Throughout the Civil War, many of the spies were slaves who were desperate for
the North to win, and thus secure their freedom. These slaves, both men and
women, risked their lives passing information on to the Union army. In addition
to the slaves, there was also a great deal of spying being done by well-to-do
white women. Women spying for either the North or the South used their large
hoop skirts to hide weapons, secret documents and other contraband, as well as
Antonia Ford was a Confederate spy who was described as a "decidedly
good-looking woman with pleasing, insinuating manners." Born in Fairfax
Court House, Virginia in 1838, Antonia was able as a spy to obtain valuable
information from Union officers who were staying at her father's home. She also
was a courier for Rose Greenhow.
After helping the Confederacy with critical information, she was given the
following commendation by Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart. It read:
that reposing special confidence in the patriotism, fidelity and ability of Miss
Antonia Ford, I, James E.B. Stuart, by virtue of the power vested in me, as
Brigadier General in the Provisional Army of the C.S.A., do hereby appoint and
commission her my honorary aide de camp to work as such from this date. She will
be obeyed, respected and admired by the lovers of a noble nature."
her duties as a spy, she would frequently report Union activities to Confederate
Colonel John S. Mosby. In March 1863, when Mosby kidnapped Union General Edwin
H. Stoughton at Fairfax Court House, Antonia was investigated and found guilty
of providing information to Mosby that led to the kidnapping. Ford was arrested
and confined to the Old Capitol Prison. Colonel Mosby always continued to
maintain that Ford played no part whatsoever in the kidnapping of General
Stoughton. Said Mosby, "She was as innocent as Abraham Lincoln."
Prison, a Union lieutenant named Willard fell in love with her. Through his
relationship with her, he convinced her to sign a loyalty oath to the Union, and
arranged for her release. While in prison her health had deteriorated greatly
from the poor diet and treatment, and in 1871, she died at the young age of
thirty-three. Southerners have always continued to assert that the North killed
her due to this poor, inhumane treatment.