"Confederate Sister Act - The Moon Sister Spies"

The story of Ginnie and Lottie Moon is a fascinating one - two sisters who cleverly and brazenly spied for the Confederates during the Civil War - and got away with it. Daughters of a physician, Ginnie and Lottie were born in Virginia but moved to Oxford, Ohio when they were youngsters. The Moon House, shown here, is an historic site in Oxford.

moon house

While growing up in southwest Ohio Lottie was courted by a young man from nearby Indiana - Ambrose Burnside. Legend has it that she played "Runaway Bride" and jilted him at the alter. Ironically he was to appear later in the life of the Moon sisters. Both Lottie and Ginnie were said to have numerous beaus and eventually Lottie settled down with Jim Clark - soon to become Judge Clark.

Younger sister Ginnie was sent to live with the Clarks after she rebelled against being a student at Oxford Female College in the 1860s. The Clark household was pro-Southern and so were Ginnie and Lottie. Judge Clark was quite active in the Knights of the Golden Circle - a Confederate underground organization of sorts. It was not unusual for couriers to visit the Clarks while carrying secret messages. On one such occasion a caller arrived with dispatches that had to be carried to Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith in Kentucky.

general smith
General Kirby Smith

Lottie volunteered to carry the message and thus began her career as a spy. She disguised herself as an old woman and headed for Lexington, Kentucky by boat. There she was lucky enough to encounter southern Col. Thomas Scott and give him the papers for delivery to General Kirby Smith. She returned to Oxford by train and using her talent as an actress bluffed her way back with the help of a Union General. After such a success she began carrying more messages and dispatches for the South. This aroused the interest of the Canadian Confederate sympathizers who invited her to Toronto.

With forged papers making her a British subject Lottie wended her way to Washington and talked the Union officials into giving her a pass to Virginia "for her health". Some say she even met with Secretary Stanton. She delivered her messages and headed home for Ohio.

Meantime her sister Ginnie was in Memphis to be with their mother - who had moved to Tennessee after the death of Dr. Moon. Ginnie and Mrs. Moon wrapped bandages and nursed the wounded soldiers as the Yankees got closer to the cotton capitol. Ginnie began making trips back and forth with information and supplies often passing boldly through Union lines pretending to meet a beau. While in Jackson Mississippi she learned that urgent information had to be dispatched to the Knights of the Golden Circle in Ohio. She volunteered to make the trip, along with her mother, insisting they would not be suspect because they had relatives in Ohio. It was quite a risk for by now the North knew that women were being used as spies by the Confederacy as evidenced by this "propaganda cartoon".

Harpers Weekly - lampoon of Southern women spies

Ginnie and her mother Cynthia made the journey to Ohio without incident and gathered the necessary papers and supplies to return to the south. By this time they were under suspicion by Union agents as they prepared to return to Memphis by boat from Cincinnati. As the boat was about to depart a Yankee Captain entered their cabin with orders to search them. Ginnie rebelled, pulled out the small Colt revolver that she was known to carry, and screamed at the officer that she was a friend of General Burnside. The officer backed down and left her alone long enough for her to literally swallow the most imporant of the dispatches she carried.

But then Ginnie and her mother were taken to an office and and a housekeeper was called to search her and her clothing. According to various reports Ginnie Moon was "wearing" - "forty bottles of morphine, seven pounds of opium, and a quantity of camphor." (for medicinal purposes of the times). They were immediately put under a sort of "house arrest" in a hotel. Ginnie promptly asked to see General Burnside and her request was granted the next day.

Union General Ambrose Burnside

Lottie Moon showed up in disguise and tried unsuccessfully to convince her former beau - General Burnside - to release them. Burnside saw through the disguise and promptly added Lottie to the group under arrest. However no action was ever taken against the Moon ladies even though they had travelled all over for the Confederacy. The charges were dropped although Ginnie Moon was required to report to the Yankees on a daily basis and eventully ordered out of the Union area.

Union soldiers
Unknown woman in Union Camp - could it have been Ginnie Moon?

Ginnie returned to Memphis after the war and Lottie headed back home to subsequently become a journalist. Restless Ginnie moved around the country and ended up in Hollywood where she had bit parts in two movies - "The Spanish Dancer" and "Robin Hood" in the 1920s. From there she headed east to New York and held court in Greenwich Village until her death at age 81.

The Moon sisters fervor for their beloved Confederacy led them into danger and adventure - and they were quite successful as spies. Proving once more that in every conflict -
women were there!

Please note: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is displayed without profit or payment for those who have expressed an interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. Photos and images are from the National Archives, The Naval History Center, The U.S. Army, USMC, U.S. Navy, USAF, U.S. Coast Guard, the Defense Visual Information Center, The Army Nurse Corps, and the personal collections of this author. Nothing on this site is for sale nor is it a commercial venture of any kind - it is a one person page for, and about military women - by one retired military woman. Contents copyrighted 2000 by Captain Barbara A. Wilson, USAF (Ret).

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