When Parasols And Eyelashes Were Weapons And Men Were Nervous, Girl Spies Go To War

JPK Huson 1863

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parasol 1864 group.jpg

You can never look at images like this again without wondering what they're all up to. Apart from from women spies famously tucking forbidden articles beneath those hoops, see that frivolous little parasol? Yet another weapon of espionage. We only looked harmless. Godey's 1864, Hathitrust

Beyond Belle Boyd, tragic Rosie Greenhow, Mary Bowser and Elizabeth Van Lew we don't hear a ton of ' female spy ' stories. A few other names make appearances although you see some women's stories dismissed. The fact Harper's Weekly included an image of Union soldiers catching a female spy in one spread/article on ' Camp life in Washington, D.C. ' as early as 1861 means that really was part of daily life- detaining women suspected of spying. No one get excited over those awful Union men picking at Southern women- Northern women were being detained ( with reason ) elsewhere.

spy u chattanooga 1864.jpg

Someone will know who this was? Hers is hardly the only story of a woman dressed like a soldier, busy taking notes.
spy u  female soldier 1861.jpg


You can ascertain when newspapers dressed things up a bit to make things interesting. Also obvious is when a story is just ' what happened '. There's a fair amount of 'what happened' when women were caught engaged in their surreptitious contributions to the war. We were everywhere, rolling documents in parasols, making hoops more than intrusive fashion statements, dressing up like men to infiltrate enemy armies and batting eyelashes like any self respecting flirt intent on deception. Some were thrown in prison, some sent home with warnings not to come back, some refused to stay there. It did seem clear in a man's war no one was quite sure what to do with them. There sure were a lot and for every one caught how many others floated through the war unimpeded?

spy u faulkner 1862.JPG

It wasn't much fun assigned as guard to these women. Rosie Greenhow was moved to Old Capitol after Federals had confined her to her home and moved other women who'd been doing the same work there, too. While Belle Boyd spent her time as captive captivating the enemy ( one married her ), Rosie was hugely difficult, hostile and so terrifying to the men assigned to guard her they didn't do a terrific job. Hence the move to Old Capitol.

spy u mrs webb 1.jpg

The parasol contained maps, troop movements, letters and plans. It was quite haul. The woman's name was Mrs. Webb- a little tough to ID because we're forever becoming someone's Mrs.


Mrs. Baxley's article was right below one about Rosie Greenhow.
spy u mrs baxley.jpg


spy u  hays 1865 2.JPG

Does anyone know who she was, please? A woman spying for Forrest and referred to in era papers as ' Gen. Forrest's female spy ' must be well known and I've missed her.

spy u  Lamoille_Newsdealer_Wed__Jan_6__1864_.jpg


spy u Lamoille_Newsdealer_Wed__Jan_6__1864 2.jpg

The threat may have been made but I can't find a single instance where women were executed ( Union or Confederate ) for spying.

I won't post more inside the thread- clicking on the few below you'll find more and there are yet more I didn't use. We were everywhere, talk about ' Women's Work in the Civil War '. It may have made men a little jumpy hence Dr. Mary Walker's arrest for spying. She crossed lines to aid Southern civilians, no spying intended- but you could see where any female, anywhere they didn't belong made men in both armies nervous.

spy u dix 1863 2.jpg


spy u rosencranz.jpg
 

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Belle Montgomery

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Great post @JPK Huson 1863 !!
BTW- Forrest's spy was Mary Ann Pittman - aka Mollie Hayes
Mary Ann Pittman, who dressed like a Confederate Lieutenant named Rawley, joined General Nathan Forrest, accompanying him through Tennessee and Mississippi.
Disguises, alias, diversions, and secrecy were all weapons spies and scouts used to conduct their business during the war. Eventually, she revealed her female identity to Forrest in which he laughed and said she made quite a good looking woman. Forrest cautioned her to let this secret go no further, and believed “success would be more certain if she appeared as a woman dressed herself in a suit of female apparel.…” and then sent her off on a mission..
Under the name “Mollie Hayes,” Pittman spied and smuggled goods for the Confederacy. As “Mollie Hayes,” Pittman visited St. Louis and gained information on Union troops and fortifications.

