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Elizabeth Van Lew

In: Historical Events

Submitted By mcanary
Words 3337
Pages 14
Elizabeth van Lew
9 July 2012

Examining her background, Elizabeth van Lew should have been among her Virginian sisters supporting the Confederate Stars and Bars, mending clothes for the boys in grey, and tending to the wounded of the South. Instead, in Civil War Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy, Miss van Lew came to be one of the most committed spies for the cause of the Union. Her professionalism as an agent of espionage grew as the war waged on, perfecting her skills in tradecraft and deception. Without formal instruction, Miss van Lew became a master handler of both the sources and Federal Agents within her spy ring. Even though Southern authorities noticed indicators of her work, they where never able to stop the line of information she compromised to aid the Union’s struggle to reunite the country. Miss van Lew’s work during the war gave her the courage to raise the first Union flag in Richmond a full hour before General Grant took the city on 3 April 1865. Miss van Lew belonged to a prominent Richmond family. Her family home stood on one of Richmond’s highest hills, Church Hill, and was an impressive three stories tall. The home was located across from the church in which Patrick Henry called for liberty or death. Elizabeth’s father was a wealthy hardware vendor and was known among pre-war Richmond society. Elizabeth attended schooling in her mother’s hometown of Philadelphia. She was tutored and given the best of academic and social training. It was here that she became an ardent abolitionist. Even though her abolitionist beliefs were strong, she maintained she was a loyal Southerner holding to an old Virginia tradition of opposition to human bondage. She stated she was the loyal one and her fellow Virginians were the traitors. As the war began, Miss van Lew became a freak in Richmond, a woman whose existence was a protest against...

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