Mary Elizabeth Bowser

Mary Elizabeth Bowser

Birth
Death unknown
Burial Richmond, Henrico County, Virginia, USA
Plot Section G, plot 23
Memorial ID 111467930 · View Source
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Mary Elizabeth Bowser was born a slave but was freed after the death of her owner, John Van Lew. Van Lew's daughter, Elizabeth, recruited Mary Bowser to be a spy for the Union during the Civil War. She eventually ended up as a servant in the Confederate White House and had access to many of Jefferson Davis' documents and overheard many conversations he had with his military leaders. She had a photographic memory and could repeat word for word everything she saw and heard so the information could be passed on to the Union military.

In 1995, The U. S. Government honored Mary Elizabeth Bowser by inducting her in to the U. S. Military Intelligence Hall of Fame in Fort Huachuca, Arizona. At the ceremony, her contribution was described as follows:

"Ms. Bowser certainly succeeded in a highly dangerous mission to the great benefit of the Union effort. She was one of the highest placed and most productive espionage agents of the Civil War. ... [Her information] greatly enhanced the Union's conduct of the war."


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  • Created by: John Shuck
  • Added: 30 May 2013
  • Find A Grave Memorial 111467930
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Mary Elizabeth Bowser (1840–unknown), Find A Grave Memorial no. 111467930, citing Woodland Cemetery, Richmond, Henrico County, Virginia, USA ; Maintained by John Shuck (contributor 46798527) .