Today in History:

Mrs Augusta Morris - Confederate Spy

Mrs. Augusta Morris was a confederate spy living in Washington, D.C.  Hers is an interesting story of boldness on the part of a lady of that day.  The Official account below of her arrest and some of her correspondence from prison provide insight to her motivation and method.

Case of Mrs. Augusta Morris.

Mrs. Augusta Morris,* alias Miss Ada M. Hewitt, allias Mrs. Mason, was arrested by order of Major-General McClellan and confined in the Old Capitol Prison February 7, 1862. She was charged with being a spy in the employ of the rebels. The said Miss Hewitt, or Mrs. Morris, remained in custody at the Old Capitol Prison February 15, 1862, when in conformity with the order of the War Departmnt of the preceding day she was transferred to the charge of that Department. - From Record Book, State Department, "Arrests for Disloyalty. "
Information obtained by a thorough examination and study of the papers of Mrs. Augusta Heath Morris, otherwise Mason.

That on the 20th of Janaury, 1854, she as Mlle. Augusta Heath Morris was married in Paris to John Francis Mason in the presence of Julian Taylor, of Virginia, and George W. Morris of South Carolina, and all of the United States; that Mason has a mother (a Mrs. Mason) at or in the vicinity of Frederick, Md., with whom he seems to reside principally and that his Parisian wife goes by the name of Mrs. Morris; that Mrs. Morris is a second Mrs. Greenhow, having been boarding in style at Brown's Hotel and been engaged principally it would seem in collecting information and communicating it to the enemy; that she has been in correspondence with Thomas John Rayford,** the rebel correspondent of mrs. Greenhow, &c., that Rayford for the purose of misleading detectives has been in the habit of dating his letters as from New York City while writing from secesh; that he (Rayford) has called on Mrs. Morris at Brown' Hotel since she has been there; that Mrs. Morris left the Ebbitt House for Brown's Hotel under the auspices of a Mr. Elias M. Green, a Quaker; that since Mrs. Morris' sojourn at Brown's Hotel she has had more or less social intercourse with Mansfield T. Walworth, Major McClure, George A,. Hanson. Captain Fred. Buclock U. S. Army, E. W. Belt, Upper Marlborough, Md., Mrs. and Miss Mackall, Mrs. Merrick, Honorable J. S. Rollins, Edward Loring, Mr. Lovejoy, &c., but with none of these parties does there appear to have been any intercourse but of a social nature; that she has a social correspondent at Frederick, Md., named E. A. Hanson; that she has a lady correspondent in Baltimore named Mrs. C. S. Wilson, in whose possession interesting correspondence might no doubt be found; that daniel R. Kenney, of Point of Rocks., offered to see Mrs. Morris safe across the river on the 27th of July when she was at Frederick. He had just sent a note across to Mrs. Mason for her, showing that Mrs. Mason was probably at the time in Virginia; that Mr. s Morris corresponds socially with Lizzie Grant, Oswego, N. Y., Mrs. Johnson, Mrs. Sym Mrs. Beaumont, Miss Price, Mrs. Walworth, Mrs. Gildersleeve, Mrs. Speed, her husband, &c. ; that in a note to her at Brown's Hotel Mansfield T. Walworth spoke of a Mrs. R. being about to leave the city and wishing to see her; that in one of Rayford's letters to her he speaks of their cousin, Jane Elmford, being in co-operation with them in Washington, and hopes that she was not involved by the arrest of probably W. T. S. (Smithson). + He also spoke of "poor " (R. G.) as being a persecuted individual. He also speaks of a friend of theirs whom Nesmith, of Oregon, is after with resolutions of inqury thus giving a clue to said friend by communicating with Nesmith; that she (Mrs. Morris) has been informed by some faithful Maryland friends that Mrs. Baxley has been put in prison with Mrs. Greenhow to get all she could out of her. She asks Rayford for information about her (Mrs. B.)

There is nothing in the papers of Mrs. Morris or of himself to show any treasonable practices on the part of M. T. Walworth. # He appeared to be mixed up with Mrs. M. socially to some extent, like several other parties.

[E. J. ALLEN.]

*In connection with this case see case of Mrs. Greenhow, p. 561, et seq. ; also case of Mrs. Baxley, p. 1315 et seq.

**Rayford was Thomas Jordan, assistant adjutant-general to General Beauregard.

+See case of Smithson, p. 1354 et seq.

#See case of Walworth, p. 1351.

Copies of intercepted letters sent out of the Old Capitol Prison by Mrs. Augusta Heath Morris February 27, 1862

[Numbers 1.]

PRIVATE.] OLD CAPITOL PRISON, February, 19, 1862

Dr. J. F. MASON.

Care Major T. G. Rhett, Asst. Adjt. General of Johnston's Staff:

(To be forwarded.)

