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Spy, Civil War~ Free, Mary Elizabeth Bowser, posed as slave

  • Broadcast in Culture
Gist of Freedom

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A Real Memorial Day Treat on The Gist of Freedom! Listen to actress, Eileen Miller, as she reenacts the story of Mary Elizabeth Bowser, a freed slave who courageously posed as a slave and stole the Confederates' War plans while working in the Confederate White House. 

Black abolitionist female spy, Mary Elizabeth Bowser. When it comes to espionage, Mary Elizabeth Bowser has to be considered one of the best spies our country has ever had. Her activities during the Civil War helped the Union Army and was a key reason for the fall of Richmond. In 1995 she was inducted into the National Military Intellegence Hall of Fame. Noting Mary went to a Quaker school for Negros in Philedelphia for schooling.
Having the same abolistionist leanings as Van Lew, with her help, Mary was able to secure a position in the home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. There, she took on the persona of Ellen Bond, an ignorant, somewhat slow-witted servant to Varina Davis, the wife of Davis. In her position as an illiterate house servant, she had access to pertinent troops movements, prisoner lists, strategies and treasury deposits. This information she passed to 'spymaster' Van Lew, who in turn got the information to the Union lines.