Rose Greenhow

American spy

Rose O'Neal Greenhow (1813/1814[1]– October 1, 1864) was a famous Confederate spy during the American Civil War. She was a socialite in Washington, D.C. before the war. Greenhow was friends with presidents, generals, senators, and high-ranking military officers. She used these friendships to pass along key military information to the Confederacy at the start of the war. In early 1861 she was put in control of a group of Confederate spies in Washington, DC. This was by Thomas Jordan, then a captain in the Confederate Army. Jefferson Davis, the Confederate president, gave her credit for helping the South's victory at the First Battle of Bull Run in late July 1861.[2]

Photograph of Rose O'Neal Greenhow

Greenhow was captured in August. She was placed under house arrest.[3] But she continued her spying activities. In 1862 after an espionage hearing, she was imprisoned for nearly five months in Washington, DC.[3] Then she was deported to the Confederate States.[3] Greenhow traveled to Richmond, Virginia and continued to work for the confederacy. She sailed to Europe to represent the Confederacy in a diplomatic mission to France and England.[4] She also wrote and published her memoir in London.[4] The book was popular in England. She wanted to return to America. She took with her $2,000 in Gold.[4] On her voyage back, her ship ran aground off Wilmington, North Carolina. A Union gunboat had chased them up the Cape Fear River. Greenhow and one other passenger tried to escape in a rowboat. Weighed down with gold she drowned when her rowboat overturned.[4] She was honored with a Confederate military funeral.

In 1993 the women's auxiliary of the Sons of Confederate Veterans changed its name to the Order of the Confederate Rose. This followed a television movie the previous year. A new biography of her was published in 2005.


  1. Ann Blackman, Wild Rose: The True Story of a Civil War Spy (New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2006), p. 58
  2. Thomas B. Allen, Declassified: 50 Top-secret Documents that Changed History (Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2008), p. 34
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Thomas B. Allen, Declassified: 50 Top-secret Documents that Changed History (Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2008), p. 36
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Jerry G. Burgess. "Rose O'Neal Greenhow, The "Rebel Rose" of the Civil War". Retrieved 23 April 2015.