From the Sunbury (Pa.) American, 3/27/1869, p. 2, c. 3
Miss Van Lew.
We greet with hearty satisfaction the appointment of Miss Eliza Van Lew, as postmistress of Richmond, Virginia. A special order of the President confers this well-deserved honor upon her. And there are thousands of our soldiers now scattered throughout the land who will approve the generous act of their late leader, viewing in the appointment, a recognition of their own sufferings, as well of the pitying tenderness and self-sacrificing loyalty of a notable woman.
Miss Van Lew was a resident of the city of Richmond, residing in an elegant mansion on what is known as Church Hill, when the rebellion broke out. Thoroughly loyal at heart, she early found a way to make herself known to the “Yanks” who were confined in tobacco warehouses of that city, after the disastrous battle of Bull Run. – Books and comforts were sent to the starving captives, while Captain Todd (a brother of Mrs. Lincoln) was commandant of the prisons. But that worthy gobbled up everything of the kind, and vented his rage in drunken curses on the giver, and those to whom they were sent. But where there is a will, there is a way, and woman’s wit will always find it. Nothing daunted by her first failure, Miss Van Lew offered rooms in her house to Captain Gibbs, the successor of Todd. Under this cover she could and did exercise a degree of hospitality to the prisoners in the way of books, provisions and clothing. Gibbs was an old soldier and a kindly man, though in many respects a severe disciplinarian. Evidently, he winked at the acts of the lady beneath whose roof he was sheltered. Her kindnesses were many, and were continued, when it was possible, through the war. The writer is indebted to her for comforts that were not only substantial, and helped ward off the effects of rebel starvation and cruelty, but for the still more exquisite comfort of knowing that, even where the rebel flag waved, the Union had tried and trusty friends. Said this lady, on the day when we left Richmond for the North, as she pointed to the stars and bars that waved above the Capital at Richmond, when the so called Confederate Congress was in session, “I would gladly see my home laid in ruins, if I could once more see the Government of the United States restored here. Tell your friends at the North that there are some of us left still who pray day and night, that the stars and stripes may take the place of that rag of rebellion!”
It was through the kindness of Miss Van Lew that a home was offered to Hon. Calvin Huson, of Rochester, a few days previous to his death. The rebel authorities kept this distinguished gentleman confined in the room where nearly a hundred officers passed their days and nights – where the noise made by them, and by 500 private soldiers in the rooms above, was incessant and hard to be borne by a well man – until delirium had set in from typhoid fever. Then they yielded a reluctant consent to the entreaties of his faithful friend and fellow-prisoner, Hon. Alfred Ely, of Rochester, and allowed the invitation of Miss Van Lew to be accepted. There Mr. Ely closed his friends’ eyes; from this hospitable mansion, followed by two of his late fellow-prisoners, under confederate guards, and the family of the host, the body was carried to the cemetery; in a grave, in the burial plot of the Van Lews, it was laid to rest until it should be claimed by kindred; and waiting until the grave was filled, the hands of the loyal lady planted a rose bush on the mound that covered one who had been “only a Yankee prisoner.”
But neither time nor space will suffice to repeat the good deeds of this friend of the Union that have come within our ken. It is enough to say that their name is legion. – Such devotion of loyalty was rare during the war, and deserves to be recognized and rewarded. It is a grateful tribute that every soldier will appreciate. And the women of the nation will rejoice that the President has, by this act, championed the true doctrine of woman’s rights. – Troy Times.