Northern Illinois University Press

Memoirs of a Soldier, Nurse, and Spy

A Woman's Adventures in the Union Army

Sarah Emma Edmonds

Introduced and Annotated by Elizabeth D. Leonard

"An extraordinary story for any war's retelling.... Elizabeth Leonard, the leading authority on women in the Civil War armies, has provided excellent editorial notes and has pieced Edmonds's story together in admirable fashion."The Historian

"Fascinating.... Sarah Edmonds's memoir is not to be missed."Michigan Historical Review

"Great fun to read."Civil War Courier

Among the hundreds of women who, in disguise, enlisted to serve as men during the Civil War, only Sarah Edmonds is known to have written a memoir recounting her experiences. As "Franklin Thompson," she joined the 2nd Michigan Infantry Regiment in 1861, then fought in some of the bloodiest struggles of the Civil War, from the first battle of Bull Run to the Kentucky Campaign of 1863.

This daring woman embarked upon dangerous missions into Confederate territory to gather information and to survey enemy positions, sometimes in the guise of a slave or Irish washerwoman, sometimes in Confederate uniform. Through her experiences as a "male nurse" and Union soldier, Edmonds depicts the horrors of Civil War hospitals and the simple pastimes of camp life. Throughout her impassioned account, first published in 1865, this enthralling storyteller reveals her courage, dedication to the Union, and resourcefulness in concealing her identity.

Three years after her death, Edmonds's body was reinterred with military honors by her comrades, who recognized in her a "strong, healthy, and robust soldier, ever willing and ready for duty." The introduction and annotations by Elizabeth D. Leonard, a leading authority on Civil War women, support and amplify Edmonds's account. Challenging established views of the Civil War soldier, Memoirs of a Soldier, Nurse, and Spy is compelling reading, especially for those interested in the Civil War, women's history, American studies, and military history.

(1999) 294 pp., illus.,
ISBN: 978-0-87580-584-9
paper $20.00x

Table of Contents

Publisher's Notice to the 1865 Edition
1. What Part Am I to Act in This Great Drama?
2. Marching Orders Received To-Day
3. How Shall I Describe the Scene?
4. When General McClellan Took Command
5. A Fair Specimen of Virginia Mud
6. Her Name was Alice M
7. I Had Known Him Almost From Childhood
8. My First Secret Expedition
9. The Ghastly Faces of the Wounded and Dying
10. The Annihilation of the Merrimac
11. A New Disguise Was Necessary
12. I Now Resumed My Journey
13. Acting Orderly for General K
14. A Terrible Slaughter
15. Many an Hour I Have Worked and Watched
16. Yellins as They Came
17. A Most Sublime Spectacle
18. My Turn to Visit Washington
19. My Constant Companion
20. I Am Not What I Seem
21. The Pleasantest, Happiest Hours of My Life
22. A Military Execution and a Dreary Ride
23. A Sad Day for the Army of the Potomac
24. More Quiet and Less Dangerous Duties
25. To Act as Detective
26. A Specimen of Moral Sublimity
27. I Have the Honor to Propose to You an Armistice
28. Exhausted and Weak as a Child
29. I Recall Those Thrilling Scenes
30. Now That the Time Has Come
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ISBN: 978-0-87580-584-9
paper $20.00