Civil War Secrets: Rose Greenhow

Contributor: Kathi Thomas. Lesson ID: 10458

What cause are you passionate about? How far will you go to fight for it? In the Civil War, a brave woman named Rose Greenhow endured prison and continued to spy for the South, drowning in the effort!


United States

learning style
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


"I had a right to my own political opinions. I am a Southern woman, born with Revolutionary blood in my veins” (Rose O’Neal Greenhow).

 Rose O'Neal Greenhow and daughter

Image by Mathew Brady, via Wikimedia Commons and cropped, is in the public domain and can be found in the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Brady-Handy Collection, reproduction number LC-DIG-cwpbh-04849.

The role of women as movers and shakers in American history is undeniable.

From the very start of the new nation during the Revolutionary War to our modern day military, women have always felt compelled to take on tasks requiring both brains and bravery, sometimes even brawn. The passion for a cause that fuels remarkable deeds was clearly evidenced by those women who engaged as spies during the American Civil War. Some women, such as Rose Greenhow, faced imprisonment and even death to provide Civil War leaders with information they hoped would bring victory to their side.

Take a moment to talk with your teacher about the convictions or ideals that matter to you most.

  • Would you be willing to go to prison in order to protect those ideals?
  • Would you be willing to risk your life for them?
  • What if you had a child who would also be in jeopardy because of your actions? Would that impact what you would be willing to do?

These are the questions Rose O’Neal Greenhow wrestled with during her years as a Confederate spy. A staunch supporter of the South, Rose was willing to sacrifice everything she had to relay information about the Union army to southern military leaders. Although it cost her dearly, she continued to work for the goals of the South until her death by drowning in 1864.

Rose was undoubtedly loyal to the South and its cause. However, her status as a socialite allowed her to maintain friendships on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line. It was her social status and connections on the Union side that ultimately gained her access to information. Read this article about espionage during the Civil War to get a better understanding of her capacity as a spy: Spying in the Civil War (

Now that you've been introduced to this brave woman, continue on to the Got It? section to further examine her story.

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