BULL STREET - The art of the Con

Miss Jenny

This is another story regarding a spy for the British during the Revolutionary War. Little is known about Jenny but she was extremely important in an indirect manner of causing the eventual American victory. During the war, the French had sent volunteers to fight along side of the Americans against their hated enemies, the British. Miss Jenny must have been French because most of her time was spent behind their lines purportedly looking for her long lost father who supposedly traveled from Canada to France year before. No reason is ever given for why she would believe that he would be part of the French expeditionary forces in America but this indeed is the story she gave whenever the French became overly suspicious. On one occasion when she was captured, she had her hair cut into literally a boy’s length because the French felt that this was a satisfactory punishment for her lying. However, soon after the haircutting incident was over she reported directly back to the British Officers what she had learned. She reported that Washington was going to attack New York City by ground in two places. The British bought the story which was true when she told it and they deployed their troops to engage to coming attack. However, the attack never came because the French sent frigates along with new French regiments and Washington with additional manpower and transportation determined to go after General Cornwallis at Yorktown instead. The British were totally unprepared and suffered a disastrous defeat leading to the eventual American victory. Miss Jenny was disavowed by both the French, The British and the Americans and lived out the rest of her life anonymously. Such is the life of spies.

Sarah Bradlee Fulton    

She was also known as the “Mother of the Boston Tea Party.”  Sarah seems to have been the ultimate activist among the women involved in the American Revolution and was so involved in the Boston Tea Party that is was she that both painted the organizers as Mohawks when they went on their safari and cleaned the war paint off when the tea had been successfully dumped in Boston Harbor. None other than Paul Revere had ridden by her house in Medford giving the alarm that the British were coming. She set up a hospital along with other women when the battle of Bunker Hill became bloody and added countless Colonials. She stole contraband directly under the noses of the British Troops and dared them to shot her in the back as she drove off with her plunder. She acted as a messenger for George Washington on a number of occasions making dangerous forays carrying information behind enemy lines. 

Odette Sansom

A French expatriate married to an English national living in Britain during the early stages of World War II gave the British espionage service extremely valuable photos of French targets and soon was recruited by their spy service in spite of the fact that she had three small children. She was taken by submarine and dropped off in Southern France where she was to spy on the German troop movements. Odette served admirably but eventually was arrested by the Gestapo because of a treacherous double agent. Odette was interrogated numerous times and was tortured unmercifully and was branded by a red hot iron, had her toenails ripped out with pliers and suffered other unbelievable tortures. She never talked and in reality gave the German false information which they believed to their determent. After the war she was awarded England’s prestigious George Cross for her wartime service.

Violet Szabo

Born of a French mother and an English father and raised in Great Britain, Violet was a tomboy who was always looking for excitement. She married a Frenchman who was a captain in the Foreign Legion and they were married in 1940. In spite of the fact that her husband was soon killed in action, Violet was already pregnant and delivered a daughter after his death. She wanted to get even with the Germans and what they had done to her husband and volunteered to serve in the Special operations Executive which was the elite espionage service during World War II. Violet was accepted, completed her training and was sent on two spying missions to France. Her second was her last, she was captured, tortured and under the severest of pressure, never broke. She was eventually killed with a bullet to the back of her neck at the Ravensbrueck Concentration Camp. She was probably the most heralded women spy of World War II and received the George Cross and the Croix de Guerre. She was 23-years old when she died.

Rose O’Neal Greenhow

Born in the south and raised in Washington D.C., Rose was beautiful, intelligent and personable was always invited by the most eligible of bachelors to the very best balls in the nation’s capital. Eventually she married the much older Dr. Robert Greenhow and soon gave birth to a succession of daughters, four in all. Because of the fact that her social circle contained the highest ranking politicians and soldiers in the Union Army, when the Civil War broke out in 1861, Rose was begged to join with southern interests in spying for their cause. By this time her husband had died and one of her best friends finally convinced her that the southern cause was the rightful one. She jumped into the war with both feet and soon was able to provide the south with enough information to win the Battle of Bull Run. However, she was soon caught, imprisoned and then deported to Richmond. She served most of the remaining period during the Civil War in Europe collecting information at would benefit the south. She was recalled in order to deliver highly critical espionage personally to Confederate Officials but Union forces caught her ship almost as she reached near Wilmington, North Carolina. She may have lived because of her propinquity to shore, but was caring so much gold that she became weighted down and sank. She was buried and given the highest honors that the Confederacy could bestow.

