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This week in the civil war

Union captures, then frees Confederate spy Belle Boyd

One of the Confederacy’s most famous spies, sexy temptress Belle Boyd, is captured by the Union on July 29, 1862, and hauled off to prison in Washington, D.C., only to be released about a month later in a prisoner exchange.

Born into an affluent Virginia family ardently loyal to the South, Boyd used her charms to eavesdrop on Union officers while frequenting their camps. Reports have it that she beguiled at least one officer into providing her with advance word on federal troop movements before the First Battle of Bull Run, or Manassas.

As the war progressed, Boyd would regularly deliver gleaned war intelligence to the Confederacy, at times crossing enemy lines at great risk on horseback. Confederate Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was so impressed with the spy that he made her an honorary aide-de-camp.

In the North, her espionage would garner her press attention to the point that some began calling her “La Belle Rebelle.” Later in the war, in 1864, Boyd was sent to England as a Confederate courier but captured before she could complete that mission.

Historians say she later escaped and went on to marry a Union naval officer and live in England until 1866, where she was a stage actress.

Boyd eventually returned to the U.S. and died in Wisconsin in 1900 while on a lecture tour telling of her adventure-filled life.

– Associated Press

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