Sunday, July 29

This Week in The Civil War: July 29, 1862

Capture of Confederate spy Belle Boyd

One of the Confederacy's most famous spies, sexy temptress Belle Boyd, is captured by the Union on July 29, 1862, and hauled off to prison in Washington, D.C., only to be released about a month later in a prisoner exchange. Born into an affluent Virginia family ardently loyal to the South, Boyd used her charms to eavesdrop on Union officers while frequenting their camps. Reports have it that she beguiled at least one officer into providing her with advance word on federal troop movements before the First Battle of Bull Run or Manassas. As war progress, Boyd would regularly deliver gleaned war intelligence to the Confederacy, at times crossing enemy lines at great risk on horseback. Confederate Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson was so impressed with the spy that he made her an honorary aide-de-camp. In the North, her espionage would garner her media attention to the point that some began calling her "La Belle Rebelle." Later in the war, in 1864, Boyd was sent to England as a Confederate courier but captured before she could complete that mission. Historians say she later escaped and went on to marry a Union naval officer and live in England until 1866, where she worked as a stage actress. Boyd eventually returned to the U.S. and died in Wisconsin in 1900 while on a lecture tour touting her adventure-filled life. The Associated Press reports on Aug. 2, 1862, that the Union at this point in the war is garnering thousands of prisoners. The AP dispatch from Fortress Monroe, Va., said three steamships laden with a total of 3,000 rebel prisoners had just arrived, docking outside the large Union-held fortress off the Virginia coast. "The physicians from Fortress Monroe have been on board and cared for the sick and wounded," AP's dispatch said.

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