Isabella Marie Boyd (May 9, 1844 – June 11, 1900), best known as Belle Boyd considering her middle name; or Cleopatra of the Secession, was a Confederate spy in the American Civil War. She operated from her aunt's hotel in Virginia,and provided valuable information to Confederate general Stonewall Jackson in 1862.
She was born in Martinsburg, Virginia (now West Virginia), the eldest child of Benjamin Reed and Mary Rebecca (Glenn) Boyd. As a teenager, she was a fun loving debutante.
Belle Boyd's espionage career began by chance. According to her 1866 account, on July 4, 1861, a band of Union army soldiers broke into her home in Martinsburg, intent on raising the U.S. flag over the house. When one of them pushed her mother, Belle drew a pistol and killed him. She was 17 years old. A board of inquiry exonerated her, but sentries were posted around the house and officers kept close track of her activities. She profited from this enforced familiarity, charming at least one of the officers, Capt. Daniel Keily, into revealing military secrets. "To him," she wrote later, "I am indebted for some very remarkable effusions, some withered flowers, and a great deal of important information." Belle conveyed those secrets to Confederate officers via her slave, Eliza Hopewell, who carried the messages in a hollowed-out watch case. On her first attempt at spying she was caught and told she could be sentenced to death, but was not. She was not scared and realized she needed to find a better way to communicate. However the Official Records of the Civil War do not show any board of Inquiry concerning Boyd in 1861; they do however mention her in 1862-see below.
Belle Boyd was not blessed with a pretty face, but a good body. She was particularly noted for having the best looking ankles known—and she used them to her advantage. She evidently had a "winning way" with the Union troops and was most obliging in taking care of their needs.
Then, one evening in mid-May 1862, Union...