Women Spies of the Confederacy 

Before reading about either Boyd or Greenhow, it would be well to consult Edwin C. Fishel, "Myths That Never Die," International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 2, no. 1 (Spring 1988): 27-58.

Included here:

1. Belle Boyd

2. Rose O'Neal Greenhow

3. Other

1. Belle Boyd

Belle Boyd (1843-1900): Although both Curtis Carroll Davis and Edwin C. Fishel cast doubts on her accomplishments, there seems to be little doubt that Boyd did engage in espionage activities for the Confederacy. She probably reported through Lt. Col. Turner Ashby to Gen. Stonewall Jackson. Her most famous exploit involved supplying updated strength and disposition intelligence about the Union forces around Front Royal, Virginia, to Jackson in 1862. Imprisoned and released several times, Boyd undertook a courier assignment to England in 1864. After the war, Boyd remained in England to establish a stage career, eventually returning to the United States and continuing that career. O'Toole, Encyclopedia, pp. 75-76. See also Bakeless, Spies of the Confederacy, and Kane, Spies for the Blue and Gray.

Boyd, Belle. Ed., Curtis Carroll Davis. Belle Boyd in Camp and Prison, Written by Herself. New York: Thomas Yoseloff, 1968. [pb] Belle Boyd in Camp and Prison. Intro., Sharon Kennedy-Nolle; Foreword, Drew Gilpin Faust. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1996.

Boyd's memoirs were originally published in 1865. Louis A. Sigaud, a biographer of Boyd, considers her "memoirs -- the principal source regarding her intelligence work -- as essentially sound, if somewhat embellished in detail." O'Toole, Encyclopedia, p. 75.

Davis, Curtis Carroll.

1. "The Civil War's Most Over-Rated Spy." West Virginia History 28, no. 1 (Oct. 1965): 1-9.

2. "The Pet of the Confederacy Still? Fresh Findings About Belle Boyd." Maryland Historical Magazine 78, no. 1 (Spring 1983): 35-53.

Hergesheimer, Joseph. Swords and Roses. New York: Knopf, 1929. [Petersen]

Scarborough, Ruth. Belle Boyd: Siren of the South. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1983. [Petersen]

Sigaud, Louis A. Belle Boyd, Confederate Spy. Richmond, VA: Dietz, 1944.

2. Rose O'Neal Greenhow

Rose O'Neal Greenhow (?1817-1864): Greenhow, well established on the Washington social scene when war broke out, was recruited by Col. Thomas Jordan as an espionage agent for the Confederacy. "The traditional view, held by Greenhow's biographers and some historians, and based on the gallant Beauregard's own account," is that intelligence supplied by Greenhow "enabled the Confederate commander to win a major victory at [First] Bull Run." Fischel finds this account improbable. Caught by Pinkerton and imprisoned for her activities, Greenhow was released in mid-1862. She was drowned returning from a European trip in August 1864. O'Toole, Encyclopedia, pp. 208-210. See also Beymer, On Hazardous Duty; Kane, Spies for the Blue and Gray; and Stern, Secret Missions of the Civil War.

Blackman, Ann. Wild Rose: The True Story of a Civil War Spy. New York: Random House, 2005.

A Publisher's Weekly reviewer (via calls this an "excellent biography of Confederate spy Rose O'Neal Greenhow (1817–1864).... This literate and thoroughly researched biography does Greenhow justice." This appraisal is echoed by Levin, Civil War Book Review [], who sees "a lively and engaging study" with a "highly readable narrative."

Peake, Studies 50.1 (Mar. 2006), says that the author "gives a thoroughly documented biography of this widowed mother and outspoken Washington socialite who ... spied for the Confederacy.... An appendix, 'Assessing Rose's Spycraft,' presents a good summary of that historically contentious subject. Wild Rose is not only a pleasure to read, it is a valuable contribution to the literature of Civil War intelligence."

Burger, Nash. Confederate Spy: Rose O'Neal Greenhow. New York: Franklin Watts, 1953. [Petersen]

Farquhar, Michael. "'Rebel Rose,' A Spy of Grande Dame Proportions." Washington Post, 18 Sep. 2000, A1. []

Our thanks are due to the Washington Post and the author for this balanced retelling of the saga of Rose O'Neal Greenhow, a reminder that faithfulness to cause can take many forms.

