June 11, 1900: Confederate Spy Belle Boyd Dies at 57

Jun 11, 2019

Credit e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On June 11, 1900, Confederate spy Belle Boyd died of a heart attack at age 57.

Boyd was born in 1843 to an influential Berkeley County family. When the Civil War erupted, she and her family were decidedly pro-Southern. On July 4, 1861, Belle shot and killed a Yankee soldier in the Boyds’ Martinsburg home but was cleared of any criminal charges. She was only 18 at the time.

Afterward, she moved to Front Royal, Virginia, and launched her espionage career. She used her beguiling looks and her charm to woo Union officers, some of whom were willing to share Northern military secrets. She passed this intelligence along to “Stonewall” Jackson, who used the information during his 1862 Shenandoah Valley campaign.

She moved back to Martinsburg and continued on her path to becoming the most famous spy of the Civil War. She even made the pages of the New York Tribune. Boyd learned, though, that fame and spying don’t go well together. After being captured twice more, she left the country. After the war, Belle Boyd returned to the United States and became a professional lecturer and actress.