Two days after I laid my babe down to rest -the 7th of February, his birthday - I was arrested at Brown's Hotel - where I have lived ever since I have been in Washington-for giving information to the enemy. I write you this letter to let you know how futile was the attempt of your good mother to have me either arrested or exiled from the South; that I actually left the South, sent by General Joe Johnston and General Beauregard and with the consent of the President to go to Washington and see if my feeble efforts could be of use to them. I may not have been of use, but I am so dangerous or so considered by this Government, that a military necessity compels them to arrest me, in the language of General McClellan. He, however, arrested me too late. I already had gotten his plans, as laid before the military committee, from one of the members. It is true that your mother's voice did have some weight with General Winder who protested at my leaving the country; but he being politely informed to mind his own business I consequently left upon my mission. I left as an alien; but that stain will be removed from my child and we will have a claim on the Southern Government, and I shall be able to fight you and your mother from a fortress.

I hold in my possession the proof of your mother's constant communication across the river with Colonel Stone. I have two of our friends to bear witness to my conversation with Mrs. Buell when she said her (your mother's) property here was secure; it was all safe; the Government understood your position perfectly-to use her elegant phraseology, "that they were all right," meaning you and your mother. Then my conversation with the Secretary of State places it beyond a doubt that in and robbed. The Government had it closely investigated and the perpetrators punished. "Huntly" has not been touched. All this goes to prove that your mother's position is very well understood here by the Lincoln Government. I have understood from parties in Frederick that your mother wrote to colonel Geary that she had committed an error in trying to fasten upon me the suspicion of having an intrigue with the commander at Point of Rocks. She told me to my face," She must be a spy, for how else could she (I) have gotten across the river?" - that I had actually left the country as a spy for the Southern Government. Geary replied, "It was only Mrs. Mason's malignity," and he paid no attention to it, and he is now actually trying to get me released upon parole; but I will not come out upon that. I have worked for them ever since the war broke out and will never yield until they do, and not even then.

I wrote you a letter from Leesburg, which is more than probable that you did not get as I waited in Richmond for the answer. I was detained at Fairfax to get my instructions some weeks, for the arrangements for my leaving were being made, and whilst there I saw Bradley T. Johnson. I believe he is my friend - at least he pretends, to be, or from policy, seeing that my friends were those that held all in their hand. I staid a day with him at the station. He was very kind to me and the children. He is a dear funny fellow. He tells me he told Mrs. Johnson the night before the fight at Manassas of me and my children and she would be a friend to those children. When I told him of all my sufferings in Arkansas the tears rolled down his face. I had not the heart to tell him of all the unkind things your mother had said of his wife, but for fear my letter has failed to reach you I will tell you all she said of you. *

* * * * *

Your wife,


[Newspaper slip enclosed. From Washington. - Special to The New York Herald.]


A lady calling herself Mrs. Morris, who came here from Richmond some time since alleging that she had been compelled to leave on account of expressions of sympathy with the North, was arrested to-day and locked up in the Capitol Hill Prison. She is charged with giving information to the enemy regarding the position and strength of the Federal troops and fortifications in and about Washington. Mr. Walworth, son of Chancellor Walworth, of New York clerk in the Adjutant-General's Office, has also been arrested and imprisoned on charge of acting in complicity with her. This Mrs. Morris, who is a gay, dashing and sprightly widow, it will be remembered offered for accepted but for prudential reasons it was deemed advisable to keep a strict watch upon her and the result has been her arrest, which took place at 4 o'clock this morning while she was in bed at her hotel.

[No. 2.]

FEBRUARY 24, 1862

Colonel THOMAS JORDAN. (To be forwarded.)

MY DEAR FRIEND: I have written you twice since I have been in this charming place-once a private letter to you, another claiming your protection for Mrs. General Gaines, my friend. Some of our friends have written South that she is a spy for this Government. It is utterly false. In my letter I also spoke of the cabal formed against me by Mrs. Greenhow. She too has added her voice against Mrs. Gaines, and as I said she is drowned by mean ambition of being known [as the only one] in the good work and jealous of everything that surpasses her in loyalty and courage. She makes herself the echo of every evil rumor and she may injure Mrs. Gaines.

I have seen in the papers a speech alleged to have been made by Faulkner+ at M


. I wrote you when I saw him at the hotel to tell the President to be careful of that man and not to trust him nor to give up Ely for him. He I assure you is no friend to the South. He is crafty and calculating. He has some voice in Virginia. This speech will do harm. He had I am confident a pretty good understanding with this Government before he left so the Union men gave me to understand. Mr. Davis will understand him better than you will for he knows him. I cannot describe to you the whole manner of this man,


*Omitted portions of these letters relate to unimportant family matters.

+See case of Faulkner at p. 463 et seq.

but it left the impression on my mind that he was not to be trusted. I was talking to him; I said "the President" - meaning Mr. Davis. He did not understand me. "O, Mr. Davis. " "Yes," I replied, "President Davis. You have not yet gotten used to it. You know we have two Richmonds in the field. " His whole tenor and manner showed that the fat turkeys and baskets of grapes presented by those Boston abolitionists had won his heart in spite of his allegiance to the South. His falsehoods about his kind treatment to the prisoners will be proved some day. He ought to be placed under arrest for it as Henry ay was for his speech in Congress last summer.

