Isabella Maria Boyd
File:Belle Boyd.jpg
Born May 9, 1844
Martinsburg, Virginia
Died June 11, 1900
Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

Isabella Marie Boyd (May 9,1844 Ancestry of Belle Boyd (some sources give the day of birth as May 4)[1] 1844[2] – June 11, 1900, best known as Belle Boyd or Cleopatra of the Secession, was a Confederate spy in the American Civil War. She operated from her father's hotel in Front Royal, Virginia and provided valuable information to Confederate general Stonewall Jackson in 1862.

Early life[edit | edit source]

Isabella M. Boyd was born in Martinsburg, Virginia (now West Virginia) May 9th 1844, the eldest child of Ben Reed Boyd and Mary Rebecca Glenn. Belle would describe her childhood as idyllic, living the care-free life of a reckless tomboy who climbed trees, raced through the woods, and dominated brothers, sisters, and cousins. Despite her family's lack of money, Belle received a good education. After some preliminary schooling, she attended the Mount Washington Female College of Baltimore at the age of 12. She completed her training at the age of sixteen, her family and friends arranged a debut in Washington. She became a fun-loving debutante. Editorial change: the hotel in Front Royal was not Belle's father's but her aunt and uncle's operation. Called the Fishback Hotel. They ran it. Her name was Marie Isabella Boyd, not Isabella M. Boyd. Tricia Strader, portrayer of Belle Boyd since 2001

Southern Spy[edit | edit source]

Belle Boyd's espionage career began by chance. According to her 1866 account, on July 4, 1861, a band of Union army soldiers saw a Confederate flag hanged outside her home. They tore it down and hung a Union flag in its place. This made her angry enough, but when one of them cursed at her mother, she was outraged. Belle pulled out a pistol and shot the man down. She was fuming. A board of inquiry exonerated her, but sentries were posted around the house and officers kept close track of her activities. She profited from this enforced familiarity, charming at least one of the officers, Captain Daniel Keily,[3] into revealing military secrets. "To him," she wrote later, "I am indebted for some very remarkable effusions, some withered flowers, and a great deal of important information."[4] Belle conveyed those secrets to Confederate officers via her slave, Eliza Hopewell, who carried the messages in a hollowed-out watch case. On her first attempt at spying she was caught and told she could be sentenced to death, but was not. She was not scared and realized she needed to find a better way to communicate.[5]

One evening in mid-May 1862, Union General James Shields and his staff gathered in the parlor of the local hotel. Belle hid in the closet in the room, eavesdropping through a knothole she enlarged in the door. She learned that Shields had been ordered east from Front Royal, a move that would reduce the Union Army's strength in the town. That night, Belle rode through Union lines, using false papers to bluff her way past the sentries, and reported the news to Colonel Turner Ashby, who was scouting for the Confederates. She then returned to town. When the Confederates advanced on Front Royal on May 23, Belle ran to greet General Stonewall Jackson's men, braving enemy fire that put bullet holes in her skirt. She urged an officer to inform Jackson that "the Yankee force is very small. Tell him to charge right down and he will catch them all." Jackson did and that evening penned a note of gratitude to her: "I thank you, for myself and for the army, for the immense service that you have rendered your country today." For her contributions, she was awarded the Southern Cross of Honor. Jackson also gave her captain and honorary aide-de-camp positions.[6]

After her loverTemplate:Who? gave her up, Belle Boyd was arrested on July 29, 1862, and brought to the Old Capitol Prison in Washington on July 30, 1862,[7] where there was an inquiry on August 7, concerning violations of orders that Boyd be kept in close custody.[8] She was held for a month before being released on August 29, 1862, when she was exchanged at Fort Monroe.[9] She was later arrested and imprisoned a third time. On December 1, 1863, she was released, suffering from typhoid, and was then sent to Europe to regain her health. The blockade runner she attempted to return on was captured and she fell in love with the prize master, Samuel Hardinge, who later married her in England after being dropped from the United States Navy's rolls for neglect of duty in allowing her to proceed to Canada and then England. Hardinge's subsequent attempt to reach Richmond, Virginia was thwarted when he was detained by Union hands, but died soon after his release. While in England Belle Boyd Hardinge had a stage career and published "Belle Boyd in Camp and Prison". Editorial note: Sam was held at Fort Delaware, Pea Patch Island, Delaware. He was released after Belle wrote a letter to Abraham Lincoln, threatening to reveal secrets of high officials in Washington. She was writing her memoirs at the time. He was released. Tricia Strader, portrayer of Belle Boyd.

She died in 1900 while touring the western United States. Boyd is buried in Spring Grove Cemetery, Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. [1]
  2. Hay, 215 (some sources give the year of birth as 1843) [2])
  3. Bakeless, p. 155 {Note:the only Daniel Keily in the Union Army was a Colonel of the 2nd Regiment/Louisiana Cavalry {US} which was formed in 1863! A 1900 account claims [3] that the 1861 shooting incident occurred when Robert Patterson and George Cadwalader's troops invaded Virginia and that Boyd was exonerated by Patterson. Official reports regarding Patterson's 1861 occupation of Virginia [4] pp.157-186 do not have any references to Boyd in regard to any shooting incident or being exonerated}
  4. Boyd, p. 102
  5. [However the Official Records of the Civil War only mention Boyd in 1862-see Notes# 7-9]
  6. Smith, Vicki. [Civil War guide touts spy, life off battlefields "Civil War guide touts spy, life off battlefields"]. Associated Press. WTOP. Civil War guide touts spy, life off battlefields. Retrieved 21 April 2011. 
  7. Official Records, p. 310, Series 2, Vol. 4
  8. Official Records, p. 349, Series 2, Vol. 4
  9. Official Records, p. 461, Series 2, Vol. 4
  • Official Records Retrieved June 14, 2009
  • Ancestry of Belle Boyd, Confederate Spy Accessed June 14, 2009
  • Hay, Thomas Robson. "Boyd, Belle" Notable American Women. Vol. 1, Belnlknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1975 Accessed June 14, 2009
  • Bakeless, John. Spies of the Confederacy. Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications, 1997.
  • Boyd, Belle. Belle Boyd in Camp and Prison. New York: Blelock, 1867.
  • Harnett Thomas Kane, The Smiling Rebel (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1955).

External links[edit | edit source]

de:Belle Boyd fr:Belle Boyd pl:Belle Boyd ru:Бойд, Изабелла Мария sl:Belle Boyd

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