July 29, 1862 ~ Confederate Spy Belle Boyd Caught
Isabella Maria Boyd best known as Belle Boyd, was a Confederate spy in the American Civil War.
Boyd was born on May 9, 1844, in Martinsburg, Virginia (now part of West Virginia)
Her idyllic southern life was sidelined when the U.S. Civil War broke out, so the resourceful southern belle used her panache and charm to as her weapon of choice to support the Southern cause.
While most tales of Boyd are highly fictionalized and include gunfights with union soldiers and dramatic escapes, she did provided valuable information to Confederate General Stonewall Jackson in 1862.
Boyd operated her father’s hotel in Front Royal, Virginia which was the gateway to the strategic Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
When Union soldiers stayed at her establishment, she profited from their proximity to charm them into divulging tidbits of information which she would piece together for dissemination to Confederates.
Boyd conveyed those secrets to Confederate officers via her slave, Eliza Hopewell, who carried the messages in a hollowed-out watch case.
Boyd was caught spying on several occasions, but used her familiarity with the officers to get released. She then went right back to spying.
In May 1862, Boyd hid in a closet and eavesdropping through a knothole to learned that Union forces had been ordered east from Front Royal, Virginia.
That night, Boyd rode through Union lines, using false papers to bluff her way past the sentries, and reported the news.
In a later occasion Boyd broke through enemy lines under gunfire to urge Stonewall Jackson to attack Fort Royal, telling an aide “the Yankee force is very small. Tell him to charge right down and he will catch them all.”
Jackson did attack and won the day.
For her contributions, the Siren of the Shenandoah was awarded the Southern Cross of Honor. Jackson also gave her captain and honorary aide-de-camp positions.
After her lover gave her up, Belle Boyd was arrested for the first time on July 29, 1862, and brought to the Old Capitol Prison in Washington, D.C., the next day.
Boyd was investigated and held for a month before being released.
She was arrested again in June 1863, but was released after contracting typhoid fever.
In March 1864, she attempted to travel to England, where she was intercepted by a Union blockade and sent to Canada.
There she met Union naval officer, Samuel Wylde Hardinge. The two later married in England.
The spying days of the Cleopatra of the Secession were over, but the tales of spy-craft had just begun. Boyd spent the rest of her life touring the country giving dramatic lectures of her life as a Civil War spy.
Belle Boyd, the La Belle Rebelle passed away in 1900, but the legend lives on.
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