01988 - 'Captain' Belle Boyd; Spy - Confederate States of America [LC-DIG-cwpbh-01988]
Belle Boyd was a 17 year old girl when the war started. This fun loving redhead was not someone you would think of as a spy, but that is what made her effective. Just a few months after the start of the war her town of Martinsburg, Virginia (now West Virginia) was already in Union hands. On the Fourth of July she hung a Confederate flag from her home. Union soldiers quickly replaced it with an American flag. Already angered, she could no longer take it when one of the soldiers cursed her mother. She pulled a pistol and shot him. She was placed under house arrest pending an investigation. Sentries were posted around the house to keep track of her.
She charmed the Captain into revealing military secrets. She used her slave Eliza to pass the message to Confederate hands, but was quickly caught. Now facing death for spying and still under investigation for the shooting, she felt this was the perfect time to become a better spy. Perhaps due to her age, or that she was a woman, the matter was dropped and she resumed her business. In May of 1862, General Shields met with his staff in the hotel owned by Belle’s father. Hiding in a closet she listened as the battle plans were drawn up. Riding under false papers, Belle was able to pass the information to the Confederates. A few days later Stonewall Jackson passed near the town. She managed to make her way again through the lines to meet him. She told one of the officers to tell Jackson, “The Yankee force is very small. Tell him to charge right down and he will catch them all.” Jackson personally wrote her a note to thank her after he was able to use the information to his advantage.
She was awarded the “Southern Cross of Honor” and the title of “Captain” for her service. Within weeks she was again discovered and soon a Union prisoner again. She was released during a prisoner exchange at the end of August. Captured and released a 3rd time she managed to sail to England in 1864 where she met and married a Union Naval officer. He died in October of 1866 while on duty. Belle became an actress in England and returned to the United States where she married again in 1869. Divorced in 1884, she married a third time the following year. In 1886 she began giving lectures of her exploits as a spy. Fourteen years later in 1900, she was to address a Union veterans group in Wisconsin when she had a heart attack and died. She was buried there with the veterans serving as pall bearers.