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 Emeline Pigott

A Fascinating Confederate Spy

By John T. Marck

Throughout the Civil War, many of the spies were slaves who were desperate for the North to win, and thus secure their freedom. These slaves, both men and women, risked their lives passing information on to the Union army. In addition to the slaves, there was also a great deal of spying being done by well-to-do white women. Women spying for either the North or the South used their large hoop skirts to hide weapons, secret documents and other contraband, as well as other means.

Emeline Pigott was another interesting Confederate spy. She was born and raised in Harlowe Township in Carteret County, North Carolina. Spending her youth here; she, at the age of twenty-five, moved with her family to Crab Point, on the North Carolina coast. On the farm where they lived, was a creek, and just on the opposite side from her home were stationed the Confederate 26th North Carolina Division, whose duty was to defend the coastline. Here she helped the sick and wounded, and at times even nursed soldiers back to health in her home. She collected mail from the soldiers, and also would take food, medical supplies and clothing and leave these items in hollow trees designated for this purpose to be later picked up by the Rebels. This activity took her to three counties, assisting all Confederates in these areas.

As time went on, these helpful activities led her to also include intelligence. She would entertain Union soldiers, during which she would gather critical information. Wearing a hoop skirt she would sometimes carry as much as thirty pounds of supplies and intelligence information. In 1862 the 26th North Carolina left for Virginia, but Pigott stayed behind and continued her activities in New Bern, North Carolina. When the Yankees occupied the area, she moved to Kinston then Concord, North Carolina. In these areas she again tended to the wounded and continued her spying.

When she returned to her home, she found the Yankees had occupied the entire area. In 1865 she and her brother-in-law, Rufus Bell were suspected of spying. One day, while conducting their normal activities, they were arrested and jailed. Before she was searched, Emeline ate some incriminating information and tore up others, but much information was located hidden in her hoop skirt. She was then sent to New Bern where she was imprisoned in a residence. In her trial she was convicted and sentenced to death. A short time later she was mysteriously released. Following the war Pigott would sit for hours and tell others about her adventures during the war. She died in 1916, but never revealed to anyone the reason she came to be released from prison.

Copyright 1993-2022 by John T. Marck. All Rights Reserved. This article and their accompanying pictures, photographs, and line art, may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author.