From the Publisher
"Don Winkler's Stealing Secrets is a first-rate contribution to the literature of Civil War espionage.His meticulously researched and straightforward accounts of some of the most effective female spies for both the Union and the Confederacy contrast sharply with many of the more fanciful stories that have appeared through the years. Fascinating to read, they convey the passion and depths of commitment these women brought to their warring causes. These are tales of "ideological motivation" at its best." -
"The reader will buy into the fact that truth is stranger than fiction." - New York Journal of Books
"The book, Winkler's fourth, is another winner. It's comprehensive, covering women who were famous and obscure, served on both sides of the conflict, and were from society's highest circles and humble backgrounds. It's chock-full of information, including anecdotes and trivia, is written in Winkler's highly readable style, and is very nicely illustrated. The cover is gorgeous." - Farmville Herald
"A fascinating read that opens new insights into the secret world behind the military operations, WInkler's treatise is first rate and enjoyable." - Cannonball
"Told with personality and pizzazz, author H. Donald Winkler uses primary Civil War sources such as memoirs, journals, letters, and newspaper articles, plus the latest in scholarly research, to make these incredible stories come alive." - Night Owl Reviews
"You do not need to be a history buff or an expert in the Civil War expert to understand and appreciate the contributions that these women made. You too will be amazed at everything that they did to further their cause!" - Dad of Divas
"It is comprehensive on the lives of the women who aided in the war, and who they assisted during that time. It's an inspirational read for young woman, and women's studies students, who could respect strong-willed women who worked hard and made a great difference during a large and important war." - Snitch Seeker
"Stealing Secrets is an attractive volume that is well presented and written. Its accessibility of subject matter and style should ensure that it appeals to a wide audience, ranging from those who are interested in the course of the American Civil War to those who are intrigued by any works to do with espionage and the role of women in conflict." - Bookpleasures.com
"A lively addendum to Civil War collections." - Library Journal
"The book was well done with enough interesting side notes to make the lengthy tome worth reading. Winkler's research, descriptions and detail with an eye for accuracy make "Stealing Secrets" interesting and lively." - Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier
"Historian and author, H. Donald Winkler has turned his remarkable research abilities on the topic of female spies during the Civil War. The result is his highly entertaining book, Stealing Secrets."" - Examiner.com
"Stealing Secrets offers up stories that Ian Fleming would have been proud to write. Winkler fills the pages with intrigue, romance, double-dealing, daring nighttime escapes and bold daylight heroics." - Internet Review of Books
""Stealing Secrets" by H. Donald Winkler is a fascinating look at the under-explored world of female espionage during the Civil War. This is a wonderful addition to the bookcases of Civil War fans, history buffs, and anyone who enjoys reading about people facing danger and intrigue." - Night Owl Reviews
"Winkler tells the stories as historically accurate but easy enough for anyone to read even if you don't know that much about the Civil War. But there is enough context and historical information to make it interesting to those who are very interested in matters of the Civil War. " - Simply Stacie
"Lively and laced with sometimes astonishing switchbacks." - American History
"This book is extremely well-researched and is a wonderful compilation of biographies that highlight the important and daring work of these brave women. It is a worthwhile contribution to Civil War spying scholarship." - Civil War News
Read an Excerpt
From the Introduction
The stories of women spies are filled with suspense and seduction, treachery and trickery, romance and bravery. Women took enormous risks and achieved remarkable results-often in ways men could not. A quiet Quaker schoolteacher reported information to a Union commander that led to an important victory. Two women provided intelligence that prevented Confederates from breaking the Northern blockade of Southern ports. A teenage girl rushed intelligence to a marching army. Those with social connections invited enemy officers to parties where loose lips let slip critical information. Others galloped on horseback through enemy lines with information concealed in their bodices. They used disguises. They created ciphers. They intercepted military dispatches. They carried secret messages, medicines, and supplies on the rings of steel wires that puffed out a hoop skirt. And they provided accurate information about the enemy's fortifications, plans, troop size, and movements.
But the most potent tools in their arsenals were physical charms, flirtations, and the powers of feminine persuasion.
A twenty-three-year-old lady cultivated a sweet and subdued voice and hired a phrenologist to help enhance her ability to win friends and influence powerful figures. Spies charmed cabinet-level secrets out of lovesick admirers and bewitched countless officers. Allan Pinkerton, head of the Union Intelligence Service, wrote of the "almost irresistible seductive powers" of Confederate spymaster Rose Greenhow, a widowed mother of four. Pinkerton said that her "forceful, compelling style and abiding attractiveness to men were the underpinnings of her success." They made her an extremely dangerous enemy of the Federal government.
Not all of the women and teenage girls who spied in the Civil War were sexy and gorgeous, but many of them were. And that gave them a huge advantage in fulfilling their clandestine missions. Of course, they also were clever, devious, daring, and passionately committed to a cause.
Another advantage female spies initially had over their male counterparts was that they were less likely to be searched. It was a time when men prided themselves on being chivalrous, but as the war went on, women were searched more completely, even strip-searched. Mary Chesnut, a prominent Southern diarist, wrote: "Women who come before the public are in a bad box now. False hair is taken off and searched for papers. Pistols are sought for. Bustles are suspect. All manner of things, they say, come over the border (across the lines) under the huge [hoop skirts] now worn. So they are ruthlessly torn off. Not legs but arms are looked for under hoops."
Unlike soldiers, spies are defined as criminals in military law. A captured soldier becomes a prisoner of war, but a captured spy usually faces death. Captured women usually were confined in decrepit, unsanitary prisons for several months, and then ordered never to return to enemy soil. At first, a gentleman could not bring himself to order a teenager or a prominent socialite to be shot or hanged, and so women escaped such punishment early in the war. Later on, at least two women were sentenced to hang. One was rescued at the last minute; the other's sentence was commuted.
Despite the danger, women spies stayed active. The fate of more than one battle was decided, not by the valor of the soldier, but by movements generals were able to make through information these spies furnished. Several commanding officers testified, in hearty terms of approbation, to the efficiency and fidelity of the women spies who aided them.
To their credit, they had broken out of the confines of "a woman's place" in nineteenth-century America to participate in a profession perilous in the extreme. As the grave marker of Union spy Elizabeth Van Lew states, female spies "risked everything that is dear to man-friends, fortune, comfort, health, life itself."