Belle Boyd


Her charm apparently survived the rigors of campaigning; Samuel Hardinge, the Union officer who took command of her captured ship, promptly asked her to marry him. “His every movement,” she said, “was so much that of a refined gentleman that my ‘Southern proclivities,’ strong as they were, yielded … to the impulses of my heart.” He died shortly after the war, however, leaving her penniless in England with an infant daughter. She published her autobiography, made far less money from it than she had hoped, and, in 1866, turned to the stage, opening in Manchester in a romantic comedy by Bulwer Lytton. She was an immense success, and continued to be when she returned to America.


She married again—this time to an English military man—but it was not a happy match. “My health was failing,” she said years later in a brief, pathetic statement, “and I went with my husband to California. Just previous to the birth of my little son my mind gave way and my child was born in the asylum for the insane at Stockton, Cal. My boy was buried there.”

Her eventual recovery, and the birth of two more daughters, did not reconcile her to her husband. She divorced him in 1884 and, less than six weeks later, married Nat High, an actor seventeen years her junior. She returned to the stage, giving dramatic recitations, but found herself forced to play second-class houses. The war had been over for twenty years, and people were beginning to forget.

On Sunday, June 10, 1900, she wrote her daughters from Evansville, Wisconsin, where she planned to give a recitation for the local Grand Army of the Republic: “I feel like a criminal not sending you money. But I have only been able to play one night, and sent you all I had … over expenses, 2.00.”

The next morning a heart attack killed her. The woman’s auxiliary of the G.A.R. raised the money for her funeral, and fqur Union veterans lowered her coffin into Northern soil.