At the Sept. 11, 2013, monthly meeting and program of the Ellicottville Historical Society, they were visited by Belle Boyd, a notorious Civil War spy for the Confederate Army. Forty-nine people heard the story of this infamous woman’s life and encounters with the armies of the North and South.
Belle Boyd’s impersonator, Ardyth Van Scoy, dressed in period costume, told Belle’s story in songs and readings.
The program began with Belle entering singing “Shenandoah” accompanied by violinist Tanaka Van Druff, also in period costume. During the program, Van Scoy also sang “Maryland, My Maryland” and “The Bonnie Blue Flag.” She and her accompanist, Tanaka Van Druff, have been friends for 15 years.
“As well as playing violin, Tanaka is an excellent singer and photographer,” said Van Scoy.
Van Scoy made her Civil War period costume with full hoop navy plaid skirt and undergarment, and calico cream and maroon blouse.
Van Scoy has been doing presentations of Belle Boyd for two years.
“I began doing the impersonation of Belle when a friend, who was going to present it at the Smethport Historical Society, couldn’t perform,” she said. “I had one month to prepare for the role, reading a 600-page volume about Belle’s life.” (Belle Boyd, in Camp and Prison; Spies of the Confederacy by John Bakeless.)
“It was difficult to choose what to include because there were so many interesting events in Belle’s life,” Van Scoy said.
Belle Boyd was born to a well-to-do family in Martinsville, Va. (now West Virginia) on May 4, 1844.
Her father was a confederate soldier and at least three others of her family were convicted of being spies for the Confederacy.
Her career as a rebel spy began at the age of 17 when she shot a Yankee soldier for insulting her and her mother. She was not charged.
“Boyd was arrested six or seven times but managed to avoid incarceration until July 1862. She was not a model inmate.” (Civil War Trust)
Van Scoy graduated from Allegany Limestone High School and St. Bonaventure University with a degree in visual arts. During high school, she attended All County Chorus and All State Chorus twice. At SBU, she sang in the choir and in theater productions. She presently sings at weddings and with a local jazz band.
“I spent four years as a ‘stitcher’ (costume maker) for professional regional theater. I would like to continue on with that profession rather than perform as a career,” she said.
“The Civil War, singing and history are my three favorite subjects,” said Van Scoy. “I love to sing for fun but not a career.”