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Rose O’Neal Greenhow Arrested: August 23, 1861

Rose O'Neal Greenhow is suspected of espionage
On August 23, 1861, Rose O’Neal Greenhow, a popular society matron and Confederate spy, was arrested at her Washington DC home.

Greenhow, a widow in her 40s at the time of her arrest, had been born in Maryland but spent her teenage years in the capital living with her aunt. She married a well-to-do older man named Dr. Robert Greenhow and the couple and their children lived in Washington DC, Mexico City, and San Francisco before his death in 1854.

Greenhow returned to the capital and expanded her role as an influential hostess, with important friends in political and military circles. When the Civil War started, Greenhow fervently supported the South but chose to remain in Washington. She was recruited to use her position of power in society to spy for the Confederacy and developed an espionage ring of both men and women.

Her most famous piece of spy work was the information she smuggled to PGT Beauregard before the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas) in July 1861 alerting him to Union troop numbers and movements. President Jefferson Davis later credited her with helping to win the battle.

Old Capitol Prison
Washington authorities became suspicious of Greenhow’s activities and arrested her on August 23, 1861. She was kept under house arrest until January 1862, when—because she had managed to continue passing on information to the Confederacy—she was moved to Old Capitol Prison. She remained incarcerated until late May, when she was deported to the South and received a warm welcome in Richmond.

Wanting to continue aiding the Confederate cause, Greenhow traveled to Europe, where she appealed to leaders in London and Paris to help the Confederacy. During this time she also published her memoir, which was successful in England.

Upon her return to the United States, her ship, the Condor, was spotted trying to run the blockade outside Wilmington, North Carolina, on October 1, 1864. In its attempts to escape the Union gunboat, the Condor ran aground on a sandbar. Anxious to escape, Greenhow and a couple other passengers set out in a lifeboat, but it overturned in the rough water. Greenhow drowned, and when her body was discovered the following day, she was laid out in state in Wilmington and buried there.

Want to learn more about Rose O’Neal Greenhow or other Civil War spies? Start a search on Fold3.


  1. Cindi says:

    She also had tons of money on her, which they feel, according to her biography, severely weighed her down in that dangerous water. Her story is fascinating.

    • Janet Greenhow says:

      Have a lot of family handmedown stories. Would love to hear more.

      Love to talk about both her and uncle Robert…he,too, was special.

    • Debbie Niemeyer says:

      Janet Greenhow, it would be awesome to hear some of the stories you’ve heard!

  2. Pauline Harper says:

    A very interesting lady to be sure, and it certainly fuels my love of history. So many people risked their lives supporting their values, and no matter the outcome, she stood up for what she thought was right.

  3. Jennifer Williams says:


  4. Tommy says:

    Although the massive loss of life was overwhelming, it is stories such as Rose
    O’Neal Greenhow that makes it so interesting and entertaining.

  5. henry scott says:

    my great aunt Betty Duval was one of her couriers, and the one that carried the msg. woven in her hair to Gen. Beauregard

  6. Mike Johnson says:

    with the current movement to rewrite history in the interest of political correctness, your love ones’ memories may soon follow the confederate flag. God bless them

    • Mike McGrady says:

      You are absolutely correct. History means nothing anymore. Just change the facts to meet your political persuasion..

  7. Randy Hines says:

    There would be no need to rewrite history if it hadn’t been rewritten in the first place. Let’s get the history right, even if it doesn’t support your politics…sic semper veritable…ever thus to the truth, son.

  8. Bernie Siler says:

    FOOTE mentioned her in his voluminous work on the war between the states. This is more in depth work. It’s possible to enjoy history without taking sides.

    • Doris says:

      I have the utmost respect and admiration for Rose Greenhow. How proud those of you who descend from her must be and how exciting to have primary sources like Fold3 to support your family’s oral stories.

    • Ron McCorkle says:

      Without taking sides? She was weighed down with gold when she died; the reward for her subterfuge and pro-slavery anti-United States and everything good about its Constitution. She hailed from a slave owning class that deserved worse than death.

      The lens of history does not absolve evil.

  9. FJS says:

    The sad commentary on History is that it is taught by the victors. Even more shameful is history is NOT TAUGHT today. Education today at the primary level is more reminiscent of indoctrination rather learning. many of the “truthes’ taught about the War Between the States leace out unleasant facts that would cloud the issue of why the staes truly went to war. Why was a state,West Virginia, illegally formed without the approval of the staes. If those in”rebellion” had not really seceded then the secession of WV was illegal. To date that unfortunate piece of history is convenently ignored. Slavery was an issue but it was not the issue that drove the North to war. The journals of the soldiers of the day bear witness to the fact that the common soldier did noot go to war to end slavery. Slavery WAS wrong and needed to end but what is missed is the waelth accumulated in the NORTHERN staes from the importation and trade osf slaves. Their wealth was made and KEPT

    • Marvin Wharton says:

      Great comments about a very gutsy lady that I would have like to have known. I understand a relative of mine Sally Wharton sister of Brig.Gen Gabriel Colvin Wharton
      would run messages between Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and others. She was also known as Sarah, Elizabeth & Betty, Damage tombstone in a cemetery located on the Ft. Benning Ga. firing range show the names.I love history and wish it was taught more in the schools and homes correctly. I love this nation, especially the south an still fly t he proper flags of our history on special occasions.

  10. JoyceB says:

    To FJS and any others interested in the Confederate side of the story- I live in North Carolina, the public libraries here have “North Carolina Rooms” with all sorts of interesting history stuff, including privately published books by the Daughters of the Confederacy. I have read, enjoyed, and been amazed by the stories collected, diary style, of women’s experiences during the Civil War/War to End Northern Aggression. Gutsy ladies! You may want to check with the Library of Congress, or see if you can contact someone involved with the Daughters of the Confederacy to see what may be available to you. Otherwise, come and visit! I hear the central library in Raleigh is not to be missed, although it’s still on my bucket list!

