The Spymistress: A Novel
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New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Chiaverini is back with another enthralling historical novel set during the Civil War era, this time inspired by the life of “a true Union woman as true as steel” who risked everything by caring for Union prisoners of war — and stealing Confederate secrets.
Born to slave-holding aristocracy in Richmond, Virginia, and educated by Northern Quakers, Elizabeth Van Lew was a paradox of her time. When her native state seceded in April 1861, Van Lew’s convictions compelled her to defy the new Confederate regime. Pledging her loyalty to the Lincoln White House, her courage would never waver, even as her wartime actions threatened not only her reputation, but also her life.
Van Lew’s skills in gathering military intelligence were unparalleled. She helped to construct the Richmond Underground and orchestrated escapes from the infamous Confederate Libby Prison under the guise of humanitarian aid. Her spy ring’s reach was vast, from clerks in the Confederate War and Navy Departments to the very home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Although Van Lew was inducted posthumously into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame, the astonishing scope of her achievements has never been widely known. In Chiaverini’s riveting tale of high-stakes espionage, a great heroine of the Civil War finally gets her due.
upon in my work. Of the many resources I consulted, the following proved especially instructive: George W. Bagby, Selections from the Miscellaneous Writings of Dr. George W. Bagby, Volume 1 (Richmond, VA: Whittet & Shepperson, 1884); John Minor Botts, The Great Rebellion: Its Secret History, Rise, Progress, and Disastrous Failure (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1866); Sallie A. Brock, Richmond During the War: Four Years of Personal Observation (New York: G. W. Carleton & Co., 1867); Benjamin F.
whirled about to find Nelson sitting on his heels tending the oleander, and despite everything, it occurred to her that she ought to chide him for working on his day off. “How can you be so sure?” “I got a nephew works on one of them pole barges.” Stiffly, Nelson straightened with a grunt, brushed soil from his palms, and joined Lizzie at the edge of the terrace. “Spoke with him after worship, soon as we all heard the warning. I’ll tell you what he told me and you make up your own mind. City
Emerson’s The Conduct of Life. “Why leave home and come so far?” The young fellow exchanged a look of surprise with his partner before answering, “Why, we come to protect Virginia, Ma’am.” “Why?” Lizzie was genuinely curious. “Protect Virginia from what?” “From them Yankees, Ma’am,” the other soldier replied. Freckled and dark-haired, he seemed little older than the young volunteer drummer boys, and for a moment Lizzie wondered if he had wandered into the wrong part of the camp. “Mr. Lincoln
which had become cherished relics. As August drew to a close, Mrs. Greenhow, her young daughter, and a few other women accused of corresponding with the enemy remained under house arrest in her Washington mansion, which soon became known as The House of Detention for Female Rebels or Fort Greenhow. There they awaited their unknown fate. While newspapers across the South lauded their loyal daughter of the Confederacy for her courageous devotion and denounced the Yankees for treating a woman so
the thought that Fanny would be bereft of her husband again, or that his recovery would be cast into jeopardy. General Winder shot Lizzie a dark look, silencing her, and he gestured for Mr. Ely to draw another lot. “Major Paul Joseph Revere.” Lizzie’s heart sank. Major Revere of the Twentieth Massachusetts was not only the grandson of the famous midnight rider, the patriot Paul Revere, but was also an intelligent and agreeable man, one of her particular favorites among the prisoners. Two more