Spies Like Us; The Women Spooks of the Civil War

Discussion in 'General Conversation' started by Catcaller, Jan 29, 2008.

  1. Catcaller

    Catcaller New Member

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    Everybody has heard of the likes of the male Civil war players such as Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, Ulysses Grant, Abe Lincoln, William Sherman, and Robert E Lee.

    But how about Emeline Pigott, Antonia Ford, Madame La Force, Elizabeth Van Lew, Mary Bowser, Eugena Phillips, Rose O'Neil Greehow, and Pauline Cushman?

    These women served as spies for the Confederacy and the Union alike.

    Some were slaves who lived behind enemy lines...serving as housekeepers or maids for Confederate officers at their head quarters or their home...and desperately wanted the Union to win the war in order to secure their own freedom and that of their families.

    Yet other women were increasingly frustrated with the assigned role as helpless and less than intelligent sub-serviant individuals incapable of contributing to the war effort in a positive manner. Many of these women were well to do white women who assisted and provided comfort to the Union or the Confederacy...depending on where their loyalties lie.

    Emeline Pigott was a Confederate spy. She was born and raised in Harlowe Township in North Carolina...which over a three county region was her theatre of operation.

    She helped nurse injured confederate soldiers back to health...sometimes in her own home, she collected mail from the soldiers, and left food, medical supplies, and clothing in hollowed out tree trunks for the soldiers to later collect.

    As time went on...she began to collect intelligence from the Union troops she would entertain, all the while gathering critical information...such as troop movements and planned future military operations...and hiding it inside her oversized hoop skirt...she would smuggle the information out and turn it over to the Confederacy.

    Later...as the war went on...she was arrested as a spy and sentenced to die. Shortly later she was mysteriously released. The reason why went to the grave with her in 1916.

    Antonia Ford was a Confederate spy who was described as a good looking woman with pleasing manners. Born in Fairfax Court House, Virginia...she was able to obtain intel from Union officers staying at her fathers home...and also from her duties as a Union courier.

    Her spying activity was so valuable in fact...that she was given an accomadation by confederate general James EB Stuart.

    She would report union troop movements mainly...but after one of her tips resulted in a Union general getting kidnapped by Confederate raiders...she was investigated and found guilty of espionage.

    She lingered in prison until a union lieutenant who had fallen in love with her convinced her to sign a loyalty oath to the union...thus securing her release.

    But due to malnutrition and bad treatment in prison...her health had declined to the point that she died shortly later as a result.

    Madame La Force is somewhat of a mystery...some believed she was a woman...others a man posing as a woman.

    On June 28, 1861...the liner St. Nicholas left port at Baltimore, Maryland with a rather strange and ostentatious French woman...known as Madame La Force.

    Her flirtations kept the crew and passengers distracted long enough to allow some men taveling with her to load a few trunks and tool boxes aboard un-noticed.

    After the ship set sail...she retired to her cabin...until the ship again docked at point lookout, Maryland. When she once again flirted with boarding passengers and kept everybody distracted while more contraband was smuggled aboard the ship.

    Once again after the ship was underway...she retired to her cabin.

    A short time later she again appeared on deck...but not as madame La Force...but rather as Confederate Zouave colonel Richard Thomas...complete with uniform, sword, and pistols.

    His cohorts...including a Confederate battle commander and his hand picked team of elite soldiers.... rounded up the crew and passengers...detained them below...and went about their business of picking up Confederate Navy Lieutenant Henry H Lewis and his group of sailors....and ultimately hijacking three other Union supply ships...and diverting their cargo of ice, coal, munitions, medical supplies, and other badly needed items to the Confederacy.

    Following their arrival in Fredericksburg, Virginia...Colonel Richard Thomas...aka Madame La Force...was captured and placed in solitary confinement for two years...and was eventually released on a prisoner exchange.

    He fled to France...and never did return to the US.

    Elizabeth Van Lew and her slave Mary Bowser were spies for the Union...Van Lew used her eccentricities and bizarre behavior as a cover to gain access to a confederate prison as a care giver...and in the process helped many union officers and soldiers to escape and subsequently rejoin their units...as well as providing aid and comfort to other union soldiers she encountered.