    • Bill Trolinger says:

      My family came from Virginia and N. Carolina, they made gun powder for the Continental Army and then again for the Confederacy. Some travled to Missouri in 1832 my GGgrand father was a country Dr during the Civil War and Jim Lange and his red legs went into Oseola, Missouri with intent to loot and burn down the town, but the people found out and got all the money and gold out. Lange and his men went about killing, looting and burned everything down and took off with everything of value,he himself to a grand piano and an arm full of ladies fancy silk dresses. My GG granddad and others tried to help but came into an ambush and he got shot with 11 mini balls but recovered but another man had his jaw shot off and was never the same again, the Dr had his horse stolen and their farm looted and burnt down. What the history books don’t tell you is that this is the main reason Quantrill and his band of men did what they did to Lawerance, kansas and the movie “the outlaw Josey wells” is based on these accounts!

    • Ron McCorkle says:

      Many comments suggesting that fighting for anything, no matter how unjust or immoral, is good so long as you are fighting for something.

      Hurray then for the Nazis, the Kaiser, the Confederates, the Redcoats and all the other historic losers that suffered ignominious defeat at the hands of those that defended some modicum of truth.

  11. Robert Smith says:

    She must have been a very fine lady who stuck to her heritage until her death. We surely need more of her kind today in these times of trial we are experiencing.

    • David Montgomery says:

      Your heritage represents Treason by pure definition. The Confederates perpetrated the most heinous crimes against Humanity, God and Country. Who would want to be proud of such apparent Evil?

  12. David Montgomery says:

    A befitting death for a Traitor!!!! The Confederate traitors deserve no Respect and no Honor!!!!

    • John Loosemore says:

      Exactly what “International Law” are you referring to in your reply to me below? The United Nations did not exist at that time… aside from treaties between individual nations, I’m not aware of anything worthy of being called “International Law” on thus subject before 1890. I may be wrong… enlighten me.

    • David Montgomery says:

      Are you suggesting that treaties between individual Nations (Allies) were not important or that other countries would not see a country practicing Slavery as an imminent threat to there own security? It would be foolish to believe that continuing Slavery would have had no consequences!!

    • James Jordan says:

      You sir are either a fool or have no understanding of the way the United States was prior to May 1861. The Confederate States were under no obligations to stay in the Union. How can one be a traitor if there were no restrictions on being a citizen of a secessionist state and believing that the Federal Government was wrong in trying to force you to stay. You as a free born citizen should be able to choose where you want to live be it the North or the South. As we are slowly headed to another such crisis in our own time, with an encroaching over powerful bureaucracy that is ready to seize all of our rights, I would strongly suggest you make a deep study of the period from 1855 to 1861 and find the true cause of the Civil War/War of Northern Aggression. Try and place yourself in the position of having to choose which side you needed to be on. You just might be surprised.

    • Marilyn says:

      I’m a northerner who moved to NC in 1992 & have been here since..I love hearing stories regarding the civil war from BOTH sides…..I truly believe there is no right or wrong in any wars but over the years I have found & remarks have been made to me regarding my being a yankee ,,where 95 north is & can be shown the way etc.etc……..I love history and want to know & learn all I can but this war is & has bveen over for so very long…learn from it,the good & the bvad,,don’t call people names for believing in what they did at that time that was what they believed & did!!!!!
      The was between the north & south is over!!!!!! learn from it,about it from boh sides north & south and put the attitudes andignorance to rest..lets all just be americans & leave the rest to history!!!

    • Roger Young says:

      Sorry Marilyn, the history you speak of is riddled with half truths, cover ups, and pure lies. For instance, many believe the major slave sea ports were in the South. Such as Charleston,Mobile and New Orleans. Not true. They were New York,Boston and other New England sea ports. Many think the white men; especially Southerners, raided innocent black villages and enslaved their captives . Not true. Virtually every black slave from the western African sea ports were slaves of other black kings, princes, or war chiefs. Just a few of these tribes were the Ggans, Ouidah, Yorur, and the Benin. Gen Sherman’s march through Ga killed or starved thousands of women and children; black and white, simply because he wanted to inflict a policy of carrying the war to the civilian population of the South who dared to support their army. A policy which included the destruction of all plant seed to prevent a food harvest the next year. A policy endorsed by Gen Grant and approved by Lincoln. Sherman refused to allow Blacks to receive medical aid, food or shelter during his march. Thousands died; far more than all the slaves who died violently at the hands of Southerners ( usually for rebellions where dozens of women and children were slaughtered by the rebellion leaders) for the previous 200 years. Did the history books note the millions of dollars ( todays value) the United States government received from the slave trade taxation? Does the history books note the that the slave labor produced the goods which financed the American industrial revolution? Thousands and thousands of northern people owed their very living to slave labor production. Slavery in the South did not bother them. However, some northern states states did pass laws against Blacks living in their state, free or otherwise. Does the history books note the racism expressed in the Northern states, from the abolitionist to Lincoln? There are many more examples which are not in the history books. Until history speaks the truth, ‘ the War’ will never end to those of us who have a Southern heritage. It is time this country stops making the South the sole ‘whipping boy’ for the War and for slavery.

    • Marilyn says:

      All I do know for a fact is when I lived in Maryland & had a business there I was shocked that I could not allow a black person sit in my restaurant,,shocked further when a man from the highway Dept came in looking for his burr heass……I had a baby sitter whose husband was in the army,,she was a dark Italian girl..They took her raped her & tied her husband to a tree and watch while they asked him how he liked seeing his nigger wife get f’d.
      Coming back from FL on a bus I was treated very rudely and had remarks made to me as I excused myself to let a black soldier pass me as I blocked him in the aisle.
      That’s what I myself have seen in the south,,,,so whoever or whatever caused the war the south is so proud of what I witnessed was ignorance & bigotry ,,I’m only here now as I followed my mother here & now can’t afford to go home again..I have several southern friends who are wonderful but there are also the other ones who carry a grudge that is over & done with but the souths treatment of the black people in those days was horrible !!!

    • Roger Young says:

      My goodness Marilyn, you owned a restaurant in the 60’s. There are a-holes everywhere! Is your report on the crime per a news paper report base on a police report? If not, it is probable here say. Not that it could have happened. I, for one, have never claimed that racism and hatred did not occur in the South. My point is the North was involved in the transgressions as well as the South and the North, historically and currently, should acknowledge their own role in this whole affair. Each event requires it’s own discussion and I have no excuses for the Jim Crow era. Current discussion concerns the War and the reasons for the War.

