The mercurial Jones, variously known as Annie, Emma, or Major (due to her fondness for wearing major’s stripes), was arrested several times for attempting to cross Confederate pickets. But what catapulted her to notoriety was her time in the camp of a flamboyant young Brigadier General: George Armstrong Custer.
Custer was serving in Virginia, under the command of General Judson Kilpatrick. The two Yankees were often at odds, and Jones played on the rivalry.
“General Kilpatrick became very jealous of Gen. Custer’s attentions to me,” she wrote, “and went to General Meade’s headquarters and charged me with being a Rebel spy.”
Although Custer denied consorting with Jones, and Jones denied passing secrets, the War Department took a dim view of her admission of “repeatedly passing… into Rebel lines.”
She was arrested and sent home for incarceration, where she once again beguiled male officials. When Massachusetts Governor John Andrew, in May 1864, consigned Jones to the Barnstable County Jail, the New York Evening Post reported it as sentencing her “to stop during the summer” in Barnstable.
Further, Barnstable jail-keeper Albert Easterbrooks allowed Jones to stay in a nearby rooming house, declaring the prison’s facilities inadequate for women.
According to the website CapeCodConfidential.com, Jones “had the run of the village, and was frequently seen shopping and sampling the local eateries.” Within several months, a New York congressman had mysteriously won her release. As he personally whisked the femme fatale off-Cape, yet another admirer—a Barnstable Patriot reporter—effused, “The pretty rebel spy, an intelligent young lady of only 20 years, left the village for Boston last Wednesday…We congratulate Miss Jones on regaining her liberty after a long and weary persecution…We should think Presdent Lincoln and [War] Secretary Stanton would feel ashamed!”
Diane Speare Triant is a summer resident of West Hyannisport. For further reading, she recommends Cape Cod and the Civil War: The Raised Right Arm, by Stauffer Miller, and A Yankee at Arms: The Diary of Lieutenant Augustus D. Ayling, edited by Charles F. Herberger.
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