Saturday, April 14, 2018

GETTYSBURG HISTORY, A LADY SPY


Whenever I find myself visiting museums, such as the one on our trip to Gettysburg, the old photos always interest me.  I look at the faces, the expressions, their costumes, jewelry, background if there is something more than just a photographer's plain backdrop, even the frames that hold them.  At each photo is a snippet of history.  (My dear Mother always said I was a curious child and always found me with my head in a book.)

"Rose Greenhow, Spy - Rose Greenhow was a well-to-do widow in Washington D.C., and a Confederate spy.  Confederate president, Jefferson Davis, once said that one of her secret messages won the Battle of First Manassas."

I found this intriguing and did some research when I got home.  Rose Greenhow was a widow and a very well connected socialite, who ardently supported the south.  She knew the likes of John C. Calhoun, seventh Vice President of the United States from 1825 to 1832, and James Buchanan who was the 15th president of the United States, from 1857 to 1861.  She used her connections to pass on key information at the start of the Civil War.  

In early 1861 she was given control of a pro-Southern spy network in Washington D.C.  The war began in April of 1861.  Jefferson Davis credited her with ensuring the South's victory at the First Battle of Bull Run in late July 1861.  

When the Government found out that information was being leaked, the trail led to her.  She was put under house arrest by Allan Pinkerton, a Scottish-American detective and spy, after finding incriminating evidence at her home.  Allan Pinkerton was well known for establishing the Pinkerton National Detective Agency.

Rose was eventually sent to Old Capital Prison where her eight year old daughter, also called Rose, was allowed to stay with her.  The prison mainly housed political prisoners.  She was never subjected to a trial and eventually released from prison in the summer of 1863, when she was deported to the south.  President Jefferson Davis sent her as a courier to Europe, where she also gleaned sympathy for the Confederacy from many of the European aristocrats.  There were also strong commercial ties between Britain and the South.  She had audiences with Napolean III and Queen Victoria.

In 1864 Rose left for the Confederacy carrying dispatches.  (Her daughter stayed behind in Paris, where she had been attending the Sacret Hearts Convent.  Little Rose eventually returned to America in 1871, married a U.S. army officer, later divorced and returned to France.) 


Her mother sailed on a British blockade runner called the Condor, which ran aground off Wilmington, North Carolina.  Fearing imprisonment she took a rowing boat to shore.  A wave capsized the boat and Rose Greenhow drowned, weighted down with $2,000 of gold coins hung around her neck and also sown into her underclothes.  These were the royalties from a memoir "Imprisonment", which she had written while in Europe.  She was honored with a military funeral and on her gravestone read, "Mrs. Rose O'Neal Greenhow, A Bearer of Dispatches to the Confederate Government."
I found the above information here and here.  There is a lot more than shown in my post if you are interested.



The above photo I found online shows a photo of Rose and her daughter, Little Rose,  while in prison.  More of Little Rose's story can be found at this link.  I didn't find anything else about Little Rose.  My only hope is that she lived a happy life in her remaining years.

28 comments:

  1. She was treated a great deal more kindly than many spies wasn't she? I wonder whether her place in society had something to do with that?

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    1. She was indeed and that made me wonder also.

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  2. What an intriguing story. I'm going to read it again. You certainly come up with some interesting stuff.

    (please note, my name is Valerie - not Linda)

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    1. I thought it was too and I am glad I saw her picture at the museum. I almost walked by. I promise to try and not get my names confused again Valerie :) Sorry about that.

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  3. Interesting post, thanks for sharing. Take care Diane

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  4. i am with you on liking old photos of people, and i look at the same things you do. she was very brave and especially for those times when women were nothing but possessions. thanks for the story and the pics

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    1. You are very welcome and it is always nice to find a kindred spirit :)

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  5. I do some of the same things when I look at a photo. there is so much to see in a photo if we take a good look.

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  6. Interesting bio. I can't imagine serving time in prison with my child.

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    1. Thank you Cloudia, she was an extremely interesting lady.

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  8. Thanks for sharing your interesting research!

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    1. I am happy you found it interesting Christine :)

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  9. That last photograph you've included is fantastic ...

    All the best Jan

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  10. Yes, I remember that story of her drowning. Gold was her downfall.

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    1. You are very knowledgeable Linda, this was the first time I had heard of her.

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  11. Hi Denise,
    They don't make ladies like that any more, she from reading appears to have been outstanding in her beliefs but had an unfortunate demise.
    The amount of gold that drowned her in present days money is considerable.
    All the best. John

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    1. She certainly was an amazing lady wasn't she? Yes, a lot of gold by today's standards. All the best to you too, Denise :)

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  12. I think I have become more interested in old pictures and histories of people before my time since I began researching my own roots. Ancestry is a new hobby for me. I picked up this new hobby in late December.

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    1. I'm glad you are having a fun time with your genealogy Linda. We have thoroughly enjoyed ours and the photos we come across occasionally. I always remember a friend encouoraging us and giving us a head's up, it becomes addictive but you become a great detective :)

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  13. Denise, thanks for sharing the history lesson regarding Rose Greenhow.

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