American Civil War spies

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The most useful military intelligence of the American Civil War was probably provided to Union officers by slaves and smugglers. Intelligence provided by slaves and blacks were called black dispatches. There were, however, conventional spies working for each side.


[edit] Confederacy

Thomas Jordan, a former U.S. Army officer who became a Confederate colonel, started an embryonic spy network in Washington, D.C. as early as 1860. He turned over control of the network to Rose O'Neal Greenhow, in the summer of 1861. Much of the valuable intelligence she gathered came from her suitor, Henry Wilson of Massachusetts, who was the chairman of the Senate Military Affairs Committee. Another or Greenhow's co-conspirators, Aaron Van Camp, her dentist, used his son, Eugene B. Van Camp, an orderly for General P.G.T. Beauregard, to smuggle information on Union troop dispostion to Confederate forces before the battle of First Bull Run.

Major William Norris was the head of the Confederate Signal Bureau, a secret spy network that extended as far north as Montreal. James D. Bulloch from Georgia was the Confederate agent in Britain. The most famous female spy, Belle Boyd, was employed by the Confederacy and worked in Washington D.C., where she solicited military intelligence from Union officers. Many spies operated out of Canada, including Alexander Keith, Jr. in Halifax.

During the early days of the Gettysburg Campaign, a number of alleged scouts and spies were arrested or detained in Pennsylvania, including a man caught sounding the depth of the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg, the target of two oncoming Confederate divisions under Richard Ewell. A spy named Will Talbot was left behind in Gettysburg by the 35th Virginia Cavalry after they had passed through the borough on June 2627. He was taken to Emmitsburg, Maryland, and executed by John Buford. Other spies delivered maps and plans of Union defenses at Harrisburg and Wrightsville.<ref>Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg</ref>

In November 1863, Sam Davis was sentenced to death by the Union for spying at Pulaski, Tennessee.

[edit] Union

Allan Pinkerton of the Union ran the Federal Secret Service and Brig. Gen. Lafayette C. Baker was the chief of War Department detectives. Famous female operators included Elizabeth Van Lew, a Richmond, Virginia resident who managed to plant a spy among Jefferson Davis's own slaves; Sarah Emma Edmonds, who gained entrance to Confederate camps near Yorktown, Virginia disguised as a black slave; and Pauline Cushman who was captured, but escaped after being sentenced to execution, enabling her to provide further important intelligence. Spencer Kellogg Brown was caught by the Conferate government and was hanged. Most famously however, Harriet Tubman put her considerable experience as a resistance fighter with the Underground Railroad to use to become an equally effective and elusive agent. In addition, numerous slaves who saw their best hopes of freedom with Union victory supplied intelligence to the Northern forces whenever they had the opportunity.

Major Henry Young of Rhode Island commanded a fifty-eight man band of scouts and served Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan during the last year of the war.

[edit] See also

54th Massachusetts

[edit] External link

[edit] Notes


American Civil War spies

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