      Thanks for responding.

    • Philip Benincasa says:

      Roger…in 1949 as a 6 year old I saw blatant examples of Jim Crow…but I notice that you want to share thoughts about the war. Okay, as a New Englander, I’ve offend found myself saying, “to hell with it…Lincoln was wrong…let them go…we’d be better off without them”. If, and I expect that you have, studied the initial motivation of settlers going to the Carolinas and those going to New England I think you find two very different strands. In the “South”, 17th century, settlers came to get rich (an understandable motivation). In the “North” they came for religious freedom (nothing wrong with that). There was plenty of wrong doing on the part of both and I know this is an enormous over simplification. But let’s say the South simply left. What happened then? Really!, play it out. You see I think the only time we are one nation is when we are at war with an outside enemy otherwise we are at least 3-4 separate cultures with different values and a good bit of generalized dislike for each other. That difference has its roots, I think, in those early driving forces that led to our settlement. Again, what do you think might have happened if the North had simply said to the South, okay, go?

    • Roger Young says:

      Good thought. Perhaps we should recant our American Revolution and start paying tribute to Britain. Better still, no people should be allowed to fight their own gov repressions anywhere in the world.

    • Philip Benincasa says:

      Roger…seems to me you are not seriously attempting to answer the question. Let me TRY a thought (would never bet the farm on it). Northern NY, New England and the Maritime provinces would have become an independent nation. Quebec leaves Canada, S. NY, New Jersey, Del., Penn Md, N Virginia, West Virginia and Ohio yet another. Texas goes its own way. Etc., etc. in effect N America becomes Balkanized. What then…?


    • Roger Young says:

      My answer is as serious as your question.

    • Marilyn says:

      No one is innocent in any war but you are not replying to the racism and cruelty of how the blacks were treated in the 60s as well as anytime..I did not read it I saw it happen right in front of me..I saw the signs blacks use one entrance,one bath ,one drinking fountain while the white people had it all nice shiny the blacks was dirty and horrible,,yes! racism is disgusting and the south was a prime example of the ignorance of its people !!!!!

    • scott says:

      She is a hero ,not a traitor.

    • Alicia P says:

      David. I believe Susan is speaking about the Great Sioux uprising of 1861. Mr Lincoln had to agonize about killing three hundred braves to death. Check your stats. While you believe Ms. ONeal was a hero, respect the possibility that there are people who may still see her behavior as traitorous. Once again no right or wrong just the facts.

    • Marilyn says:

      OMG!!!!! Get over it people.saint or sinner she is a part of the history in the days of the civil (nothing civil about it ) war…..Life goes on and a flag that belongs in a museum is still flying

    • mike says:

      sir, being a great grandson of a Southern Solider of the “War of the Northern depression of the south” I have read, handled relics of my family from this time. I am proud to say that the group of African Americans were each given 50 ac. of land

  13. Definition: History – a systematic; chronological account of important events connected with country, people, individual, etc…………………Nothing should be left out. I have enjoyed this article very much. She should be commended for believing in her cause.

  14. John Loosemore says:

    Can we say “idiot” on here? Just asking.

    People seem to forget that slavery went on and was perfectly legal under the United States Constitution for far longer than under the Confederate States Constitution. And there is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that specifically says that states cannot pull out of the union if they wanted (or want) to. I cannot see how the South was any more treasonous for wanting to preserve/restore the original degree of autonomy for the state governments that our federal system was first set up to have, than the North was for preserving the union “because they insisted on it” at the cost of destroying the original balance of state/federal power in the process.

    I’m a Yooper, not a Southerner, and I hate slavery and racism with all my heart. But it disgusts me how so many people today take on such a simple-minded view of history.

    • David Montgomery says:

      Slavery was against International Law then as it is today. The Union could only be preserved by not allowing separation of the States. Any Separation would have been considered a Treason-es act then and now. States do not have the right to Kill, Rape, and Demonize Humanity. There are no Simple Minded Views here your disgust should be directed appropriately to those in the North and South who allowed Slavery.

    • sue says:

      Stop attacking the Confederates. We have been quite civil and respectful of the Union views in these posts I have noticed but I have also noticed that every one of the negative and insulting comments come from people like you David Montgomery and others of the “Yankee” persuasion. I wonder why so many of you come south and STAY. The Northern car tags are all over here so please do stay up there. Those who can respect our Southern heritage are welcome, that’s the Southern way.

    • David Montgomery says:

      I have visited the South and I will never live or invest in the South. I will never respect a Heritage that represents Slavery and Treason. Your Heritage is the same as that of the Nazi Party. Imagine Jewish people paying respects to the Heritage of Nazi Descendants!!!

    • Connie says:

      David Montgomery, after that post I would imagine that most of the residents of the south are happy that you will not be visiting. We all have opinions but that is what they are, OPINIONS and the rudness here is still not acceptable.

    • David Montgomery says:

      I speak of Facts. Imagine Jewish holocaust survivors paying respects to the Descendants of the Nazi Party!!

  15. John Loosemore says:

    Interesting the author of this article says she was “deported to the South.” I wonder how Lincoln would have felt about that choice of words, seeing as how his argument was the South could not and therefore never did separate from the North.

  16. Debbie Oliver says:

    Rose Greenhow is one of four Civil War era women featured in Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott. Two women were Union and two were Confederate. The book is completely factual and fascinating reading.

  17. Sharon Alexander says:

    Enjoying much of the discussion above, except when it becomes uncivil. I agree that neither history nor civics is taught in a way that truly empowers students to think critically. It has been over 100 years. High time to bring the complexities of th issues to light. Let the students debate the positions (as my generation debated the Vietnam war.)

