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African American Civil War Democracy Diversity We are Achievers We are Overcomers Women

Elizabeth Van Lew’s Spy Ring

AE Curator Jul 16
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Elizabeth Van Lew, an abolitionist from a slaveholding family, evolved from Union sympathizer to master spy. She relayed information about Confederate operations to Union generals and assisted in caring for Union prisoners of war in Richmond, maybe even helping some escape. She was a master in the use of invisible ink and coded messages. Following the war, President Grant rewarded Van Lew by naming her Richmond’s postmaster. She was treated like a pariah by the white citizens of Richmond, who resented her aiding the Union cause. A decade after her death, the city purchased and demolished her home.

Location: Richmond
Image: Library of Virginia

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