Belle Boyd: Confederate Spy
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Belle Boyd: Confederate Spy

BORN:May 4, 1844 in Martinsburg, Virginia
DIED:1900 in Kilbourne, Wisconsin

  • She was born Maria Isabella Boyd to a typical Southern family. Father Ben was a store merchant and grocer. Several brothers died before The War for Southern Independence. Belle's father joined the Virginia Cavalry. Belle was left to tend to her sister Mary Jane,age 10,her brother Bill,age 4, her mother and grandmother.She went to Mount Washington Female College of Baltimore, from age 12 to age 16.
  • After her widely publicized exploit at Front Royal, Belle Boyd became an object of suspicion to the Union War Department. She did not cease her activities, but continued to carry messages - some of them private letters for which she was paid - to Richmond. On July 29, 1862, a detective from the United States Secret Service in Washington came to Front Royal to arrest her. She was taken under guard by carriage and train to Washington where she was placed in the Old Capital Prison.

    Since no specific charge had been made against Belle she was released on August 28 and sent to Richmond where she was given an enthusiastic reception. She continued to work as a spy and went to England in May of 1864. While there she wrote her memoirs(Belle Boyd in Camp & Prison). She also married a Union naval officer whom she converted to the Confederate cause.

    Romance led Belle into and out of trouble; one sweetheart, C.W.D. Smitely, a West Virginia cavalryman, betrayed her into Old Capitol Prison. She made history there by furiously assailing the Federal detective chief, Lafayette Baker, when he urged her to sign a loyalty oath to the Union. "I hope that when I commence that oath, my tongue may cleave to the roof of my mouth. If I ever sign one line to show allegiance, I hope my arms fall paralyzed to my side. . . .Get out. I'm so disgusted I can't endure your presence any longer. Baker retreated. Belle remained there, living like an empress, reading fashionable magazines and eating delicacies brought by sympathizers.

    Belle was trapped on a blockade-runner captured by a Federal ship, but so charmed a young ensign on the enemy vessel that he proposed. Belle embroiled him in Confederate espionage, and when he was discovered and dismissed from the United States Navy she sailed to England. The ex-ensign, Sam Hardinge, followed, and they were married in London. After the war she went on the stage playing parts in the most popular dramas of the day. She died in 1900 in Kilbourne, Wisconsin where she had gone to address the members of a G.A.R. post.

    Special thanks to Benjamin Tubb for the midi on this page.You can find his link on my Links page.

    Special credits to "Secret Missions of the Civil War" by: Philip Van Doren Stern