Behind Rebel Lines The Incredible Story of Emma Edmonds, Civil War Spy

Posted by DONDRA DECKER on 5/21/2020

This book is the true story of Emma Edmonds, a Canadian woman who disguised herself as a man and slipped behind enemy lines to spy for the Union Army.  President Lincoln had asked for volunteers to fight in the Civil War.  Emma wanted to be involved, and so she dressed as a man and signed up to serve in the Union Army.  At first, she works in the hospital wards, but when she hears about a spy that has been captured, she volunteers to take his place.  With the help of the Chaplain's wife, with whom she has shared her secret, she disguises herself and sneaks behind enemy lines.  She uses several disguises (with the help of the Chaplain's wife, Mrs. Butler), takes great risks, and makes it back to her camp, and her role as a soldier, Franklin.  She sneaks behind enemy lines several times, with several different disguises,  and finds crucial information that makes a difference in the war effort. 

This book is well - researched, written with information from Emma's own memoirs, U.S. Army records, and National Archives files, as well as the records of well-known historians.  It is told as a narrative, so dialogue is added, as it might have occurred.  

I enjoy reading about history.  I know that women have always supported war efforts, in many roles, but I did not imagine that women disguised themselves as men to serve in the Civil War.  It is estimated that over 400 women did so.  Emma's role as a spy, however, was more unusual and adventurous.  This quote from Emma's writings may give insight into why she did this.

"I am naturally fond of adventure,  a little ambitious,  and a good deal romantic - but patriotism was the true secret of my success."

 - from Emma's memoirs 


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