Women Spies of the Civil War
“ [At first] it was not deemed possible that any danger could result from the utterances of non-combatant females… That this policy was a mistaken one was soon fully proved…” - Allan Pinkerton, The Spy of the Rebellions, 1883 (Leonard 1).
In antebellum America there was little tolerance for autonomous women. Usually females, spanning all classes, were attached to households, dependent on males for status and wealth. Society demanded that domesticity be the woman’s domain, any deviations from this constricting edict was met with disdain. The cultural myth of the model genteel women permeated the fabric of 19th century life. However, with the advent of the Civil
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When the war broke out, Pauline was in Union-held Louisville, Kentucky playing a part in The Seven Sisters, a road show at Woods Theater. One night two Confederate officers who offered to compensate her if she would toast Southern President Jefferson Davis during her performance approached her. Stalling them, Pauline contacted Colonel Moore, the Federal provost marshal. They Colonel realized this was a golden opportunity to secure a mole within the Confederate camps and encouraged her to play along. Pauline whole heartedly agreed with the scheme and patriotically immersed herself in the role of spy. She began following the Confederate army searching for her “lost” brother”, a rebel soldier, while she covertly observed their activities and shared her findings with the Northern forces. Pauline’s activities caught the attention of Federal Colonel William Truesdale, head of the Army police. He managed a large network of spies and had a dangerous assignment that he believed she could easily accomplish with her reputation as a Southern supporter. The Colonel wanted her to visit the five camps of Confederate General Braxton Bragg. While on her mission, Pauline discovered as a Yankee agent was captured by her rebel enemies. After a thorough interrogation, she was submitted to a trial and sentenced to death by hanging. Fortuitously, a few days later the Union forces overtook Shelbyville and rescued a weakened and overwrought Pauline. An estimated four