  18. Richard Forzani says:

    Ms Greenhow’s story is well known among students of the history. Her morality is irrelevant; what she did is a fact, pure and simple. Her courage is obvious.
    As far as the causes/inspiration for the war; slavery was the overwhelming moral cause, preservation of the Union was the political cause (else the country would likely have evolved into 3 or more separate countries, all weak) and the total dependence of the South on slaves to maintain their economic model was the financial cause. Ultimately, the refusal of the North to accept the spread of slavery to the new states and the fear of being eventually relegated to minority political power by the South led to the war. It was ultimately a clash of cultures. But since one endorsed and depended upon an immoral and evil institution, the outcome was completely justified.
    PS….re West Virginia, western counties in VA totally opposed the war and slavery, and formed their own state. This was legal then, as now, under law, unlike the secession of the Confederacy.

    • Philip Benincasa says:

      Ms. Greenwald passed information to leaders in the south. Those leaders acted on it I assume and the result may have been to extend the war by a day? A week? A month? Let’s suppose that’s true. How many lives on both sides were lost as a result. There is something immoral about that…

  19. Kim says:

    Check Amazon, there are several books by and about her.

  20. Connie says:

    Let us be civil to each other-we are not at war here. The facts of the civil war, as they happened, are history, regardless of which side your ancestors fought on. Some had no choice. My great great grandfather died from war wound in the civil war and left a family of small children as a result. Many suffered greatly on both sides. I would like to know all the historical facts and stories as I find them very interesting. It is gone, we cannot change what happened so be kind in your comments.

    • John Loosemore says:

      I’m afraid I cannot suffer a fool gladly. That other fellow comes on here all hot-headed with his exclamation marks from the getgo, insulting people of the present that he knows nothing about, insulting the memory of Confederate soldiers who went to their graves defending their communities, their way of life and what they saw as their freedoms, all the while this guy is spouting utter nonsense as if it was facts and acting as if one side was all right while the other side was all wrong… fool is too nice a word for him.

  21. Dianne says:

    What a great woman! I love history and really enjoy reading these articles!!

  22. Leo says:

    I really found this discussion to be interesting, except for a couple of snide comments that we could have done without. My own feeling is that Ms. Greenhow was doing what she thought was right. Being on the losing side does not change that, nor her obvious bravery. I particularly felt Richard Forzani was on target listing the causes of the war.

    The last part of his comment about people having the right to form new states out of existing states should be clarified. Article IV Section 3 of the US Constitution sets standards, including approval of the Congress. Only Texas (which in the annexation agreement when it joined the Union had the right to break into multiple states) may have had that right, and that agreement was nullified when it joined the confederacy and was conquered. Everyone is under Article IV Section 3 and it is not likely than Congress is going to approve any state formations that could lead to a change in the balance of power in the Senate.

  23. David Montgomery says:

    Blue Blue through and through!!!!!

    • John Loosemore says:

      You come across as so immature with your “nyah-nyah-nyah” attitude… I think you would do well to read some of Lincoln’s words (his second inaugural address comes to mind: “With malice toward none…”) and get a little humility and respect for others. We are all Americans now, and we all should be proud not just of “our” side’s bravery and sacrifice, but of the bravery and sacrifice and ability of ALL those who fought in honorable fashion for what they thought was right.

      It is wrong to judge yesterday’s people by today’s standards… If we did that then Thomas Jefferson and George Washington would end up in the villain pile, and who has contributed more to freedom and sound government than they?

  24. Steve Zimmer says:

    The range of opinions responding to this historical series of events just confirms my thoughts confirming the statement (paraphrasing), “if we do not learn from the past we are doomed to repeat it.” The history of the Civil War which I was taught in school more than 50 years ago is totally different from what I now understand. As an adolescent I did not like or even care about political views. As a result, the “history” I learned consisted of battles and outcomes from those battles. The fact my family came from Pennsylania & Indiana had absolute nothing to do with the history I was taught. Since I moved from Kentucky to Arkansas I have learned much more about war in the western states. I have learned of horrible atrocities conducted by both northern and southern armies upon the residents of the state. I have learned how non-combatants (know as the “bushwackers”) were as bad as any terrorist group of today. There is so much to learn from our past. I have gained a new respect for those men and women that fought for their beliefs, homes, and way of life on both sides. Society has undergone many changes over the past 150 years. It is truly difficult to understand the society of mid-nineteenth century America when looking at it with 21st century knowledge.

    It is time for us to learn from the many mistakes that lead to the Civil War, to learn how to better address issues and to stop attempting to rehash those mistakes 150 years later.

  25. David Montgomery says:

    I do believe that “if we do not learn from the past we are doomed to repeat it. This why it is extremely important for me to be vigilant and forthcoming. My comments are meant to keep the memory of the Confederates as it should be. The most evil institution and ideology in our Countries history. I will never respect the heritage of the likes of Nazis or Confederates.

    • John Loosemore says:

      There is nothing to like about Nazis as such, but even then there were individual German soldiers, sailors and airmen who acted honorably. I remember reading a story a couple years ago how a German fighter pilot actually escorted a severely damaged American bomber back to the English channel, and by his near presence prevented anti-aircraft guns on the ground from completely destroying the bomber as it limped across German territory.

      Thinking of the Confederates, certainly they were wrong about one big issue. They were very, very wrong. But that does not mean they were wrong about everything, or that they were complete devils. My goodness, not only did the U.S. Constitution put its stamp of approval on slavery, but slavery was also legal in many of the northern states individually for decades after the U.S Constitution came into force. It was largely a matter of different economic situations which caused slavery to die out in the North, certainly not a monopoly on angelic qualities.

    • VivIAN says:

      Sir: Our southern Confederates did not burn homes, rape and kill families along with stealing their goods, burning homes, courthouses,destroying crops and etc. Southern folks are the most honorable, friendliest, hard working and caring people on this earth. If you are saying all that to get a rise from us, you will certainly get it.

