Genealogy: Civil War stories of women spies


BRYAN -- The recent meeting of Williams County Genealogical Society was held at the Annex to the Bryan Public Library. Guest speaker, Janette Calland, of Port Clinton, shared stories of some of the women spies during the Civil War, both from the North and South. These women had to be smart, charming, charismatic, strong willed, and loyal to their cause.

Among them was a widow in Washington, D.C., named Rose Greenhow, who was a southern sympathizer but the Union didn't know it.

Greenhow "entertained" many Union generals, collected information from them on the troop's whereabouts and then slipped the information to couriers who delivered the information across the river to Confederate officials.

Elizabeth Van Lew, from the North, began working on behalf of the Union. When Libby Prison was opened in Richmond, Van Lew was allowed to bring food, clothing, writing paper, and other things to the Union soldiers imprisoned there. She aided prisoners in escape attempts, passing them information about safe houses and getting a Union sympathizer appointed to the prison staff.

Prisoners gave Van Lew information on Confederate troop levels and movements, which she was able to pass on to Union commanders.

Mary Touvestre was a black woman who helped free slaves by helping them escape to the North by ships.

Harriet Tubman, after escaping from slavery, into which she was born, made 13 missions to rescue more than 70 slaves using the underground railroad.

These are but a few of the brave women from both the North and South who believed in their cause during the Civil War.

The next meeting will be Nov. 14 at 6:30 p.m. in the Harmon room of the West Annex of the Bryan Public Library in Bryan.

Guest speaker will be Tanya Brunner, a Navy veteran who is currently working in the Defiance County Veterans Administration.

Brunner conducts research on local veterans -- living and deceased -- to preserve their history. She will be speaking on "Prisoners of War," both the Civil War and the War of 1812.

Anyone interested in the history of these veterans will gain much valuable information from her. Enjoy a night out to socialize with many friends of genealogy.

For more information about WCGS, visit the Website at or write to WCGS, P.O. Box 293, Bryan, 43506.

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