1865 CIVIL WAR. An Account of a Cross-Dressing, Black-Face Wearing Bible Salesman, Soldier, & Spy.
1865 CIVIL WAR. An Account of a Cross-Dressing, Black-Face Wearing Bible Salesman, Soldier, & Spy.
1865 CIVIL WAR. An Account of a Cross-Dressing, Black-Face Wearing Bible Salesman, Soldier, & Spy.
1865 CIVIL WAR. An Account of a Cross-Dressing, Black-Face Wearing Bible Salesman, Soldier, & Spy.
1865 CIVIL WAR. An Account of a Cross-Dressing, Black-Face Wearing Bible Salesman, Soldier, & Spy.
1865 CIVIL WAR. An Account of a Cross-Dressing, Black-Face Wearing Bible Salesman, Soldier, & Spy.
1865 CIVIL WAR. An Account of a Cross-Dressing, Black-Face Wearing Bible Salesman, Soldier, & Spy.
1865 CIVIL WAR. An Account of a Cross-Dressing, Black-Face Wearing Bible Salesman, Soldier, & Spy.
1865 CIVIL WAR. An Account of a Cross-Dressing, Black-Face Wearing Bible Salesman, Soldier, & Spy.
1865 CIVIL WAR. An Account of a Cross-Dressing, Black-Face Wearing Bible Salesman, Soldier, & Spy.
1865 CIVIL WAR. An Account of a Cross-Dressing, Black-Face Wearing Bible Salesman, Soldier, & Spy.
1865 CIVIL WAR. An Account of a Cross-Dressing, Black-Face Wearing Bible Salesman, Soldier, & Spy.
1865 CIVIL WAR. An Account of a Cross-Dressing, Black-Face Wearing Bible Salesman, Soldier, & Spy.
1865 CIVIL WAR. An Account of a Cross-Dressing, Black-Face Wearing Bible Salesman, Soldier, & Spy.
1865 CIVIL WAR. An Account of a Cross-Dressing, Black-Face Wearing Bible Salesman, Soldier, & Spy.
1865 CIVIL WAR. An Account of a Cross-Dressing, Black-Face Wearing Bible Salesman, Soldier, & Spy.
1865 CIVIL WAR. An Account of a Cross-Dressing, Black-Face Wearing Bible Salesman, Soldier, & Spy.

1865 CIVIL WAR. An Account of a Cross-Dressing, Black-Face Wearing Bible Salesman, Soldier, & Spy.

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If you've been wanting to read a book about an important cross-dressing Bible salesman and Civil War soldier turned spy and dabbled in balck face, well, your choices are limited. Limited in fact to just one, the life story of Sarah Emma Edmonds.

Miss Edmonds [nee Edmondson] was born in New Brunswick, Canada in December of 1841. Her father was a farmer who had been hoping for a son to help him with the crops; as a result, he resented his daughter and she was phyiscally abuse. In 1857, at 16 years of age, she fled her abusive father and a marriage he had arranged.

For a short time, she worked in the nearby town of Moncton, but fearful that she would be discovered by her father, she immigrated to the United States. In order to travel undetected and to secure a job, she decided to disguise herself as a man and took the name Franklin Thompson, an identity she kept for some time. She soon found work in Hartford, Connecticut as a traveling Bible salesman. 

By the start of the Civil War in 1861, Edmonds was boarding in Flint, Michigan, continuing to be quite successful at selling books. An ardent Unionist, she decided that the best way to help would be to enlist under her alias, and on May 25, 1861, Edmonds was mustered into the 2nd Michigan Infantry as a 3-year recruit.

Although Edmonds and her comrades did not participate in the Battle of First Manassas on July 21, they were instrumental in covering the Union retreat from the field. Edmonds stayed behind to nurse wounded soldiers and barely eluded capture to return to her regiment in Washington. She continued to work as a hospital attendant for the next several months. Keep in mind, she was operating as a male the entire time. 

In March of 1862, Edmonds was assigned the duties of mail carrier for the regiment. Later that month, the 2nd Michigan was shipped out to Virginia as part of General McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign. From April 5 to May 4, the regiment took part in the Siege of Yorktown. 

It was during this time that Edmonds was supposedly first asked to conduct espionage missions. Her memoirs detail several of her exploits behind enemy lines throughout the war, disguised a black male slave. 

On May 5, 1862, the regiment came under heavy fire during the Battle of Williamsburg. Edmonds was caught in the thick of it, at one point picking up a musket and firing with her comrades. She also acted as a stretcher bearer, ferrying the wounded from the field hour after hour in the pouring rain.

 The summer of 1862 saw Edmonds continuing her role as a mail carrier and spy, which often involved journeys of over 100 miles through territory inhabited by dangerous “bushwhackers.” Edmonds’ regiment saw action in the battles of Fair Oaks and Malvern Hill, where she acted once again as hospital attendant, tending to the many wounded. With the conclusion of the Peninsula Campaign, Edmonds returned with her regiment to Washington.

On August 29, 1862, the 2nd Michigan took part in the Battle of Second Manassas. Acting as courier during the battle, Edmunds was forced to ride a mule after her horse was killed. She was thrown into a ditch, breaking her leg and suffering internal injuries. These injuries would plague her for the rest of her life and were the main reason for her pension application after the war.

During the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 11-15, Edmonds served as an orderly for her commander, Colonel Orlando Poe. This role had her constantly in the saddle, relaying messages and orders from headquarters to the front lines.

In the spring of 1863, Edmonds and the 2nd Michigan were assigned to the Army of the Cumberland and sent to Kentucky. Edmonds contracted malaria and requested a furlough, which was denied. Not wanting to seek medical attention from the army for fear of discovery, Edmonds left her comrades in mid-April, never to return. “Franklin Thompson” was subsequently charged with desertion.

After her recovery, Edmonds, no longer in disguise, worked with the United States Christian Commission as a female nurse, from June 1863 until the end of the war. She wrote and published her memoirs, Nurse and Spy in the Union Army, the first edition being released in 1864. Edmonds donated the profits from her book to various soldiers’ aid groups. 

Edmonds married Linus Seelye in 1867 and they had three children. In 1876, she attended a reunion of the 2nd Michigan and was warmly received by her comrades, who aided her in having the charge of desertion removed from her military records and supported her application for a military pension. After an eight-year battle and an Act of Congress, “Franklin Thompson” was cleared of desertion charges and awarded a pension in 1884.

In 1897, Edmonds was admitted into the Grand Army of the Republic, the only woman member. One year later, on September 5, 1898, Edmonds died at her home in La Porte, Texas. In 1901, she was re-buried with military honors at Washington Cemetery in Houston.

Her memoir is very rare in the trade and at auction.

Edmonds, S. Emma E. Nurse and Spy in the Union Army. Comprising the Adventures and Experiences of a Woman in Hospitals, Camps, and Battle-Fields. With Illustrations. Hartford, Connecticut. W. S. Williams & Co.  1865. 344pp.

Good - example with some staining to cloth and wear as shown. Tide mark on frontis. Else generally quite solid and clean. A very stable working copy.