Obituary of Belle Boyd


Greenbrier Independent
July 5, 1900

Death of Belle Boyd.

Belle Boyd, the famous spy, of Confederate fame, died suddenly of heart disease, at Kilbourne, Wis., some time ago, where she had gone to lecture. She was 57 years of age, and known all over the country.

Belle Boyd was born in Martinsburg, W. Va., in May, 1844, and is descended from Revolutionary ancestors. She was at home when the Civil War broke out, having just returned from school, near Baltimore.

Patterson’s and Cadwalader’s armies from the north invaded Virginia and swarmed around her home in Martinsburg. One of the Union soldiers, a drunken fellow, insulted in the grossest language, her mother, who fainted. Belle was present and drew her pistol and shot him. She was arrested and carried to General Patterson’s headquarters and a court of inquiry was held. Gen. Patterson said she did right, and under the same circumstances he hoped every Southern girl would do the same. The incident got into the Northern papers, and “like a white elephant,” as she expressed it, she was pointed out as the thousands of troops came into town as being the most dangerous Rebel in the country.

Jackson discovered her merit as a spy, and gave her a permit to pass anywhere through his lines, and she often rode through the dark, lonely hours of night to carry news to Jackson and Stuart of the movements of the enemy.

She sent information she had gathered from Union officers to Gen. J. E. B. Stuart. She was detected once, and an article of war ready to her, but it did not deter her from being a messenger between Beauregard and Jackson. While en route from Front Royal to Martinsburg she was arrested and taken to Baltimore and handed over to General Dix, who quartered her at the Eutaw House, where she was kept a week and sent home.

Near Martinsburg she ran out of the Federal lines, across a field on which a battle was about to be fought, to the Confederate lines to carry them information. Shot and shell followed her, but she was unhurt. Soon after she was arrested as a spy, by order of Secretary of War Stanton, locked up in the Capital Prison and court-martialed. Her stay in jail gave her an international fame. She was finally released and sent South.

Next she bore messages from the Confederate government to authorities in Europe. She ran the blockade but was captured before she could get away by the United States man-of-war Connecticut.

She was carried to Boston and kept a prisoner for a few days in the Tremont Hotel. By reason of her being captured under the British flag, she was not shot but banished. She was carried to Canada, and ordered never to put her foot on the United States soil again or she would be shot without trial.

A young lieutenant on the Connecticut, Sam Hardinge, fell in love with his fair captive. She got his signal book, which she sent into the South by way of the blockade, and then sailed for England from Quebec on board the Damascus, and arrived in London, carrying all her dispatches safely through. She was followed across the ocean by her lover, Lieutenant Hardinge, and they were married at St. James, in Piccadilly. The Prince of Wales attended their wedding. They were afterward presented at five different foreign courts. By him she had one child, Grace Hardinge. She was left a widow and went upon the dramatic stage in Europe and made her debut at the Theatre Royal, in Manchester. When the general amnesty was proclaimed she came back here and played a few engagements in this country and married Col. J. S. Hamilton, an English ex-army officer in March, 1869. The [sic] then went to California, where she was seriously ill, and, on recovering, returned East and settled down in her home.

In 1885, in Texas, she married her third husband – Nat R. High, formerly of Toledo, O.

A few years ago Belle Boyd took to the lecture platform, and told the story of the part she played as a Confederate spy.


Civil War

West Virginia Archives and History