War on Two Fronts Women during the Civil

Lisa Tendrich Frank

In July 1861, Virginian Belle Boyd shot and killed a U.S. officer in her home. The young woman claimed self-defense, asserting that the drunken officer had threatened her and her mother. As a white woman, Boyd's actions were quickly excused and she faced no legal consequences for her actions. Taking a cue from her treatment after this event, Boyd began more fully employing her femininity to her advantage. On her own initiative, Boyd, an ardent supporter of the Confederacy, began openly associating and flirting with Union soldiers, many of whom had been stationed around her house as guards to prevent future incidents. Unbeknownst to them, however, the young woman had no romantic intentions toward them. Instead, she was using her feminine charms to gather information on military movements and passing it along to Southern troops. Her initial efforts as an unofficial spy did not last long. Unskilled in the work of espionage, Boyd hardly concealed her work as an unofficial spy and she was quickly discovered. Once again, Boyd discovered that her womanhood provided her protection. Even though there was solid evidence to confirm her treasonous role—Union officials discovered one of Boyd's uncoded messages, written in her own handwriting—the authorities did little to punish the budding spy. Boyd escaped with only a warning.

Boyd continued her efforts to aid the Confederacy by taking advantage of assumptions about white women and their ability to escape punishment. From Front Royal, Virginia, where she was sent to stay with an aunt and uncle, Boyd not only nursed wounded soldiers, but she also began to take weapons and supplies from Union troops for Confederates. Furthermore, she became an official Confederate courier, carrying messages between Generals P. G. T. Beauregard and Thomas ''Stonewall'' Jackson using federal passes she obtained from Union officers. In this capacity, Boyd became ''the rebel spy,'' providing valuable information to Confederate officers during the Battle of Front Royal in May 1862 (Boyd 1865, 74).

After receiving a message from another courier and then garnishing information from local Union soldiers, Boyd ran through the battlefield to meet the approaching Confederate Army. For her efforts, Jackson later awarded her an honorary commission as a captain and an aide-de-camp. Northerners and Southerners publicly recognized Boyd's role in the Confederate success, and her new status made it difficult for her to continue her espionage efforts. As a result, she was captured and imprisoned twice. The Federal Department of War imprisoned her in the Old Capitol Prison for a month in July 1862 and in the Carroll Prison for a longer stay in the summer of 1863. However, these prison stays did nothing to dampen Boyd's commitment to the Confederacy. In May 1864, she headed to Europe with secret Confederate government dispatches, but was arrested again within a few days. She was exiled to Canada this time and from there she traveled to England where, in 1865, she published her memoirs of her wartime exploits.

Not all women took such extraordinary roles in the American Civil War. Yet the nation's women all shaped and were shaped by the sectional conflict and the realities of war. All women, regardless of their locale, age,

Confederate spy Maria Isabella "Belle" Boyd used her feminine charms to obtain information about Union troop movements and pass it to Confederate officials during the Civil War. (Library of Congress)

race, or class, dealt with the direct and indirect results of the Civil War. As men marched off to the battlefields, it was the women left behind who had to keep society running—by raising children, feeding families, running farms and businesses, making uniforms, and provisioning armies. In both the North and South, the needs of war and a loss of manpower mandated that women take on expanded responsibilities. Some took control of family businesses and others took jobs in a growing industrial sector. Slave women also dealt with the shifting realities of wartime, as the conflict provided opportunities for emancipation while wartime tensions made their lives even more precarious. Other women—white and black—became active participants in the military, as nurses, cooks, laundresses, spies, and even soldiers. Even women who were lukewarm in regard to the war discovered that the war became everyone's business. Women across the nation discovered that they needed to deal with food shortages, fiscal inflation, the absence and deaths of family members, and the arrival of troops. Some women became refugees; others housed refugees. The war required the mobilization of the entire population, and in many cases, men, women, and children took up the rallying call. Although most scholarly attention focuses on men's political and military roles during the Civil War, women played a vital part.

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100 Flirting Tips

100 Flirting Tips

Flirting is playful in nature, which is practiced by a person in order to express his or her interest in another individual, either romantically or sexually. There are ways to flirt subtlety and there are also ways of flirting that can be obvious at times. You can flirt with the use of your eyes, body language, touch, tone of your voice, or a combination of the mentioned behaviors.

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