"I employed every capacity with which God has endowed me,
and the result was far more successful than my hopes
could have flattered me to expect."

- Rose O'Neal Greenhow -

Maria Rosatta O'Neale 1814-1864

A Brief History of Her Life

There are many volumes written about "Rebel Rose" O'Neale Greenhow, Confederate Spy, between the years 1860 and 1864. The years of her life between her birth and 1860 are pretty vague and sometimes quite erroneous. One source said she was born with a silver spoon in the mouth, while yet another said she was a social climber from a poverty stricken background, who pretty much slept her way into Washington society. Because of the disparity in the various reports I decided to do some research and try to present a more factual version of her early life and ancestry.

Her Neale Lineage

G-G-G-Grandfather, Captain James NEALE was born Abt 1614, and died 1684 in St. Mary's county, Maryland.. He married Anna Maria GILL.

G-G_Grandfather, Anthony NEALE  was born 1659 in Spain, and died 1723 in Charles County, Maryland. He married Elizabeth ROSWELL Jul 1682 in Charles County, Maryland, daughter of William ROSWELL and Emma LANGWORTH. She was born Abt 1664. He married Elizabeth DIGGES 1702 in Charles County, Maryland, daughter of William DIGGES and Elizabeth SEWELL. She was born Abt 1680, and died 1723. She was Charles' Mother.
G-Grandfather, Charles NEALE  was born 1705. He married Mary SMITH, daughter of Colonel Walter SMITH and Rachel HALL.

Grandmother, Henrietta NEALE died 29 Jun 1835 in Poolesville, Maryland. She married Laurence O'NEALE, son of William O'NEALE and Eleanor BALL.

Father, John O' NEALE was born ABT. 1770, and died 8 OCT 1814 in Maryland. He married Eliza Henrietta HAMILTON.

Her O'Neale Lineage

G-G-Grandfather, John (OWNEILL) O'Neale  was born ABT. 1670 and died 1747 in St. Mary's Co. MD. He married Unknown LEMAIRE ABT. 1689 in Calvert Co. MD.

G-Grandfather, William O'NEALE was born ABT. 1695 in Frederick Co. MD, and died DEC 1759 in Fredrick Co. MD.  He married Eleanor BALL ABT. 1718 in Fredrick Co. MD.

Grandfather, Laurence O'NEALE was born ABT. 1733 in Fredrick Co. MD. He married Henrietta (Neale) NEILL.

Father, John O' NEALE was born ABT. 1770, and died 8 OCT 1814 in Maryland. He married Eliza Henrietta HAMILTON.

As you can see above, Rose's Father, John O'Neale was the son of Laurence O'Neale, a wealthy land speculator and politician, who at the time of his death, owned 18 slaves and over 3,000 acres of land in Maryland. John was born about 1785 in Frederick County, Maryland and married Eliza Henrietta Hamilton on January 1st, 1810. John, it was said, was quite a character, a "great fascinator of women," who indulged in all the lusty pleasures of his day, including fox hunting, horse racing, cockfighting and the lavish hospitality of the manorial region. Rosatta Maria O'Neale was the middle or third child born to John and Eliza in 1814. When Rose was 3 years old her father was killed by his negro man servant, Jacob, who was subsequently hanged for the foul deed. This event set the stage for all that would come in Rose's triumphant and tragically short life.

Background Information

The first O’Neale to live in what was to become Montgomery County was William O’Neale who patented a 100 acre tract of land called "The Wheel of Fortune" in October 1747, this tract was southeast of the present city of Rockville*.
William and his wife Eleanor Ball had a large family. One of their sons, Lawrence...... O'Neale and his wife Henrietta Neill (Neale) had four children, Henry, John, Mary Ann, and Eleanor. Before 1800, the family probably lived on a tract of land called "Token of Love" near William O'Neale's property. By 1809, they were living in the Poolesville area**.
Source: ROSE O’NEALE GREENHOW, CONFEDERATE SPY By Mary Charlotte Crook, who got her info from Jane Sween, Montgomery County Historical Society and Librarian, Sween Library, Rockville, Montgomery County, Maryland.
*Confirmed in Maryland Land Records, Book BT & BY 3, p. 174, Montgomery County, Maryland.
** Deed-4/1/1809-Montgomery County, Maryland. Laurence O'Neale purchased 89 acres w/ plantation, Aix-La-Chapelle from John Poole, Jr.
(Poolesville named after this family)

To find out what happened to Eliza Henrietta Hamilton O'Neale and her children, we need to take a close look at this family. First, I think we have bad ages for John & Henry and Eliza Hamilton. The dates we currently have were handed down through various genealogists and have not been confirmed with documentation, so I think we can change their birthrates to reflect what we've found in the census records below. If we change John & Henry's b'dates to abt 1783 instead of 1770, the
census records below make sense.