  26. Ronald F. Townsend says:

    From reading the above messages I still see the Civil War narrative is infested by regional Bias, and indeed, narrow minded views on both sides. Indeed, the Institution of Slavery was abolished after the war but was an institution practiced by all races for 1000’s of years. The institution of Slavery was a source of cheap labor which wealthy plantation owners would not give up. That cheap labor also affected the white community, and although not slaves, were kept in perpetual poverty due dominance & Competition with slave labor. This white group was looked down upon by the slaves and known as “Poor White Trash”.
    So the War was fought because of Slavery or States Rights. Both of these reasons do not justify the wholesale murder of 600,000 people. This latter statement is especially true since most of the former Slaves became tenant Farmers, along with the poor whites, and that practice is the same as Serfdom not even a full step up from slavery. Thus you still had the cheap labor and the wealthy land owners still lived off the cheap labor of its tenant farmers instead of slaves. Yes, some did overcome these stigmas, but most didn’t.
    Rose Greenhow had her beliefs, acted on her engrained beliefs, and did a good job of it. I may agree, or disagree, with her views, but she was courageous in acting on her beliefs.
    The last great battle of the Civil War was the battle of the memoirs in the 1880’s. I spent a fascinating time reading through about 18 memoirs, maybe nine from the Southern perspective and nine from the northern perspective. One was Jefferson Davis’s “Rise & Fall of the Confederacy”. The rest were Generals. It changed my view on the war and left me with the real reason for the war , and the common reason for any war. Humankind likes to Kill.

    • David Montgomery says:

      I am a 10 year Army Veteran. It is odd to me that certain things were allowed to a losing Army that is somewhat unprecedented. Penalties should have been much harsher to the losers and the rebuilding of the Enslaved and Indentured servitude population should have been instituted.

    • John Loosemore says:

      The way the defeated Confederate military forces, such as Lee and his men, were treated as they surrendered is one of the proudest moments in American history in my opinion. And one of the wisest, too. Lincoln — whatever I think of his justifications for going to war — wanted the country to heal quickly once the war was finished. Lincoln’s assassination was a catastrophe for the South and in many ways for the whole country, in that it brought all that vindictiveness towards the South to the fore and made impossible the quick healing Lincoln had hoped for.

      Yet history is pretty complex. I suppose splitting the nation into two parts would not actually have been a GOOD thing… and Lincoln’s death makes such a thing happening in the future much less likely. In that sense perhaps the assassination served some good purpose. It certainly froze Lincoln’s image forever in that shiny moment of triumph and magnanimity, before he had a chance to muddy himself in the post-war political arena. It is not a bad thing to have heroes.

      We were nice to the Germans and the Japanese at the end of WW2, even letting the Japanese wartime emperor Hirohito remain as a figurehead. I think that policy has worked out very well for us over the years since.

    • Philip Benincasa says:

      This is meant as a genuine question. Can one be labeled as an “honorable” person when defending an absolutely “dishonorable” cause? If so can you give me some examples to think about? Thanx.

  27. Leonardo pina says:

    So what I can do for you guys don’t even know what are you guys talking about spy on family home is legal invasion to the privacy use another’s people’s name to build profiles is completely 0 tolerance open web business pages on some one else plus all this years abusing emotional on personal is something I don’t have to decide there’s law’s to follow all mistakes have consequences and I pay to much all this time nobody is guilty yet there’s was no reason if you guys are army’s chief minister know what is wrong sincerely hope you guys but this personal I have the last word no one going scared me anything happen to me or my family there’s people’ it’s going respond for us good tip for you watch what you doing where you go walk straight don’t be surprise I do this for my kids there’s an investigation going on.eyes on the road

  28. Roger Young says:

    Protesting the Confederacy and her flag because they represent a time of slavery may be a worthwhile effort. However, it is historically important to protest the actual facts.

    About eighty years before the Confederacy or their battle flag existed, another battle flag played a role in history. That flag is still flying today as a national flag with minor design changes. That flag proudly flew over a nation that condoned slavery, imported slaves, and financed the slave trade for almost a century, and for fifty of those years, that country allowed the illegal importation of slaves from Africa. That nation also allowed their northern slave ships to pass most slaves through two great northern slave trading seaports.

    That nation was the United States of America. The flag was our own Stars and Stripes.
    The northern slave trading seaports were Boston and New York. The banks were northern owned or controlled per a recent NAACP lawsuit and historical fact.

    The current Confederate battle flag under protest today represented a nation that existed as a slave nation for just over four years. The United States existed as a slave nation for almost a century, including the war years of 1861 to 1865. The Confederate battle flag represented a country that Constitutionally forbid the importation of slaves from Africa and other nations effective immediately upon ratification by the member States.

    Many people think the American Civil War was fought by the North to free the slaves and the South fought to keep them. Not true. Actually the civil war was no more of a civil war than the American Revolution. The colonist did not fight to overthrow the English Crown in England and the South did not fight to overthrow the government of the United States. The concise reason for both wars was to stop the oppressive political and economic dominance by others. The English fought and lost their bid to continue their dominance over the colonists and the United States fought and won their bid to continue their dominance over the South. To fight and die over the question of slavery was never the objective of the nations involved in these wars.

  29. alice Boni says:

    I very much enjoyed the article but not so much the remarks. I was born & raised in Pa. but that doesn’t mean that I can’t see why the South took that stand to succeed from the Union. It was their whole way of life that was being destroyed. Slavery was dying as it was becoming unprofitable. Why not stop the slavers from bring in slaves?I’m sure they could have but the ships were out of the north and many a Yankee made his fortune on the misery of the slave trade.The South lost and the North profited greatly. Sad that so many young men lost theirs lives and there is hatred on both sides still. War costs so much.

  30. Roger Eden says:

    There are several books about Rose Greenhow available at
    some appear to be memoirs or even autobiographies. Read and enjoy.

  31. Roger Young says:

    The remarks are historical fact and not just my personal opinion. You are very correct that many a northerner made fortunes in the slave trade. Slave labor products financed the north’s industrial revolution and the crucial sea commercial fleet for those fifty years that slaves were brought here illegally. All the northern colonies greatly benefited from the slave trade. As a matter of fact, the Constitutional committee to “solve’ the slave question was the Livingston Committee; composed of reps from 7 colonies. Only three were from the southern colonies. Va. twice refused to allow the importation of slaves after ratification. This vote means that two northern colonies voted for slavery for the next twenty years.(1808) Census and gov’t estimates between 1774-90 indicate there were aprx 152,000 slaves in the North and aprx 324,000 in the South. The North was not exactly a bastion of free blacks when the Constitution was being written. Note the ‘three-fifth” rule of the Constitution applied to Northern colonies as well as Southern.

