CS Boyd, Isabella Maria

Isabella Maria “Belle” Boyd
“Cleopatra of Secession” - “La Belle Rebelle" - “The Siren of the Shenandoah" - “The Rebel Joan of Arc"

Born: May 9, 1844

Birthplace: Martinsburg, Virginia (now West Virginia)

Father: Benjamin Reed Boyd Sr. 1816 – 1863
(Buried: Green Hill Cemetery, Martinsburg, West Virginia)​

Mother: Mary Rebecca Glenn 1826 – 1880
(Buried: Green Hill Cemetery, Martinsburg, West Virginia)​

1st​ Husband: Samuel Wylde Hardinge 1838 – 1866
(Union Naval Officer) Married September 8, 1864 in England​

2nd​ Husband: John Swainston Hammond 1828 – 1886
(Former British Officer who fought for the Union) Married 1869, Divorced 1884​

3rd​ Husband: Nathaniel Rue High
Married 1884 or 1885​


Mary Grace Wentworth Hardinge Bennett 1865 – 1934​
Arthur Hammond 1870 – 1870​
Byrd Swainston Hammond Mowery 1874 – 1932​
Marie Isabella Hammond Michaels 1878 –​
John Edmund Swainston Hammond 1881 – 1932​

Belle 2.jpg

1856-1860: Attended finishing school at Mount Washington Female College, Baltimore, Maryland, enrolling at age 12​
Antebellum Events:

1860-1861: After graduating from Mount Washington, Belle moved to Washington, DC, and had a front row seat to all the drama of Secession and the Election of Lincoln.​

Civil War Events:

1861: Belle, with the help of other ladies, raised funds for equipment for the Second Virginia Regiment that was raised in the Shenandoah Valley, a unit her father also joined.​
1861: On July 4th at her home in Martinsburg, a group of recently arrived, and possibly drunken Union soldiers made it their business to enter the family home and hang a Union flag over the door. When Belle argued that the flag should not go up, one soldier cursed Belle and her mother using "language as offensive as it is possible to conceive", which enraged Belle. She pulled a Colt 1849 pocket pistol and shot the man who had insulted them, mortally wounding him. A Union officer later investigated the incident and decided that Belle had rightfully acted, and she suffered no repercussions.​
1861: Belle is arrested in one of her first attempts at spying and sent to Baltimore, facing possible execution, but is released a short time later with just a warning.​
1862: On May 23, While at her aunts home near Front Royal, she listened through a knothole in the closet floor to several Union officers including Brig. General James Shields, who was below in the drawingroom making plans in a council of war. Later that night, she rode between the two armies, through picket lines, to deliver the information she had collected about the meeting to Confederate staff officer Colonel Turner Ashby. Her efforts helped secure a Confederate victory.​
1862: On May 28, when the Confederate forces advanced on Front Royal, Belle informed a confederate officer to tell General Jackson that “the Yankee force is small”. It is said that Jackson sent her a personal thank you letter afterwards, and made her an honorary captain and aide-de-camp.​
1862: On July 29, 1862, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton issued a warrant for her arrest. She was captured by the Union Army after her lover gave her up.​
1862: Belle is held at Old Capitol Prison in Washington, D.C. for one month. While she was there, she becomes engaged to a fellow prisoner. Upon her release, she was given a trousseau by the prison’s superintendent, and shipped under a flag of truce to Richmond, Virginia.​
1863: In October, Belle was arrested in Martinsburg, West Virginia, and then released three months later, in December.​
Suffered from the effects of typhoid Fever​
1864: On May 25, Belle sails on the blockade runner "Grayhound" bound for England, but is captured off the coast of North Carolina. This time Belle was in the apprehended by Union forces while carrying dispatches to Confederate agents in England.​
A Union Navy Officer, Lt. Samuel Hardinge is placed in charge of overseeing the ship and crew of the Grayhound while they sail to New York for further inspection. Belle claims to have fallen in love with Hardinge at first sight. The passion was apparently mutual, as they were quickly engaged to be married, even before they arrived in the port of New York. Unfortunately, the affair left the Lieutenant so distracted, that Belle was able to free the imprisoned Captain and another officer of the Grayhound and let them escape.​
Lt. Hardinge was seen shopping with Belle in New York shortly after the ship's arrival in port.​
When Union Authorities get a hold of Belle, she is banished to Canada, but from there she makes her way to England.​
Lt. Hardinge travels to London, England to be with Belle, where they were married September 8, 1864. One newspaper report claims the Duke of Wales attended the wedding.​
1864: From England, Hardinge travels back to Martinsburg, West Virginia, possibly with Belle, with plans to contact her family.​
1864: On December 10th, for allowing his prisoners to be set free, Lt. Hardinge is arrested in Martinsburg.​
Lt. Hardinge is found to be innocent of the charges, and released. It's said that Unfortunately, Belle was widowed soon after the war ended, but their union did produce one child.​

