Civil War Espionage Essay, Research Paper
Espionage, the practice of spying, held a major part in the victory of the Union and the defeat of the Confederates. Men and women spies became widely known for their spying. The plot to burn New York became a major event in the loss of the Confederates. And Civil War ciphers became the form of transferring messages between spies and officers.
Spies of the war were both men and women. Most of these spies became well known for their spying. Confederate woman spy, Belle Boyd, was one of them. She was imprisoned for her acts of spying and later married a Union Naval Officer. Another Confederate woman spy, Nancy Hart who was also a scout and a guide for the Confederacy was also put in prison, but escaped. Elizabeth Van Lew and Mary Elizabeth Bowser were both spies for the Union. But the most well known spy for the Confederacy was Rose O Neal Greenhow. She accomplished many things as a spy. She sent a message to General Pierre G.T. Beauregard that caused him to win the battle of Bull Run and was credited for winning the battle of Manassas. Although she was sent to prison, she still sent cryptic notes, which would travel in such places as the inside of a woman s bun of hair.
Men spies were also renowned. Allan Pinkerton, a Union spy, saved Lincoln from a plotted assassination before he was actually assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. Pinkerton also founded the National Detective Agency. Sam Davis, a Confederate boy spy, was a member of the Confederate reconnaissance unit named Coleman s Scouts.
The plot to burn New York could have saved the Confederacy from losing the war. If all had gone as planned the Confederates would have gained control of New York. Four groups were needed to fully pull off this plan. One group was to set fires to New York buildings, while another group seized Federal Buildings and municipal offices, while still another group was to take control of the New York police department. Yet, another group was to free prisoners from Fort Lafayette and throw the New York army commissioner, Major General John Adams Dix, in a dungeon. Then by morning the Confederate flag would be flying over New York. Spies in Richmond told leaders of Lincoln getting brief information about the plan, but the plan would still go on.
The fires began on November 25, 1864. The leader, Robert Kennedy and his men set almost every building a blaze. In the morning, Kennedy and his men looked at the newspapers and the fires had not even filled the front page and was headed Rebel Plot by the New York Times. Kennedy and his men safely got out of the city, but three weeks later Kennedy was captured and hung.
During the Civil War ciphers were the way for spies to exchange information with high-ranking rebel officers. The Confederate cipher wheel was supposedly an unbreakable cipher. But the Confederacy only used three key phrases, which made it easier to crack. The three phrases were, Manchester Bluff , Come Retribution , and Complete Victory . Three Union cryptographers, David Bates, Charles Tinker, and Albert Chandler, who all later became known as the sacred three, cracked the Cipher.
During and after the Civil War the men and women spies became well known for their spying tactics. With just a few different approaches the plot to burn New York could have saved the Confederacy from a major loss, and if only the Confederates would have changed a few key phrases they could have won the most devastating war in our nations history.