Scouts and Spies of the Civil War

By William Gilmore Beymer; Howard Pyle | Go to book overview
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Miss Van Lew

On a bronze tablet set in the face of a great gray stone in the Shockhoe Hill Cemetery of Richmond, Virginia, there is carved the inscription:

Elizabeth L. Van Lew.

1818.

1900. She risked everything that is dear to man—friends, fortune, comfort, health, life itself, all for the one absorbing
desire of her heart—that slavery might be abolished and
the Union preserved.

This Boulder

from the Capitol Hill in Boston is a tribute from Massachusetts friends.

Miss Van Lew, a Richmond woman, was a spy for the Federal government—the most important spy of the Rebellion, inasmuch as her work merited General Grant's tribute, “You have sent me the most valuable information received from Richmond during the war.” For four long years, without respite, she faced death to obtain that information; day after day suspected, spied upon, threatened, persecuted, she worked with a courage far higher than the excitement-mad valor of battle-fields.

The greater part of the military information received from Richmond by the Army of the Potomac was collected and transmitted by Miss Van Lew. She established five secret stations for forwarding her cipher despatches—a chain of relay points whose farther end was the

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