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Belle Boyd, 1844-1900
Belle Boyd in Camp and Prison. In Two Volumes.
London: Saunders, Otley, and Co., 1865.


In 1844, Belle Boyd was born in Martinsburg, Virginia (now West Virginia). As a child, she was sent away to school at Mount Washington College in Baltimore. When she returned home in 1861, the region was rife with discussions of secession and rebellion. Shortly after the Civil War began, and Union troops occupied Martinsburg, Boyd became a spy for the Confederacy. She collected information from U.S. officials and relayed it to Confederate officers. She was imprisoned and released three times by the United States Army. In 1863, she contracted Typhoid fever while in prison, and was released to the South, where she recovered the following year. On her last Confederate mission, Boyd attempted to sail to England, but her ship was captured and she was imprisoned a final time. She was released shortly thereafter, and banished to Canada. From there, she went to England and married Lieutenant Sam Wylde Hardinge in 1865. After Hardinge's death two years later, Boyd married twice more; first John Hammond in 1869, and then Nathaniel High in 1885. A woman of many talents, she became an actress in London and America. She also traveled and gave lectures describing her experiences as a Confederate spy.

In her memoir, Belle Boyd in Camp and Prison (1865), Boyd describes her adventures as a spy. She also recounts her excitement about the looming conflict between North and South, the tension that built in her hometown as Union armies approached, and her own involvement, including an occasion in which she killed a Union soldier who attempted to replace the Confederate flags at her home and with a Federal flag. Boyd remembers how most southerners felt hopeful that peace would be negotiated after a period of inactivity during the winter of 1861. She then tells of the ways she helped inform Confederate officers of the Union's movements and preparations once the war recommenced.

Works Consulted: Garraty, John A. and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York: Oxford University Press, 1999; Jones, Katherine M., Heroines of Dixie: Confederate Women Tell Their Story of the War, Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1955.

Harris Henderson

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