All of my letters to you, so I have learned since I have been here were opened on both sides of the river before they reached you, and those that were not mutilated by being opened were resealed and forwarded. That is the reason why so few reached you. Did the ones with McClellan's plans as given to the military committee reach you? Mrs. Lincoln gave Wycoff the message you saw when they arrested him to make him tell.

Their successes have completely deranged them. All that I am afraid of is that success is so powerful even in the eyes of great men; and so strongly does force impose upon men that I am afraid our friends here will grow lukewarm and forget we are right. I have great hopes of you if McC. will give you fight. "Nous ne brulons que pour bruler les autres. " You ought to see the attitude they are now assuming toward England. After you are subjugated they are going to whip all Europe, send an immense army to Mexico, to Canada and allover the world.

E. P. Bryan is here; was arrested on the 22d. He tells me you are gone with your chief. * * * I have written reams. Cannot you possibly get me an answer? They arrested a woman in men's clothes and brought her here. She will not take them off. She is either a spy for them (for she is a Yankee woman) or it's been done to degrade us and deter every respectable woman from raising her voice in our cause.

[No. 3.] PRIVATE.] OLD CAPITOL PRISON, February 19, 1862.

Colonel B. T. JOHNSON, Present.

MY DEAR COLONEL JOHNSON: * * * "A military necessity" compelled McC. to arrest me two weeks ago. I have written reams. Cannot you possibly get me an answer? They arrested a woman in men's clothes and brought her here. She will not take them off. She is either a spy for them (for she is a Yankee woman) or it's been done to degrade us and deter every respectable woman from raising her voice in our cause.

[Numbers 3.]

PRIVATE.] OLD CAPITOL PRISON, February 19, 1862.

Colonel B. T. JOHNSON, Present.

MY DEAR COLONEL JOHNSON: * * * "A military necessity" compelled McC. to arrest me two weeks ago. I have excellent society, when I get a chance to enjoy it. It's solitary confinement; but trust to my French sagacity for that. Latude, the thirty years' prisoner in the Bastile, you know never saw any one (?). Greenhow enjoys herself amazingly. My friends, or our friends, have supplied me with every comfort. I have no fault to find, but on the whole rather like it-out of the way of scandal! I cannot work so well here as when free. I regret that. Frank kicks against the door. "Let me out, you damn Yankee, you. " * * * Give it to Colonel Jordan. That's a good man, I love him very much. I thought old Bryan was here, but was agreeably disappointed to find it was only his cousin.

I now will write you what I desired to say. George Hanson tells me if you will send a power of attorney to any one your interest at all hazards shall be respected. The Union sentiment is dying out in F. Banks has your house. Also that Miss or Mrs. Robinson is making an effort to sell your house to foreclose a mortgage. You will understand what I mean. I am writing in great haste to give to the sentinel before


he is changed. He will not be on again for a week. You could buy up the whole regiment for $1,000. I am not at all low-spirited. You know I cultivate a cheerful spirit a duty. I often think we are very much alike in some respects.

Our losses in Tennessee and Kentucky is a blow, but they have to fight a long death fight before our brave people are conquered. I am only afraid so powerful is success even in the eyes of superior men, and so strongly does force impose upon men despite the voice of conscience, that our friends here will forget we are right. If you are whipped and taken prisoner you will be brought here. They are making extensive preparations for your accommodation. This piece of paper Mason wrote his name on in my portfolio long time ago, and I have kept it as a souvenir. You know I have only his children to remember him by. Pardon this scrawl, but I write with a stick.

The sentinels, keeper, prisoners and officers are all kind. They only keep me here because they hate to part with me. * * *

Yours, &c.,

A. M.

Please forward the enclosed letter* to Doctor Mason.


Washington, April 1, 1862.

Brigadier General JAMES S. WADSWORTH, &c., Washington.

GENERAL: If they consent you will please convey * * * Mrs. Augsuta Morris, prisoners at present held in the Old Capitol Military Prison in this city, beyond the lines of the U. S. forces into the State of Virginia and release them upon their giving their written parole of honor that they will not return north of the Potomac River during the present hostilities without permission of the Secretary of War.

Very respectfully, yours,




HEADQUARTERS, Fort Monroe, Va., June 2, 1862.

We, the undersigned,+ late prisoners in the Old Capitol at Washington, do pledge our word of honor that in consideration of our being set at liberty beyond the lines of the U. S. Army we will not return north of the Potomac River during the present hostilities without the permission of the Secretary of War of the United States.



*Omitted as unimportant.

+Mrs. Greenhow and Mrs. Baxley also signed this parole and were sent South with Mrs. Morris.