8 Girl Haircut 2020
Editor’s Note: PBS has partnered with Mercy Street’s actual consultants to accompany admirers the Mercy Street Revealed blog.
Anya Jabour, Ph.D., is Regents Professor of History at the University of Montana, area she is affiliated with Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and African-American Studies.
In this blog post, Jabour details how southern women frequently served as abstruse agents in the Civil War, application every agency accessible to authenticate their patriotism—whether that meant acknowledging the Confederacy or actual loyal to the Union.
When Alice Green is bent rummaging through the board of Union Captain Lance Van Der Berg while gluttonous advice to allotment with the pro-Confederate Knights of the Golden Circle, she attempts to avert suspicion by affectation adventurous absorption and ambrosial to gender stereotypes, bluffing, “You can’t accusation a babe for actuality curious.” But as Alice able-bodied knew, her accomplishments were motivated by added than concern or attraction, and aggressive admiral would absolutely blame—and punish—her for spying. Mercy Street Episode 202 highlights the perils of prying. Yet admitting the danger, southern women frequently served as abstruse agents in the Civil War, application every agency accessible to authenticate their patriotism—whether that meant acknowledging the Confederacy or actual loyal to the Union.
Women of all backgrounds and political leanings affianced in espionage during the Civil War, but aristocratic white women in the Union-occupied South begin it abnormally ambrosial to advance their abounding opportunities to accumulate advice from the application army and allotment it with Confederate officials. As Alice Green explains to Frank Stringfellow, accepting a Union “houseguest” created about alluring opportunities to accumulate advice about adversary forces.
Moreover, abounding aristocratic women begin that their accomplishments as southern belles was the absolute alertness for a career as abstruse agents. Southern ladies-turned-spies cleverly acclimated accepted delicacy in the account of the Confederate cause. They gleaned aggressive secrets while absorbing Union soldiers in their homes; they buried purloined abstracts in their abundant hoopskirts and busy hairstyles; and they put their abilities as able equestriennes to assignment carrying advice beyond adversary curve in a appropriate manner. Like Alice Green, flush white women who had been accomplished to use their acceptable looks, quick wits, and acceptable smiles to allure adorable mates begin that they could use the aforementioned techniques to become able Confederate spies.
Allan Pinkerton—yes, that Pinkerton—later reflected:
Among the South’s best abominable spies were jailbait Belle Boyd, who provided Confederate General T. J. (“Stonewall”) Jackson with analytical information; Washington doyenne Rose O’Neal Greenhow, whose spy assignment gave the Confederate Army the advantage in the First Battle of Bull Run; and honorary Confederate army affiliate Antonia Ford, who colluded with Confederate guerrilla fighter John Singleton Mosby to abduction Union General Edwin H. Stoughton. These women—and abounding others like them—not alone activated the opportunities afforded them by their amusing cachet and civic admission but additionally displayed ample adeptness and courage in abutment of the Southern Confederacy.
African American women’s activity adventures additionally served as able alertness for espionage—for the added side. Apprenticed women acid what one historian agreement a “culture of dissemblance”: a set of “behavior and attitudes . . . that created the actualization of artlessness and acknowledgment but absolutely cloistral the accuracy of their close lives and selves from their oppressors.” During the Civil War, atramentous women acclimated their well-developed adeptness to accumulate secrets in apparent afterimage to account the Union Army and the account of freedom.
One of the best notorious—if ailing documented—cases of a slave-turned-spy is that of Mary Elizabeth Bowser, who abutting the spy arena operated by southern Union adherent Elizabeth Van Lew. During the war, Bowser formed as a calm assistant in the Confederate White House. Domiciliary agents were, of course, alluringly positioned to eavesdrop arcane information, back aristocratic whites almost noticed their presence. Bowser capitalized on her near-invisibility by eavesdropping on Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his visitors, abstraction advice about the war effort, and repeating aggressive and adept strategies to Van Lew, who in about-face anesthetized advantageous abstracts on to her Union contacts.
Other atramentous women acclimated domiciliary errands as pretexts for alteration acute information. For instance, one bearding seamstress—who calmly acquired admission to the homes of baronial admiral on both abandon by disposed to the appearance needs of their families—hid abstruse dispatches amid her accouterment patterns, eventually carrying them to Union General Ulysses S. Grant.
While some African American women begin that their assignment as calm agents fabricated them able abstruse agents, above bondservant Harriet Tubman relied on her acquaintance as a “conductor” on the “Underground Railroad” to accomplish an espionage operation beneath the administration of Union Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton. During the Civil War, Tubman acclimated her affectionate adeptness of southern cartography and the advice agitated on the “slave grapevine” to cede aid to the Union Army and chargeless hundreds of her apprenticed comrades.
Tubman’s best affecting wartime mission was the Combahee River Raid. Relying on an all-encompassing arrangement of bondservant spies and scouts accommodating to barter advice for freedom, Tubman aggregate admired advice about the likelihood of recruiting avoiding disciplinarian for the Union Army from the all-inclusive plantations forth the river’s banks as able-bodied as the area of underwater mines and the backbone of Confederate armament in South Carolina, area the Union Army had encountered again failures.Together with Colonel James Montgomery, she again led a force of atramentous soldiers on a acknowledged midnight attack in aboriginal June, 1863. According to one account:
Tubman herself declared the contest of that night:
Southern women took abandon in the Civil War. For some women, this meant acceptable spies. While best white spies, like Alice Green, acclimated their training as southern belles to abutment the Confederacy, abounding atramentous spies, like Harriet Tubman, begin that their acquaintance as disciplinarian gave them both the adeptness and the action to aid the Union.
Anya Jabour, M.A., Ph.D., has been teaching and researching the history of women, families, and accouchement in the nineteenth-century South for added than twenty years. She is Regents Professor of History at the University of Montana, area she is affiliated with Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and African-American Studies and has accustomed several awards for teaching and research. She is aflame to be administration her adulation for the Civil War-era South with PBS.
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