Espionage in the American Civil War Essay

5578 Words Nov 14th, 2012 23 Pages
Gardner-Webb University
Boiling Springs, NC

Term Paper

INTELLIGENCE IN THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR:
THE DEVELOPMENT OF INTELLIGENCE IN THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR AND THE EFFECTS OF THE ESPIONAGE SYSTEM ON THE WAR

Lauren E. Caulder
HIS 318-C
Fall 2011

Espionage at the commencement of the American Civil War was not an organized system; however the war necessitated the development of more structured intelligence systems for both the Union and the Confederacy. By the middle of the war the dimensions of the espionage system had augmented significantly. Thus espionage came to play a critically important role that affected general’s decisions in both the North and the South, ultimately affecting the outcome of the Civil War as a whole.
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In fact by the end of the war the confederacy was still debating between proposals for creating a structured intelligence program.
In 1862, the Confederacy organized its first secret service agency, a division of the Confederate States of America (CSA) Signal Corps, appointing Major William Norris as chief. Norris was instrumental in coordinating the efforts of numerous spies and counterespionage agents active in the region between Richmond and Washington, a key factor in developing sophisticated intelligence communications. The bureau developed to such an extent as to extend its espionage network north of the Mason-Dixon Line and even into Canada. Indeed, Norris’s unit came to be one of the most successful intelligence establishments in the Civil War, equaled only by the Union’s Bureau of Military Information. Some of the achievements of the bureau include leading reconnaissance activities along the Potomac, conducting agents to scouting posts, and communicating dispatches from the Confederate State departments. In addition to Norris’s agency, a second Confederate intelligence organization was established in 1864, a branch of the Torpedo Bureau. This agency was smaller, inadequately managed, and never attained the sophistication of Norris’s unit.
In conclusion, though progress was made, neither the Union nor the Confederacy acquired completely efficient intelligence means. Although large-scale espionage endeavors were often unsuccessful, individual spies made

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