Imagine this, military forces have invaded your town. Most of the fathers, sons and brothers that had been living there are gone. Tensions are high. You don’t trust a single one of these soldiers. Then, one of them threatens you and your mother. What do you do? If you are anything like Maria “Belle” Boyd, you’ll shoot him.
To understand what prompted this, we have to look at Belle’s life from the early years. Belle was raised in a middle class home in Martinsburg, Virginia. One notable story has a young Belle crashing a party she was told she was too young for by riding in on a horse.
She was 17 when she became a spy. When a soldier from the occupying Union Army threatened her mother she shot him. When she wasn’t punished she saw this as an opening to work for Confederate Army. It was at this point in her life when she began her career as a spy.
Belle started by feeding information on the occupying Union Army to the Confederates. Whenever she was caught, and she was caught quite frequently, she would get a slap on the wrist then sent on her way. Even getting sentenced to a week in prison instead of death. Her work was so important that Stonewall Jackson himself has her to thank for their ability to capture Port Royal.
Fame soon followed Belle. Many a Union soldier volunteered to guard her during her prison sentence. However, the Northern government grew tired of her. They sought to stop her by banishing her. Which of course, didn’t work. Belle sailed to England and tried to persuade the English government into getting involved with the Civil War. On the south’s side of course.
Belle stayed in England for two years, marrying a Union soldier and writing her memoirs. When he died she moved back to the United States and became an actress. She proceeded to marry two other Union Soldiers and lived an eccentric life. Belle died on a stage in Wisconsin on June 11, 1900.
Looking for a bit of Civil War adventure like Belle’s? Check out these books:
- I Shall Be Near to You The story of a woman who dresses as a man so that she can follow her husband into the war.
- Gone with the Wind The epic story of love during the time of war.
- Cold Mountain The story of a man changed by the war who is attempting to get home to his wife who has also been changed by her wartime circumstances.