What part did the spy, the commando, the saboteur, the guerrilla, and the privateer play in the Civil War? __________
Every major conflict is fought on two fronts: the open hostilities of opposing armed forces, and the undercover activities of spies and counterspies, espionage agents, and others whose deeds are often daring and usually unsung.
The Civil War was no exception. It had its full share of these cloak-and-dagger escapades, yet relatively little has ever been published about this important secret front. Many of the agents died without ever revealing even a hint of what they had accomplished. Much of the documentary material was deliberately destroyed because the very nature of the work made it dangerous to have incriminating evidence about.
And until very recently many official and other records in the National Archives have been kept from the public eye to protect those involved in secret missions and their immediate descendants. Now a great mass of materials has been made available on these hitherto hush-hush activities.
Philip Van Doren Stern is one of the few trained historians who has made this little-known aspect of the Civil War his specialty. In this book he deftly weaves together representative dramatic eyewitness accounts written by the courageous men and women who actually participated in undercover operations for the Union and the Confederacy.
Ranging from exploits of the Confederate Torpedo Service to accounts of running the blockade, from Morgan and his raiders’ escape from prison to the attempt to burn New York City, from the raid on shipping of the Eastern Seaboard to the successful explosion of the ammunition dump at City Point, Virginia, from the adventures of a woman spy disguised as a Negro man to the destruction of the ironclad Albemarle—all of these selections make fascinating and compelling reading.
They cover operations in Canada, Europe, and on the high seas as well as in the battle areas and other sections of the United States. Through the skillful use of notes and comments, Mr. Stern has created a unique volume—a consecutive history of the secret missions of the entire war.
Philip Van Doren Stern has written many books and articles on the Civil War. His work appears frequently in American Heritage and other national publications. Among his most noted books are The Man Who Killed Lincoln and his recently published An End to Valor: The Last Days of the Civil War, which Bruce Catton hailed as “a perceptive and illuminating book,” and which Orville Prescott of the New York Times said “deserved the attention of anyone interested in the American past.”