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Women in History- Belle Boyd, Confederate Spy

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Suzanne Stone is a Lucky Bean walking tour guide and creator of the original French Quarter Fascinatin’ Women Tour, a New Orleans walking tour that focuses on the remarkable women who built, shaped, saved, and preserved New Orleans’ French Quarter during its 300-year existence.  Suzanne is starting a Wednesday discussion of some remarkable women in history.  For even more of Suzanne’s stories, check out her tour.

The famous Confederate spy, Belle Boyd was born in May 1844 in Martinsburg, Virginia (now West Virginia) as Maria Isabella Boyd. Federal troops occupied Martinsburg on July 02, 1861. On July 4, 17-year-old belle-boyd-in-uniformBelle shot and killed a drunken Union soldier who, as she wrote in her post-war memoirs, “addressed my mother and myself in language as offensive as it is possible to conceive. I could stand it no longer…we ladies were obliged to go armed in order to protect ourselves as best we might from insult and outrage.”

She did not need the infamous Women’s Order (discussed in detail in our French Quarter Fascinatin’ Women tours) to decide that flirtation with Union officers was her strongest source of influence. Boyd was arrested six or seven times, but managed to avoid incarceration until July 29, 1862, when she was finally imprisoned in Old Capitol Prison in belleboyd-dressWashington, D.C. She was released after a month as part of a prisoner exchange, but was arrested again in July 1863. Boyd was not a model inmate. She waved Confederate flags from her window, she sang Dixie, and devised a unique method of communicating with supporters outside. Her contact would shoot a rubber ball into her cell with a bow and arrow and Boyd would sew messages inside the ball. On December 1, 1863 she was released and banished to the South. She sailed for England on May 8, 1864 and was arrested again as a Confederate courier. She finally escaped to Canada with the help of a Union naval officer, Lieutenant Sam Hardinge, and eventually made her way to England where she and Hardinge were married on August 25, 1864.