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Belle Boyd: Confederate Woman Spy Essay

1580 words - 6 pages

When a person today thinks of a spy, he or she normally pictures James Bond with a nice suit and big guns. Spies are not a new thing and do not exist only in this modern form. Spies have always existed in many different forms: one of the most important forms is a women spy. The best spies are people that would never be expected. Throughout history, women have been spies and the American Civil War was no exception. Females provided imperative information, whether they dressed as men and joined the army, posed as senseless slaves, or just kept their ears open in social circles. It was a woman spy who provided the Union battle plans to the Confederate Army, which allowed them to win the First Battle of Manassass, also known as First Bull Run (Payne). This woman was Belle Boyd and one of the greatest women spies in American History. She used her quick-wittedness and charm to successfully spy for the Confederate Army (Female Heroes and Spies of the Civil War). Isabelle Boyd was born on May 9, 1844 in Martinsburg, Virginia; she would later be called Belle Boyd, "La Belle Rebelle", "Siren of the Shenandoah" and "rebel Joan of Arc." Boyd attended Mount Washington Female College in Baltimore from 1856 to 1860. When she returned to Martinsburg, she took part in fund raising events to benefit the Confederacy. When Union soldiers occupied her hometown in July 1861, Boyd mingled with the Union officers, picking up pieces of military secrets, which she passed along by messenger to Confederate Officials. One of these letters was intercepted, but the Union officers only reprimanded Miss Boyd. She was appointed courier for Generals Beauregard and Thomas Jackson (Remember the Ladies).Boyd operated her spying operations from her father's hotel in Front Royal, providing valuable information to Generals Turnery Ashby and Stonewall Jackson during the spring 1862 campaign in the Valley. The latter general then made her captain and honorary aide-de-camp on his staff. She was betrayed by her lover and arrested on July 29, 1862, and held for a month in Old Capital Prison in Washington (Belle Boyd Biography). She was released on August 28 for lack of evidence and returned to her work (Denny 199).She was exiled with relatives for a time and lived with her aunt in Fort Royal Virginia. There she overheard General James Shield discussing Union battle plans and rode fifteen miles in the night to deliver the information to the Confederates. She became a Confederate heroine in May, 1862, by signaling Jackson's troops to accelerate their advance to save the bridges at Fort Royal, but she was arrested again when the Union forces retook Fort Royal (Remember the Ladies) in June 1863. She was held in the old Capitol Prison in Washington. On December 1, 1863 she was released, suffering from typhoid, and was sent to Europe to regain her health.The blockade-runner she attempted to return on was captured. She fell in love with the prize master, Samuel Hardinge, who later married...

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