Spies, Prisons, Guerill

Phantoms of the South Fork: Captain McNeill and His Rangers

Phantoms of the South Fork: Captain McNeill and His Rangers

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At 3 a.m. on February 21, 1865, a band of 65 Confederate horsemen slowly made its way down Greene Street in Cumberland, Maryland. Thinking the riders were disguised Union scouts, the few Union soldiers out that bitterly cold morning paid little attention to them. In the meantime, over 3,500 Yankee soldiers peacefully slept.

Within thirty minutes McNeill's Rangers had kidnapped Union generals George Crook and Benjamin Kelley from their hotels and spirited them out of town. Despite a determined effort by Union pursuers to intercept the kidnappers, the Rangers reached safety deep in the South Fork River Valley, over fifty miles away. Not long afterward, the generals were shipped to Richmond's Libby Prison. Southern general John B. Gordon later called the mission "one of the most thrilling incidents of the war."

In September 1862, John Hanson McNeill recruited a company of troopers for Col. John D. Imboden's 1st Virginia Partisan Rangers. In early 1863, Imboden took most of his men into the regular army, but McNeill and his son Jesse offered their men an opportunity to continue in independent service; seventeen soldiers joined them. In the coming months, other young hotspurs enlisted in McNeill's Rangers. Operating mostly in the Potomac Highlands of what is now eastern West Virginia, the Rangers bedeviled the Union troops guarding the B&O Railroad line. Favoring American Indian battle tactics, they ambushed patrols, attacked wagon trains, and heavily damaged railroad property and rolling stock.

Phantoms of the South Fork is the thrilling result of Steve French's carefully researched study of primary source material, including diaries, memoirs, letters, and period newspaper articles. Additionally, he traveled throughout West Virginia, western Maryland, southern Pennsylvania, and the Shenandoah Valley following the trail of Captain McNeill and his "Phantoms of the South Fork."

Wild Rose The True Story of a Civil War Spy

Wild Rose The True Story of a Civil War Spy

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For sheer bravado and style, no woman in the North or South rivaled the Civil War heroine Rose O'Neale Greenhow. Fearless spy for the Confederacy, glittering Washington hostess, legendary beauty and lover, Rose Greenhow risked everything for the cause she valued more than life itself. In this superb portrait, biographer Ann Blackman tells the surprising true story of a unique woman in history.

"I am a Southern woman, born with revolutionary blood in my veins," Rose once declared-and that fiery spirit would plunge her into the center of power and the thick of adventure. Born into a slave-holding family, Rose moved to Washington, D.C., as a young woman and soon established herself as one of the capital's most charming and influential socialites, an intimate of John C. Calhoun, James Buchanan, and Dolley Madison.

She married well, bore eight children and buried five, and, at the height of the Gold Rush, accompanied her husband Robert Greenhow to San Francisco. Widowed after Robert died in a tragic accident, Rose became notorious in Washington for her daring-and numerous-love affairs.

But with the outbreak of the Civil War, everything changed. Overnight, Rose Greenhow, fashionable hostess, become Rose Greenhow, intrepid spy. As Blackman reveals, deadly accurate intelligence that Rose supplied to General Pierre G. T. Beauregard written in a fascinating code (the code duplicated in the background on the jacket of this book). Her message to Beauregard turned the tide in the first Battle of Bull Run, and was a brilliant piece of spycraft that eventually led to her arrest by Allan Pinkerton and imprisonment with her young daughter.

Indomitable, Rose regained her freedom and, as the war reached a crisis, journeyed to Europe to plead the Confederate cause at the royal courts of England and France.
Drawing on newly discovered diaries and a rich trove of contemporary accounts, Blackman has fashioned a thrilling, intimate narrative that reads like a novel. Wild Rose is an unforgettable rendering of an astonishing woman, a book that will stand with the finest Civil War biographies.