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The Civil War
(1861-1865)

Political Prisoners and Spies



Political Prisoners and Spies
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 8 to 10
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   8.28

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    Baxley, habeas, stockade, Surratt, writ, disloyal, sympathizers, untrue, corpus, better, treason, martial, ranking, fashionable, fervent, hostile
     content words:    Old Capital, Belle Boyd, Rose O'Neal Greenhow, Fort McHenry, Fort Sumter, Many Confederate, Jefferson Davis, In August, Union General Thomas Ewing, Union General Butler


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Political Prisoners and Spies
By Mary Lynn Bushong
  

1     When the Civil war broke out in 1861, those who disagreed over the split often found themselves on the wrong side of the border. Those sympathizers for both sides faced a choice. They could move and support their side in relative safety, they could spy for their side, or they could openly criticize the government where they were. The trouble with the last two options was that, if they were caught, the charge would be treason and the sentence probably death.
 
2     During the war, spies, dissidents, and high ranking prisoners were often kept in the Old Capital prison. What had once been a fashionable boarding house now held spies, political prisoners, and army officers.
 
3     Belle Boyd spent some time there, as did a Mrs. Baxley, a fervent Yankee-hater. Mrs. Surratt, who was hanged for her part in Lincoln's murder, and Rose O'Neal Greenhow, a spy, also spent time in the prison twice before being deported to Richmond. Many others who were charged with Lincoln's murder were also kept there for a time.
 
4     In many ways, the conditions at the Old Capital prison were much better than at other places during the war. Prisoners were allowed to have guests and receive gifts or supplies to make their stays easier.
 
5     Union political prisoners were also kept at Fort McHenry. In the summer of 1861, 2,000 people were arrested after the writ of habeas corpus was suspended by Lincoln. This number included 32 newspaper editors and owners as well as the Mayor of Baltimore and 31 members of the Maryland legislature.

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