“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Martinsburg in Berkeley County, West Virginia — The American South (Appalachia)

Belle Boyd House

Home of a Spy

— Antietam Campaign —

Belle Boyd House Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Tom Fuchs, June 16, 2007
1. Belle Boyd House Marker
Isabelle “Belle” Boyd, the Confederate spy, lived here during part of her childhood. The ten-year-old and her family moved here in 1853 and left in 1858 for a dwelling (no longer standing) on South Queen Street. According to Boyd, when Union Gen. Robert Patterson’s army occupied Martinsburg in July 1861, she escaped prosecution after she shot dead a soldier who invaded the Queen Street house and insulted her mother, Mary Glen Boyd.

In the spring of 1862, Belle Boyd paid a visit to her Aunt Fanny Stewart in Front Royal, Virginia. There, on May 22, Boyd first gained fame as a spy. When Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson and his army approached the town, which was occupied by a small Federal Garrison, Boyd walked several miles to find him and report Union troop numbers and dispositions. Federal authorities later imprisoned Boyd twice for “communicating with the enemy” then released her. In December 1863, she sailed for England on a blockade runner, bearing diplomatic letters from Confederate President Jefferson Davis. When the ship was captured, Boyd persuaded the Federal naval officer
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in charge to let her go and later married him.

Her flamboyant personality, scandalous behavior (by the standards of “well-bred” Southern society), reckless courage, and undeniable charm made her a natural for the stage, where she recounted her exploits. In 1865, she published Belle Boyd in Camp and Prison, blurring the lines between fact and legend. Married three times and the mother of four, she died on June 11, 1900 in Kilbourne, Wisconsin.

Benjamin R. Boyd, Belle’s father, built this Greek Revival-style house in 1853. When it was threatened with demolition in August, 1992, the Berkeley County Historical Society rescued it. The Society operates the Belle Boyd House as a museum and learning center open to the public.
Erected by Civil War Trails.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: ArchitectureArts, Letters, MusicEntertainmentWar, US CivilWomen. In addition, it is included in the West Virginia Civil War Trails series list. A significant historical month for this entry is May 1812.
Location. 39° 27.576′ N, 77° 57.708′ W. Marker is in Martinsburg, West Virginia, in Berkeley County. Marker is at the intersection of East Race Street and North Spring
Marker in Martinsburg image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Bill Coughlin, April 11, 2011
2. Marker in Martinsburg
Street when traveling east on East Race Street. It is at the Belle Boyd House Museum. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 126 E Race St, Martinsburg WV 25401, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. A different marker also named Belle Boyd House (a few steps from this marker); Martinsburg Roundhouse (within shouting distance of this marker); Baltimore and Ohio Roundhouse and Shop Complex (within shouting distance of this marker); Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Shop Complex (within shouting distance of this marker); Berkeley Hotel (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Apollo Theater (about 400 feet away); Belle Boyd (about 500 feet away); Roundhouses and Shops / Railroad Strike of 1877 (about 600 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Martinsburg.
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. Belle Boyd's life, as traced by markers.
Also see . . .
1. Belle Boyd. Wikipedia entry:
“Belle Boyd’s espionage career began by chance. According to her 1866 account, on July 4, 1861, a band of Union army soldiers saw a Confederate flag hanged outside her home. They tore it down and hanged a Union flag in its place. This made her angry enough, but when one of them cursed at her mother, she was outraged. Belle pulled out a pistol and shot the man down. She was fuming. A board of inquiry exonerated her, but
Belle Boyd House image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Tom Fuchs, June 16, 2007
3. Belle Boyd House
sentries were posted around the house and officers kept close track of her activities. She profited from this enforced familiarity, charming at least one of the officers, Captain Daniel Keily, into revealing military secrets. ‘To him,’ she wrote later, ‘I am indebted for some very remarkable effusions, some withered flowers, and a great deal of important information’.” (Submitted on July 28, 2012.) 

2. Visit the Berkerly County Historical Society. Society website entry (Submitted on February 25, 2013, by Tom Fuchs of Greenbelt, Maryland.) 
Additional keywords. Civil War Trail - Antietam Campaign
Herb Garden and The Archives and Research Center image. Click for full size.
Photographed By José J. Prats, June 16, 2007
4. Herb Garden and The Archives and Research Center
The garden and the Berkeley County Historical Society's Archives and Research Center are across Spring Street from the Belle Boyd House and Museum, are at 136 E. Race St.
Belle Boyd image. Click for full size.
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons, circa 1860
5. Belle Boyd
Closeup of full-length portrait taken between 1855 and 1865 now in the Brady-Handy Collection at the Library of Congress.
Belle Boyd House Plaque image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Beverly Pfingsten, September 27, 2008
6. Belle Boyd House Plaque
126 E. Race Street
Built 1853
Built in 1853 by Benjamin Reed Boyd, a merchant, Confederate soldier and the father of Belle Boyd. Belle Boyd was a famous Confederate spy, author and actress.
Credits. This page was last revised on February 27, 2022. It was originally submitted on July 28, 2007, by Tom Fuchs of Greenbelt, Maryland. This page has been viewed 5,894 times since then and 186 times this year. Last updated on February 22, 2013, by Linda Walcroft of Woodstock, Virginia. Photos:   1. submitted on July 28, 2007, by Tom Fuchs of Greenbelt, Maryland.   2. submitted on April 14, 2011, by Bill Coughlin of Woodland Park, New Jersey.   3, 4. submitted on July 28, 2007, by Tom Fuchs of Greenbelt, Maryland.   5. submitted on July 28, 2012, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.   6. submitted on October 21, 2008, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.

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Nov. 28, 2023