The secret war

A HANGED SPY

Spies caught disguised in their enemy's military uniforms were quickly disposed of. Lawrence Orton Williams was a cousin of Mrs. Robert E. Lee. Union troops caught him wearing a U.S. Army uniform. Williams claimed to be a member of the inspector general's staff. He was questioned, then hanged.

A SUCCESSFUL SPY This may be the only photograph of William Henry Harrison, a Confederate army officer who worked as a scout and spy. He won his place in history by pinpointing Union army positions during General Robert E. Lee's invasion of the North in summer, 1863, bringing on the Battle of Gettysburg. Here he holds a coded message that reads "I Love You."

Long before the civil war, soldiers knew to watch out for civilians who banded together to attack the troops and destroy the property of conquering armies. These combatants were called guerrillas and saboteurs. Virginia attorney John Mosby organized a group of such men to operate in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountain region. They called themselves Partisan Rangers, and at night they often rode behind enemy lines to attack and capture Union troops. During the day, they disappeared into mountain hideouts or Confederate homes and were difficult to catch. Spies were another danger, reporting military plans and movements to the enemy This secret warfare is called espionage. It was easy to carry out in the United States, because the opponents looked alike, shared the same culture, and spoke the same language. Elizabeth Van Lew of Richmond, Virginia, was very successful at it. She was a mature single woman who held strong pro-Union opinions, but was a member of a wealthy, well-known family living in the Confederate capital. Van Lew pretended to suffer from mild mental illness and acted in eccentric ways. As a consequence, when (center-fire Southern government leaders gathered in her family's home or around the town, they spoke freely in her presence, believing she was harmless. Using couriers, Van Lew sent word of what she heard to Union military commanders. When the war ended, she received the thanks of General Ulysses S. Grant, the general in chief of the Union army.

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THE GRAY GHOST

John Mosby was a slender man. Arming himself with up to eight revolvers, he rode out at night in a plumed hat and cape to gather his guerrilla band. The men would attack Union troops, supply depots, and camps. In the South, he was a hero — always beating an opponent, always escaping capture. To Union troops, he was the "Gray Ghost," a danger of the night. Years later, Mosby became a folk hero to veterans on both sides of the conflict.

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REJECTED BY SOLDIERS BUT NOT BY SPIES

As civilians or secret volunteers, guerrillas, spies, and saboteurs used any weapon that came to hand to carry on their underground war. Many of their arms were military rejects. The Allen & Wheelock center-fire pistol shown here was manufactured as a .44 caliber "Army" revolver, but never widely used by the military. However, firearms like it were popular in covert operations.

BOTH A DETECTIVE AND SPY

At the start of the Civil War, Allen Pinkerton was a successful private detective. Union General George McClellan hired him to organize a corps of spies for his army. But Pinkerton was not good at espionage. He often overestimated the size of the Southern forces. It is surprising that Pinkerton allowed himself to be photographed. Good spies rarely want anyone to know what they look like.

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MOSBY'S PARTISAN RANGERS ATTACK

Mosby was well known to Northerners. Union tabloids carried stories about the man Yankee soldiers called the Gray Ghost. He and his troops were famous for attacking Union soldiers and then slipping away without a trace. This newspaper illustration shows an assault by Mosby's men on a Union army wagon train near the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia.

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Well Known Union Soldiers

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A GUERRILLA FAVORITE

Shotguns were popular weapons with guerrillas and troops like Mosby's Partisan Rangers. They were often sawed off and used in running fights with Union cavalry troopers. A shotgun packed as much punch as a pistol and could hit more than one soldier at a time. The weapon shown here is a 12-gauge muzzle loader carried by a Confederate.

PROTECTING A BRIDGE

Saboteurs, people who destroy enemy facilities and equipment, found wood military bridges easy targets. They could be soaked with kerosene and burned down. Union troops sometimes protected them from saboteurs and guerrilla attacks by fortifying them with walls, and putting gates and guard towers at both ends. These structures turned the bridge into a wooden fort.

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THE SOCIALITE SPY

Young Washington, D.C., widow Rose O'Neill Greenhow was a socialite known and liked by Union government leaders. She threw parties where war business was discussed, and supposedly charmed men into telling her some military secrets. She was also a Confederate spy. Eventually, she was caught by Union police and imprisoned in Washington's Old Capitol Prison. This photograph of Mrs. Greenhow and her daughter was taken there.

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Fortified wood gates

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