Pittman eventually concluded that the Confederacy would loose the war and allowed herself to be captured by General Lionel Booth’s troops.

While at Fort Pillow, Tennessee, she informed Booth of Forrest’s pending attack with 4,000 men. Realizing her value, Acting Provost Marshall General Joseph Darr Jr. petitioned to use Pittman as a spy for the Union. He stated, “she can be trusted and would be a proper person to send to [Sterling] Price’s Camp.”.
In January 1865, Major General Grenville Dodge provided Pittman a pass through Federal lines, allowing her to begin her mission for the United States government.

That April, Pittman served as a Union spy reporting information on Sterling Price, as well as bushwhackers, Samuel Hildebrand and Alfred Bolin.
(From “Union Records of Scouts and Spies” article on the Community & Conflict: The Impact of the Civil War in the Ozarks website.)
 
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Belle Montgomery

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These women not only amaze me in their tactics but also in their numbers! :giggle: My female spy/smuggler display has literally run out of room on the Confederate side yet I keep squeezing new gals and their pic or blurbs on it and had to leave some off that I at least talk about in my reenactment presentations. My display does NOT even include cross dressers too! I would need to add at least another dressing screen to even think about including ALL of them!

Here's a few pics (warning-one offensive in it's depiction of an African American on page 662 of "Annals of the Army of the Cumberland )

The Annals of the Army of the Cumberland provides an account of an unnamed African-American female servant and her employer caught smuggling for the Confederacy. She was trying to leave Nashville in a cart when it was stopped and searched. The Union guards found nothing suspicious in the cart, but when the woman jumped down to be searched, a “string broke from about her waist, and down tumbled to the ground two pairs of long-legged cavalry boots” which had been hidden in her skirt.

smuggle boots cartoon.jpg


Civil war cartoon smuggle boots.jpg
 

Cavalry Charger

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Pittman eventually concluded that the Confederacy would loose the war and allowed herself to be captured by General Lionel Booth’s troops.
Wow, this gal sure had a change of heart! Of the worst possible kind. There's no doubt she was a determined individual, but not sure anyone could trust her loyalty after not only deciding to desert the Confederacy, but offer to help bring it down.

Makes me wonder what Forrest would have done with her if he'd got his hands on her again. And it appears he knew she could achieve much more by her feminine wiles than acting as another man among many. He had the right idea, but the outcome was less than ideal.
 

Belle Montgomery

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These are nice images and stories. I know that many young ladies in western Missouri provided intelligence to the southern guerrillas, and I have no trouble believing that some of them smuggled quantities of medicines and pistol caps, too.
During the Civil War, women of the north and south often used their guile, wile and wits serving as scouts, spies and smugglers for both the north and south. The women of the Mayfield family from near Montevallo, Vernon County, Mo., were some of the most famous or infamous, depending on one's point of view, and brazen Southern spies and smugglers between 1861 and 1865. The following description of some of their exploits is located on Pages 337 -- 341 in the 1887 History of Vernon County.
MORE: https://www.fstribune.com/story/1748162.html
ALSO: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1455621560/?tag=civilwartalkc-20
 
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Patrick H

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During the Civil War, women of the north and south often used their guile, wile and wits serving as scouts, spies and smugglers for both the north and south. The women of the Mayfield family from near Montevallo, Vernon County, Mo., were some of the most famous or infamous, depending on one's point of view, and brazen Southern spies and smugglers between 1861 and 1865. The following description of some of their exploits is located on Pages 337 -- 341 in the 1887 History of Vernon County.
MORE: https://www.fstribune.com/story/1748162.html
ALSO: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1455621560/?tag=civilwartalkc-20
Yes, Belle, I have read that book! It is pretty amazing to think of the courage the young ladies possessed!
 

diane

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Wow, this gal sure had a change of heart! Of the worst possible kind. There's no doubt she was a determined individual, but not sure anyone could trust her loyalty after not only deciding to desert the Confederacy, but offer to help bring it down.

