Sunday, August 30, 2015

Female Spies and Gender-Bending Soldiers Changed the Course of the Civil War

I've read a lot about the American Civil War and when my sons were young we did a road trip to a whole whack of Civil War battle sites. But I had never heard about female spies and the huge impact they had on the course of the Civil War. Without Rose O’Neal Greenhow’s spy ring, the Union might have ended the months-old war with a swift victory over the Confederates in July 1861. Elizabeth Van Lew, a feminist "spinster" ran another spy ring that was instrumental to the fall of the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, on April 1, 1865, leading to Lee’s surrender eight days later. Sarah Emma Evelyn Edmondson, a Canadian expat who had served as a Union soldier as her male alter-ego, Franklin Thompson also engaged in Civil War subterfuge.

Confederate spy Rose O’Neal Greenhow, 48, and her 9-year-old child,
Little Rose, in the courtyard of Old Capitol Prison in D.C., where she was being held
on suspicion of treason in 1862. (From “Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy”)
Union Private Frank Thompson, who was born Sarah Emma Evelyn Edmondson
in New Brunswick, Canada. (From “Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy”)

These women and others are featured in a fascinating post at Collectors Weekly that is based on Karen Abbott's narrative nonfiction book, "Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy". I've added the book to my reading list.

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