The real woman they got the “Harriet Tubman” spy story from. A free woman in Virginia.

“There was, indeed, a mole. But it was a servant at the Confederate White House in Richmond — a freed slave with a photographic memory who, in addition to caring for his wife’s dresses, slipped the North valuable secrets from Davis’s own desk.

Her name was Mary Bowser. Hers is one of the great but infrequently told spy stories in American history — a shame, say historians and others who write about the Civil War, because it is a tale with an enduring, important lesson.

Bowser used the assumption that she was far less intelligent than her white employers against them.

[The truth about Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee: He wasn’t very good at his job]

“By playing to that stereotype, she becomes an intelligence agent and, therefore, proves the value of black intelligence at undermining the institution of slavery itself,” Lois Leveen, a historical novelist who based one of her books on Bowser, said while discussing the spy’s legacy in 2013 during a panel discussion at the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond.”

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