INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - March 18, 2004
Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back again! "My"
house is continuing to just get better with each passing day. Keith has
been here laying more and more bricks on the sidewalks and courtyard.
It really looks neat! The old millwork has been primed and the other day
I saw Jeff measuring for the additional millwork that is needed. The shutters
and mantels are primed and ready for the final painting. The mantels are
primed in the color they will be painted. Ol' Henry is hoping to keep
the colors a surprise so you will be sure and come see "my"
house when they are finished. Chuck, Sid, George and Jim, the volunteer
painters, are making all kinds of future plans for Stephenson House activities.
You should be a mouse and hear all their talk, stories, plans and laughter
- and they work at the same time! And, people even bring them cookies!!
Now, on to some more history: Belle Boyd, Confederate
Spy, remember her? Henry here has just been dying to tell you about Belle!
Belle was born Maria Isabella Boyd. She was Maria and John Boyd's great-granddaughter
and Col. Ben's grandniece. This little gal, born in Martinsburg, Virginia
in 1844, was strong willed as the story goes. As a young girl she rode
her horse inside the house after her father told her she could not attend
a dinner party he planned for that evening. Do you believe the stunt changed
her daddy's decision? Henry does not think so.
Ol' Henry is sure the Boyds wanted their daughter Belle
to be a refined Southern lady. She attended Mount Washington Female College
in Baltimore for four years. Upon her graduation in 1860 at age 16 she
was formally presented to Washington, D.C. society.
Soon after the start of the Civil War in 1861 Belle was
organizing parties to visit the Confederate troops. At that time she also
shot and killed a Union soldier who had pushed her mother. That soldier
sure picked the wrong mother to push around! Belle was lucky and was acquitted
of the crime. Early in the war Belle became a courier for Generals Beauregard
and Stonewall Jackson, carrying information, delivering medical supplies
and confiscating weapons.
Belle was described by her cousin Sue as rather homely
with a figure that was perfect, an excellent dancer and magnificent horsewoman.
Belle made heroic rides through battlefields in order to get her "reports"
across the line to the South. On one occasion she rode 15 miles into the
night to deliver intelligence to the Confederates that she had gained
by eavesdropping on General James Shield. Belle was reckless, loved the
night rides, and by age twenty-one she had been reported 30 times by the
Union, arrested six or seven times and imprisoned twice. Henry here has
always said the Stephenson women were a strong bunch, but Belle was something
Belle was imprisoned twice, but prison didn't slow her
down much. She continued to gather and forward information to the Confederates.
In 1862, while imprisoned in Washington at the Old Capitol Prison, she
put messages in India rubber balls and threw them out the window to an
accomplice. Belle enjoyed confrontation! She hung a picture of Jefferson
Davis in her room and a prison official told her to take it down. She
refused and that resulted in her being locked up behind the large wooden
door to her room for several weeks. She grew very ill and finally they
opened the door so she could get some clean air. What a woman! After a
months stay in prison, Belle became very ill with typhoid and was released.
You would think she'd never get jailed again.
But, by golly, Henry learned that Belle was back in prison
a year later - this time at Carroll Prison in Washington, D.C.! During
this prison stay she escaped boredom by tormenting her jailers. As an
example, she hung a Confederate flag from her window. The guard would
bellow "Take in that
flag, or I'll blow your
The guard would fire at her and Belle would step back from the window
to avoid the shot. She'd give the guard time to reload and then she would
move to the window and casually look around. The guard would fire again.
This game continued for some time and Belle survived. Henry thinks that
was a very dangerous game Belle was playing!
After a months stay at Carroll Prison, Belle thought she
was to be released. Instead, she was sentenced to Fitchburg Jail to do
hard labor during the Civil War. Upon hearing this sentence, Belle fainted.
You know, there is a limit of courage for anyone! Her father succeeded
in getting the sentence changed and Belle was "banished to the South
to return North again during the war."
Don't think for one minute that Belle was going to go
home and be a Southern lady! Belle's behavior scandalized well-bred Confederate
ladies. Not even her staunch patriotism and her popularity as a spy could
make up for her behavior. Belle Boyd preferred to travel alone, liked
to strike up acquaintances with soldiers (from both sides) and visited
officers in their tents. This, of course, left her open to criticism.
Guess where Belle was in 1864, just one year later? She went to England
carrying information for the Confederates! The blockade-runner she was
attempting to return on was captured and she fell in love with the Union
prize master, Samuel Hardinge. Not too good for Sam. He was dismissed
from service for neglect of duty when he allowed Belle to go to Canada
and then to London. Believe it or not, Hardinge and Belle married in London.
There Belle developed a career on the stage and wrote a book "Belle
Boyd in Camp and Prison". This woman never stopped! Hardinge died
in 1865 leaving Belle and infant daughter, Grace. In 1866 Belle returned
to the United States with Grace, and made her first stage appearance in
her own country at Ben de Bar's Theatre in St. Louis, Mo. She was wildly
popular in both the North and the South; people loved "La Belle Rebelle".
In 1868 Belle married John Hammond. They had four children.
Hammond and Belle were divorced in 1884 after 16 years of an apparent
happy marriage. In 1885 Belle, stage name Nina Benjamin, married Nathaniel
Rue High and they had a son.
Belle's last fourteen years of life were spent as an actress.
She gave recitals describing her adventures during the war and graphically
describing events such as Gettysburg. Belle actively taught the need for
national unity and would end each performance with these words said in
a dramatic and intense voice: " One God, One Flag, One People, Forever".
Belle died of a heart attack after she had addressed a
Grand Army of the Republic gathering in Portage Wisconsin on June 11,
1900, penniless but undaunted. She was buried at Kilbourn, Wisconsin.
This is just a glimpse of the life of Belle Boyd. If you would like to
learn more, Henry knows of a book by Louis A. Sigaud that tells an interesting,
well-documented story of Belle's life and family. Belle Boyd was something
Spring is just around the corner and I heard Carol and
Jim talking about a garden and that means seeds and good things to eat
- all right!!! The sunshine is great, the air feels so good and I am out
for a scamper and to check around for food!!!!
See ya' later,