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Black Abolitionists Book- John Brown Raid & Civil War

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Gist of Freedom

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Mary, Free, Educated & A Spy! Disguise... Confederate White House Slave

Mary was the best as she was working right in The Confederate President's home.  She had a photographic mind. Everything Mary saw on the Rebel President’s desk she could repeat word for word. 

“Ellen Bond” was neither dim-witted, illiterate, nor a slave. In reality she was a free, well educated African American woman by the name of Mary Elizabeth Bowser. And she was a Union spy working right under Confederate President Jefferson Davis’s nose.

For months during the most crucial period of the Civil War, as General Ulysses S. Grant maneuvered to capture Richmond, the Confederate capital, Mary supplied critical military intelligence to the Union army. In recognition of her contributions to the Union war effort, she was inducted into the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Hall of Fame in 1995.


Elizabeth was able to arrange for a friend to take Mary with her as a servant to help at social functions held by Varina Davis in the Confederate White House. Mary performed her servant role so well she was eventually taken on full time as, presumably, a slave hired out by her master.