Who was the “Cleopatra of the Secession” — and why was she arrested today?
July 29, 1862 — Confederate spy Belle Boyd was arrested today.
Known as the “Cleopatra of the Secession,” and “Siren of the Shenandoah,” (May 4, 1844 – June 11, 1900), she was one of the Confederacy’s most notorious spies. Born in Martinsburg, VA (now West Virginia) to a prosperous family with strong Southern ties, her father was a soldier in the Stonewall Brigade, and at least three other members of her family were convicted of being Confederate spies.
Her arrest came more than a year after she shot and killed a drunken Union soldier on July 4, 1861 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.”
Belle did not suffer any reprisal for this action. In her memoire she wrote: “the commanding officer inquired into all the circumstances with strict impartiality, and finally said I had ‘done perfectly right.”
Thus began her career, at age 17, as the Rebel Spy.
Words of Wisdom
A gold palmetto tree [pin] beneath her beautiful chin, a Rebel soldier's belt around her waist, and a velvet band across her forehead with the seven stars of the Confederacy shedding their pale light therefrom … the only additional ornament she required to render herself perfectly beautiful was a Yankee halter [noose] encircling her neck.