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Civil War Spies

Updated October 5, 2019

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Civil War Spies essay

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Civil War Spies Male and female spies were essential sources of information during the Civil War. The best spies were people you would never suspect.

Spies were brave, faceless and they knew the environment very well. Their presence was incredibly excepted. Whether they dressed as men and joined the army, posed as mindless slaves, or just kept their ears opens in collective circles, spies provided necessary information. It was even a woman spy who provided Union battle plans to Confederate Army, which allowed them to win the First Battle of Manassass (First Bull Run). Throughout history, men have been spies and the American Civil War was no exception.

The finest spies are people you would never suspect. Spencer Kellogg Brown, George Curtis and Philip Henson were some of the most well known and finest spies. These spies all had a direct effect on the outcome of specific battles and therefore the outcome of the Civil War. Overall, spies were clearly vital in deciding the war.

Sarah Lane, one of the best female spies, was born February 11, 1838 in Greene County, Tennessee. In 1854, Sarah married Sylvanius H.Thompson and they had two children. Sylvanius later became a private in the 1st Tennessee Calvary U.S.A., where he served primarily as a recruiter for the Union Army. Sarah worked alongside her husband assembling and organizing Union sympathizers in a predominately rebel area around Greeneville, Tennessee. In early 1864, Sylvanius Thompson was ambushed and killed by a Confederate soldier.

Spurred by her husband’s death, Sarah Thompson continued her work for the Union, delivering dispatches and recruiting information to Union officers. When CSA General John Hunt Morgan and his men spent the night in Greeneville, Sarah managed to slip away and alert Union forces to his whereabouts. Union troops invaded the area and by her accounts, she personally pointed out Morgan hiding behind a garden fence to a Union soldier who proceeded to kill Morgan. After this event, Sarah served as an army nurse in Knoxville, Tennessee and in Cleveland, Ohio. She supported herself and her daughters by giving lectures in several northern cities about her experiences during the war. In 1866, she married Orville J.

Bacon of Broome County, New York and had two children with him. They were subsequently divorced and she married James Cotton in the 1880s. Cotton died, leaving her once again a single mother. After the war, Sarah’s life was marked by the constant struggle to find suitable employment to support her family and to claim a pension for her services during the war. She worked through many temporary appointments in the federal government and eventually was granted a pension of $12 a month by order of a special act of Congress in 1897. She died on April 21, 1909 after being struck by an “electric car” in Washington, D.C., and was buried in the Arlington National Cemetery.

One of the most eminent spies, Spencer Kellogg Brown was born in Kansas and soon after left and journeyed to Missouri. He ended up in St. Louis where he enlisted in the U.S. Army to fight against the violence in Missouri ( Sandler 98).

After he was honorably discharged from the Army, he was enlisted in the U.S. Navy, serving on the Essex. His surveillance and spying activity began in 1861 when he volunteered to collect information about shore batteries and the troop strength of the Confederates. Brown and his companion, a gentleman by the name of Trussel, boarded the Confederate ship the Charm under the pretense of being Union deserters.

During their journey on the Charm they gathered as much information as they could about the Confederate ships and troops as a good spy would do. The next part of their adventure occurred when they were once again put on land. They helped with construction work until Brown was seen spending a lot of time by the river, observing. He was then arrested and sent to Fort Pillow, Tennessee. He was released on the impression that he was going to Corinth, Mississippi to join the CSA Army. He rallied and joined the 1st Louisiana Cavalry Volunteers, temporarily.

He soon escaped and worked his way to the Union lines to speak to General Grant. There he shared the information that he had gathered on his journey. It is not known why he was such a great spy but he was knoown as a sneaky man. On August 15, 1862, he was arrested, taken to Richmond for trial, and sentenced to hang. He was arrested after sinking the ferry supplying Fort Hudson, Georgia. On September 25, 1863 Spencer Kellogg Brown was hanged.

Spencer once said before his dreadful death, “Did you ever pass through a tunnel under a mountain? My passage, my death is dark, but beyond all is light and bright.” George Curtis, another first-rate spy, was living in New York at the beginning of the Civil War, and he joined a New York Infantry Regiment. He then became a Pinkerton agent, and a tremendous spy. He was selected in 1862 to obtain information from Richmond. He made his way to the Confederate capital as a contraband merchant selling gun caps, ammunition, and the much-needed quinine.

The day after reaching Virginia he was taken to the Confederate lines and to an audience with Lt. General Ambrose Powell Hill. General Hill gave him a pass to go on to Richmond and also asked Curtis if he would carry some dispatches as well. Curtis gladly agreed to carry out his chore. When Curtis reached Richmond he was introduced to Confederate Secretary of War Judah Benjamin where he negotiated for the delivery of his contraband goods and received a pass to move in and out of Richmond freely.

Throughout the war Curtis was asked to, and did, carry dispatches to Confederate General John B. Magruder. But before they reached General Magruder, Mr. Bangs, Pinkertons supervisor for field agents took them. There they were copied before continuing on to General Magruder. Curtis was never suspected for a spy, and he was never arrested.

He worked, as a contraband merchant for the duration of the war, never once was he suspected of carrying important information to the Union Forces. There were many spies of the Civil War, and very …

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Civil War Spies. (2019, Oct 05). Retrieved from