Author: H. Donald Winkler
Publisher: Cumberland House
ISBN: 2010025638

Click Here To Purchase Stealing Secrets: How a Few Daring Women Deceived Generals, Impacted Battles, and Altered the Course of the Civil War

Winkler’s earlier 2008 book Goats and Scapegoats focused on the mistakes made during the Civil War by those who should have known better—the generals involved at the forefront of the conflict. In Stealing Secrets, Winkler goes behind the battle lines, and, in some cases, into the boudoir, in which men once more showed their vulnerability by trading their state secrets for the blissful, but tenuous, embrace of those who would betray their ill-placed trust. However, Winkler is keen to point out that he regards these tales of valor as just that. Underplaying the salacious and what many would consider to be the scandalous nature of the liaisons involved, he holds, rather, that the encounters that he describes were, in fact, a success story of the women involved, showing how they were able to impact on the course of the Civil War through their heroic actions. Winkler includes accounts of women who also took an active role on the battle front as such, including Harriet Tubman and Loreta Velazquez. In the course of his narrative, he is able to debunk many of the myths and much of the misinformation surrounding the women concerned.

The focus of Stealing Secrets is both on the women, in relation to their own households
and their network of relations, as much as it is on how their work impacted on the progress of the war. The emotional commitment of the women to those whom they supported is revealed with great honesty and clarity. The excerpts included from memoirs, journals and private correspondence make this an intimate collection of tales. The account is a vivid one, made all the more so by the inclusion of several black-and-white photographs and reproductions of excerpts of newspaper reports of the day, that help to bring the stories to life.

Although dealing with what could possibly be an erotic subject at times, Winkler alludes to the sexual exploits of those heroines who gave their all for the sake of a cause in which they firmly believed in the most chaste of terms. In speaking of one of Rose Greenhow’s lovers, Senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts, for example, Winkler writes: “the powerful chairman of the Senate Military Affairs Committee was sharing more than tea and crumpets with a Confederate spy.” Winkler is also not beyond making the occasional tongue-in-cheek statement, as in his allusion to the case of Senator Wilson’s letters to Greenhow being kept confidential up until this day: “The Senate has a long history of taking care of its own.” The narrative is told in a straightforward way, using sentences that are easy enough for even a child to understand. Winkler maintains the pace of his text throughout by including few footnotes and referring to published works in the most general of terms. However, that a great deal of research has gone into this work is clear, with the ten pages listing the various sources used attesting to the fact. The index, in keeping with the rest of the book, is comprehensive, but not unduly cluttered with inconsequential references.

Stealing Secrets is an attractive volume that is well presented and written. Its accessibility of subject matter and style should ensure that it appeals to a wide audience, ranging from those who are interested in the course of the American Civil War to those who are intrigued by any works to do with espionage and the role of women in conflict.

Click Here To Purchase Stealing Secrets: How a Few Daring Women Deceived Generals, Impacted Battles, and Altered the Course of the Civil War