Constitution Daily

Smart conversation from the National Constitution Center

Emeline Pigott: Spy for the Confederacy

March 16, 2011 by Kathleen Maher


Today, in our series about women spies (see them all here), we will meet Emeline Pigott, a young spy for the Confederate army.

During the Civil War, women served as spies on both sides – Confederate and Union. Emeline Pigott was living in North Carolina during the Civil War, and offered her services to the Confederate Army as a spy. Emeline, only 25 years old, hosted parties for Union soldiers where she was able to gather information about the Union troops.

Emeline used the voluminous skirts worn during this time period to aid her in her secret activities. Sometimes wearing up to 30 pounds of extra weight, Emeline hid important papers, materials, and other contraband in her clothing.

Emeline continued her clandestine activities until 1865, when she and her brother-in-law were caught by Yankee soldiers. Emeline was arrested and put in jail in New Bern, N.C. due to the amount of secret information found on her. Emeline was tried, and actually sentenced to death! However, at the last moment she was mysteriously released from jail. Emeline lived until 1916, and loved to tell stories about her experiences as a spy, but she never revealed the reasons behind her release.

Next week, we will share the story of one of the earliest American spies, Emily Geiger, who served during the Revolutionary War.

See more spies at the Center’s new exhibit, Spies, Traitors and Saboteurs: Fear and Freedom in America. Photo Credit: University of San Diego

Sign up for our email newsletter