Makes me wonder what Forrest would have done with her if he'd got his hands on her again. And it appears he knew she could achieve much more by her feminine wiles than acting as another man among many. He had the right idea, but the outcome was less than ideal.
Mary Ann Pittman was one of several lady spies Forrest employed - he trusted her as a loyal Southern woman and didn't know that she had warned Booth of Forrest's plans for Ft Pillow, and that they should abandon the fort. That wasn't something Booth could do but she offered him even more - Forrest himself. That she could have delivered, too! Booth, however, didn't fully trust her and thought her offer smacked of a trap, that she meant to deliver him to Forrest. She didn't. She had switched sides for real. Mary Ann Pittman, and her various aliases, disappeared completely after the war. If I was her, I would disappear completely, too!
 

Cavalry Charger

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Mary Ann Pittman was one of several lady spies Forrest employed - he trusted her as a loyal Southern woman and didn't know that she had warned Booth of Forrest's plans for Ft Pillow, and that they should abandon the fort. That wasn't something Booth could do but she offered him even more - Forrest himself. That she could have delivered, too! Booth, however, didn't fully trust her and thought her offer smacked of a trap, that she meant to deliver him to Forrest. She didn't. She had switched sides for real.
This ones a big WOW for me, Diane. Not surprised the other side didn't completely trust her loyalty, but what a bonus it would have been for them if they did!
Mary Ann Pittman, and her various aliases, disappeared completely after the war. If I was her, I would disappear completely, too!
Agreed!
 

Eagle65

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Elizabeth Stiles, President Lincoln's Spy. She was from Missouri , her husband was killed by guerillas there. The link to the article isn't working, so I'll post the website: womenofeverycomplexionandcomplexity.weebly.com. It's long, but she sure did have some adventures. I think women made excellent spies because they were outside the power structure, and biased assumptions about women's abilities actually worked in the women's favor. If you can't vote, why not help out any way you can? I'd love to know more about these women. In the history books, you are often given tantalizing glimpses of them. In Trudeau's Southern Storm, a major talks about a woman who Gen. Sherman had given a pass, and the major assumes she is one of his spies. Love to know more about her, these women were vey brave.
 

Belle Montgomery

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Elizabeth Stiles, President Lincoln's Spy. She was from Missouri , her husband was killed by guerillas there. The link to the article isn't working, so I'll post the website: womenofeverycomplexionandcomplexity.weebly.com. It's long, but she sure did have some adventures. I think women made excellent spies because they were outside the power structure, and biased assumptions about women's abilities actually worked in the women's favor. If you can't vote, why not help out any way you can? I'd love to know more about these women. In the history books, you are often given tantalizing glimpses of them. In Trudeau's Southern Storm, a major talks about a woman who Gen. Sherman had given a pass, and the major assumes she is one of his spies. Love to know more about her, these women were vey brave.
Elizabeth Stiles is buried about 45 minutes from where I live:
https://www.starbeacon.com/community/too-pretty-to-shoot/article_d8b66687-960f-50c4-b514-52087467ca67.html
https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/45097447/elizabeth-w_-stiles
 

Eagle65

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Thanks, @Belle Montgomery. I wish someone would make a movie or mini-series about these women, and try to capture all their complexities and bravery. Their stories have everything that makes for exciting drama, adventure and romance. Belle Boyd would be a fantastic movie, her story has everything, and I mean everything.
 

Belle Montgomery

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Thanks, @Belle Montgomery. I wish someone would make a movie or mini-series about these women, and try to capture all their complexities and bravery. Their stories have everything that makes for exciting drama, adventure and romance. Belle Boyd would be a fantastic movie, her story has everything, and I mean everything.
There were SO many of them! I am always complimented by people after they hear my presentation at reenactments etc.

THIS PIC IS FROM LAST YEAR- and shows only the Confederate side...the other side has Union women!
I have added many more ladies and more contraband under my habit and will post an updated one in the future:

Confederate side.jpg

I have Jewish, Hispanic and senior citizen female spies on the Confederate side too!
 

Eagle65

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There were SO many of them! I am always complimented by people after they hear my presentation at reenactments etc.

THIS PIC IS FROM LAST YEAR- and shows only the Confederate side...the other side has Union women!
I have added many more ladies and more contraband under my habit and will post an updated one in the future:

View attachment 313634
I have Jewish, Hispanic and senior citizen female spies on the Confederate side too! [/QUOTE
Wow, I'm bowled over by this! Is there a place on the interwebs where I can see your presentations? By the way, your riding habit is absolutely beautiful.
 


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