Born in Virginia, Isabella (Belle) was the eldest child of Benjamin Reed and Mary Rebecca (Glenn) Boyd. Despite the fact she was never considered pretty, she was a strong-willed and assertive child, afraid of nothing. Being of the female gender never hindered her. She could race through the forest or climb trees with the most spry of lads. With her mischievous, fun-loving, and strong personality, she clearly dominated all her brothers, sisters, cousins, and friends.
After her husband, Samuel, died, she returned to the United States on November 11, 1869. There she met and married John Swainston Hammond in New Orleans. But their marriage was a bitter, acrimonious one and did not last. The couple divorced in 1884. She soon married Nathaniel Rue High. A year later, she began touring the country giving dramatic lectures of her life as a Civil War spy.