Rose O’Neal Greenhow with her daughter

A woman in a dark dress sitting on a chair with one arm around a young child

Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-cwpbh-04849.

Inside the Old Capitol Prison in Washington, D.C., Rose O’Neal Greenhow (c. 1813–1864), poses with her daughter after being detained by Allan Pinkerton, the head of the recently formed Secret Service, for her work as a Confederate spy. Born in Maryland, Greenhow moved to the Union’s capital as a teenager where she eventually developed social connections and access to the Washington, D.C., political establishment. Once the war erupted, she used these ties to provide key military information to the Confederacy. She was captured in 1861 and deported to Richmond, Virginia, the following year. There, “Wild Rose” was welcomed enthusiastically by Southerners and enlisted as a Confederate diplomat. In October 1864, while returning from Europe to the Confederacy aboard a blockade runner, her ship ran aground after being pursued by a Union gunboat. Accounts of Greenhow and other women who crafted artful schemes to transgress military doctrines that kept them from the army, have long captured popular imagination.