Women on the Frontlines

General Stuart's New Aid Young woman, appointed as major by Jeb Stuart, on horseback. Item Link

Virginia "Ginnie" and Charlotte "Lottie" Moon were two sisters born in Virginia. In 1831, the Moon family moved to Oxford, Ohio. The girls grew up in southwest Ohio. While Lottie was being courted by Ambrose Burnside, Ginnie was attending Oxford Female College. The girls were known to have many suitors, and allegedly Lottie jilted Burnside at the alter. Eventually Lottie settled on Common Pleas Judge James Clark and they were married in January 1849.

Although support for abolition was growing in Ohio prior to the beginning of the war, Ginnie did not share the same sentiment. She asked the President of Oxford College to permit her to go home to her mother, who had moved to Tennessee after the death of her father. The president refused so Ginnie shot out every star on the U.S. flag waving over the college grounds. She was immediately expelled and moved to Memphis to be with her mother.

Lottie stayed in Oxford, Ohio, with her husband Judge Clark.  The Clark family sympathized with the South and the Judge was even a member of the underground organization, Knights of the Golden Circle. Couriers carrying secret messages for the Confederates occasionally stopped at the Clark home. In one such incident, a messenger arrived at the Clark residence with a message that needed to be delivered to Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith. Disguising herself as an old Irish woman, Lottie volunteered to carry the message to Lexington, Kentucky. She was successful in delivering the message and this stunt began Lottie's career as a Confederate spy.

While in Memphis, Ginnie and her mother worked as Confederate nurses. Posing as a woman meeting her beau in Ohio, Ginnie began slipping across the Union line with information and supplies. In Ginnie's last attempt to deliver a message from the Knights of the Golden Circle, she recruited her mother to accompany her. She assured her mother they would not get caught since they had family in Ohio. They successfully made it to Ohio but on their return they were apprehended on a boat traveling to Memphis. When a search was ordered, Ginnie ate the secret message!

The damning evidence of the secret correspondence was destroyed but the search produced "forty bottles of morphine, seven pounds of opium, and a quantity of camphor (1)." Ginnie demanded to see her sister's former beau, Ambrose Burnside, who was now a Union General. When word got back to Lottie of her mother and sister's predicament, she disguised herself as an English invalid to persuade Burnside to release her family. Burnside immediately recognized her and had her arrested. Even though the charges were dropped against the ladies, the event signaled the end of the spying days of the Moon Sisters.

  1. Vogel, Cynthia. Civil War Women: They Made a Difference. CAM-TECH Publishing, Fletcher: Ohio, p.42