Postbellum Events:

1865: Published her memoir:​
1866: Recently widowed, Belle became a stage actress in England to support her new daughter.​
1866: Belle made her United States debut as an actress in St. Louis, Missouri, and soon afterward adopted the stage name Nina Benjamin​
1869: Retired from the stage to marry John Swainston Hammond, moved to California, where she suffered a mental collapse and gave birth to a son in a Stockton insane asylum.​
1870: Travelled to Baltimore, Maryland for treatment at Mount Hope, where Belle recovered, and was discharged.​
1870-1883: Belle had three more children with Hammond, a traveling salesman, and the family moved to various cities around the country.​
1883: Settled in Dallas, Texas​
1884: Marriage with Hammond was dissolved on November 1.​
1885: Married twenty-four-year-old Nathaniel Rue High of Toledo, Ohio, a stock-company actor.​
1886-1900: To raise money for her struggling family, Belle returned to the stage with a debut in Toledo, Ohio on February 22, with a dramatic narrative of her own exploits as a Confederate spy. She toured the country, performing her show in a Confederate uniform and cavalry-style hat. She ended her shows with "One God, one flag, one people – forever!"​
1900: On June 11th, Belle has a scheduled stage performance before an audience of members of the Grand Army of the Republic in Wisconsin, she died on stage in front of an audience.​

June 11, 1900

Place of Death: Hile House in Kilbourn City (later Wisconsin Dells), Wisconsin

Cause of Death: Heart Attack

Age at time of Death: 56 years old

Burial Place: Spring Grove Cemetery, Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin




from: The Brooklyn Daily Eagle - Page 2 - Published on Saturday, July 29, 1865
Brooklyn, New York

citation information The following information is provided for citations.
Author Credit:
@gentlemanrob (Biography & Initial Research)
Mike Kendra @CivilWarTalk (Additional Research, Additional Newspaper Articles)
Martinsburg, West Virginia, USA: CivilWarTalk, LLC
Original Published Date:
May 9, 2021
CMOS Format:
gentlemanrob, Mike Kendra (CivilWarTalk), "Biographies of the Civil War, Boyd, Isabella Maria" CivilWarTalk.com, accessed on , https://civilwartalk.com/threads/boyd-isabella-maria.185002/
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"A Rebel "Joan D'Arc" at Front Royal," Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 31, 1862, Page 2.


"Southern Female Spies--Miss Belle Boyd," The Daily Dispatch (Richmond, VA), July 26, 1862, Page 2.


"Arrest of Bell Boyd, the Female Spy," The Dollar Weekly Bulletin (Maysville, KY), August 14, 1862, Page 1.


"The Notorious Belle Boyd Again," Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), August 29, 1863, Page 1.


"Belle Boyd," Cleveland Morning Leader (Cleveland, OH), May 25, 1864, Page 1.


"A Naval Office Seduced by the Notorious Female, Belle Boyd," Daily National Republican (Washington, D.C.), September 8, 1864, Page 2.


"Capture of Harding the Husband of Belle Boyd," Daily Intelligencer (Wheeling, VA [WV]), December 10, 1864, Page 3.



"Belle Boyd," Clearfield Republican (Clearfield, PA), March 15, 1865, Page 1.


"Belle Boyd in Print," The Daily Phoenix (Columbia, SC), August 11, 1865, Page 2.


"Belle Boyd" in a New Character," The Norfolk Post (Norfolk, VA), September 13, 1865, Page 2.



"Belle Boyd Dead," The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer (Wheeling, VA [WV]), June 16, 1900, Page 4.


"Death of Belle Boyd, the Famous Spy," The Saint Paul Globe (St. Paul, MN), June 17, 1900, Page 14.
Last edited:
Sep 15, 2018
South Texas
That man she fell in love with was the prize master of the ship that just captured the blockade runner that Boyd was on. She had been attempting to sneak back into the states after regaining her health from typhoid in Europe. That man, Samuel Hardinge, later married her in England after being dropped from the US Navy. He was ousted from the Navy for neglect of duty for allowing her to proceed to Canada. Hardinge did attempt to reach Richmond but was apprehended by Union Authorities and died soon after his release.