From the New York Tribune, 10/4/1900, p. 8, c. 6
Death of Noted Union Spy.
Mrs. Elizabeth Van Lew, who during the civil war supplied Gen. Grant with much valuable information against the Confederate Government, and who assisted many Federal prisoners to escape from Libby Prison, died at Richmond, Va., Sept. 25, at an advanced age. For her services during the war Gen. Grant, when he became President, appointed Miss Van Lew Postmaster of Richmond, and she held the post for eight years.
Miss Van Lew was the daughter of John Van Lew, a New Yorker who established a hardware business in Richmond before the war. Her mother’s father was Hilliary Baker, Mayor of Philadelphia. When the war began she took a decided stand against the cause of secession, and made every effort to aid the Federal arms.
When Grant hovered about Richmond Miss Van Lew was in constant communication with him. Flowers cut in her garden in the morning found their way to Grant’s table at City Point before nightfall. The Van Lews owned a farm below Richmond. Thither would go servants, who, by reason of their humble station, passed the guards unsuspected; yet these carried, usually in the soles of their shoes, missives of great importance to the enemy. After the evacuation of Richmond Gen. Grant visited Miss Van Lew and remained her warm friend until his death.
During the war the old residence harbored many a Federal prisoner of war. Miss Van Lew was constantly in communication with Libby Prison and helped in the escape of the prisoners, hiding them at her home until opportunity presented itself for them to get out of the city. She aided in the escape of Col. Streight, the noted raider, who, together with 1,800 men, was captured by Forrest. Col. Streight bored his way out of the prison with implements provided for him by Miss Van Lew. He was afterward concealed at her home until he finally found a chance to get through the Confederate cordon.
Miss Van Lew was a small woman, with gray, curly hair, a thin, intelligent face and keen, sparkling blue eyes. There was a gentleness in her manner that surprised one who expected to find her a rough woman. There is said to have been a sad love affair in her experience, but of her personal and business secrets she never confided a word to anyone.