Susan Archer Talley - Artist, Poet & Confederate Spy

lelliott19

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Susan Archer Talley spy.jpg

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=31929632

Susan Archer Talley - Artist, Poet, and Confederate Spy

Susan Archer Talley was born on Valentines Day, 14 February (1822? or more likely, 1835) in Norfolk, VA., the oldest of three children born to Thomas Talley and Eliza Archer Talley. She attended the prestigious Persico’s Boarding and Day School for Young Ladies. In spite of a speech impediment, she was quite successful and her talents for the arts blossomed. During the same time, she lost her hearing as a result of illness.

Her first published work, “The Spirit of Beauty,” appeared in the April 1845 issue of Southern Literary Messenger. In 1849, she met Edgar Allen Poe, who had praised her poetry. By the time she met Poe, Susan had already achieved notoriety as an accomplished poet by being included in Griswold’s Female Poets of America, published in 1848.

During the Civil War, Susan was active as a spy and smuggled arms, delivered messages to both sides, visited Federal camps, and enlisted the help of Federal officers to procure supplies. Even after she was arrested and confined at Fort McHenry, she continued to provide information to the confederates.

Recognizing the potential danger of this woman, Gen John A Dix ordered Talley held in solitary confinement. Susan seduced Lt. Louis Weiss, the Union officer serving as her captor/guard. The two were married May 13, 1862, but the marriage was kept a secret. She, because he was a union officer; he, because she was a confederate spy.

The marriage remained a secret and she was released by General Morris on June 28, 1862. Thereafter, she made the mistake of returning to Richmond via Norfolk. The new commander at Norfolk, General Dix, was the one who had ordered "solitary confinement." Dix ordered her confined to the city and had all her incoming and outgoing mail screened.

Just two months after the marriage, on July 23, 1862, Lt. Weiss resigned. He was soon granted a passport and allowed to return to his homeland of Germany. Less than a week later, Susan engaged the assistance of Federal officers, ran the blockade, and escape home to Richmond. Back home in Richmond, her secret was gradually revealed to friends and acquaintances as her pregnancy began to show. Two weeks before the birth of son, Stuart Archer Weiss, the belated announcement was made of the marriage.

"AUSTIN STATE GAZETTE, October 8, 1862, p. 1, c. 6

Another "Dangerous" Woman. -
The special correspondent of the Philadelphia Press at Fort McHenry, gives the following information about Miss Susan Archer Tally (sic) another of the female spies:

Among the recent prisoners at this fort, has been until the 28th of June last, a lady, a Miss Susan Archer Tally (sic), of Norfolk who attempted last year to take a coffin full of percussion caps through our lines to Richmond, alleging that the body of her brother was in it. Suspicion excited, the coffin was opened, and the lady incarcerated. It was afterwards found that she had acted as a spy between the pickets of the two armies. She was closely confined in her room during the day, with the exception of a walk in the balcony before her window, and a stroll around the ramparts, for an hour daily, with the officer of the day. She was about thirty years of age, and a very good amateur artist. She took from memory a very good crayon portrait of Gen. Morris, commanding the fort and presented it to him. Liberty having been given to her, she has gone to her home near Norfolk."
http://apps.uttyler.edu/vbetts/women_soldiers.htm

http://www.eapoe.org/people/talleysa.htm
https://deafdumbdangerous.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/happy-birthday-susan/
 

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JPK Huson 1863

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Wow. Thanks for bringing her here- she was certainly quite well known both pre and post war, according to how frequently her name appears in print. Newspapers connected her with Poe a great deal- perhaps his influence is here or the reason he admired her work? It is indeed nice work, just on the dark side, like Poe. ' Pallid, torn, bleeding, mournfully, breaking hearts, glazing eye ', ouch.

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Can't seem to find whether or not Weiss came back from Germany? Only one child- the one spoken of above, Stuart so perhaps not?

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1907

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sat3.JPG

1862

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1862
 

lelliott19

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Wow. Thanks for bringing her here-
You're welcome @JPK Huson 1863 She has been mentioned here several times before in relation to the AUSTIN STATE GAZETTE, October 8, 1862, p. 1, c. 6 newspaper article. I suppose, since her name was misspelled as "Tally" instead of "Talley" we just hadn't made the connection to her identity and other talents until now.

I wonder if @rosefiend knows about her and included her in the book?
 
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You're welcome @JPK Huson 1863 She has been mentioned here several times before in relation to the AUSTIN STATE GAZETTE, October 8, 1862, p. 1, c. 6 newspaper article. I suppose, since her name was misspelled as "Tally" instead of "Talley" we just hadn't made the connection to her identity and other talents until now.

