Rose O'Neal Greenhow bigraphy, stories - Spies

Rose O'Neal Greenhow : biography

1817 - 1864

Rose O'Neal Greenhow (1813 or 1814– October 1, 1864) was a renowned Confederate spy during the American Civil War. a socialite in Washington, D.C. during the period before the war, she traveled in important political circles and cultivated friendships with presidents, generals, senators, and high-ranking military officers. She used her connections to pass along key military information to the Confederacy at the start of the war. In early 1861, she was given control of a pro-Southern spy network in Washington, DC by her handler, Thomas Jordan, then a captain in the Confederate Army. She was credited by Jefferson Davis, the Confederate president, with ensuring the South's victory at the First Battle of Bull Run in late July 1861.

Captured in August, Greenhow was subject to house arrest; found to have continued her activities, in 1862 after an espionage hearing, she was imprisoned for nearly five months in Washington, DC. Deported to the Confederate States, she traveled to Richmond, Virginia and new tasks. Running the blockade, she sailed to Europe to represent the Confederacy in a diplomatic mission to France and Britain from 1863 to 1864. In 1863 she also wrote and published her memoir in London, which was popular in Britain. After her returning ship ran aground in 1864 off Wilmington, North Carolina, she drowned when her rowboat overturned as she tried to escape a Union gunboat. She was honored with a Confederate military funeral.

In 1993 the women's auxiliary of the Sons of Confederate Veterans changed its name to the Order of the Confederate Rose in Greenhow's honor, following publicity about her exploits in a TV movie the previous year. A new biography of her was published in 2005.

International acclaim

On May 31, 1862, Greenhow was released without trial (with her daughter), on condition she stay within Confederate boundaries. After they were escorted to Fortress Monroe at Hampton Bay, she and her daughter went on to Richmond, Virginia, where Greenhow was hailed by Southerners as a heroine. President Jefferson Davis welcomed her return and enlisted her as a courier to Europe. Greenhow ran the blockade and, from 1863 to 1864, traveled through France and Britain on a diplomatic mission building support for the Confederacy with the aristocrats.

Many European aristocrats had sympathy for the South's elite; there were also strong commercial ties between Britain and the South. While in France, Greenhow was received in the court of Napoleon III at the Tuileries. In Britain, she had an audience with Queen Victoria. Greenhow met and in 1864 became engaged to Granville Leveson-Gower, 2nd Earl Granville. The details of her mission to Europe are recorded in her personal diaries, dated August 5, 1863, to August 10, 1864.

Two months after arriving in London, Greenhow wrote her memoir, titled My Imprisonment and the First Year of Abolition Rule at Washington. She published it that year in London and it sold well in Britain.Greenhow, Rose O'Neal, , London: Richard Bentley, 1863, full text online at Documenting the American South, University of North Carolina

Confederate spy

After losing her husband, Greenhow became more sympathetic to the Confederate cause. She was strongly influenced by her friendship with U.S. Senator John C. Calhoun from South Carolina. Greenhow's loyalty to the Confederacy was noted by those with similar sympathies in Washington, and she was recruited as a spy. Her recruiter was U.S. Army captain Thomas Jordan, who had set up a pro-Southern spy network in Washington. He supplied her with a 26-symbol cipher for encoding messages., (1817-1864), The National Archives – People Description. 1817-1864, (accessed February 5, 2013)

After passing control of the espionage network to Greenhow, Jordan left the US Army, went South, and was commissioned as a captain in the Confederate Army. He continued to receive and evaluate her reports. Jordan appeared to be Greenhow's handler for the Confederate Secret Service during its formative phase.Fishel, Edwin C., The Secret War For The Union: The Untold Story of Military Intelligence in the Civil War, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996, pp. 58-63

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