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Civil War

  • Date Submitted: 12/10/2015 11:22 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 49 
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Though neither the Union nor the Confederacy had a formal military intelligence network during the Civil War, each side obtained crucial information from spying or espionage operations. From early in the war, the Confederacy set up a spy network in the federal capital of Washington, D.C., home to many southern sympathizers. The Confederate Signal Corps also included a covert intelligence agency known as the Secret Service Bureau, which managed spying operations along the so-called “Secret Line” from Washington to Richmond. As the Union had no centralized military intelligence agency, individual generals took charge of intelligence gathering for their own operations. General George B. McClellan hired the prominent Chicago detective Allan Pinkerton to set up the first Union espionage organization in mid-1861.

Located 60 miles south of the Mason-Dixon Line, Washington, D.C. was full of southern sympathizers when the Civil War broke out in 1861. Virginia’s Governor John Letcher, a former congressman, used his knowledge of the city to set up a nascent spy network in the capital in late April 1861, after his state seceded but before it officially joined the Confederacy. Two of the most prominent early recruits were Thomas Jordan, a West Point graduate stationed in Washington before the war, and Rose O’Neal Greenhow, an openly pro-South widow and socialite who was friendly with a number of northern politicians, including Secretary of State William Seward and Massachusetts Senator Henry Wilson.
In July 1861, Greenhow sent coded reports across the Potomac to Jordan (now a volunteer in the Virginia militia) concerning the planned Federal invasion. One of her couriers, a young woman named Bettie Duvall, dressed as a farm girl in order to pass Union sentinels on the Chain Bridge leaving Washington, then rode at high speed to Fairfax Courthouse in Virginia to deliver her message to Confederate officers stationed...


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