Rose ONeal Greenhow was the Confederacys
most celebrated female spy at the start of the Civil
War. A popular Washington widow and hostess, Mrs.
Greenhow moved easily in the social circles of the
nations capital. Few were better connected
than she when hostilities commenced in the spring
of 1861. An ardent Southern sympathizer, she used
her ample charms and guile to pass along to Confederate
officials information on the defenses of Washington
and Union troop movements. She is credited with
alerting the rebels of enemy military operations
just prior to the Battle of Manassas. The success
of her clandestine activities can be gauged by the
surveillance she received from the noted detective
Allan Pinkerton. Although he put her under house
arrest and ultimately had her confined in the Old
Capitol Prison, Mrs. Greenhow was always considered
a security risk, given her extensive social connections.
Finally deported to the South in 1862, she acted
as an unofficial Confederate emissary to England,
where she wrote her memoirs, My Imprisonment
and the First Year of Abolition Rule at Washington.
Her book cemented her exploits in the annals of
Civil War lore and legend. On her return to America
in 1864, she reached the coast of North Carolina,
where her ship ran aground. She insisted upon going
ashore in a small boat, which took on water and
sank. Wild Rose drowned, allegedly weighted
down by a leather purse filled with gold sovereigns,
representing the royalties from her book. Her body
washed ashore, and she was buried with military
honors in Oakdale Cemetery in Wilmington.
This photograph of Mrs. Greenhow with her daughter
Rose was taken by Mathew Brady, or his operatives,
at the Old Capitol Prison.