10/29/11

Wild Rose: The True Story of a Civil War Spy by Ann Blackman

Read: October 24 - 28
Format: Hardback 307 pages
Source: Public Library
Subject: Espionage, Civil War
Category: The Engagement: this is getting serious
Challenges: 11 in 11, 75 Book, TIOLI, SYLL
Stars: ★★★

Rose O'Neale Greenhow, have you ever heard of her? To be honest, I hadn't but after reading this book, I'm surprised by that fact. When I think of a spy in wartime in the 19th century, a woman is not necessarily what I imagine, but Rose Greenhow played that part more than adequately. A strong independent woman, Rose, living in the Nation's capital, was a Washington hostess, presidential confidante and spy.

Living in Washington, Rose had a virtual list of Who's Who that befriended her over thirty years - John C. Calhoun, Daniel Webster, Stephen Douglas (her son-in-law), Dolley Madison, Chief Justice Roger Taney, Mary Chestnut, Presidents Martin Van Buren, John Tyler, James Polk, and James Buchanan and she kept a correspondence throughout the war with Jefferson Davis and General Pierre Beauregard.

At the start of the Civil War, Rose Greenhow contacted the Confederate government and offered her services as a spy in Washington. She was given a special cipher and frequently during the early months of the war gathered important information regarding the troop numbers, placement, and planned movements. Never keeping her Confederate sympathies a secret, it is surprising the information she was able to gather and forward to the Confederacy. The success of the South at the first major battle at Bull Run can be linked to messages that she sent directly to General Beauregard.

In 1862 she was imprisoned (first in her own home and then in the Old Capital Orison) for nearly a year and then she was exiled to the south. President Jefferson Davis commissioned her to go to Europe to attempt to persuade England and France to recognize the Confederacy and aid them. During her time there, Rose met with Prime Ministers, Kings and Queens. On her trip home, while running the blockade outside of Wilmington, NC, her ship ran aground and rather than wait for the tide, she insisted on a lifeboat to make land. Swells ravaged the tiny boat and Rose was drowned. Rose Greenhow's strong independent spirit was her downfall because the ship safely made port the next morning.

This book was an amazing tale of a feisty woman of the South, who embraced the southern cause and risked her liberty and gave her life for what she believed in. It is well-written and very informative of issues that were previously unknown to this reader at least.

1 comment:

Anglers Rest said...

Sounds a really good read. A very inspirational woman for the times.