Miss Lizzie’s War
By Rosemary Agonito
The frightening, heartwarming story of a vulnerable, determined heroine who risked her life to lead an underground network of Unionists,masterminded the escape of slaves and Union prisoners, and spied for General Ulysses S. Grant in the heart of the Confederacy.
As the Civil War slogged on, an underground Unionist movement flourished in the heart of the Confederacy that illuminates the complexity and horror of war and the possibility of ultimate redemption.
An unlikely leader skillfully directed this clandestine group and became General Ulysses S. Grant’s spy in Richmond. Surrounded by a cadre of “slaves,” secretly freed, and a determined group of Union supporters, Elizabeth Van Lew, a wealthy and well connected member of Richmond’s elite, risked everything to help save the Union – her status, her wealth, and her life.
Based on an incredible true story, MISS LIZZIE’S WAR, recounts the intrigue involved in Elizabeth Van Lew’s double life, including her secret romance with a Union prisoner. She boldly schemes to plant a former slave as her spy in the Jefferson Davis home while directing the dangerous work entailed in running a spy network for the federal government in the Confederate capital.
Terrifying flights to freedom are engineered by Elizabeth and her network for slaves and escaped Union prisoners, all during ongoing Confederate surveillance, investigations and arrests of Unionists.
An added benefit of reading the book is the opportunity to learn more about the Civil War, especially as the nation marks the 150th anniversary of the war.
What Readers Say
“Miss Lizzie’s War is a strong pick for historical fiction.”
~Midwest Book Review, June, 2012
“While Richmond, Virginia, suffers through the American Civil War, the wealthy Elizabeth van Lew supports the war effort—for the Union. Starting by bringing food and encouragement to Union prisoners in Richmond’s miserable prisons, Elizabeth soon is deeply involved in a spy network. Again and again, her charm and quick wit save her from detection, even as the stakes grow higher. . . . Although most of the story is told from Lizzie’s point of view, we occasionally see the action through the eyes of soldiers, the Confederate first family, and assorted Richmonders as well, which adds depth to the story. An inspiring novel about a courageous woman.”
~Historical Fiction Society, August, 2012
“When I began reading this book I thought it was going to be an interesting account of a female spy in Civil War Richmond. What I found instead was a page turner leaving me breathless with each new development and wanting more. The author’s descriptive qualities bring these characters to life, making them human with real feelings and emotions and made me realize what conflicts existed within individuals and families besides the main one of North vs South. Not since Margaret Mitchell and Scarlett O’Hara have I been so captivated by an author and character. I was truly disappointed when the story concluded and I had to close this fascinating book. I feel I have made and lost a friend in Miss Lizzie and hope Ms. Agonito is working on another story!”
~Matt Scheidelman, East Syracuse NY
“It’s a shame that Amazon’s rating system stops at “Five” – Agonito’s historical novel, Miss Lizzie’s War is clearly a “Ten.” This book is a breathtaking presentation of the Civil War from a variety of points of view, north and south, federal and confederate, rich and poor, slaveholder and abolitionist. . .
While the plot is totally engrossing and commands the reader’s attention to the conflict and events of something as fierce as the dead and dying on the battlefields of a civil war, it is author Agonito’s development of characters that is the soul of this book . . . In Agonito’s skillful hands, the characters are never simply cardboard black and white templates, but well-developed and growing individuals facing incredible events. Not all of them survive to a happy ending.
While the events hold our attention, Agonito’s awesome command of historical detail in the “big picture” of the story down to the smallest grain of sand lets us relive the period and its people. The reader is not told the story, but taken by the hand to visit each scene . . .
More than historical fiction, Miss Lizzie’s War by Rosemary Agonito may well be the best book of the decade. Move it to the top of your “Must Read” list.”
~Jim Diggins, Ph.D., Rancho Mirage, CA
“If you enjoy historical fiction you will love Rosemary Agonito’s “Miss Lizzie’s War.” Richmond and the Civil War come alive in Agonito’s brilliant blending of rich characters, vivid scenery and intriguing dialogue. Lizzie Van Lew, hated war but she believed ending slavery was a noble cause to fight for. She believed it her duty to become involved to the point of her own safety and that of her loved ones. The fact that she had material wealth and prominent standing in the Richmond community made it possible for her to be effective, but it doesn’t take away from her braveness and brilliance. Agonito writes with heart and clarity. I loved this book.”
