Scouts and Spies of the Civil War

Scouts and Spies of the Civil War

Scouts and Spies of the Civil War

Scouts and Spies of the Civil War

Synopsis

The Civil War was the backdrop for the formation of numerous secret service organizations and the theater for a host of characters involved in espionage from both the North and the South. The pool of spies and scouts comprised diverse individuals, ranging from eager young volunteers signing up for "extra dangerous duty" for their respective armies to society ladies spying for both the Union and the Confederacy. At the turn of the nineteenth century, William Gilmore Beymer went in search of the stories of these first spies and recorded his findings in Scouts and Spies of the Civil War. Beymer's endeavor was one of the first attempts to move the study of Civil War scouts and spies away from the realm of "cloak and dagger" romance stories to historical research grounded in factual details. Included in this dynamic collection are personal narratives told to Beymer by a few surviving secret service operatives; stories pieced together from diaries, journals, letters, and archival research; and the remembrances of family and friends that tell of the mothers, daughters, fathers, and sons who risked their lives for their cause.

Excerpt

In undertaking the preparation of the following chapters, which were first published in Harper's Magazine and in Harper's Weekly, it was not expected that serious difficulty would be met with to obtain the data. Nevertheless, the articles were written only at the cost of the most unforeseen effort and nearly three years' time. Hundreds of letters were written to persons in almost every State in the Union, and in the Philippine Islands, Canada, France, England, Gibraltar. Frequent trips became necessary to Washington and Richmond, also to Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh, etc. A bibliography of the books, newspapers, and pamphlets consulted would show a list of hundreds of volumes. No expenditure of time, effort, or money has been spared, not only in collecting all the data obtainable for each of the subjects, but also in verifying it—where not absolutely impossible—to the smallest detail. The following chapters are in every sense historical.

The original plan for obtaining data was to secure permission to examine the original records in the War Department, of the Bureau of National Police and the Secret Service. To this request President Wm. H. Taft, who was then Secretary of War, replied, through the Adjutant-General of the Army, that “all such documents that are of any historical interest or value, and which are in the possession of the War Department, have been published in the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.” But though the Official Records approximate 139,000 pages, very little is to be found regarding the work of individual members of the Secret Service. The very nature of the work made the . . .

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