    Later her slave Mary Bowser was a maid for Confederate president Jefferson Davis and his wife at their home in Virginia....making her privy to firsthand confederate secrets....and then relayed them to her handler Ms. Van Lew....who in turn gave the info to Union officials.

    Sometimes the secrets were scribed in code on thin wax paper stuffed inside a chickens egg drained of its yolk...placed among a whole basket of eggs secretly delivered to union agents.

    So valuable were these secrets...that later Ulysses Grant himself met with the women...commending their actions.

    Eugena Phillips...a very strong willed and determined woman...spied for the south...while her husband...a US Congressman supported the Union.

    She used her position as a wealthy Washington socialite and hostess to procure union secrets...and then passed them along to her Confederate handlers.

    This continued unabated without her husbands knowledge of what she was up to...that is until federal marshalls placed the entire household under arrest.

    A few weeks later they were all eventually released...and they all moved back down south to Richmond, Virginia...where Eugena proceeded to provide Jefferson Davis with Union maps and documents upon a visit to his house.

    They then moved to New Orleans...where Eugena was arrested for laughing out loud at a Union funeral procession.

    She was imprisoned on ship island in the Gulf of Mexico for several months...where she contracted Malaria...she was later released with the help of her husband. They skedaddled to Confederate held territory. Her time of death is unknown.

    Rose O'Neil Greenhow was a wealthy, attractive, and fascinating socialite in Washington DC...and was also a Confederate spy.

    Pre-Civil war...Rose was a constant companion of the likes of James Buchanon and John Calhoun whom she regularly socialized and partied with.

    As a result of this...she was able to obtain sensitive and sometimes classified Union information...which she passed on to the Confederacy.

    Being careless as she was...she eventually aroused the interest of Allan Pinkerton...a police detective and Union informer.

    He later investigated and arrested her. She landed in prison after she was found in possession of Washington fortifications, as well as numerous letters and notes outlining Union troop movements.

    From jail...she was still able to continue her spying activities and relay the intel with the help of the Confederate spy network...and even after release and while under house arrest...she continued to serve the Confederacy in whatever capacity she was presented with.

    Rose was later sent to England and France by Jefferson Davis to plead the Confederacy's case. Upon her return...they were intercepted by a union patrol ship.

    She was captured...and was headed back for jail...when she convinced her captors to release her with a healthy bribe of gold coins she happened to be carrying on her person.

    They turned her loose in a row boat...but with the combination of her still carrying over $2000 worth of gold coins in her pockets...and high seas capsizing her boat...she drowned before she reached shore.

    She was buried with honors...given a full military funeral...and to this day her grave is decorated in Washington DC on Confederate memorial day.

    Pauline Cushman...an actress turned union spy...and who for her gallant efforts was given the honorary rank of Major in the Union army.

    While appearing in a show in Union held Louisville, Kentucky...she was approached by two Confederate officers who offered her $300 to personally give a toast to Jefferson Davis.

    Cushman being a union supporter...informed the proper union authorities...who told her to go ahead and make that toast....which would hopefully endear herself to the secessionist movement and make it appear that she was in fact loyal to them...allowing the union to use her as a spy.

    Following the toast...she was fired by the theatre manager...and subsequently followed the Confederate soldiers on the premise of looking for her lost brother.

    Soon she was trusted...and was therefore privy to Confederate secrets..and able to turn over that information to to union forces.

    She was caught with papers containing crucial information by General Braxton Bragg at his headquarters.

    She was ultimately sentenced to hang in 10 days...luckily for her...union troops sprung her from prison when they invaded Shelbyville, Kentucky before her sentence could be handed down.

    Due to her noteriety...she could no longer function in the espionage business...so she began to tour the rest of the country...dressing in her union uniform...giving lectures about her experiences as a spy.

    At wars end...she returned to acting in San Francisco...and like many young women socialites of the day...she became addicted to Opium for treatment of an illness...and in the end took her own life with an overdose.

