Elizabeth Van Lew -Abolitionist, Union Spy, Postmaster of Richmond!

NH Civil War Gal

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Feb 5, 2017

I wish I lived close enough to attend these things!

She was inducted into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame for her work during the Civil War. Richmond society hated her. She discovered Confederate secrets. Her information influenced General Grant’s decisions during the Overland Campaign. She helped create a spy ring and underground Unionist network that operated in the heart of the Confederate capital and even infiltrated the southern White House.

Meet Elizabeth Van Lew.

Born in 1818 and educated at a Quaker school in the north, Van Lew embraced the abolitionist cause – created a unique conflict since she spent most of her life in Richmond, Virginia – one of the slave trading capitals. At certain times, she may have purchased slaves to free them or at least freed and supported her own family’s slaves, pre-war acts that her neighbors did not appreciate.

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JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Feb 14, 2012
Central Pennsylvania
Ah. Don't get me started on Van Lew. It'll get tedious in a big hurry. Had no clue who she was for ever and ever- JPK's brother died in her home so began poking around. " The most hated woman in Richmond " was a lady of great compassion, beyond her work in the war. She didn't just visit Union prisoners as an extension of her spying activities- she aided them. Visiting Ligon's tobacco warehouse prison, she came across my uncle nearly dead of typhoid, talked the warden into allowing her to take him home. He got better then died anyway. His widow invited her to visit post war.

She must have been an incredible woman. And was not crazy or spent time behaving that way- that whole thing was revenge for remaining loyal to the Union.

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