    Thanks for your interest and comments.

  32. Bonnie Culley says:

    I lived at a Confederate Soldier’s Home in Higginsville, MO until I was 7 years old and the old soldiers fought this war until they died, replaying every battle they were involved in. Here we are 80 years later still doing the same thing! The war is over and I think we need to let it die too. Put our time to better things. My great great grandfather fought for the North…. And Vivian, the South DID burn homes and kill non military. You need to read about the Missouri Border War. The Northern soldiers came into Missouri to towns where the men were away at war. They burned all the homes. They took everything they could haul back to Kansas and burned the rest leaving the women, children and old folks to starve. Two wrongs do not make a right. Let’s not call names as it’s over. Let’s move on and all be friends and do things to improve.
    Be sure to read Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott. It’s a very good book and you might change your mind about the lady in question.

  33. Kathleen Hemmer says:

    For those of those arguing,I have one message.
    Go to Gettysburg, PA.Look at the faces of all the young men
    and hear the story of the three days in July 1863.
    To look at the battlefield and remember is hard.
    I found myself weeping for both sides.We are all Americans.
    North and South.

  34. Matthew Iobst says:

    Let me say that I am a Northern by birth and a Southern by life choices. I grew up hearing all the tales of the Union and how “we” were on the “right” side of history. This was a clear case of the victors writing history.

    As I have chosen to enlighten myself more about the Civil War, I wan struck by the overwhelming emotions that this topic still raises. As a white person, I was fortunate to read James Cone’s book “Black Power, Black Theology” and was surprised to find that Lincoln actually said that if he could preserve the Union without freeing a single slave that he would do so.

    This makes it clear to me that the war was not about slavery at it’s heart. Robert E. Lee was not a supporter of slavery and was actually brokenhearted that his home state succeeded. He had no desire to fight for the South but would not go against his home state.

    I have come to believe that the war really was the War of Northern Aggression. I am also firm in my belief that slavery was on it’s way out regardless of the war. The Northern States were in power and rapidly taxing the South into poverty by slowing taking away States’ Rights.

    I hate that the Confederate Flag has become synonymous with hate and slavery. It is simply not the case and it should be a treasured part of our SHARED history.

    Rose O’Neal Greenhow is a perfect example of a person that fought for her ideals and we should be celebrating that even if we do not agree with those same ideas.

    • Philip Benincasa says:

      By your logic if Southern states had freed all slaves in, let’s say, in 1859 there still would have been a Civil War. If Northern states were sucking the marrow out of Southern bones through taxation why did, for example, Sherman destroy everything in his path during his March to the sea thus destroying the economic base of the very places that served to generate those taxes? Lincoln’s speech, I believe, at Cooper Union makes it clear that the central wedge issue was the desire to allow or not allow slavery into new states and territory. Had the South agreed to the containment Lincoln would have resisted pressure from abolitionists in the North and believed the practice would have died a natural death and the war could have been avoided. But let’s be clear slavery was evil and our Nations original sin for which we still are paying a terrible price.

    • Ron McCorkle says:

      Well said.

  35. Robin says:

    All of these replies are very interesting reading. I think we need to remember that we have only one country today. There us no “north” and “south” and people need to stop acting like there is. We have only one flag. We are all citizens of the same country.

    • Roger Young says:

      Unfortunately, the North and South does exist, but not to the extent to deny our obligations as citizens.. As long as most people think the South fought for and was solely responsible for slavery in our Nation; the controversy will continue. To discuss and educate people about the real reasons the South fought and the role Northern states played in the establishment/continuation of slavery is not, repeat not, a defense of slavery!

  36. Merrilee Gibson says:

    For another historical perspective on the War Between the States, you might try the book, Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men by Jeffrey Hummel.

    • Ron McCorkle says:

      Who’s rewriting history here? The South declared its “right” to secede over the issue of the expansion of slavery in the Western states. This was an integral part of the Soutgrrn identity that defined Southern “Nationalism”.

      Talk about rewriting history…I call bullshit.

  37. Roger Young says:

    There were for more critical events than slavery concerning the South’s decision to fight for independence. If slavery had been ended ten or twenty years before, it would not have any difference. Even today, one cannot give away or sale what one does not own. It was the northern banks which financed the slave trade and they were not going to give up the profits. However, ending this set up would have slowly, but surely ended slavery. Unfortunately, the agricultural marketing system, inherited from the England, was designed to benefit England, not the colonist. This same system was controlled by the North which put the South in the exact same position. That is how the North sucked the financial lifeblood from the South. This is the major reason the South fought and slavery or non-slavery was not the answer. Remember,Pres Lincolin and the republications offered the South the “right’ to slavery for as long as the Republic lasted in 1861. The South refused the bait.. It resolved nothing.

    • Philip Benincasa says:

      Roger…this is a genuine question on my part. If Northern banks supported the slave “trade” are we talking about the import of slaves from Africa? If so wasn’t the import made illegal some years before the outbreak of hostilities? If that’s the case I have a hard time understanding how northern banks would prosper. Explain…

    • Roger Young says:

      Yes! and it was illegal. The US refused to stop the trade per the law and the constitutional agreement.

    • John Loosemore says:

      It is annoyingly simple-minded for people to say the whole war was just about slavery; or worse to say that the South was totally “for” slavery and the North was totally pure and innocent and completely against slavery.

      Yet slavery obviously was the nexus of all the tensions leading up to the war. State’s rights? Westward expansion and political power struggles in Congress? Cultural differences? All these issues would have been minor, were it not for the inflaming thorn of slavery. Someone above mentioned “original sin.” That is very much my view also; our nation was forged with this imperfection, without which it could not have been forged at all. This flaw — this built in contradiction — festered along for decades but finally had to be hashed out.

