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Spies in Washington


150 years ago today, in an article in The Boston Daily Advertiser on August 12, 1861, allegations of spies at Washington was reported.

Colonel Forney sent a post from Washington to the Philadelphia Press:

“I have repeatedly spoken in this correspondence of the number of spies that infest this city in the interest of the Southern traitors. Their name is legion. Artful, secret and active, they deceive our best friends by pretending to favor the Union, and support our worst enemies by seizing upon every opportunity to wound it.  Ready to take any favorable patronage that may be offered to them by the administration, they do not hesitate to employ the very influence they acquired to break that administration down. The most malignant and mischievous of these spies are females. Some of them are ladies of high position, too, who, shielding themselves behind the so-called weakness of their sex, reject the disguise assumed by their husbands, fathers and brothers, and proclaim their sympathy with treason and their earnest hope that the cause of our country may be defeated. In the magnificent saloons and around luxurious tables of these people, sentiments are uttered and plans perfected of the most atrocious character. Midnight meetings after the fashion of the celebrated Know Nothing lodges, are regularly held. What is most disgusting in this whole affair is the fact that nearly all those engaged in this conspiracy are people who have prospered upon the money they have coined from the jobs they have received from the federal government. There has been too much leniency for this scandalous, flagrant and notorious ingratitude, and a growing feeling will demand the punishment of all the men engaged in this bad business, or else their prompt expulsion, with their families, from this community.”
For more of the day in Civil War history in The Boston Daily Advertiser, visit this site:



  1. Aw, the treachery behind those pretty faces and hardened hearts. I imagine it must have been intriguing ventures to spy and tell. I don’t think my heart could have handled spying. Very interesting post, Susan.

  2. Thanks, Paisley! And women on both sides used their feminine wiles to lure unsuspecting officers to reveal information. I don’t think men of that time thought women could be so devious. And who knew what they were hiding under those hoop skirts! LOL

  3. Caroline Clemmons says:

    Susan, love the photo. Men at that timet hought women were basically of inferior intellect to men. Will they never learn. LOL Great post, Susan.

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