Belle Boyd, aka Maria Isabella Boyd, another of the infamous Civil War women spies, was the daughter of socially prominent parents in Martinsburg—now part of West Virginia—in the Shenandoah Valley. When old enough, she was sent away to Mount Washington College in Baltimore; and after she graduated, she was given a debutante ball in Washington, D.C. When the war started, her father joined the Confederate Army.
Early in the war she established a spy organization from her father's shop. Though young, she was considered strong willed and determined, but ingratiating; she used her charms to engage Union soldiers in conversation, who had also suspected her of being a spy but unsuccessfully tried to monitor her activities.
During the spring of 1862, the Union had captured the town of Port Royal. She listened in on soldiers talking and passed the military intelligence information to General Turner Ashby and General "Stonewall" Jackson, who were campaigning around Martinsburg (Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862). Her information helped them to retake the town. For her help, Jackson made her a captain and honorary aide-de-camp on his staff.
Civil War portrait between 1855 and 1865
Finally, she was betrayed by her lover and was arrested July 29, 1862. She was held for a month in Old Capitol Prison in Washington, D.C. before being exchanged. She was again arrested June 1863 attempting to visit family in Martinsburg.
Suffering from typhoid, she was released and sent to Europe. On her way there she met and fell in love and married a Union blockade runner named Samuel Hartinge. However, when he returned to the United States, he was arrested for aiding an enemy spy; he was discharged from service and died soon after his release.
In England, she needed money to raise a daughter from her tryst with Hartinge and went on to publish her memoirs (above). She also became a successful stage performer, and some years later, she toured the western states where she died.
Her father's grocery store in now a museum operated by the Berkley County Historical Society in Martinsburg.
Rear view of Southern Cross of Honor presented for her spying success.
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