Saturday, February 11, 2012
Mary Elizabeth Bowser
Described by the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Corps Hall of Fame as “one of the highest placed and most productive espionage agents of the Civil War,” Mary Elizabeth Bowser was a freed slave from Richmond, Virginia, who got herself hired on as a servant in Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ household. For the duration of the war, Bowser fed to a Union spymaster everything she heard or read about troop strategy, movements, or plans while never losing her nerve or giving away her identity as a gushing leak of crucial information. It’s clear that Davis’ and his other military leaders held a perspective that underestimated African-American capabilities. And underestimating an in-your-face woman can lose the war for you.