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NSA of USA vs. CSA

This is a story not unlike the NSA today, but dates back to the Civil War. Scottish born Alan Pinkerton’s name is synonymous with private policing. He founded the Pinkerton National Detective Agency in 1850 and the company is still in operation as Securitas AB. Pinkerton’s business trademark was a wide open eye with the motto “We never sleep.”

When Pinkerton assigned himself the mission of ascertaining the strength of Memphis’ defenses, he disguised himself as a rich Southern gentleman about town who wined and dined local commander, General Pillow. Over bottles of burgundy, Pillow divulged the size of his regiment, the location of breastworks, even the names of his underground contacts from Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Confederate States.

For more of his thrilling exploits go here. Or read the book that gives first-hand accounts. Using the pseudonym of Major E. J. Allen, Pinkerton headed an espionage organization that fed information about the Confederate Army to Major General George B. McClellan. The Spy of the Rebellion, originally published in 1883, is a story replete with “narrow escapes, violent episodes, nefarious schemes, and candid conversations with the most famous and powerful people of the time.” Pinkerton, whose agency went on to somewhat infamous anti-union/labor policing, discusses the villainous Secretary of war Edwin Stanton, the notorious Rebel spy Mrs. Rose Greenhow and countless others. The visual excerpts below are from an original publisher’s “dummy” used to sell the book to dealers.

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