The 1790 Montgomery County, Maryland Census shows
males > 16=1, (Lawrence)
males < 16=2, (John & Henry)
Females =6, Henrietta, Mary Ann, Eleanor, Laurence's mother, Eleanor Ball O'Neale, who never remarried, and his 2 spinster sisters Mary Ann and Eleanor.
Slaves =20
Source: Census_Year 1790 - Microfilm # M637-3 - State MD County Montgomery

Census records above shows that in 1790 Laurence O'Neale and Henrietta Neale O'Neale still had their 2 sons, Henry and John living at home with them, as well as their 2 daughters and 3 other females. (I believe the other 3 females were Laurence's mother, Eleanor Ball O'Neale, who never remarried, and his 2 spinster
sisters Mary Ann and Eleanor.)


Census records for Lawrence O'Neale in 1800 shows:
males > 45=1, (Lawrence)
females 10-16=1 (Eleanor)
females 16-26=1 (Mary Ann)
females > 45=1 (Henrietta)
Slaves = 28
Source: Census Year: 1800 State: Maryland County: Montgomery Reel no: M32-11 Division: Second District

Census records for Henry O'Neale in 1800 shows:
males 16-18=1, (Henry)
males > 45=1, (Enoch Joy*)
females 26-45=1, (Cousin Ann O'Neale Joy*)
Slaves = 7
Source: Census Year: 1800 State: Maryland County: Montgomery Reel no: M32-11 Division: Second District

By 1800, Laurence's mother would have been dead.

Henry had set up his own household. *In 1817 when Henry died he left inheritance to his Cousin, Ann, who according to his will, was living with him. This leads me to believe that the two older folks living in his household in 1800 were the soon to be deceased, Enoch Joy and his wife, also Henry's cousin, Ann O'Neale Joy.

John was abt 17 years old in 1800 and does not show up in the Montgomery or Prince George's County Census. We may never know where he was at this time. In 1800 John had O'Neale relations throughout Maryland, in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and the Ohio Territory.

In 1809 Laurence and Henrietta left their home near Rockville and moved to the cottage "Aix La Chapelle" in Poolesville.


1810 Montgomery County Census:  Lawrence Oneal:
males 26-44=1, Unknown
45+=1; This was Laurence O'Neale
females 16-25=2, This would be Eleanor and Mary O'Neale, spinsters.
45+=1; This was Henrietta Maria Neale O'Neale

In 1810, Lawrence and Henrietta O'Neale were living at their new home, Aix La Chapelle" in Poolesville with their 2 spinster daughters and an unknown  middle aged male. The older woman, believed to be Eleanor Ball was deceased by 1810.

In January, 1810 John O'Neale shows up in Prince George's County, marrying Eliza Henrietta Hamilton. Later that year he shows up on the Montgomery County Census, along with his new wife, Henrietta Hamilton Neale O'Neale and their first daughter, Susannah.

O'Neale. Jn Oneal of Law,
male16-25=1; (John O'Neale)
female 16-25=1; (Henrietta Hamilton Neale O'Neale)
all other free persons=1; (Susannah)

John and Eliza either moved into his parents ancestral home, recently vacated by Laurence & Henrietta, or built his own home on Conclusion, I don't know which. The fact that John shows up in the 1810 census combined with the numerous properties he accumulated in Montgomery county, and the fact that his fifth daughter shows up being born in 1816 in St Peter's Church records strongly suggests that all of John's children were actually born in Montgomery County.
Note: St Mary's Church did not begin keeping records until the end of 1815, explaining why they had no records for John's children before 1815.


In 1820 Laurence O'Neale was deceased, leaving Henrietta at "Aix La Chapelle" in Poolesville.
In 1820 Henry O'Neale was deceased, leaving no issue.
In 1820 John O'Neale was deceased.
His remaining family members ages were:
Relationship Name        Birth       1820
Widow       Eliza H   1785-1790      30-35
Daughter    Susannah    1810          10
Daughter    Eleanor     1812           8
Daughter    Rose        1814           6
Daughter    Mary Ann    1816           4
Daughter    J. Eli      1817           3

In John's will, he left instructions for his children's care. He mentioned Francis Jamison as guardian if his wife remarried. He named Richard Lyles as their guardian if Eliza did not remarry. Eliza refused to administer John's will and named Solomon Davis as executor. Census records indicate that Eliza and the girls were not with Sol Davis in 1820 or with Richard Lyles. Francis Jamison was deceased, so they weren't with him. They weren't with Henry because he was also deceased.
Eliza was not at their home in 1820 or she would have shown up as head of household in the 1820 census. This means that Eliza and the children were living in another household.

