Women Spies in the American Civil War

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With over a half million deaths the most gruesome war in American history drove citizens to action. The suffering during this era was so great many were inspired by nationalism to act. For those who were unable to join the fight upon the battlefield, espionage represented a chance for personal involvement. Although it is believed that many agents never sought recognition for their service, especially Confederate scouts, documentation depicts the espionage present during the American Civil War to be surprisingly sophisticated. By examining the recorded history involving active female intelligence agents in the American Civil War, we can see the roles of female scouts were severely underestimated, frequently encouraged, and generally unpunished in accordance to the rigid social formalities of the nineteenth century.

When first examining the documentation it is difficult to comprehend whether women were being patronized or treated too delicately; the fact of the matter is the average treatment of women during this era was radically different from society’s attitude toward men. It is also evident women exploited stereotypes to their advantage. Larry G. Eggleston explains the particular viewpoint of American society in Women of the Civil War as “Women were held with respect even though they were considered to be the weaker sex. Many women broke away from society’s traditional view of women when the Civil War began” (1). To avoid detection agents often manipulated social stigmas. Traditionally, Men were expected to join their countrymen upon the battlefield and women were to remain at home attempting to keep order. Some women were equally effective from their posts at home, while acting as scouts for their respected causes.

While th...

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...reakdown gender roles, thus contributing to the efficiency of women in wartime.

Works Cited

Allen, Thomas. Intelligence in the American Civil War. New York: Nova Science, 2010. Print.

Bakeless, John. Spies of the Confederacy. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1970. Print.

Davis, Curtis Carroll. "Companions of Crisis: The Spy Memoir as a Social Document." Civil War History 10.4 (1964): 385-400. Project MUSE. Web. 2 Feb. 2014.f.

Eggleston, Larry G. Women in the Civil War. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2003. Print.

Endres, Kathleen L. "The Women's Press in the Civil War: A Portrait of Patriotism, Propaganda, and Prodding." Civil War History 30.1 (1984): 31-53. Project MUSE. Web. 4 Feb. 2014. .

Kane, Harnett T. Spies for the Blue and Gray. Garden City, NY: Hanover House, 1954. Print.
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