Rose Greenhow was a Maryland native. An attractive widow, she was one of many Civil War women spies. She had been married eminent northerner, Dr. Robert Greenhow, who had high profile political and social connections in Washington, D.C.
When the war broke out, she was an ardent secessionist and supporter of the Confederacy. She organized a spy ring in 1861 and used her social connections to deceitfully attain information, which she passed to Virginia Governor John Letcher.
Photograph portrait of Greenhow between 1855 & 1865
She is credited with passing information to General General P. T. Beauregard that led to the Confederates winning the battle of Bull Run and later, with the battle of Manassas. For her efforts, Confederate President Jefferson Davis lauded her.
Suspected of being a spy, she was twice captured and imprisoned in Capitol Prison in Washington, DC. (above). Greenhow was photographed in prison being visited by her daughter (right).
Though behind bars, she found ways to continue to pass on information. One method was to hide the cryptic note in the courier’s hair bun. Her trial was well publicized, and she was deported to Richmond, Virginia, and warmly received by Jefferson Davis. Subsequently, he sent her to collect diplomatic intelligence in Europe and laud the praises of the Confederacy so that European nations would sympathize with the southern cause. She stayed for a year, until 1864.
On the return voyage, her ship, a blockade runner named The Condor, ran onto a sand bar off the North Carolina coast in the stormy weather as it was attacked by a Union gunboat. She convinced the captain the send her to shore in a lifeboat to prevent being captured; however, the lifeboat capsized, and she was dragged down by her gold from her book royalties and drowned.
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