Brev. Brig. Gen'l
- Feb 14, 2012
- Central Pennsylvania
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.
Someone will know who this was? Hers is hardly the only story of a woman dressed like a soldier, busy taking notes.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.