The double agent bartender

Olde Bryan Inn sign

You never know who might be listening at the bar.

By Mike Hare

The term "double agent" didn't exist in the Revolutionary War, but that's how you'd describe Alexander Bryan today.

You'd also describe him as the guy who helped win the Revolutionary War.

But today, you'd probably recognize his name for something else.

When you're a likable, easy-going guy, people tell you things. A lot of people told a lot of things to Alexander Bryan.

Bryan ran a tavern near Waterford around the start of the Revolutionary War. The place was patronized by both rebels and Tories -- all of whom occasionally let top secret information slip to their favorite barkeep.

In time, Bryan got a supervisory job in the weapons department of British General John Burgoyne. At the same time, he was channeling information to the rebels.

Bryan played both sides for a while, but eventually the pressure became intense and he had to choose. In September of 1777, Bryan bolted from Burgoyne's camp as the British prepared an attack on Stillwater. He lost Burgoyne's men in the woods and made it to the colonists in time to warn them.

Prepared, the Americans defeated the British in the Battle of Saratoga -- the turning point in the Revolutionary War.

After the war, Bryan became one of the first settlers in Saratoga. He opened an inn overlooking High Rock Park (now home of the Saratoga Farmers Market). In 1826, Bryan's son John built a stone building on the property which still stands today.

One of the oldest buildings in Saratoga, The Olde Bryan Inn is named for John and Alexander Bryan. These days it serves some great baked onion soup.

Mike Hare is the author of Saratoga Lives and a Spa City tour guide.

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