Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Belle Boyd, Civil War Confederate Spy

From the New York Times, July 20, 1862:

This famous rebel agent is thus described by a correspondent of the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Her acknowledged superiority for machination and intrigue has given her the leadership and control of the female spies of the Valley of Virginia.  She is a resident of Martinsburgh where at home, she has a pious good mother, who regrets as much as anyone can, the violent and eccentric course of her daughter since the rebellion has broken out.  Belle has passed the freshness of youth. She is a sharp-featured black-eyed woman of 25, or care and intrigue have given her that appearance.  Last summer, whilst Patterson's army lay at Martinsburgh, she wore a revolver in her belt, and was couried and flattered by every lieutenant and captain in the service who ever saw her.  There was a kind of Di Veron dash about her, a smart pertness, a quickness of retort, and an utter abandon of manner and bearing which were attractive from their very romantic unwontedness.

The father of this resolute, black-eyed vixen is a Paymaster in the Southern army, and formerly held at place at Washington under our Government.  She has undergone all that society, position, and education can confer upon a mind suited to the days of Charles the Second, or Louis the Fourteenth--a mind such as Mazarin or Richlieu would have delighted to employ from its kindred affinities.

Well this young woman I saw practicing her arts upon our young lieutenants and inexperienced captains, and in each case I uniformly felt it my duty to call them aside, and warn them who she was.  To one she had been introduced as Miss Anderson, to another as Miss Faulkner, and so to the end of the chapter.  She is so well known now that she can only practice her blandishments upon new raw levies and their officers.  But from them she obtains the number of their regiments and their force.  She has, however, a trained band of coadjutors who report to her daily -- girls aged from 16 upward -- women who have the common sense not to make themselves as conspicuous as she, and who remain unknown, save to her, and are therefore effective.

The reports that she is personally impure are as unjust as they are undeserved.  She has a blind devotion to an idea, and passes far the boundary of her sex's modesty to promote its success.  She, with all her faults and devotions to ideas, which are at the foundation of our political and social disorders, has not yet lost the crowning virtue of woman.  Reporters who thus attack a woman, defenceless within their province, exceed the license which justice and fairness even allot to outlaws.

During the past campaigns in the Valley, this woman has been of immense service to the enemy.  She will be now, if she can.  She, therefore, should at once be passed beyond our lines, sent to Richmond, and allowed to remain with those with whom she deeply sympathizes.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Tried to Escape

From the New York Times, February 3, 1892:

Two life prisoners make a bold attempt at Denver.

Denver. Feb 2 -- "Pegleg" Watson, the Rio Grande robber who was recently sentenced to imprisonment for life, was prevented by the merest chance Sunday night from adding another victim to his list.  With Bert Curtis he made a desperate effort to escape from the county jail and for a time the wildest excitement prevailed.  "Pegleg" was provided with a weapon in the shape of a razor, but Curtis was without any.

Since they were sentenced they were incarcerated in the east wing of the jail, with the other United States prisoners.  They were told to be ready in a day or two to go to Detroit to the United States prison.  They evidently did not like the idea of leaving the West, and the plan of escape was formed.  The men are allowed a certain time each day to exercise, and are given the privilege of walking up and down the corridors.  After they are locked into their cells the guard examines each cell to see that all is right.

"Pegleg" and Curtis concealed themselves in the corridor after the prisoners were ordered to their cells, and the instant the guard opened the door to enter the corridor they sprang upon him.  A sharp-edged razor was placed at his throat and he was told if he uttered a word it would be his last. The man's face paled, and he felt the hands of the train robbers feeling for the keys.  He shouted at the top of his voice.  The guards in the office heard it.  There was a rush of feet across the tiled floors, and the guard, knowing aid was coming, struggled with the two robbers.  They knew as soon as he did the game was up, and they released him just as the other guards dashed into the corridor.

They were hustled into separate cells, and the razor was taken from "Pegleg".  Where he got it is a mystery which will call for an investigation.  Both robbers were defiant, but disappointed.  They will be closely watched until they are taken away, and everybody in the county jail will breathe easier when they are gone.  This is the second time these men have attempted to escape.  Both are desperate and have no intention of remaining in prison for life if they can help it.

Latest Intelligence: Particulars of the Explosion of the Steamer George Washington - Sixteen Persons Killed

From the New York Daily Times, January 16, 1852:

Grand Gulf, January 14.

The explosion of the boilers of the steamer George Washington, on her way from Cincinnati to New Orleans, took place a little above here this morning; shortly after which she took fire, and was entirely consumed.  Capt. Irvine was badly scalded, and the first clerk, William Carroll, was killed.  Among those killed and missing were the following:

William Carroll, first clerk; Mr. James Treat; Phillip, the first cook; the first fireman; six deck hands and six deck passengers, names unknown.  They are all supposed to have been burned with the boat.

The following is the list of injured.  Capt. Irvine, badly scalded; Mr. Pearce, second clerk, do.; Daniel Clemmens, engineer, do.; Martin Dunn, second mate, injured; Wiley, third engineer, do.; Mr. Moore, watchman, do.; James Moore, first mate, do.; C. D. Clemmons, passenger, do.; J. B. King Kendall, passenger from Kentucky, slightly scalded; Castin Wheeler, second cook, do.  The books and papers of the boat were all lost.  The Washington had two barges in two laden with stock and freight both of which were burned.  The steamer, J. S. Chenowith came down about four hours after the explosion, and took on board the surviving officers and crew.  The George Washington and her freight were fully insured.

Saturday, August 25, 2012


Because of many years researching genealogy, I have spent an inordinate amount of time reading historical newspapers.  More times than I can count, I have been sidetracked away from my original goal (an obituary, wedding announcement, etc) by a particularly interesting story.  Whether it's about the man with the wooden leg who started a fire, advertisements claiming their product can cure everything from a cough to a arthritis to baldness, or more serious subjects relating to long forgotten obituaries, or politics of the time, each gives a unique view into our history.  I will be attempting to capture some of that here, in this blog.  Should be fun to see what we can discover!