Greenhow, Rose O'Neal. My Imprisonment and the First Year of Abolition Rule in Washington. London: R. Bentley, 1863.

Ross, Ishbel. Rebel Rose: The Life of Rose O'Neal Greenhow, Confederate Spy. New York: Harper, 1954.

Sigaud, Louis A. "Mrs. Greenhow and the Rebel Spy Ring." Maryland Historical Magazine 91 (Sep. 1946): 175-198.

3. Other

Adams, James Roe. "A Confederate Spy in the White House?" Intelligencer 17, no. 3 (Winter-Spring 2010): 29-37.

The author follows up on a story told by his great-grandfather. Although Mary Ellen Wise is celebrated as a patriot for serving in the Union army disguised as a man, Adams believes that "the story of her brave deeds was a total fabrication" and she was instead a Confederate spy.

Caravantes, Peggy. Petticoat Spies: Six Women Spies of the Civil War. Greenboro, NC: Morgan Reynolds, 2002.

Funkhouser, Darlene. Women of the Civil War: Soldiers, Spies, and Nurses. Wever, IA: Quixote Press, 2005.

Galbraith, William, and Loretta Galbriath, eds. A Lost Heroine of the Confederacy: The Dairies and Letters of Belle Edmondson. Jackson, MS: University of Mississippi Press, 1990.

From publisher: "Edmondson played an active role in promoting the Southern cause as a courier, a gatherer of intelligence and a smuggler of contraband on behalf of Confederate troops in West Tennessee."

Leonard, Elizabeth D. All the Daring of the Soldier: Women of the Civil War Armies. New York: Penguin Books, 2001.

Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Nancy Hart." At

"Living in Nicholas County, then in Virginia and now part of West Virginia, Nancy Hart joined the Moccasin Rangers and served as a spy, reporting on federal troop activity in her home's vicinity and leading rebel raiders to their position. She was said to have led a raid on Summersville in July 1861, at age 18. Captured by a band of Union soldiers, she tricked one of her captors and used his own gun to kill him, then escaped."

Mahoney, Harry Thayer, and Marjorie Locke Mahoney. Mexico and the Confederacy, 1860-1867. Bethesda, MD: Austin & Winfield, 1998.

Anderson, Intelligencer 9.1, found this "small [219 pages], well organized book ... most interesting." Although it is not focused on intelligence, the book "has a modest number of intelligence references.... Of particular interest,... is a discussion of the active and effective role of Union agents in New Orleans.... The most intriguing intelligence vignette is about ... Loreta Velasquez."

Markle, Donald E. Spies and Spy Masters of the Civil War. New York: Hippocrene, 1994. 1995 [pb]. Rev. & exp. ed. New York: Hippocrene, 2004.

According to Surveillant 3.4/5, this is "one of the most comprehensive treatments of Civil War spies..., covering the entire history of the war and the espionage activities by both Union and Confederate spies." Surveillant 4.4/5 adds that Markle gives "special focus" to women spies, and includes an appendix listing 432 Civil War spies. Acknowledging the 2004 edition, Kruh, Cryptologia 30.3 (Jul.-Sep. 2006), notes that the author has added several new chapters to this "comprehensive guide" to Civil War espionage on both sides.

Velazquez, Loreta J. Ed., C.J. Worthington. The Woman in Battle: A Narrative of the Exploits, Adventures, and Travels of Madam Loreta Janeta Velazquez, Otherwise Known as Lieutenant Harry T. Buford, Confederate States Army. Hartford, CT: Belknap, 1876.

"The veracity of th[is] account was attacked almost immediately, and remains an issue with scholars. Some claim it is probably entirely fiction, others that the details in the text show a familiarity with the times that would be difficult to completely simulate." Jone Johnson Lewis, "Loreta Velazquez," at: Access to an "etext of Velazquez' first-person account" is available from this site.

Wiley, Bell I. "Women of the Lost Cause." American History Illustrated 8, no. 8 (1973): 10-23.

Winkler, H. Donald. Stealing Secrets: How a Few Daring Women Deceived Generals, Impacted Battles, and Altered the Course of the Civil War. Nashville, TN: Cumberland House, 2010.

The reviewer for Publishers Weekly (via calls this a "breezy overview of 36 women who spied for the Confederacy and the Union."

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