Rose O’Neal Greenhow served the Confederate State of America as a spy during the Civil War. She lived her life as a member of Washington DC’s elite, hosting parties and maintaining contacts with political and military leaders in the 1850s. When the Civil War began, she quickly used her influence and knowledge to help inform the Confederacy of Union movements towards Manassas in July of 1861. Her name made its way to Union government leaders and she was arrested later that summer. Even under house arrest, she was able to pass information. Early in 1862, she was sent to Old Capitol Prison for confinement. Here, her daughter “Little Rose” was able to remain with her, and she continued to pass information.
In May 1862, she was traveled to Richmond, Virginia, and was treated as a heroine. She traveled abroad as a Confederate Diplomat and wrote a memoir called “My Imprisonment and the First Year of Abolition Rule at Washington.” This work also served as a piece of propaganda in an effort to sway England towards the side of the Confederacy. While in Europe, she was received by both Napoleon III and Queen Victoria. In 1864, Greenhow returned to America and traveled aboard blockade runners. When her ship ran aground, she tried to escape to avoid capture, but she drowned with $2000 in gold sovereigns weighing her skirts down. She received a full military funeral before being buried in North Carolina.