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From The Washington Times
There were spies aplenty on both sides in the Civil War, most of them dedicated amateurs. Only one could claim to have influenced the outcome of an important battle, and that was Maryland-born Rose O'Neale Greenhow, the subject of a fine new biography by Washington writer Ann Blackman ... Ann Blackman has written an excellent book, one that tells Greenhow's story without romanticizing a legendary female spy.
—John M. Taylor

 

From The Washington Post
[Rose Greenhow] was one of the most interesting characters in Washington during the Civil  War, a time when the city had an abundance of strange and sometimes suspicious  people ... Blackman is the first biographer to have access to her diary, and she has made thorough use of papers that other writers have overlooked. The result is probably as close to a definitive biography as we'll get ... Her research is solid and her judgments about her subject appear to be sound. —Jonathan Yardley

 

From The Star-Telegram
Blackman finally gets Rose's story told and does it with flair and lots of compassion for a woman willing to risk everything for the Glorious Cause. Consider this a good dark-horse candidate to edge David McCullough and 1776 out of the Pulitzer for nonfiction. —Jeff Guinn

 

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From Raleigh Metro Magazine
Blackman writes with an almost novelistic approach in many places, relying on historical accounts, the letters and diaries of Greenhow, her friends and even stray soldiers, and other source material to paint a complete portrait of this heady period in American history. She offers a compelling account of individual days—such as the gripping opening passage about one of Greenhow’s accomplices journeying from DC into the Virginia countryside to deliver fateful messages—and of dramatic, largely private encounters, for example using Greenhow’s own writings to recount a heated exchange in the Senate gallery with a young Union lieutenant colonel. Fashionable Washington parties are portrayed with a society-page accuracy (who wore what and where) and with an attention to the growing tensions against those with secessionist sympathies. Blackman is adept at charting Greenhow’s many connections and the way that she used these to her benefit after the war had started—connections with leading government figures, some of which took the form of love affairs, with her using wiles (and perhaps more) to elicit secrets that she could pass southward to benefit the war effort there. Without sacrificing the focus on Greenhow’s life, Blackman also keeps the broader picture in view, as history progresses from John Brown’s raid through the Lincoln election, the departure of South Carolina from the Union and then throughout the war ... [She] does a fine job of piecing together all that is known about Greenhow’s life and of almost seamlessly filling in some gaps by relying on informed conjecture or probability. For example, in an early passage recounting Jefferson Davis’ departure from the Senate, Blackman writes: “Rose, a friend of Davis and his wife, would have made every effort to be there.” And in a nearby section about her relationship with Massachusetts senator Henry D. Wilson, Blackman writes: “While her letters to Wilson are long lost, probably burned, some liked to imagine her enticing him into her boudoir with perfume and enough brandy that he would fall asleep after a tumble in the sheets, giving her time to rifle through his briefcase for classified documents.” Was Rose at Davis’ farewell speech? Did her seductions of Wilson happen just this way? Perhaps. Perhaps not. But Blackman makes a compelling case, and her work is supported by so much research that it would be ludicrous to fault her for such conjectures. She seems to know her subject so well that we trust her at every step.
—Art Taylor

 

From Publishers Weekly
The biographer of Madeleine Albright and FBI turncoat Robert Hanssen now turns her attention to the Civil War, yielding this excellent biography of Confederate spy Rose O'Neal Greenhow (1817–1864). Born into a Maryland farming family impoverished when her father was killed by one of his slaves, Rose grew up as one of the belles of Washington, D.C. Even after marrying the quiet, scholarly Robert Greenhow, she continued to play an active role in pro-Southern Washington, including nursing John C. Calhoun on his deathbed. The Greenhows traveled to California hoping to profit from the Gold Rush. After Robert's accidental death in San Francisco, Rose returned to Washington and became a prominent hostess and what would now be called a lobbyist, with many political contacts. She turned these into an espionage ring in time to provide intelligence to the Confederates for the Battle of Bull Run and continued her work until she was placed under house arrest, then confined in the Old Capitol Prison. Released to go South, she traveled to Europe as an emissary from Jefferson Davis to cultivate pro-Confederate notables. The course of the war doomed this mission, and she died in a shipwreck while returning home. Blackman presents her as a woman of both charm and intellect, well equipped to step politely across 19th-century gender boundaries. This literate and thoroughly researched biography does Greenhow justice.

 

From Booklist
A grand dame of antebellum Washington, Rose O’Neale Greenhow was a Confederate spy. In jail, her stout defense of the South made her a Lost Cause heroine, and her celebrity ... ranks highest in the annals of Civil War espionage. Doing justice to this remarkable woman, author Blackman perceptively re-creates Greenhow’s social and political milieu. From a slaveholding Maryland family, the beautiful Greenhow made an advantageous match to a State Department official and eventually became a vivid, sensual presence in the capital’s social scene, popular with powerful men such as John Calhoun and James Buchanan. Greenhow’s striking personality—confident, snobbish, and canny—is astutely portrayed amid an active narrative of her life, which ended in an 1864 shipwreck on her return from a European diplomatic mission as Jefferson Davis’ emissary. Civil War readers will become engrossed in Blackman’s able portrait, which summons the zeitgeist of the entire era through one woman’s adventurous life. —Gilbert Taylor

 

From Library Journal
Drawing on extensive documentation, including an unpublished travel diary, [Blackman] explores Greenhow’s early life as well as her better-known wartime work... This readable and comprehensive biography offers new insight into her diplomatic mission to Europe. An imperative update on Ishbel Ross’s 1954 classic Rebel Rose.

 

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