Belle Boyd

She was one of the most famous spies during the Civil War and provided an endless stream of information to the south while conducting her massive spying operations from her father’s hotel in Front Royal, West Virginia. It has been said that Belle was sexy, beautiful and had the very best legs in the south. She used them to her advantage and as a reward for her amazing service to the Confederacy; Stonewall Jackson made her a captain in his brigade and his honorary aide-de-camp.  On one of espionage forays into the north, she was caught in Washington, D.C. and imprisoned. She was later exchanged for a Union spy and sent home. However, she was soon back in the thick of things and was once again arrest by Union forces in Martinsburg. However, by this time she was in ill-health suffering from typhoid. She was sent to Europe for some R and R and soon was her old self. She took passage on the first available blockade runner headed from Europe to the south but the boat was seized, however she fell in love with her captor and sat out the rest of the war. After it was over, she performed on the stage, wrote numerous books on her experiences and eventually toured the western part of the United States where she made a living recanting her wartime experiences.

“She could always rely on a hidden weapon - male gallantry. When Federal commanders discovered that she had given information to the South that might wreck their plans, she would look sad, speak half gaily, half pathetically, and Northern chivalry would prove as strong as Southern; they would release her. Before she reached twenty-one this Virginian had been imprisoned twice, “reported” nearly thirty times, and arrested six or seven. In one romantic feat she persuaded her Northern captor to marry her and switch sides. Nearly everybody like Belle or enjoyed hearing about her. In Piccadilly, English crowds hailed her as if she were a Sir Walter Scott heroine. French newspapers termed her “La Belle Rebelle.” [177]

Pauline Cushman

She was born in 1833 and was working in Louisville doing a play when the Civil War broke out. She was like all of her sisters in crime, a very beautiful woman who knew very well how to use her assets. She became a northern spy and became a camp follower. This allowed her to bed numerous senior southern military officers and in doing so became familiar with a substantial number of army secrets. However, she was extremely brazen and was eventually caught, tried and order hung. While awaiting execution, the north overran her prison in Shelbyville, Tennessee and she was released. The north made much of her successes and Pauline was proclaimed an honorary major by President Lincoln along with that she was given a shiny new uniform. During the rest of the war she gave lectures on her numerous exploits and for a time she was promoted by P.T. Barnum as the “Spy of the Cumberland.” In later years she became sheriff of Pinal County, Arizona, certainly not the usual occupation for women of that time. She died in 1893 of an overdose of opium and was buried with full military honors in the cemetery of the Grand Army of the Republic in San Francisco at Presidio. He grave is market, “Pauline C. Fryer[178], Union Spy.”

Elizabeth Van Lew

Elizabeth was also known as “Crazy Bet” because of the fact that although she was born and lived in Richmond, Virginia, she was an adamant abolitionist and fought the philosophy of slavery where ever she went. People thought that she had lost her senses and she never disabused them of that thought. She become somewhat of a self anointed spy for the north and did her best work right in the heart of Richmond under the very noses of the Confederate Army. She would visit Libby Prison bringing baskets of food and medicine to the Union solders and unbeknownst to the guards would bring back information on troop movements and the strength of various southern forces.  She was also able to garner substantial information directly from southern generals who considered her hapless. However, the greatest coupe that she ever pulled off was the planting of one of her servants directly into the home of Jefferson Davis and was able to impart highly sensitive information back to Union forces. Furthermore she created an elaborate system of information transference through a well organized group of couriers and highly technical codes that were inserted into eggs. General Grant said: “You have sent me the most valuable information received from Richmond during the war.” When the war was over Grant appointed Van Lew the postmistress of Richmond in reward for her efforts during the war.

