Book Review Short: Wild Rose

It’s summer and I want to be outside playing with The Five-Year-Old. While that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped reading, it does mean I don’t want to spend a lot of time reviewing. Hence, the book review short.

Wild Rose: The True Story of a Civil War Spy
By Ann Blackman
Random House Trade Publications, 2006

Wild Rose tells the story of Rose O’Neale Greenhow, a woman whose beauty, romantic intrigues, and social prominence in Washington, DC during the Civil War made a nearly perfect Confederate Spy. An intimate friend to John C. Calhoun, James Buchanan, and Dolley Madison, Greenhow used her connections to obtain critical — and accurate — intelligence about Union activities during the War.  Information that she would then pass on to General Pierre G. T. Beauregard. One of her coded messages to Beauregard arrived at a critical time during the Battle of Bull Run, ultimately enabling the Confederacy to prevail in the encounter. As Blackman says, it was a brilliant piece of spycraft, even if it was the reason Allen Pinkerton finally caught up with her.

If you’re expecting the story of a woman straight out of Alias, go elsewhere. Spycraft in the Civil War simply wasn’t that advanced. Measured against our current standards, Rose Greenhow wasn’t so much a spy as an extremely well-connected woman who was a very determined correspondent. Still, her biography is an interesting read if you enjoy Civil War history.

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About Shala Howell

Writer of things ranging from optical network switching white papers to genetic testing patient education materials to historical fiction set in an 1880s asylum. When I’m not scratching my head over pesky characters who refuse to do things how I want them done or dreaming of my next book (which will of course be much easier to write than the current one), my writerly self can be found blogging about life with a very curious Ten-Year-Old at, or musing about books and the writing life at
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