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Captain Belle Boyd




"I thank you, for myself and for the army, for the immense service that you have rendered your country today." Thus wrote Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson to 18-year-old Belle Boyd in appreciation of information she brought him, braving enemy fire that put bullet holes in her skirt. The year before, Boyd had shot and killed a drunken Union soldier who was trying to raise the Stars and Stripes over her house in what was then Martinsburg, western Virginia. She was arrested and tried for murder, but was acquitted on a defense of justifiable homicide.

Dubbed "La Belle Rebelle" by a French war correspondent, Boyd continued to spy for the Confederacy and also served as a courier and scout for Col. John S. Mosby's guerrillas. Betrayed by a lover, Boyd was arrested on order of U.S. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. She spent a month in Old Capitol Prison in Washington before she was released in an exchange of prisoners. Boyd was arrested again in June 1863 and was not released until December. Having contracted typhoid in jail, she sailed to Europe to recover and to deliver letters for Confederate President Jefferson Davis. When Boyd returned to the Confederacy, her blockade runner was captured by a Union warship. Boyd quickly seduced and fell in love with Union Capt. Samuel Hardinge, who was placed in command of the blockade runner to take it to the North. Hardinge allowed Boyd and the Confederate captain of the blockade runner to escape to Canada and then to England, and for these actions he was later court-martialed and discharged from the navy. Hardinge followed Boyd to England, where they were married in August 1864.

While in England Belle published an account of her activities, Belle Boyd in Camp and Prison, and pursued a stage career. Her husband died in 1865, and in 1868 she made her American stage debut. She worked for the rest of her life as an actress and lecturer and died while touring the western United States.


Fascinating-Fact: Gen. Stonewall Jackson made Belle Boyd an honorary member of his staff with the rank of captain for the intelligence she provided in the capture of Front Royal, Va.


Photo courtesy Chicago Historical Society
Written by Stephen T. Foster
Printed in USA
MCMXClll Atlas Editions, USA
D3 602 01-10