Saturday, May 23, 2015

Southern Lady, Yankee Spy - Elizabeth R. Varon

This well researched book's subtitle tells it all: The True Story of Elizabeth Van Lew, A Union Agent in the Heart of the Confederacy. I picked this book up at a Civil War historical site's gift shop, as I love stories about spying, particularly how people did it in bygone eras when there was no "technology" that we take for granted today. I grew up in the North of the U.S., where the Civil War is just something you hear about in school a couple times over 12 years (as opposed to something discussed daily as if it were still an ongoing occurrence, as it apparently is in some places in the South), so I was not familiar with Civil War-era spy craft in general or Ms. Van Lew in particular. I'm glad that I have learned about her now, as her story encompasses a lot of the issues that continue to appear today: civil rights, racism, women's rights, politics becoming too personal. Elizabeth Van Lew was a truly brave person, who risked her life and livelihood because she felt so strongly about her loyalty to the Union. I'm surprised she is so little known today - but maybe that's my Yankee bias showing, she may (ironically) be more well known in the South. In any case, her story deserves a much wider audience, and I recommend this well done book as a good source.

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