Civil War Spy Craft

Did you know the Civil War was a boom time for developing spy craft?  Both sides of the war were trying to gain an edge by creating new technologies that could help them spy on the other side. 

Which do you think were real efforts and which are from the movies?

  • Manned helium-filled balloons to observe the battlefield from the sky (Geospatial Intelligence, aka GEOINT)
  • Tapping of telegraph wires to gather information
  • Underwater telegraph cables
  • Invisible ink
  • Plaster logs to hide explosives
  • Bird cam (small camera strapped to a bird for overhead surveillance
  • Sending telegraph messages to field units on hilltops who used flags and torches to send signals to the army
  • Use of ciphers for telegrams
  • Use of slaves and runaway slaves to gather and pass along intelligence to Union officers


Civil War generals