    She was buried with military honors in the cemetary of the San Francisco Grand Army of the Republic on December 2 1893.

    There was a buffet of treacherous activity going on behind the scenes of the Civil War...by a variety of different sympathizers....whose loyalties lay with the "other" side. (Outlook depending on which "side" you were on)

    In the days of the civil war...which far preceded the advent of high tech surveilance techniques...overheard coversations over a stiff drink or dinner...word of mouth...and boots on the ground were the best and most reliable forms of gathering information about your enemy.

    In these cases...apron strings, hoop skirts, food service, party hostesses, and care givers were especially effective due to the widespread opinion and notions of the day that women were neither smart enough...nor phsically or emotionally fit enough to aid the war effort.

    Whoops! Bad Call! :wink:
     
  2. jim

    jim New Member

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    HAH!!!!!Who ever wrote that last para must be brain dead.Shouldnt be any mystery at all that women make the best spies.Did you ever try and hide anything in your room from your mom.Fat chance!!!:crazy::eek:oooh::roll_eyes::smile2:Moms have that "mother hearing" and x-ray vision and had it long before Superman came along!!!!:big_smile:My mom could tell I was lying before I even told the lie!!!!!:smile2:When I asked her how she always knew all my evil deeds she would just say "Females know everything,but we have to let you males think you are getting away with something,otherwise you pout":smile2::big_smile::crazy:
     

  3. Catcaller

    Catcaller New Member

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    Put into context...that was just the flavor of the day back then.

    Women were considered useless except for making babies, raising kids, keeping the house straightened up, the wash done, and "standing" by their man in a support role.

    It was just one of MANY prejudices that were routinely exercised back in the day by both sides...Union and Confederate.

    You know as well as I do that women were no more stupid back then anymore they are nowadays. :eek:oooh:

    Wait a second...that didn't sound quite right...what I MEANT to say was that women have NEVER been stupid. (NEVER NEVER EVER) :wink:
     
  4. jeremiad

    jeremiad Well-Known Member

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    Man oh man, you like to play with fire, don't you! :eek:oooh:

    Now you know that the Sisterhood will be scoping this thread... :crazy:

    Great history, by the way! :wink:
     
  5. willcat

    willcat New Member

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    Good read on the history lesson, didnt know that. I must have slept thru that on that day!!lol:smile2:
     
  6. Catcaller

    Catcaller New Member

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    Jerimiad...one UNFORGETTABLE thing that history has taught me is that a woman who has been called STUPID...or is implied to be STUPID...knows absolutely NO bounds...and is a VERY dangerous individual!! As she will typically stop at nothing to redeem herself against her accuser by whatever means neccessary to do so. :wink:

    It's a wonder man ever survived those times...I mean hell...the women still are hard wired to hold it against us to this day because our male ancestors gave them no credit over 150 years ago!!!

    Proof = As I was typing up my initial new thread post...my 15 year old daughter plops down beside me...and reads it.

    She looks at me in a most disgusted face...and says "men are such pigs"...gets up...and stomps away...and then proceeds to tell her mother the same "pig" comment she said to me.

    My wifes response? ......"Tell me about it sister....the quicker you figure that out...the quicker you will become adept at making them bleed just a little bit each day".

    Then they just Laaaauuugh. Laugh until they cry. (And I don't mean laughter of a joyous type...I'm talking like a devious witch's cackle...I'll get you....and you little dog too....Hah hah hah hah.)
     
  7. Catcaller

    Catcaller New Member

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    I was the same way when I was in school.

    I only wish that I could have been interested so much in History back then as I am now.

    I typically buy a book every 2 or 3 weeks. The civil war is of particular great interest to me...I have an extensive library of war books in my collection.
     
  8. willcat

    willcat New Member

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    I am the opposite, i have an extensive library of war MOVIES in mine !!!!!!:big_smile:
     
  9. gardengrz

    gardengrz New Member

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    thanks for the info very interesting :big_smile: :cool2:
     
  10. Catcaller

    Catcaller New Member

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    Will...I too have a bunch of war movies and westerns...haven't seen a movie yet tho that will hold a candle to the book. You get so much more detail with a great storyteller.

