The Blue & the Gray
The Gray: Eugenia Levy Phillips
Legendary Spy (1819-1902)
Born in Charleston, South Carolina, Eugenia Levy married Philip Phillips, a Jewish lawyer, in 1836. The family moved to Washington in 1853, when Phillips was elected to Congress from Alabama.
After serving one term in Congress, Phillips established a law practice in Washington. He pledged support to the Union. Eugenia was an outspoken supporter of the Confederacy and was suspected of being part of a spy ring run by Rose O’Neal Greenhow. Her support for the Confederacy was so strong that she became known as “a fire-eating secessionist in skirts.”
Arrested in Washington
In August 1861, officials arrested Eugenia and two of her daughters. They were held under house arrest at Rose Greenhow’s home, just a few doors from the White House. Eugenia kept a journal during her house arrest.
Former Congressman Phillips eventually secured his family’s release on the condition that they head south. The family traveled to Richmond, Virginia. There, Eugenia delivered Union military maps and plans that she had smuggled out of Washington to Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Imprisonment in Louisiana
In 1862, the Phillips family moved to New Orleans. Major General Benjamin “Beast” Butler accused Eugenia of laughing during a Union officer’s funeral and teaching her children to spit on Union officers. He banished her to the mosquito-infested Ship Island 65 miles from New Orleans. Eugenia responded: “It has one advantage over the city, sir; you [Butler] will not be there.”
Eugenia served 3½ months before returning to New Orleans, where cheering admirers greeted her.