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American Civil War

Spies

History >> Civil War

As you might imagine, there were lots of spies during the Civil War. There were people who lived in the North who wanted the South to win and people in the South who wanted the North to win. This made it easy for both sides to recruit spies.

What did spies do?

Spies passed on all sorts of information regarding the armies of the enemy. They told of troop movements, numbers of soldiers, and the conditions of the enemy army. This type of information could make the difference between winning and losing a battle. It allowed generals to know when and where to attack, or if they should retreat.

What happened if a spy was caught?

Spies were treated differently than captured soldiers. Spying was especially dangerous because they were usually executed if they were caught.

Union Spy Networks

At the start of the war, the Union didn't have a very organized spy network. Although they had a lot of spies, they were usually sent out by individual generals or leaders in the government. The information wasn't communicated very well or passed on to the people who really needed it. The Union had a distinct advantage in the war as they gained a significant amount of military intelligence from slaves and former slaves.

As the war continued, the lead generals of the North had a spymaster who would organize and gather the information from the spy network. Some of the most famous Union spymasters included Allan Pinkerton, Lafayette Baker, and George H. Sharpe.

Famous Union Spies
Confederate Spy Networks

The Confederate spy networks were more organized than those of the North. They mostly used people who worked for the army or the government in the North, but who secretly wanted the South to win. They passed information across the border using a system called the "secret line."

Famous Confederate Spies Activities
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Works Cited

History >> Civil War





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