Boyd becomes a spy for the Confederacy

Before long, Boyd decided to help the Confederate cause by acting as a spy. As an attractive young woman, she figured she could get close to Union soldiers in the area, obtain information about their troop strength and military strategies, and take that information to the Confederate forces. She ran her spying operations out of her parents' hotel in Martinsburg, in the Shenandoah Valley.

In March 1862, General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson entered the Shenandoah Valley with eight thousand Confederate troops. Over the next three months, he roamed across the region in a dazzling display that thoroughly baffled his Union Army counterparts. On several occasions, Jackson's army defeated much larger Union forces in battle. At other times, he and his troops seemed to melt into the valleys and woodlands of the Shenandoah region, frustrating pursuing Union armies.

Part of what allowed Jackson to avoid capture was information he received from local Confederate supporters. Boyd was one of the most valuable sources of information. At one point, she found out that the Union forces planned to surround Jackson's army and take the general prisoner. She rode fifteen miles to Jackson's camp and delivered this information to his staff personally. Another time, Boyd learned that three Union generals were combining forces against Jackson. During the heat of battle, she ran across from the Union lines to the Confederate lines to carry this information to the Southern leader. According to legend, she had bullet holes in the hoops of her skirt but was not hurt. After Confederate forces won the battle, Jackson thanked Boyd personally and made her an honorary member of his staff.

According to legend, Belle Boyd had bullet holes in the hoops of her skirt. (Courtesy of Corbis Corporation.)

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