TURN Season 3: All Quiet on the History Front?

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Greetings, TURNcoats! How about a nice link roundup to compliment the first two episodes of Season 3?

Here we are, technically 1/5 of the way into Season 3, and things have been suspiciously quiet over here at the blog. Sure, we’ve had a blast live-tweeting every episode, but no new articles here at the blog. What gives?

The waiting is the hardest part.
The waiting is the hardest part.

Well, to be honest, there hasn’t been a whole lot of actual historical stuff happening in TURN Season 3 thus far. As a historian watching the show, there’s very little fact-based material to capitalize on, aside from a few name drops (e.g. Joseph Reed, Austin Roe) that don’t yet have enough context in the show to merit a full-length analysis. Nearly all of the first two episodes have revolved around made-up love triangles, fictional family feuds, and other interpersonal relationships that never happened.

Thankfully, we have covered most of those subjects in previous posts – so while we wait for some meatier historical topics to arrive in Season 3, here’s a quick and dirty link roundup for those of you trying to sort fact from fiction regarding all the personal drama in the TURNiverse:


  • Abe and Anna: Never happened. (Although thus far in Season 3, their fictional affair seems to have cooled considerably.)
  • Abe and Robert Rogers: An amusing (if bizarre) premise – but this also never happened. For more about the real Robert Rogers’ wartime escapades, check out Todd Braisted’s excellent summary here.
  • Anna and Hewlett: Never happened. Although if you’re interested in the real Hewlett’s role in occupying the town of Setuaket, we’ve got you covered. We featured an article on the historical Hewlett in the middle of Season 2, right before TURN’s Hewlett dramatically veered away from the (until that time) realistic portrayal of his real-life counterpart.

    If you’re a little confused from the “authentic” messaging you’ve been hearing from AMC staff regarding Hewlett – no, you’re not crazy! On Twitter and Reddit, Alexander Rose (who joined the show’s writing staff in Season 2) has repeatedly insisted that TURN’s Edmund Hewlett, the royalist commander of Setuaket during the Revolutionary War, has absolutely no connection whatsoever to the historical Richard Hewlett, the royalist commander of Setauket during the Revolutionary War. It is a total and complete coincidence that both men held the exact same station, at the same time and in the same place, and had the last name “Hewlett.”

    dr evil riiiight sm

    Needless to say, viewers of the show are right to be a little skeptical. By that logic, of course Anna Strong could never have had an affair with a fictional Redcoat officer! Not to mention, the real Anna Strong was still (by any reasonable account) contentedly married and the mother to several children by the time the summer of 1778 rolled around, so there’s that, too.

  • Austin Roe: Okay, Austin Roe DID happen! He was a real person (definitely not anyone’s pseudonym or alias) and, for a time, an absolutely fascinating member of the historical Culper spy ring who served as the vital link communicating intelligence between New York City and Setauket. I’m seriously hoping the one mention he’s had thus far in Season 3 is some kind of bizarre red herring and/or bad history joke – it would truly be a shame for him to be cut out of this series, regardless of how much the show has already careened off the historical record. We will definitely revisit Mr. Roe here on the blog – after we get a better idea of where the show is going to take him.
  • Woodhull family drama (especially concerning Mary and Thomas): Never happened. Thankfully,
    we’ve got a post on TURN’s convoluted family trees to help viewers sort things out!
  • Peggy Shippen and Benedict Arnold: Oh yes, this happened – although as many of you likely guessed, it wasn’t exactly the bizarre love triangle with ulterior motives depicted in TURN. We’re in the process of reaching out to a few exciting guest authors for this particular topic, so stay tuned!

He's baaaaack...


Well, I think that just about does it for tonight’s link roundup. Plenty of reading to re-visit while we wait for bigger and better spy-related history to materialize in TURN Season 3. Enjoy tonight’s new episode, TURNcoats – and if you’re watching live, don’t forget to join in the fun on Twitter and Facebook!


8 thoughts on “TURN Season 3: All Quiet on the History Front?

    Jo said:
    May 9, 2016 at 8:59 pm

    Just wish they would get on with the Arnold/Andre conspiracy!

      spycurious responded:
      May 9, 2016 at 10:53 pm

      Same here! We’ve seen precious little of Major Andre this season. A shame, since his character is one of the few on TURN that’s somewhat faithful to the historical record!

