary office & a little key intelligence about Cornwallis’ intentions.


06.05 Wayne arrives with additional troops and informs Lafayette verbally of Washington’s Southern Strategy to capture Cornwallis

#10 p. 146



06.07 Under Cornwallis’ orders Tarleton sacks Monticello. Jefferson narrowly escapes. Tarleton simultaneously captures 7 Virginia assembly members in Charlottesville

#10 p.147

William narrowly escapes death. The raids scour the road to Charleston and this convinces him that the resistance needs more help. He sends James to sort it out.


06.18 Lafayette to Washington that the British have been intercepting his communications

#3 p. 201



06.28 Lafayette to Washington, he thinks that his #s have been exaggerated to Cornwallis & gives W detailed troop counts.

#3 p. 202

This could be James’ work? James finding a way to misdirect intelligence figures for troop counts.


07.04 Lafayette and troops celebrate the arrival of the 5th anniversary of the new country and the shellacking of Cornwallis through his Virginia retreat/pullback

#10 p. 150



07.05 Lafayette attacks the rear guard of Cornwallis as they retreat to a causeway toward James Island. “Mad” Anthony Wayne is leading the attack. They are a betrayed by a negro “spy.” Cornwallis has laid a trap. Wayne is surrounded and faces certain death. He orders his men to charge. Lafayette smells out the trap and orders his men to break the encirclement of Brits. Lafayette loses his horse and breaks the trap on foot leading Wayne out into the woods.

#10 p. 150, #7 p. 343

Conflicting accounts Source 7 dates the action 07.06:

I interpret it: JAMES may have been the “SPY”


Tarleton sends a dragoon and a negro spy. The group arrives and pretends to be deserters tell Wayne (“false Intel”)


James is stuck with the group and has to wait to find a discreet time to leave and inform Lafayette because he can’t blow his cover with the British. This delay costs lives as Wayne falls into a well-laid trap.


James kills his nearest escorts and he eventually finds Lafayette and they save what they can.


James returns to the British in the disarray of the retreat and melee. He presents that the dragoon were killed on Wayne’s retreat.


07.08 Lafayette to Washington, details the misinformation that has been carried into C, “Our regulars did not exceed 1500 the enemy had 4000 regulars 800 of whom mounted. They thought we had 8000 men I never camped in a line and there was a greater difficulty to come at our numbers”

#3 p. 204

James creates the idea of a British turncoat spy among Cornwallis’ men. The imaginary spy creates further cover for his activities and a convenient excuse for obvious intelligence leaks.


Lafayette’s correspondence is still being read and now Cornwallis is looking for the informant and traitors. Men are being hanged on suspicion alone.