St. Louis Civil War Roundtable-October 2015
1. Who was the first American spy to be executed since Nathan Hale in 1776?
Timothy Webster, a Pinkerton agent, was hanged in Richmond on 29 April 1862.
2. Who was the source from whom Rose O’Neal Greenhow reputedly gained the information on the Union movement to 1st Bull Run that she sent to Gen Beauregard?
Senator Henry D. Wilson,(R-Mass), Chairman of the the Committee on Military Affairs and the Militia, In that capacity, Wilson passed on over 15,000 nominations that Lincoln submitted during the course of the War, and worked closely with him on legislation affecting the Army and Navy. Wilson was elected Vice President of the United States on the Republican ticket with President Ulysses S. Grant in 1873 and served until his death two years later.
3. “Crazy Bet” was a Union agent in Richmond. What was her real name and how did she get the valuable information that she passed on to Washington?
Elizabeth Van Lew had her personal servant Mary Jane Bowser hired by Mrs. Davis as a house servant. She was highly gifted and could read so she was able to memorize information on President Davis’ desk and pass it on clearly to Union officials.
4. Confederate agents in Canada planned to capture what Union warship in an attempt to release the officer prisoners at Johnson Island Prison?
Lt. John Y. Beall planned to capture the USS Michigan, a steel hulled side wheel steamer. He was captured at Niagara Falls and hanged for espionage on 24 February 1865.
5. How did the famed Confederate spy Rose O’Neal Greenhow die?
She drowned running the blockade with $2000 in gold sovereigns in a bag around her neck and a satchel of documents off the coast of Cape Fear near Ft. Fisher when the ship Condor grounded on 1 October 1864 in a furious storm and she insisted in being put into a lifeboat.
6. Where did Belle Boyd, famous for carrying dispatches and information on Union dispositions and very helpful to Stonewall Jackson, gain her reputation?
In the Shenandoah Valley and especially around Front Royal.
7. What was the name of the Unionist informant that advised Gen. Phil Sheridan that one of Gen. Early’s infantry divisions and an artillery battalion had left the Shenandoah Valley to join Gen. Robert E. Lee’s army near Petersburg? The young woman, who had now become a spy, and the Union general communicated by writing on thin tissue paper placed in a tiny capsule that Thomas Laws, her slave, carried in his mouth when passing through Rebel lines? Her information aided Sheridan at the Third Battle of Winchester on 19 September 1864.
Rebecca Wright. After the war, Wright received a note of thanks from Sheridan that it was her “information that the battle was fought and probably won.” Accompanying the note was a gift of a gold watch set in pearls, which she would cherish. Totally ostracized by her neighbors in Winchester, Wright moved to Philadelphia; and, through Sheridan’s intercession, was awarded a position in the Treasury Department. She became a celebrity in the North, often invited to women’s suffrage and Grand Army of the Republic events.
8. What behind the lines operation resulted in the first awards of the Medal of Honor?
The Union attempt to destroy the railroad from Atlanta to Chattanooga often called the Great Locomotive Chase was led by civilian James J. Andrews, who did not qualify for the medal because he was not officially in the military. Eight were hanged as spies and eighteen were awarded the Nation’s highest honor.
9. Who was the Union spy, recruited by Alan Pinkerton, who disguised herself as a black woman and as a man to gather intelligence information?
Emma Edmonds enlisted as a man, Frank Thompson, and often had to disguise herself as a black woman or a male soldier. Consider a woman posing as a man disguised as a black woman!
10. Who was the Confederate agent famously responsible for burning riverboats on the St. Louis levee?
Robert Louden was an arsonist who on his deathbed in 1867 claimed to have sabotaged the steamer Sultana.
11. Who assumed the responsibility for Union intelligence as head of The Bureau of Military Information when Alan Pinkerton resigned? Gen. Winfield Scott hired Lafayette C. Baker then Gen Hooker appointed lawyer and Colonel George H. Sharpe on 11 February 1863 who founded the BMI.
12. What Union generals issued emancipation orders or decrees that caused President Lincoln to have to issue rescind orders? (I am aware of three.)
• John C. Frémont, St. Louis, MO, Headquarters Western Department, 31 Aug 1861
• Benjamin Butler, Ft. Monroe, VA, never issued an emancipation proclamation but detained freedom seeking runaways as “contraband of war”. Lincoln sustained Butler’s action with the Confiscaton Act of August 1861. Other commanders followed Butler’s precedent.
• David Hunter, Hilton Head, SC, Headquarters Department of the South, 9 May 1862.
Copyright ©John A. Nischwitz 2015