        Jo said:
        May 9, 2016 at 10:56 pm

        I had such high hopes for this series! So disappointed. Tonight’s episode just the worst

    Jo said:
    May 9, 2016 at 9:26 pm

    When are they going yo get on with the Arnold/Andre conspiracy?

    Patricia Beassler said:
    May 10, 2016 at 6:18 pm

    I love what you write about the show. I have the benefit of living in Patchogue and having visited many of the places on the show. In Patchogue is a plaque where Austin Roe’s tavern once stood. It says George Washington slept there. He stayed there while making a tour of Long Island. Also, in Mastic Beach is the Manor of St George which was involved in the Battle of Ft George. The patriots were lead by Benjamin Tallmadge. After he and his men landed in Mt Sinai, from Connecticut, they crossed the island to Mastic Beach. This path they took is now known as the Talmadge Trail. I’m very lucky to have taught fourth grade and the Social Studies curriculum was the history of our area. We had a class trip every month to see so many wonderful historical sites. I know “Turn” is not very historically accurate but I love the cast and I also love hearing the names of so many places I visit or have visited. One last thing-a good book to read is Allison Pataki’s “The Traitor’s Wife”. It’s the story of Peggy Shippen and Benedict Arnold told through the voice of her lady’s maid. After reading that and watching “Turn”, I kind of feel sorry for Arnold. He really was treated badly by his superiors although with his attitude about many things, he probably brought much of it on his own head. I’m really sorry this turned out so long but all this makes me very happy. Keep up the good work and I’ll continue to enjoy reading it. -Patricia Baessler

    Sent from my iPad


    elizacameron said:
    May 16, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    I went to see the panel and screening at the New York Historical Society before the season 3 premiere. I found it very interesting, particularly Jamie Bell and Owain Yeoman talking about how they learned nothing about the American Revolution in England. Several people in the audience asked if viewers were actually going to get to see Alexander Hamilton or Hercules Mulligan in the series. I’m sure the producers are all cursing Lin-Manuel Miranda right now.

    Kim said:
    May 17, 2016 at 9:24 pm

    The way the Hewlett and Anna story played out in this episode is truly one of the most awful and horribly written things I have ever seen on television. I have been a devout fan of this show from the beginning despite the over the top “poetic license” the show has taken with what is actually known about the real Anna, Abe, and other people from history. However, the show has now truly jumped the shark. What did Anna do….fly to Vegas for a quickie divorce to get one within a week?? While there were a very few instances of actual divorce during Colonial Times, a divorce was an extremely difficult, time-consuming, and public process involving the legislature or petitioning the Governor. In New York, divorce was even more difficult to obtain than in New England, and even more importantly for the story, divorce was only granted on the grounds of adultery, and the guilty party, namely Anna, would NOT be allowed to remarry! So there would have been no question of Anna being able to marry Hewlett! I understand that this is a drama and the writers are trying to make the story exciting (though it would be nice if they focused on the actual history which is exciting in and of itself, and does not need the artifice of a reality show storyline), but for a historical drama, even if you take poetic license with the characters, at least keep the actions and events within the legal and societal contexts of the time period. Furthermore, Abe told Anna that he already called her game to his father (as though a magistrate would be fooled by Anna’s “forgery” of divorce documents obtained without the legislature convening or the governor being involved. Another interesting question is how Selah would have managed all this while in exile…I guess he was the one who flew to Vegas for the quickie divorce. So even if Anna as the guilty party would be permitted to remarry, did she really think Richard as a magistrate was going to allow this farce right there in Setauket, especially since he has no love lost on Anna? And last but not least, I hate to see how shabbily the writers treated the characters of Hewlett and Anna, after developing especially Hewlett to show a multi-faceted, decent and honorable man who developed deep feelings of love and caring for Anna, and she in turn, developed deep feelings, though conflicting, for him. This was just appallingly poor, cheap writing for the characters, the show, and most of all, the audience. It makes me not even want to continue watching the show anymore, when I had written to AMC to keep the series renewed and encouraged friends, family, and co-workers to tune in. Just very, very, very disappointed.

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