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Belle Boyd - Siren of the Shenandoah


The Legend | Escape | Actress | Epilogue | Marketplace

The year was 1900 and the Victorian Age was about to come to an ­end.  Belle Boyd had spent the better part of twenty years ­reliving, recounting and embellishing the tales of her teener­ adventures as a Confederate spy in the war between the states. ­At age fifty-six, her face showed the wear of a struggling life. ­Her eyes were puffy, weary and underscored by "bags" beneath­ them.  Her figure was no longer the lithe and slender cut of her­ youth, but had become more matronly and full-figured.


However, when she donned the gray officer's uniform of the Confederacy (slacks, boots, waistcoat, gloves, plumed hat and ­sword) she was an arresting sight.  Stepping out onto the stage­ platform, her presence at once commanded attention.  With strong­ voice, tinted with the remnants of her southern drawl, she began­ her presentation, strutting about the stage with great dramatic­ flair, her eyes coming alive once more.


The memories of her brief, but meteoric ride to infamy was charged with excitement and prideful indignance.  Audiences were­ enthralled with her stories of protecting her home, mother and­ siblings from unruly and dangerous Union soldiers.  They listened­ with intense attention at the description of her survival of­ illness while suffering incarceration in the prisons of­ Washington DC.  When she spoke of her capture at the hands of a­ handsome naval officer and her eventual romantic involvement with­ the same man, those who heard were awed by the nerve and daring­ of this dramatic speaker.


Though the words had been spoken hundreds of times, Belle gave­ each performance with verve and energy.  Those days of her youth­ had never been equaled nor could they be forgotten for all the­ fascination and excitement they'd been filled with.  In those ­brief moments when she stepped before the footlights to recall ­the memories of those days, Belle, too, was exhilerated and­ delighted in the renewed attention, shadows of her former fame.


But she'd come to know, too, that to sustain her audiences,­ especially in the North, her recollections had to be tempered­ with a form of reconciliation.  After all, her "adventures" had­ cost money and man-hours that might otherwise have been spent on­ ending the war sooner, thereby, possibly, sparing men's lives.


To achieve this reconciliation then, and to avoid appearing as a­ disenchanted rebel, Belle would end each of her recitations the­ same way.  Standing at the center of the stage, her right hand­ lifted in a fist, she would proclaim in full voice, with almost a­ cry in it, "One God, One People, One Country....Forever!"


The audience would leap to its feet in raucous applause, cheering ­the reformation of this once "dangerous foe."  Like a lost sheep ­brought back into the fold, Belle was cheered and welcomed by her­ appreciative audiences.  With a sweeping, deep, humbled curtsy,­ Belle would bow before her gracious new fans, leaving the stage­ to thunderous applause - another successful night completed.


In June of 1900, Belle and her husband Nathaniel traveled North,­ again, to Wisconsin for yet another engagement with another group­ of "Grand Army of the Republic" (union) veterans and their wives.  The town was Wisconsin Dells.
Belle would not complete her performance in Wisconsin.  Instead she would meet her end.  Belle Boyd collapsed and died in Wisconsins Dells on June 11, 1900. 

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2004 Kathleen M. Squires. All Rights Reserved.