LA BELLE REBELLEConfederate Spy Belle Boyd & 1st Lt. Henry Kyd Douglas
Front Royal, VA - May 23, 1862
Stonewall Jackson's Valley Campaign was well in motion on the warm spring day of May 23, 1862. General Jackson and his command had been unleashed by the words of General Lee, "The blow wherever struck, must, to be successful, be sudden and heavy." Jackson had led his army through the thick-pined roads of the Blue Ridge mountains within a mile and a half of his intended target, the Federal force at Front Royal.
The youngest member of Jackson's staff, 1st Lt. Henry Kyd Douglas spotted a woman running across the valley and fields separating the two armies. Douglas would later write, "She seemed, when I saw her, to heed neither weeds nor fences, but waved a bonnet as she came on, trying, it was evident, to keep the hill between herself and the village. I called General Jackson's attention to the singular movement just as a dip in the land hid her, and at General Ewell's suggestion, he sent me to meet her and ascertain what she wanted. That was just to my taste and it took only a few minutes for my horse to carry me to meet the romantic maiden whose tall, supple, and graceful figure struck me as soon as I came in sight of her. As I drew near, her speed slackened, and I was startled, momentarily at hearing her call my name. But I was not astonished when I saw that the visitor was the well-known Belle Boyd whom I had known from her earliest girlhood. She was just the girl to dare to do this thing."
Belle was a Confederate spy and had been gathering intelligence on the Federal force at Front Royal while visiting her aunt. She exclaimed to Douglas that the 1st Maryland was the only regiment in town and they were ripe for the taking. Returning to General Jackson and Ewell, 1st Lt. Douglas passed on this new information. Stonewall reacted with anger towards the traitorous Maryland Yankees and immediately ordered up his Confederate 1st Maryland to the front of his force. General Jackson's attack was sudden, heavy, and successful. His army routed the force of 1000 Federal soldiers, capturing 700 men and 20 officers, along with two valuable 10-pound Parrott guns.
General Jackson would describe the beautiful Miss Boyd as wearing a "conspicuous dark blue dress and fancy white apron," and would thank her with the following note:
Miss Belle Boyd,
I thank you, for myself and for the Army, for the immense service that you rendered your country today. Hastily, I am your friend, T.J. Jackson, C.S.A.
The daughter of a Martinsburg, Virginia storekeeper, 18 year old Belle Boyd began her career of espionage during the Federal occupation of Martinsburg in1861. On July 4, 1861 she shot and killed a marauding Federal solider with a pistol at her home. By the autumn of 1861, Belle began working for the Confederate Intelligence Service and being an excellent horse woman, occasionally rode as a courier for Generals Beauregard and Jackson. Belle's beauty, charm and vivaciousness would gain her many secrets from unsuspecting blue-clad soldiers. Known by many of her admirers as "La Belle Rebelle" she would become one of the most celebrated southern women of the war.