    I'm a reader by heart...I remember as a kid sitting by the fireplace at grandmas house reading something...anything. (That was before vcrs...much less dvds or the internet were in every house)

    Just call me old fashioned...IMO nothin' beats a good read.

    That being said...however...I'd love to see a movie about one of these brave women spies...or William Quantrill and his Confederate raiders. (Perhaps something along the lines of how the Outlaw Josey Wales was made)
     
  11. Catcaller

    Catcaller New Member

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    You're very welcome...I read a piece about these women...and thought it was interesting enough to be shared. Some may not agree...but it was interesting to me.
     
  12. Eithne

    Eithne New Member

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    Now I know why you wanted tom cats and a bird that you could talk too. Didn't you say it took to your wife, after all? :smile2:
     
  13. Plowboy411

    Plowboy411 New Member

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    this is a good read,, some of it I didn't know,.
    thanks bro.:cool2:
     
  14. Kat-tamer

    Kat-tamer New Member

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    As I got to the bottom of the first page I noticed a couple of other sisters reading this.:wink:

    Good thing you started sucking up early in this thread!:eek:oooh:

    I can't wait to meet your wife and daughter this summer, sounds like we can make you guys squirm!:smile2:
     
  15. Catcaller

    Catcaller New Member

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    Lol...I have a wife...and 4 daughters ranging from 7 to 15.

    My son is a mommas boy...most of the girls...the dogs, the cats, and the bird ALL gravitate towards my wife.

    All except for one of my girls. The 7 year old is daddys girl.

    In her eyes...I do NO wrong!! And she's always on my side...thick or thin.

    To ensure this carries on...I bribe her daily on the way to her school after I drop off the rest of the momma brats at their school...with a gatorade and a donut or candy bar...and a dollar bill that she deposits into her bank account after school...and of course that's right after we stop by McDonalds and grab a chicken nugget Happy Meal with Apple Dippers and a Dr. Pepper.

    Tell me I don't know how to make friends! :wink:
     
  16. willcat

    willcat New Member

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    keep up the "making friends w/the small one", I too would love to see a movie made about these & others but as true as can be, and as close as possible as far as the wardrobe & language,, scenery & what not!!!!!! I'm like u though, I love a good read, but can't seem to stop until it's finished!!!
     
  17. Catcaller

    Catcaller New Member

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    Lol...you know what'll be funny is watching YOU squirm while you're out there with Matt and I wading waist deep in that muddy a$$ river where you can't see your feet...or your next step...while trying VERY hard to land that 30 or 40 lb blue cat attached to the end of your line!

    Good Times! (Guaranteed)

    The time spent by the campfire at days end...relating old stories...new stories...and hashing and rehashing the days events over a campfire cooked dinner and a few cold brews with good friends....you can't buy that at ANY store!

    I'm looking forward to meeting 'yall as well...that place is one of those places that even if the fish aren't biting as well as we'd like them to...it's still worth the experience and the memories that you get to take home.

    It seems so far away...it's snowing outside right now...but in reality...the really good fishing will be starting in less than 2 months...and will continue until around the first of July.

    See how easy that was?? Get me going on about fishing...and I'll hijack my own thread...Lol.
     
  18. willcat

    willcat New Member

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    My sister's yellow crested cockatoo took to her too!!!
     
  19. Reel_Blues

    Reel_Blues New Member

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    Man nice post you seem to know your history.
     
  20. Kat-tamer

    Kat-tamer New Member

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    I don't mind wading in the muddy river as long as the water aint cold!:wink:
    Actually, I grew up on a farm and went swimming in the ponds with the cows and I was the daughter who got to drag the net across a "pond" (mud up to my waist) to sain for crawdads.

    OK, back on track!:big_smile:
    Have you seen the movie (or read the book) True Wowen?
    I watched it in my history class (my first college class) and then a friend had the video. I've watched it 4 times now.
    It's about women on the homefront before and during the Civil War. Very interesting watching what they did to help and fighting off indians.

    I highly recommend it if ya aint seen it. Supposed to be a true story.