Civil War & Reconstruction Civil War Stafford's Confederate Year Secret Line

Secret Line

Historian John Tackett Goolrick described the Confederate “Secret Line”…..

The famed “underground telegraph” of the Confederacy ran from Washington down the eastern shore of Maryland, across the Potomac to Aquia or Potomac Creek, or to the point most convenient, and through Stafford to Fredericksburg, and onward to Richmond. The Federals, even when they had a hundred thousand or more men camped in the county, had never been able to stop this ‘telegraph,’ and they knew it was because of the loyalty of Stafford people…This twilight zone of the war had always been thick with spies, and many homes had harbored Confederate spies, while many watched diligently to discover Federal spies.

In addition to the Secret Line across the Potomac, Stafford Springs in the far northwest corner of Stafford, played a significant, if hidden role in spying operations in the direction of Brentsville, Prince William County, and Manassas.    (See next slide)

The Confederate Signal Corps and Secret Service (CSSS) established a network of “Secret Lines” from Virginia-Maryland-District of Columbia- Delaware-Pennsylvania-New York-Canada. This map depicts the various routes between safe-houses, way stations, and spy networks. Terms such as the “Underground Telegraph,” “Colonels’ Line,” and “Doctors’ Line” applied. Spies and couriers; diplomats and blockade-runners; critical supplies (e.g., medical supplies, percussion caps); official mail; Northern newspapers; and espionage reports traveled to/from Richmond via the “Secret Lines.”

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