This Day In History: ‘Belle’ Boyd The Confederate Spy Was Arrested (1862)

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On this day in history, the Confederate spy Marie Isabella “Belle” Boyd  was apprehended by Union agents. She was detected as a spy and arrested by Union troops and detained at the Old Capitol Prison in Washington, D.C.  However, this arrest was not to stop her career as a spy. Indeed she was to be arrested three times during the Civil War.

The Virginian-born Boyd was only 17 when the Civil War started.  Boyd came from a slave-owning family. In 1861, she shot and killed a Union soldier, who had threatened or insulted a family member.  Union officers investigated and eventually the shooting was classed as an act of self-defense. After this, Boyd began spying for the South. She hated the Union and like many members of her class she was sympathetic to the south. As a woman, she could not fight as a soldier so she decided to spy for the cause of the South. Boyd proved to be a natural spy and had the character and shrewdness to be a very effective spy. She was to prove to be one of the South most important spies.

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The grave of Belle Boyd

Boyd was an attractive young woman and as she flirted with Union soldiers and officers  she was able to get informaiton of troop formations and movements. Little did the Union soldiers realize that the ‘little lady’ who was so charming was a spy. One officer became suspicious and he had her exiled to the North. This did not stop her from spying.

Boyd personally delivered crucial information to  a Confederate General that allowed the South to defeat a sizable Union force in a battle. On another occasion, she lured tow Union officers beyond Confederate lines and had them captured.

Boyd was very lucky she managed to evade detection and arrest on several occasions. However, she was arrested on this day in history. However, she was given special treatment because she was a woman and became engaged to another prisoner. After her release, she became a courier and carried secret information to Great Britian, which was relayed back to the Confederates.

In 1864, her ship was captured off the coast of North Carolina. She was imprisoned again, when it was realised that she was carrying secret information. The Union ship captain who had captured her ship fell in love with her and then  he followed her to London, and they were engaged and married soon after.

After the war, Boyd settled down to family life, but her husband died. She wrote about her experiences in a book and also tried to have an acting career. She died in Wisconsin in 1900.

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