Elsbeth Schragmuller

She was also known as Fraulein Doktor and was the headmistress if that is the correct terminology of the spy school that educated the infamous Mata Hari in the nuances of espionage. Fraulein Doktor was a tough taskmaster the in appearance resembled the archetypical German villainess who we often see portrayed in the movies. And she was a villain in every sense of the world. The Doktor ran a tight ship at her school in Antwerp and she didn’t like losing. She apparently considered Mata Hari a losing cause because of the fact that as soon as she was able to break lose of the Doktor’s hold she immediately retired from a profession that she never had begun. This infuriated the Doktor and Elsbeth called for a hit on Mata Hari. However, it wasn’t until sometime later that she was able to rile French authorities by giving out her spy school code name which became the cause for her execution.  However, there was more to the good Doktor than just petty vengeance. So much more that a movie was made in 1934 entitled Stamboul Quest staring Myrna Loy as the Doktor. The public’s reception of that movie was so strong that an additional three movies were shot depicting other aspects of her life.  Whatever the movie indicated about her was probably half reality and half Hollywood, but there is little question that Elsbeth Schragmuller had received a PhD degree from the University of Friedburg and has been called “the greatest of the German female spies.” Her records were considered so secret that they were destroyed by German Intelligence. In later life, The Doktor became a cocaine and morphine addict along with totally losing her mind and ending up in a Swiss sanatorium where she died. 

Edith Cavell

Edith was a nurse in occupied Belgium during World War I and was also an agent for the British and French. She used her Rue de la clinique nursing school and Red Cross Hospital in occupied Belgium to house allied Troops that had become entrapped behind the German lines.  By the time that 1915 had rolled around, Edith had already aided 200 allied soldiers in get back behind their own lines. The Germans arrested her in August of 1915 and her eventual trial was only a hanging court. “The charge brought against the accused was that of having conspired to violate the German Military Penal code, punishing with death those who conduct troops to the enemy. Its basis in German military law is found in paragraph 68 of the German code, which says: Whoever, with the intention of helping the hostile power, or of injuring the German or allied troops, is guilty of one of the crimes of paragraph 90 of the German penal Code will be sentenced to death for treason.”[179] When she heard the sentence she indicated that she was glad to die for her country. She was executed by a German firing Squad on October 112, 1915 alone in spite of the fact that she had been convicted of treason against German along with 25 other partisans. Her particular crime was only the fact that she was British and thus deserved to be dispatched as soon as possible. After the war, her body was exhumed and transported back to Great Britain for burial with high honors. 

Virginia Hall

Virginia was the youngest of three daughters born in the family of Edwin Lee Hall in Baltimore, Maryland. Virginia’s dad was an explorer and a millionaire and she had acquired a substantial amount of his bravado. Virginia had all of the proper education attending both Radcliff and Bernard College and was able to speak numerous foreign languages. When she finished college Virginia began work for the State Department and served in Estonia, Austria and Turkey within a span of a few short years. It was in Turkey that she shot herself in the foot in a hunting accident and was forced to wear an artificial limb from that point forward. The American Foreign Service was not big on women with only one real leg and her career hit a brick wall. However, the World War II was starting to blossom in Europe and in 1939 she volunteered for the ambulance service. She was next seen as a code clerk for the French Military Attaché in the U.S. Embassy because of her adeptness with languages. From there she was recruited by the British to join the British Special Operations Executive, their equivalent to the American OSS. As an employee there she learned all the things a young woman should get to know, weaponry, communications and security. Using a cover as a report for the New York Post she was assigned to set up resistance networks in Vichy France in August of 1941.  After she had accomplished her task in Vichy, she was moved to Lyons and started assisting the French Underground. However, her lines of communications evaporated when the United States entered the war a short time later. She was forced to leave France in a hurry and crossed the Pyrenees on one foot in the dead of winter along with several others. She was incarcerated when she hit Spain but was soon released when the American Ambassador filed a protest.

This allowed here to work in Madrid using the cover of now being a report for the Chicago Times. Things became a little dull for this aggressive young lady and she soon found work in England at the American office of Strategic Services as a wireless operator. She was dropped into France under the code name of Diane and once again got involved in setting up resistance movements while continuously reporting on movements and activities in her region. Of course by this time the Gestapo was well aware that the lady with the limp was an American agent and a price was put on her head. This made any movements very difficult. However, the war was now coming to a climax and there places to go and things to do. Her group became responsible for the destruction of four bridges, the derailing of numerous freight trains, the taking of 500 prisoners and the killing of 150 enemy forces. She ended her World War II career by being reassigned to Austria where she spied on the German retreat. . She was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for her efforts. With the end of the war she moved over to the CIA and started working on Cold War matters. She retired at 60 and then was turned out to Pasture taking her gardening much more seriously. This lady was one of the top operatives in World War II, man or woman.    


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