      I sympathize very greatly with the South… there they were, doing perfectly “legal” things, things specifically allowed by the U.S. Constitution, things which the North had also been doing until recently and which the North was still involved with in some ways. Things which benefitted the North, by providing needed agricultural products, just as much as they benefitted the South. Yet now they found themselves being demonized and isolated and robbed of political influence and denied the even-handed enforcement of existing laws.

      I don’t think secession was illegal, but the wisdom of it was pretty dubious. As Lincoln pointed out, we could not physically separate. What were they going to do, build a 50 foot high fence all along the border, to keep the slaves in? Yet secession seemed reasonably to be their right. And it need not have necessarily led to war.

      It was primarily Lincoln’s stubbornness, his iron will, that made war unavoidable and secession ultimately impossible for the South. In the years since it has certainly been a huge advantage for us to have remained united, in many ways. Yet I think we have also lost something, having converted our federation of states into, for practical purposes, a nation governed by a monolithic central government. I happen to value diversity in government as well as diversity in population.

      How I feel about the “Confederate flag” depends a lot on the context. I cannot deny it most commonly is used as a symbol of racism and hatred. I often feel repelled when I believe it is being displayed in that way. Yet I still love it, as a symbol of some lingering spark of independent thinking and brave defiance which I hope still is out there.

    • Alicia P says:

      Susan is correct. John by the way, you lost the war. Stop the histrionics and move on. Keep your pride and your old relics but remember the Confederate flag that you may tout is a symbol of terror to some who are also Americans.
      Peace be with you.

  38. Alicia P says:

    Stop this bickering and engaging in foolhardy talk about who was right and who was wrong. History simply is history. While each comment on this page is born with the wealth of the elders; start to create a karmic equilibrium. Talk about both sides of the battle. Sorry, I am not reviewing any stories about other ethnicities during the Civil War. I charge you all to remember that this was a war which spiritually changed the tenor and tone of this nation. On one side we have the South. Fighting a battle to preserve a way of life waged on the backs of others. The North; which was inharmoniously opposed but stood by watching while coveting its greed and power hungry ways. The tragedy: this war cost thousands of lives yet purged the soul of this country. Let’s hear more stories. Report each story as it is; the good, the bad and the ugly. However, let’s keep it equal by telling the stories of courage on both sides. Final note: Some of the comments here talk about famous ancestors with whom you are very proud to be a descendant. Some of us may be able to claim those same sentiments, but because of the institution of slavery; we can never trace or claim those same ancestors. You lost a war; but there are those of us who lost our very lineage…

    • G. Norman Crump Sr. says:

      As a student of history whose ancestors fought for freedom even before the 7 year War aka French and Indian War and who also fought for religious freedom in Europe as part of the German group who supported Luther and his efforts to reform the Catholic Church which led to his excommunication and his being hidden in Wartburg Castle from assassination by Emperor Charles and the Cardinals, my ancestors paid the price for the liberty they won for us. I am also a failed suicide bomber aka SAC Nuclear Bomber tail gunner who served with honor and success. I am aghast at the bombastic insults and falsehoods that a group of social scientists and naysayers have been putting on this site to the point that I need to put this itemized list of corrections in print:
      1)slavery is still practiced today in some parts of the world and was a part of the world culture from ancient times until the ideas of the Reformation that each person is a child of God and able to seek God without an intermediary. The sale of Indulgences which Luther protested loudly about was only part of the plan to enslave the populace and enrich the elite aka as the Catholic Hierarchy;
      2) The first black slaves were sold to the Jamestown VA colony by a black person named Baker who had gotten them from the Spanish and Portuguese;
      3) The British crown in their Merchantilism arranged a sweetheart deal for them in that they traded goods and materials from their New World Colonies to the Spanish and Portugese for slaves which they had procured from African tribes who had captured the slaves and brought them to the slave ports held by the Spanish and Portuguese. These slaves were then used as payment for the goods and services obtained from the colonies. For example, Governor Oglethorpe, the first Royal Governor of GA insisted upon this even though the “Swiss Reformers” who were tied into the Moravian Brethren had a commune infrastructure which would be destroyed by the substitution of slaves for the farmers, tinsmiths, papermakers, carpenters etc that were selected as part of the commune. Most of these people at Purysburg SC chose to walk away thru NC to PA for a new life and also sent word for their associates in both the Reformed and Lutheran Churches not to arrive via Charleston SC or Savannah GA because they would be competing with slaves for any passage costs that they might find that they owed above what they were promised. A whole lot of present day people had ancestors who were made indentured servants for years to pay the ship owners the extra funds that the ship owner and his agent said they owed. This happened each time a ship arrived regardless if the ship arrived in MA, RI, NY, PA, MD, VA, SC, GA.
      4) The slave was defined as property in the US Constitution with specific points made as to when importation was to be legally allowed. The British promised the slaves that they had “Liberated” during our Rev. War their freedom only if they worked and served the British. After the war, the British shamefully reneged on this promise badly. The Slaves taken to Nova Scotia were provided holes in the ground to live in and so many died that the slaves petitioned the Crown to be transported back to Africa or to the West Indies;
      5) James Monroe of VA tried to solve the slave problem by assisting the start of the slave owned nation of Liberia whose capital is named after Monroe; few blacks wanted to go and the ones that did actually set up a different type of racial profiling in which certain groups with certain features assumed elitist status and power;
      6) Owners of 12 or more slaves were excused from serving in the Confederate Army because they were supposed to manage their slaves to produce goods;
      7) The Lutheran Church and some other churches in the South did in fact teach the black slaves to read and write and to worship with them before 1825 despite the lies spread that doing so was illegal in the South;
      8) There were free blacks and Indians in NC long before the Civil War, for example the founder of White Furniture Co;
      9) Since slaves were legally defined as property, the Constitution spelled out the proper, legal way to end slavery which was to pay for them the amount determined by a jury of ones peers. There was no Abolitionist who stated he was willing to do that. John Brown chose to try to create a Rebellion that included Blacks when he captured the Arsenal. He was such a moral man; it is fine to kill, steal, and destroy so long as slavery was abolished. I sense this trait in the comments of many of the people contributing to this discussion;
      10) The just cause for our Rebellion against England as outlined in the Declaration of Independence is identical to that caused by the Northern Troops invading the Southern States, forcibly taking land and property and lives without just compensation or cause and fostering their will upon a free citizen; It is spelled out that the citizen is expected to fight to prevent such tyranny. If your home and land is being endangered or taken, your food supply stolen or destroyed and your livestock taken without just compensation as determined by a jury of your peers, you are MORALLY required to fight to stop the tyranny. I see one person claims to have served ten years in the Army. Did he not ever learn the ten General Orders. Not one says he is to steal from the citizens of the USA or burn farmer’s barns and crops, steal or kill his livestock, and burn his courthouse deeds to show his property ownership so that later thieves can steal the farmer’s land. This was the prime target for the Stoneman Raiders. If you go to Western NC you will find that a large amount of land was stolen during the so called Reconstruction. It was not until 1892 that the Federal Real Estate Tax against only those who served the South was declared by the US Supreme court to be Unconstitutional; however, the people whose land was so stolen never got compensated. The Ritter Company of Columbus OH got about a third of the timber from Morganton NC to Blowing Rock which led to such bad floods and fires that they and the two other “owners” had the Federal Government acquire the land for the National Forest. You will not find any bill of sale for my ancestor Martin Crump’s land in the Wilson Creek Wilderness Area known as the Walnut Bottom which the Federal Government leases to the Caldwell County Chamber of Commerce for a Visitor Center. Martin was a farmer who also was a wagon maker who had no slaves and only one son who served in the Confederacy as a Sgt. This thievery was rampant and sanctioned by the US Army who appointed the VT Adjutant of the troops stationed in Statesville NC to become the Judge at Lenoir for Western NC. This is the same army group that allowed Ft. Hamby to exist for plundering and murder after the Civil War was over. Only after veterans led by a preacher took the offense and burnt the fort down killing all the so called Union Deserters who were well equipped with Union sniper rifles except for the one young “deserter” who was allowed to escape to Statesville. The next day the Union Army shows up. How convenient especially since there is no record of any punishment for the lone surviving deserter! The preacher’s son was killed by the deserters before the fort was burned down with the help of a fiery hay wagon pushed up to the fort.
      11) Lincoln did not free slaves in states not in rebellion; the later Constitutional admendments did do so.
      I find it strange that so many of the people on this list hate the South for the war but are beneficiaries of the same battle that was fought against tyranny from 1775 thru 1783 whereby they were blessed with the freedom that they are exercising to speak their mind even if what they say is either intentionally or unintentionally stupid and which results in creating harmful and unlawful acts.

