Subject: Female Spies of the Civil War
Appeared In: Ghost of Thornton Hall
In true HER style, not only did they provide information on 19th century espionage, they focused entirely on the ladies, something the majority of history classrooms neglect to mention. Here are some more incredible female spies on both sides.
- Antonia Ford (1838-1871): Confederate. Moved through occupying Union sects like a true debutante, using her charm and gentility to learn Union secrets, which she passed on to her brother’s superior officer, Brigadier General Stuart. He was so impressed with Antonia’s intel that he named her an honorary aide-de-camp. This was the equivalent of Chief of Staff, the foremost personal assistant to a senior officer. She was arrested twice, and ended up marrying one of her captors. She had three children and died of heart complications in DC.
- Hattie Lawton (?-?): Union. This woman is a regular Carmen Sandiego. Details of her life before and after the war are fuzzy at best. She was part of the Pinkerton’s Female Detective Bureau, a group solely founded because female detectives could obtain certain secrets men couldn’t. She was one of the women to uncover an assassination plot against candidate Abraham Lincoln. She and her partner were betrayed by two other Union spies to save their own lives, and Hattie spent a year in prison, continuing to stick to her cover story like a boss. After she was released, she dropped off the map.
- Virginia Bethel Moon (1844-1925): Confederate. She and her sister Charlotte worked with several other spies in Tennessee. At the time the war broke out, she was attending school in Ohio. ‘Ginnie’ immediately demanded the school allow her to return home. When the school said no, she took a gun and shot out all the Union stars in the courtyard flag. She was active until the war ended, smuggling medicine and information to Confederate troops in Memphis. She was arrested twice, escaped once, and ended up becoming a philanthropist after the war, tending to those struck by yellow fever in the 1870s.
- Pauline Cushman (1833-1897): Union. This is actually her stage name. She was born Harriet Wood in New Orleans, eventually moving to New York as a performer. While touring in Kentucky, she was fired after toasting to the Confederate President. What they didn’t know was that Pauline had decided to put her acting skills to other uses; the toast was just the beginning of Pauline’s plan to gain the trust of the Confederates while spying for the Union. She stole battle plans and hid them in her shoes. She was caught and sentenced to death, but was saved by invading Union troops. Did her brush with death halt Pauline? Nope! She smuggled herself back into the South dressed as a soldier, and continued her work until he end of the war. She was awarded the title of Brevet Major, commended by Lincoln, and was known as Miss Major. She traveled the country after the war telling stories of her experience.
- Kate Warne (1833-1868): Union. She was the first female detective in the United States. Kate was the one to crack Lincoln’s failed assassination plot; she then set up nearly their entire plan to smuggle Lincoln into Baltimore, including providing a disguise for him to act as her sick brother, securing private rooms on the trains, and not sleeping a single second until they were safe, prompting Pinkerton to use the slogan “we never sleep” for his agency. During the war she had at least eight other aliases, and posed as a Southern belle to gain information from soldiers’ gossiping wives. She was even asked out on a date by John Wilkes Booth. She remained in charge of the entire women’s detective bureau until she died of pneumonia in 1868.