Noted Confederate Spy Died in Wilmington

Image of Rose Greenhow from the book My Imprisonment and the First Year of Abolition Rule At Washington, by Rose Greenhow, 1863. Image of Rose Greenhow from the book My Imprisonment and the First Year of Abolition Rule At Washington, by Rose Greenhow, 1863.

 

All this month we’re bringing you stories from North Carolina women’s history. Check back here each week day for a new tidbit on the women of our state’s past.

Before the Civil War, Rose O’Neal Greenhow, a widowed Washington socialite turned Confederate spy, was well known for her pro-states’ rights and slavery expansionist views and for maintaining friendly relationships with leaders from the North. When war broke out she was recruited her to lead a Confederate espionage ring. In 1861 she provided General Pierre G.T. Beauregard with information that assisted his victory at the first Battle of Bull Run. Shortly thereafter, she was placed her under house arrest and later transferred to a prison, where she still managed to relay messages to the South. In 1862 the federal government sent her to the South where she was welcomed as a hero. Jefferson Davis sent Greenhow to Europe in 1863 to raise support for the Confederacy. Her return trip a year later was aboard the blockade-runner Condor, which ran aground 200 yards from Fort Fisher. She feared capture since she was carrying dispatches for the Confederacy and $2,000 worth of coins. She got in a small boat with five soldiers to row ashore, against the captain’s advice. The boat capsized and the weight of the purse pulled her beneath the waters to her death. She was buried with full military honors in Oakdale Cemetery in Wilmington.

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