Behind The Lines: Spies In The Civil War

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Behind the Lines:
Spies in the Civil War

The Civil War was the bloodiest, most devestating war that has ever been fought on American soil. It began on April 12, 1861, at 4:30 in the morning. The main reason that the war was fought was because Southern states believed that they should have the right to use African-Americans as slaves, and the Northern States opposed that belief.
Millions of American men and women fought against each other in this war, and more than half a million died. Yes, that is a fact. The men were usually soldiers. Women tended to be nurses, aides, or doctors, although some of them posed as men in order to be able to fight in the war. Some of these men and women, though, were spies. Instead of fighting with guns and ammunition, these people fought through secrets and sabotage. These tactics turned out to be essential. Battle could be won or lost depending on information aquired from spies.
Back then, spying was hardly the same as it is today, with all of our high-tech gadgets and well-organised secret agent groups. However, most of the things that spies do today were done in the nineteenth century just as effectively. On thing that spies did was send messages, which were usually about the enemy's plans and movements, their troop size, their supplies, and the placement or strength of their forts. Many used coded messages with words that stood for different words. Some had different symbols for letters and numbers. Some spies even used inivisible ink. The spies also had ways of concealing the messages that they had to deliver. Messages were often hidden in articles of clothing. People had to write on silk, that was then sewn into clothing, and spies could also hide information in large metal buttons. Women's clothing was ideal for hiding things in. Sometimes, they would even hide people under their hoop skirts!
Two other things that spies did often were interceptin gmilitary dispatches and sending supplies. Supplies were often hidden in the same places that messages were hidden. It was also common practice for Confederate spies to hide morphine in the heads of dolls to smuggle it in from the North, as morphine was a painkiller that was desperately needed in Confederate hospitals.
If a spy was caught, they were usually treated just like common criminals. The penalty for being a spy was most often death by a public hanging, although many spies begged to be shot to death, which was considered to be a more honorable way to go.

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