In 1820 Lawrence O'neale is deceased and his wife Henrietta is still living in the cottage at Poolesville. The 2 spinster sisters of Lawrence are also deceased. The middle aged male that was living there in 1810 is also gone. This means Henrietta should have been alone in the house.

Instead, we find Henrietta in 1820 living with a 16-26 year old woman and 3 girls under 10 years of age. Could this be Eliza and 3 of her daughters? I think it was. But then in order for this to work we need to find the other two daughters.

1820 Montgomery County Census, Election District 2:
Henrietta Neale O'Neale - (Widow of Laurence O'Neale, deceased in 1811)
<10yrs=3,        This could have been 3 of J. O'Neale's daughters
16-26yrs=3,      This could be Eliza H, John's widow.
45yrs + =1;      This is Henrietta Neale O'Neale

Slaves, males: <14yrs=10, 14-26yrs=2,26-45yrs+ =2;
Slaves, females:  <14yrs=8, 14-26yrs=4, 26-45yrs=1, 45yrs+=3.

In the 1820 Census of Prince George's County we find Susannah Blandford Hamilton living in the home of the deceased Francis Hamilton. Their children were all adults at this time. There appears to be one of their daughters still living at home in 1820. In addition there are two girls under ten years of age living with Susannah. These were most likely the other 2 daughters of John and Eliza.

1820 Census of Prince George County, Maryland
Francis & Susannah  Blandford Hamilton
Of  Prince George County, Maryland.

under 10=2 Possibly some of John O'Neale's children
16-26=1    This was Francis & Susannah Blandford Hamilton's daughter b abt 1800. their son was moved out
45+=1      This is the widow Susannah Blandford Hamilton
In 1820 Francis was deceased. (Died 1819 Acc to Will)

Now think back to Wooten saying that John & Eliza had only 3 daughters. Of course, if they had 2 additional daughters living in Port Tobacco with Susannah Blandford Hamilton, Wooten probably would not have known that.

He also said the girls traveled back & forth to DC quite often. They were traveling back & forth to Aunt Maria's house in DC. They were meeting in the middle. Why travel clear to Port Tobacco to visit? Census records confirm that Henry V and Maria Hamilton Hill resided in DC in 1820. According to the newspaper article announcing their marriage Henry already lived in DC in 1816 when they married.

Ishbell Ross also says that the family was broken up and she claims they moved from Port Tobacco to Poolesville. I think she got the story slightly mixed up. They moved from Port Tobacco to Montgomery County before their daughters were born, not after John died. These records show that John & Eliza were indeed married in Port Tobacco, Prince George's County. Then they moved to Montgomery County and bore a family of five daughters, all born in Montgomery County. After John died, the daughters were split up, some residing with their paternal grandmother in Poolesville and some residing in Port Tobacco with their maternal grandmother.

Once the Hills began running the Old Capitol Boardinghouse about 1825 or after the sisters would meet there. As the girls became of sufficient age they probably were offered jobs as staff at the boardinghouse and remained there until they married. I get the feeling that they didn't move there to live as a group, but just sort of migrated there one by one. As older daughters moved to DC I think the younger girls probably took their place in Montgomery County. This would explain why the two youngest daughters married Montgomery County men.

As was often the case in those bygone days, when tradgedy struck a family, relatives were there to help out and as a result Rose and her sister Ellen eventally went to live with Eliza's sister, Mary Hamilton and her husband, Mr. H. V. Hill. Mary Hill ran the fashionable Capitol Hill Boardinghouse in Washinton, D.C. This building, now on the site occupied by the Supreme Court, was constructed as a temporary home for Congress after the original Capitol was burned during the War of 1812.

As a boardinghouse, it was a social gathering place for the political elite, and any politician and/or visiting statesman worth his salt would visit the boardinghouse for dining and entertainment. Mrs. Hill kept her nieces busy, but on display. They attended classes. They were schooled in social graces. They went to parties, carefully chaperoned. She steered them through all the mud and excitement of the Jackson Pre Civil War era. During her stay here Rose met and developed strong friendships with many a notable statesman of the time, including John Calhoun, Andrew Jackson and James Madison. Her schooling, taught at home by her mother and aunt was strict and disciplined and judging by her later accomplishments in life, quite effective.

Years later, after the Old Capitol was converted to a prison during the Civil War, Rose would reside there again--this time as one of the Union's more celebrated captives.

