Assignment 5

Assignment Five

For my final project I am going to be focusing on Mary Elizabeth Bowser, a union spy born on the plantation of John Van Lew. In the 1950’s Bowser diaries were discarded by her family members and unfortunately a lot of information about her early life was lost.  Before the start of the civil war Van Lew’s wife sent messages to the union officials about the conflict approaching and recommend Bowser for a household staff position at the Jefferson Davis Homestead. The household members assumed that bowser was a slave. They assumed she was illiterate and was unable decipher any important war information. Bowser would then send information to Union informers who would in return pass it to military leaders.

Davis eventually realized that someone in his household was leaking information to the union. He didn’t suspect Mary until late into the war. When Davis became suspicious of bowser she fled. In her last attempt to help the union she tried to burn down the Confederate White House but was unable to do so.

After the war had ended Bowser was a teacher for freed slaves. Later in life she gave a speech where she told about her time as a spy in the Confederate White House. When she gave the speech she used the name “Richmonia Richards.”

The hardest part about this specific topic is that many union spies were unknown for many years. Information was destroyed by the union in order to protect them and their families. There were hundreds of women that helped the war civil war efforts. What each women did was widely unknown but there overall effect on the war was extraordinary. 130 years after the war had ended the united states finally recognized Bowser’s contributions to the union war effort. She was inducted into the U.S Army Intelligence Hall of Fame.

Tentative Thesis

Women played an intricate part in winning the Civil War by helping slaves, smuggling medicine, food, and most importantly participating in espionage.

I am not completely sure if I am going to focus on the bigger picture or continue to single in on Mary Bowser. There is not a great deal of info on the particular things she did to help the union. I hope to tie her into the role women had on the civil war.


These four main source have been used to gather general information about Mary’s individual role in the Civil War. The information in these sources vary greatly. Lots of articles claim to know very little about her life, where others go into much greater detail. The greatest sources of information on bowser were destroyed.

The four sources listed above have been good sources of information on the role women played in the Civil War. These articles aren’t the most important for my particular paper, but serve as a better outline for women as a whole during those times. I would consider these more as a secondary resource.

4 Replies to “Assignment 5”

  1. This is a good idea because you never hear/learn about most women who helped in the war. Although they were not aloud to fight, they did find other ways to help in the war time efforts.

  2. I am very intrigued by your thesis statement, Women played a key role in the war and I am excited to read your analysis on what they did to help the cause. whether it was helping slaves or smuggling utilities, I am interested to read who, how and when they did this to help out the soliders. with Mary Bowser, I am excited to read into her life and see how big of a difference one person can make in a war.

  3. That was a great idea as well as something that was really interesting g picking a spy as your foundation for the project. I can’t wait to hear about the time when the identity of the spy was suspected and the attempted burning of the southern White House. Another really great thing is that you can follow your spy past the was by looking into the actions of teaching.

  4. This is really cool! I think to emphasize your thesis statement on the important parts women played, you could include other women who did the things you described, such as Clara Barton and Harriet Tubman.

Leave a Reply