Rose Greenhow’s My Imprisonment: An Annotated Edition


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More than one hundred and fifty years after her dramatic death by drowning, Civil War spy and diplomat Rose Greenhow remains as polarizing and controversial as she was in life. This scholarly edition of her 1863 memoirs enhances her work for the first time with copious footnotes, a complete index, and an introduction placing it within the context of her years in the nation’s capital, her espionage, and her diplomatic mission to Europe. Annotations of people, events, and works mentioned by Greenhow (a consummate name-dropper) reveal her intelligence and political savvy, illuminate the depth and breadth of her literary and historical knowledge, and afford fascinating insights into wartime Washington, D.C.

Born in Montgomery County, Maryland, Greenhow spent nearly all of her adult life immersed in the political milieu of the District of Columbia and counted presidents, diplomats, and senators among her friends and relations. At the outset of the Civil War, she was quickly identified as a potential espionage agent for the Confederacy and employed “every capacity” in serving her cause.

Credited by General P. G.T. Beauregard with providing intelligence crucial to the southern victory at the First Battle of Bull Run, Greenhow was subsequently arrested by detective Allan Pinkerton and imprisoned for nearly a year. Her book, originally published in England, not only describes her arrest and imprisonment in detail but also speaks eloquently to her role as an active participant in crucial events of her turbulent era, yet it has previously received little scholarly attention. This edition presents Greenhow’s remarkable narrative within a contextual framework for the modern reader.

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