Elizabeth Van Lew was aUnionist and abolitionist who spied for the United States government during the (1861–1865). Leading a network of a dozen or so white and African American women and men, she relayed information on Confederate operations to Union generals and assisted in the care and sometimes escape of Union prisoners of war being held in the Confederate capital. Van Lew, who worked with invisible ink and coded messages, has been called “the most skilled, innovative, and successful” of all Civil War–era spies. While some historians have claimed that she was open about her Unionist politics, deflecting suspicion by behaving as if she were mentally ill, others have argued that these “Crazy Bet” stories are a myth. After the war, Van Lew served as postmaster of Richmond during the administration of U.S. president , one of the generals to whom she had once fed information.