Rose Greenhow’s Source
“Who told Southern spy Rose Greenhow that General Irvin McDowell had issued marching orders to Manassas Junction for July 16th? Who gave her the red-dotted map? Was this vital information passed to her by a man so swept away by her voluptuous embraces as to forget duty, honor and country?
When she was later taken into custody a month after the First Manassas debacle, federal agents seized a packet of love letters. She had destroyed all else. These letters, in a masculine hand, were signed with the single initial “H.” Could this “H” have stood for Henry? One of these letters was dated January 20th, 1861. It was written on US government stationery bearing the imprint “Thirty-sixth Congress, United States of America” and the seal of the United States Senate. It indicates an intimacy had existed between Roe Greenhow and “H” even before hostilities began.
Handwriting experts have claimed these letters were not written by Senator Henry Wilson, although they speak of bills before the Senate in which he was interested. No known charges were brought against him, but his share in this business has never been cleared up. Whatever suspicion may have rested on him, he must have explained to the satisfaction of federal authorities who made no record of it.
General Pierre Beauregard later said his information at First Manassas had come through a private source, from “politicians high in council.”
Throughout the war Henry Wilson was a pillar of strength to Lincoln’s administration, and in 1872 was elected Grant’s vice-president.
What of his companion, Rose Greenhow? Over her grave at Oakdale Cemetery in Wilmington, North Carolina, there is a marble cross, erected by sympathetic ladies. On it are carved the words: Mrs. Rose O’Neal Greenhow – A Bearer of Despatches to the Confederate Government.”
(Congress and the Civil War, Edward Boykin. The McBride Company, 1955, pp. 304-305)