• Photo of cannon at Antietam National Battlefield

    The Civil War

Spies

Photo of Union spy Pauline Cushman

In a war where one's appearance and speech did not give away one's loyalty, espionage and the black market thrived. This was particularly true in border areas, where the people's sympathies were divided. Many former slaves and some southern Unionists provided valuable local knowledge to Union forces. Confederate women spies, such as "Rebel Rose" Greenhow of Washington, D.C., and Belle Boyd of Virginia were particularly celebrated for their exploits in a Romantic age.

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  • Manassas National Battlefield Park

    Belle Boyd

    Photo of Belle Boyd

    One of the Confederacy's most famous spies, Belle Boyd's life played out like a James Bond character: she was betrayed by a lover, later captured taking Confederate papers to England, and fell in love with and married her captor. Read more

  • Presidio of San Francisco

    Pauline Cushman

    Pauline Cushman

    Pauline Cushman, born as Harriet Wood, was a New Orleans-born actress who traveled the country before the war. She became a Union spy in 1861, narrowly escaping hanging by the Confederates in Kentucky, and was "promoted" to become known as Miss Major Cushman. She ended the war on the lecture circuit, telling of her exploits. Read more

  • Sarah Edmonds

    Photo of Sarah Edmonds

    Although women were barred from military service during the Civil War, Sarah Edmonds didn't let that stop her. Read more

  • Gettysburg National Military Park

    Henry Thomas Harrison

    Photo of Henry Thomas Harrison

    Espionage was a vital tool for both sides, and the tip this spy gave South was one of its most valuable, changing the course of the war. Read more

  • Elizabeth Van Lew

    Photo of Elizabeth Van Lew

    Following Virginia's secession in April of 1861, Elizabeth Van Lew joined with other Richmond Unionists to create an underground network to hinder the Confederate war effort and give aid and comfort to captured Union soldiers. The infamous Libby Prison, which held scores of Union officers in deplorable conditions, was located only blocks from Van Lew's home. Read more