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A Yankee Spy in Richmond: The Civil War Diary of "Crazy Bet" Van Lew

Overview

"A fascinating account of the times and players in an unparalleled drama. Recommended for general readers and Civil Waroholics." -Library Journal Many civilians on both sides during the Civil War hoped to support the war effort as spies, but only a few actually became useful agents. One of the most effective-and least known-was a woman living in the heart of Confederate Richmond. Elizabeth Van Lew, called "Crazy Bet" by her suspicious and condescending neighbors, maintained contact with Union authorities throughout most of the war and earned the
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Overview

"A fascinating account of the times and players in an unparalleled drama. Recommended for general readers and Civil Waroholics." -Library Journal Many civilians on both sides during the Civil War hoped to support the war effort as spies, but only a few actually became useful agents. One of the most effective-and least known-was a woman living in the heart of Confederate Richmond. Elizabeth Van Lew, called "Crazy Bet" by her suspicious and condescending neighbors, maintained contact with Union authorities throughout most of the war and earned the thanks of Gen. U. S. Grant, among others, at the war's end. The secret diary Van Lew kept during those years provides an unparalleled account of the life of a Civil War spy. Her sporadic notations reveal her fears, her triumphs, and the constant danger she faced in sending information through the lines to the Yankees while aiding the escape attempts of Union prisoners in Richmond. David D. Ryan has written seven other books and numerous articles for Civil War publications. He was for 21 years a writer and photographer for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He presently works as a freelance author from his Richmond home.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Skilled editing by Ryan (Cornbread and Maggots, Dietz, 1994) reveals the paranoid world of secret agent Elizabeth Van Lew, who spied for the Union while living in the capital of the Confederacy. Most of her correspondence with generals Butler, Sharpe, Meade, and Grant was destroyed, and her "occasional journal"written "only to be burnt"was stealthily buried and lamentably damaged. But in the pages that remain, her character and courage come shining through. The CIA could learn from her. Rebel Richmond held her in such contempt that relatives of former Union prisoners whom she helped had to pay to have a granite stone laid on her gravesite some years after her death in 1900. This is a fascinating account of the times and players in an unparalleled drama. Recommended for general readers and Civil Waroholics.Lynn Thompson, Iron Cty. Historical Soc., Ironton, Mo.
Roland Green
Most histories of the Civil War at least mention Elizabeth Van Lew. The spinster daughter of a respectable Richmond merchant family, she was firmly Unionist, devoutly antislavery, and an effective Union spy. This volume consists of the surviving portions of the diary she kept during the war and some of her postwar correspondence. Many of the diary passages are more reticent than historians might wish, but that is hardly surprising, considering that, found out, her activities could have sent her to the gallows; indeed, some of her assistants met precisely that fate. Enough of the diary remains to throw new light on Union intelligence operations and the role played by slaves--Van Lew's and others'--in maintaining the espionage network. A modest and unique addition to Civil War studies.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780811705547
  • Publisher: Stackpole Books
  • Publication date: 8/1/1996
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 5.76 (w) x 8.57 (h) x 0.78 (d)

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