Guide Touts Different Kind of Civil War Story

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), May 8, 2011 | Go to article overview

Guide Touts Different Kind of Civil War Story


Byline: Vicki Smith Associated Press

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- There are battlefields, and then there's Belle Boyd, teenage temptress and Confederate spy.

The Appalachian Regional Commission is betting Boyd is the sexier Civil War story and that tourists will want to visit the Martinsburg, W.Va., home of the notorious "siren of the South" who used her feminine charms to spy on Union soldiers for the Confederacy.

The Belle Boyd House in the Eastern Panhandle is one of 150 lesser-known Civil War destinations the commission is highlighting on a new 13-state map to be released, pointing the way to that footnote on history and plenty more.

Timed to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the war, the guide is aimed at helping states cash in on the growing popularity of cultural heritage tourism and to get those tourists beyond such well-trod battlefields as Gettysburg, Pa., and Antietam, Md.

"Our story here is that there are a lot of jewels in Appalachia, and a lot of great stories about families and communities that we should stop and take a look at," said the co-chair of the federal agency, Earl F. Gohl.

The map and guide were released at Independence Hall in Wheeling, where some Virginians were so horrified by talk of secession when the war erupted in 1861 that they held their own constitutional convention and formed the breakaway state of West Virginia two years later.

Boyd, who once boasted in a letter to a cousin of her 106-pound "beautiful" form, supplied Union secrets to Stonewall Jackson, who made her a captain and honorary aide-de-camp.

She was arrested and imprisoned twice, then released while suffering from typhoid. The Confederacy sent her to England as a courier, but she was captured before she could complete the mission. Historians say she eventually married a Union naval officer and lived in England until 1866.

Boyd published a memoir and worked as an actress, then became a lecturer. She died in Wisconsin in 1900, on a tour touting her adventures.

Her story is one of many that are often missed, says Gohl. The new guide hopes to draw back the curtain on her house and other locales.

Those include Mississippi's Corinth Contraband Camp, where slaves fleeing Southern plantations sought refuge with federal troops. Union Gen. Grenville Dodge took them on as teamsters, cooks, laborers and eventually, security officers. That led to the creation of the 1st Alabama Infantry Regiment of African Descent.

Then, Gohl says, there is Altoona, Pa., where President Abraham Lincoln convened the states' governors and consulted on the Emancipation Proclamation.

The guide will be a free insert in the spring issue of American Heritage magazine, and copies have been distributed to tourism agencies in West Virginia and the 12 other Appalachian states -- Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Tennessee. …

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