    • John Loosemore says:

      Alicia P… I lost the war? Did you even read what I said here? I don’t think so, as you preach to me almost the same thing I already said myself. Plus I think I’m taking a very balanced point of view throughout.

      By the way, I’m from Northern Michigan, up close to Canada. My great-great grandfather and his father both fought for the North in the Civil War. My great-great grandfather was shot through the guts at the Battle of Seven Pines but survived. Legend is the doctor pulled a silk handkerchief right through him, to clean the wound.

      You said stop bickering about the past, but then throw out the old “you lost the war” line when it doesn’t even fit?

      How about this for bickering: Do you think the average black person living today in Africa can trace their lineage back in any detail to before 1865? I am NOT racist, but I AM realistic.

    • David says:


  39. Alicia P says:

    Wow. What a commentary. Once again realize you have a wonderful legacy that you can trace. There are those in our society that suffer because they have the inability to trace such lineage. This not only is a problem for those who are the descendants of the slaves but it also exists within the Native American populous. It does not matter who won or who lost. What matters it that we as a society take the steps to retrace and rebuild that which was destroyed. In genealogical terms most African American reach what is known a “the wall” when tracing their ancestry. This refers to the “Civil War.” Due the manner in which slave records were kept it becomes impossible to retrace. Interesting isn’t it? I applaud all those of all colors who are assisting in reuniting those who face “The Wall.”:

  40. David Montgomery: you do not have to refer to “Nazi” for an example of a negative connotation but stick with the U.S. History books. At the same time of the Civil War, President Lincoln ordered the genocide of Native Americans in the west so that the territory could be “settled.” The result of the genocide of Native Americans was followed by Hitler in genocide of the Jews. When looking back on this countries history, there really is no right from wrong side. At the time it was a new nation feeling it’s way around right from wrong. This opens a new can of worms but the nation in which you are so proud of is tainted through and through. There were mistakes on all sides of the fence and to point fingers at one or the other is made on false pretense. I think maybe an update on your history lessons would be of value. It was not a bed of roses for any side as they all suffered great loss including those that did not participate in the war but were defeated for a lust of expansion of the territories. Our history is a time of great shame, loss, and sadness for many and should not be trivialized for the sake of one versus the other.

    • Philip Benincasa says:

      Susan…can you point me to the site that demonstrates the Lincoln ordered the genocide of native Americans.

      Thank you

    • John Loosemore says:

      Well there are plenty of things in American history to be ashamed of, right up to atrocities committed during some of our recent wars.

      But I think that hundreds or thousands of years from now historians are going to look back at our history up to this point with wonder and admiration. Think of all the good things. Think of the words of our Declaration of Independence, which have inspired tremendous positive changes in government and in social attitudes all around the world. Think of how the Founding Fathers laid down their differences and individual ambitions and worked in good faith for the common purpose as they wrote the Constitution… how often does a revolution deteriorate into a bloody chaos of competing factions instead? Think of Grant letting Lee’s men take their horses and even their rifles home at the end of the war, and of Lee and Jefferson Davis dying natural deaths… it doesn’t matter if you are talking Iran or Iraq or France or England, that does not happen after rebellions in other countries. The list of proud moments goes on… I went on a trip to England many years ago with my dad, and a representative of the Queen was giving a speech to a bunch of American WW2 veterans. The part I remember most was when he said “you didn’t have to come help us, but thank God you did.” And then there are our technical and scientific accomplishments… Our black President… we got lots to be proud of.

  41. Terry Mase says:

    Very good recent book about her and three others in Civil War :

    Karen Abbott – Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy. Serious history and a joy to read.

  42. Katherine hunter says:

    What happened to her daughter?