The Female Scouts

Serving on the Homefront: Elizabeth White, the Ball Sisters, and Annie Hempstone

Elizabeth White was the wife of Col. Elijah White who commanded the Confederate “White’s Battalion.” Bettie Ball and her sister, Miss Kate E. Ball, along with Miss Annie M. Hempstone were young women from Loudoun County. To support their cause, they decided to cross the Potomac River at White’s Ford on the morning of July 5th, 1864, with the purpose in mind of collecting cloth and boots in Maryland and transporting it back to Virginia for use by the Confederate Army. At the time they crossed the river, the pickets had been withdrawn and the crossing was easy. The next day, they collected their goods, tied the cavalry boots to their hoop skirts, and wound the cloth and calico in and out until they were burdened with the weight. Unfortunately, the guards had returned to the ford, making a crossing impossible. They returned to Dickerson, Maryland where they spent the previous night, hung the procured articles in the house walls. White was arrested by the Union Army and the next day, the others were as well. They were transported to Old Capitol Prison in Washington, where they were confined on charges of being spies and were threatened with hanging. Since no evidence of spying could be found, they were paroled and given a pass after three weeks. They traveled back to Dickerson, picked up their goods, hung them under their hoop skirts and proceeded to Edwards Ferry which was deemed the safest place to cross the Potomac. They crossed the river in a skiff and Annie Hempstone was obliged to stand because of the heavy load of boots dangling from the inside of her hoop skirt. They reached home safely. A few days later, Col. White’s Battalion heard of their return and visited the young women. There they distributed the supplies they collected.