I wonder if @rosefiend knows about her and included her in the book?
No, she's not in there, but then, there is not a lot of information on the internet about her spying exploits, mostly about he poetry and her book about Poe, which receives a great deal of criticism. The controversy surrounding her birth date is rather interesting. That is quite a span in which she might have been born ,1822-1835. Either she was a child prodigy or a real exaggerator.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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No, she's not in there, but then, there is not a lot of information on the internet about her spying exploits, mostly about he poetry and her book about Poe, which receives a great deal of criticism. The controversy surrounding her birth date is rather interesting. That is quite a span in which she might have been born ,1822-1835. Either she was a child prodigy or a real exaggerator.
Isn't it awful, criticism on a book 150 years later? Gee whiz, tough crowd. From newspaper accounts she was pretty well known and celebrated as a poet inside her era? Of course, don't get me wrong. I am not qualified to state whether or not book or poems are ' good '. The poems seem better than a lot of what we read albeit dark in spots- as we'd expect from someone drawn to Poe.

So her birth date is hugely varied? Interesting! I'm still wondering what became of the Union officer she married, why he left both war and wife for home shores and is there any sign he returned?

You wonder how someone deaf and unable to speak was able to spy, too. I'm not doubting she did, just am wondering how she did it?
 
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Isn't it awful, criticism on a book 150 years later? Gee whiz, tough crowd. From newspaper accounts she was pretty well known and celebrated as a poet inside her era? Of course, don't get me wrong. I am not qualified to state whether or not book or poems are ' good '. The poems seem better than a lot of what we read albeit dark in spots- as we'd expect from someone drawn to Poe.

So her birth date is hugely varied? Interesting! I'm still wondering what became of the Union officer she married, why he left both war and wife for home shores and is there any sign he returned?

You wonder how someone deaf and unable to speak was able to spy, too. I'm not doubting she did, just am wondering how she did it?
The criticism came from the time, JPK, as she spoke of long intimate talks with him, and some flagrant errors that she included in the book. As she could not lip-read and depended on written notes to understand what people were saying to her, it does seem odd. She was able to speak, she just did not hear due to ann illness.
Her husband seems to have gone back to Germany shortly after the marriage, and never appears again. There was a son from the marriage, with whom she lived out her days.
 

rosefiend

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No, she's not in there, but then, there is not a lot of information on the internet about her spying exploits, mostly about he poetry and her book about Poe, which receives a great deal of criticism. The controversy surrounding her birth date is rather interesting. That is quite a span in which she might have been born ,1822-1835. Either she was a child prodigy or a real exaggerator.
Too bad Susan wasn't in my book, she sounds like a winner.

Has anyone checked her census records? If you can track her via census through the years, you might be able to get a better idea of her age.

Of course, mileage may vary with this approach. Annie Etheridge, when a child, had her correct age listed in the census. When she was an adult, she made herself younger on the census for most of her life -- but then in the last two censuses, she gave her correct age again. Even in her writings, she passed herself off as being younger than she really was. She was very, very modest -- except for that one little thing.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Too bad Susan wasn't in my book, she sounds like a winner.

Has anyone checked her census records? If you can track her via census through the years, you might be able to get a better idea of her age.

Of course, mileage may vary with this approach. Annie Etheridge, when a child, had her correct age listed in the census. When she was an adult, she made herself younger on the census for most of her life -- but then in the last two censuses, she gave her correct age again. Even in her writings, she passed herself off as being younger than she really was. She was very, very modest -- except for that one little thing.

She does sound like a winner. I browsed yet more newspapers and found her in perfectly unobjectionable articles, prewar, spoken of as a writer, poet, somewhat of a socialite and wit. She's on lists with other literary types, receiving prizes for literary efforts or standing up for various caused- not always political. I'm not seeing a fire breather, more intellectual. With a bite yet some humor. However it was this women did communicate she sure developed some method putting her on equal footing- simply disallowed anyone to discount her. I'm inclined to feel she was of the Belle Boyd caliber, adding immense charm to her quiver of talents. You just, plain cannot define charm.

Belle ended one imprisonment by marrying a guard, too. Men nearly fell at her feet yet she did not ' use ' them. Some women just have something elusive, Belle had it. Sounds as if Susan may have.
 

lelliott19

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Thats exactly how I eventually found her @donna .

I have found Find-A-Grave to be an invaluable tool for locating lots of elusive CW folk. It lets you use partial names for first, middle, and last names. For first and middle, you just put in the part you are certain of. So if the name is "Susan" - but it could be Suzanne or Suzie or whatever - you just put in the "Su"

To include partial surname you just have to click the box that says "Do partial name search on surname."

So for example in this case, I had no luck finding her using "Susan Archer Tally" or "Susan A Tally" in the search boxes. I thought perhaps it was because she had a married name. You also have the option to include maiden names. Again you have to click the box on a search that says "Include maiden name(s) in my search." So I tried it that way using "Susan Archer Tally" and "Susan A Tally" with no probable results.

Finally, I tried "Su A Tal" and clicked the partial surname box AND the include maiden name box - and low and behold......there she was! Of course, then you have to do additional research to be sure you have the RIGHT person - parents, spouses, children etc. But all in all - its a great way to get leads.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Thank you! Did not know you could use partial names with any results! It's never occurred to me to try that anyway- and am guessing it's possible to find people whose names are misspelled in documents or records but not on their graves, too.
 


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