Saboteurs

While they did not take up arms to protect their homes, some ladies were willing to thwart enemies’ advances in any way they knew how. In fact, Southern women were among the most successful saboteurs and when caught, were proud to admit it. The cost for their crime was often prison. Mrs. Margaret Murphy was sent to the Fitchburg House of Correction on November 23, 1863, for purchasing and then attempting to set a bridge on fire. Mrs. Hunter and her daughter haughtily confessed to destroying several bridges in Tennessee to block the Federal advance and told their captors they would do it again if given the chance. They were banished into Confederate lines.

In 1864, Sarah Jane Smith was sentenced to be hanged after two years of smuggling and sabotage through Missouri. Beginning her exploits at age fourteen, one journalist described her as one of the “most aggravating” nuisances of the war. Among her more grievous offenses was when she cut four miles of telegraph wires in the southeastern part of the state. General Rosecrans commuted her sentence to life imprisonment for the duration of the war. Like Sarah Jane, Katie Beattie was a Confederate sympathizer from Missouri. She was charged with aiding prisoners’ escape and burning Federal boats and warehouses. While highly esteemed by rebel generals, her escapades landed her and her landlady in prison.


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