RP, amazon.com review
“Truly a wonderful read! Through the courageous acts of Elizabeth Van Lew, Agonito brings to life not only Miss Lizzie but also the brave Unionists in Richmond during the Civil War. This gripping book provides perspective and commentary on this critical time in American history. It is a celebration of people of conscience during one of this country’s most challenging times. You will not want to put it down!”
~Mary Krause, Canandaigua, NY
“I’ve always liked historical fiction and this is among the best I’ve read. The blend of strong characters, scenery and dialogue brought Richmond and the Civil War alive for me. I enjoyed the descriptive writing and picturesque methaphors. Some are beautifully poetic. For example, ‘A cold wind blew phantoms across the graveyard filled with granite memories.’ The last days of the war, the victory, the end of slavery and the terrible chaos and confusion in Richmond were exciting to read. I love the book.”
~Patricia Fanelli, Yorba Linda, CA
Historical fiction at it’s best! I learned more about the Civil War, one of my favorite periods to read about. I particularly enjoyed that I got to learn about a real person (a woman!) that was instrumental to the Union victory. And yet, I had never before heard of her. The best historical fiction teaches me something new and inspires me to do some research and learn more about the subject. This book definitely did that!
–Kim Kolk, Bookreporter.com Review
“I could not put this book down! Miss Lizzie’s War is a phenomenal story, beautifully written. The entertaining and heartfelt story of the very compelling Elizabeth Van Lew and her adventures as a spy during the Civil War. I highly recommend this book.”
~Diana Putzer, LaFayette, NY
“Loved Miss Lizzie’s War. I had never heard of Ms. Elizabeth Van Lew, the aristocratic Southern belle spying for the North. I could not put the book down, worrying if she would be caught. What chances she and the other Unionists took. Also, a great history lesson about the Civil War, the terrible conditions in the prisons, the brutal, ceaseless battle scenes and how it continued for four years at such a cost of life. Thank you for a great read.”
~Kathleen Insel, Syracuse, NY
“This book is historical fiction at its best! . . . I highly recommend this for any Civil War buff or reader of historical fiction.”
~Kim Illinimon, Goodreads.com
“A brief note to say how much I enjoyed Miss Lizzie’s War. You really did a great deal of impressive research and it shows as you combine facts with fiction. It is a fascinating story, and it held me captive.”
~Jane Donegan, Geneva, NY
“Every once in a while a book appears which addresses a surprising or little-known aspect of history. It is reasonable to expect that the identity and activities of a spy would be hidden from public scrutiny, but after 150 years, it is time to celebrate and honor the clandestine role played by “our lady in Richmond.” Miss Lizzie’s War accomplishes all that and more. By weaving historical fact into a novel, Ms. Agonito has presented the past in a most readable fashion and developed a story line that is riveting. I enjoyed the book immensely and savored every page.”
~David Kellogg, Fayetteville, NY
“I absolutely loved Miss Lizzie’s War! Elizabeth Van Lew is an inspiring person, as was the vast network of people in the underground Unionist movement. What comes out most cleaarly in the book, however, is the ridiculousness of war. How stupid to waste so many lives, to burn cities and country, and to eliminate an entire generation. It is gut wrenching stuff. Unfortunately we don’t learn the lessons of past wars and keep on with the senseless killing.”
~Ellen Schwartz, Syracuse, NY
“Miss Lizzie’s War brings the Civil War to life in such a way that you actually feel like you’re there. The dates, locations, etc. all fit into place as the author recounts the tragic facts of that time, weaving a tapestry of liberty. I have a much greater appreciation for the sacrifices that were made by men AND women (much to my surprise!). This author always selects such compelling stories. I cannot wait for her next book!”
~Lynn Bergan, Bahamas
“Brava, Brava, Bravissimo! Per il suo libro molto interessante.”
~Guy Pagano, Camillus NY
“This truly memorable book’s action accelerates steadily, until it becomes very difficult to put the book down. The extraordinary courage of all the Union sympathizers in Richmond during the Civil War is grippingly described. The vivid and graphic portrayal of the horrors of that war, and the useless loss of life in many of the battles, is something I will not easily forget. Elizabeth Van Lew’s contributions to history are memorialized forever in this beautifully written tribute.”
~Mary Ampola, Atlanta GA
“A terrific story of a little known Civil War heroine. . . Agonito’s book masterfully captures the incredible danger Van Lew faced as well as her indomitable courage. You can’t help but feel you are living in Richmond under siege as you read Miss Lizzie’s War. The book is a great story well told.”
~Gregg Scott, Clay NY
~C. Wickham, Goodreads.com