Ellen Elizabeth O'Neale married James Madison Cutts in 1833. They honeymooned in Montpelier. Ellen was known as "My Pet" to First Lady Dolly Madison. Dolly also called Ellen's son "Little Madison" and was seen with him at many functions of state and receptions around Washington DC.

In 1834 Dolly Madison and Ellen introduced Rose to Robert Greenhow, a prominent and promising young politico and encouraged them to marry. Robert was a grandson of John Greenhow, an English Settler, who was Mayor of Williamsburg in 1805 and Mayor of Richmond in 1813.

Robert and Rose were married in 1835.

With her charm, intellect and ambition, as well as through her husband, Robert, by now a State Department official, Rose came to know virtually everyone of importance in Washington. Daniel Webster and President James Buchanan were among her many friends and intimates. No one was closer, however, than John C. Calhoun, the powerful statesman from South Carolina who variously served as senator, secretary of state and vice president. As one of the great intellectual progenitors of the Southern Confederacy, he won Rose's eternal admiration and devotion.

As an adult Rose boasted of having Revolutionary blood in her veins. To prove it she traced her Family tree back to a Roman Catholic Colonist who landed on the Western Shore in 1634. (Captain James Neal?)

The family name was spelled O'Neale at the time of Rose's birth, but the family dropped the e in her early years. (Our research on other O'Neale lines confirms this. Our John O'Neale, born in 1715-1719 had 12 children who also dropped the e, although a generation earlier.) (Wonder why?)

Rose & Robert went to Mexico City in 1850. Robert was in ill health. In 1851 they had moved to San Fransisco, California. Robert's Law Office was on 145 Montgomery Street. Their home was on 8 & 9 Montgomery Block. This was during the gold rush. There were lots of '49'ers there.

In Feb; 1854 Rose had gone back to Wash. for a visit and to deliver Rose. Robert remained in San Francisco and was walking down the street on a plank sidewalk. He slipped off a plank and fell six feet down an embankment to the street below, hurting his leg. Within days his leg became paralyzed and six weeks after the fall he died. He did not tell Rose about his injury because he did not want her making the trip to back to San Francisco so soon after childbirth, and because he didn't think his injury was that serious. His obit is in the Daily Alta California. At this time Rose was a baby, Leila a schoolgirl, Gertrude deep in the teen years and Florence a young belle.

Gertrude died in Mid March, 1861.

1862 Florence and husband Moore moved from California to Utah.

Right after the Battle of Bull Run, Rose sent Leila to Utah to live with sister, Florence on her promise that she be given a quality education.

Aug 24, 1863 Florence was in London. She met Rose and they took Little Rose to the Sacred Hearts Convent to enroll her. Rose O'Neale Greenhow's SignatureRose developed into a handsome girl at the convent and left it at the age of 17. American friends took her home to America and the Moores. There Rose fell in love with and married a young West Pointer, Lt William Penn Duvall. Duvall would enjoy a distinguished military career, serving in the Spanish-American War, in the Philippines and the First World War, summing up his illustrious career as a General with many decorations and honors.
                         Signature of Rose O'Neal Greenhow
Rose O'Neal GreenhowPapers - Letter to Francis Corbin, June 9, 1860 Washington, D.C.
From Rose Greenhow to Francis Corbin. Letter of introduction for the Rev Bishop Kipp,
who was the Episcopal Bishop of California. Special Collections Library, Duke University

On the down side he was a severe disciplinarian, both in and out of the army and as a result he and Rose ultimately divorced after much marital discord. After the divorce Rose appeared on the stage for a time, following which she returned to France, became deeply religious and retired from public view.


REBEL ROSE, LIFE OF ROSE O'NEAL GREENHOW, CONFEDERATE SPY, by Ishbell Ross, Harper& Brothers Publishers, New York, 1954

Published in:London by Richard Bentley, Publisher in Ordinary to Her Majesty, 1863. Printed in London by  Spottiswoode & Company.

ROSE O’NEALE GREENHOW, CONFEDERATE SPY, By Mary Charlotte Crook, written for the Montgomery County Historical Society Nwsletter, the Montgomery County Story, Volume 32, Issue No. 2, Published in Montgomery County, Maryland, May 1989.


This article was researched by THE O'NEAL GENEALOGY ASSOCIATION Members Bev Crowe and John W. O'Neal, II.

Supporting Documentation:

Jane Sween Library, Rockville, Montgomery County, Maryland. (Births, Deaths, Wills, Land Deeds, Plats, etc.)
Maryland On-Line Archives (Chancery Records, Court Documents.)
Ancestry. com (Census Images.)

Last Update: 12/28/2002, John W. O'Neal, II