SWHM Look at Sarah Emma Edmonds: A Badass Woman Who Fought in the Union Army

Hi friends! Surprise! It’s me! And it’s a surprise to me I’m doing this! XD So, you may or may not have known that … ALBTALBS was down for a few days? Because of problems and tech support and I just can’t be bothered because my insides are rebelling so what time I’ve been able to rest I’ve been trying to do that. But here I am!

And today I want to talk about Sarah Emma Edmonds. (Who was also mentioned in Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy so I really should’ve read that book for my TBR Challenge… but I didn’t. Worse all the books I’ve read today have been just … :\ “meh” so I feel like Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance is my theme song of the day. Cuz of not me, but you know, the reading.)

Ok enough of my babbling. Clearly I need more cocktails. Sarah Emma Edmonds! Let’s chat about her! I admit I haven’t heavily researched her. (Guess I’m still on the “shitty ass whatever I’m done with school and won’t be doing any more of that.”) So this is again based on what I heard from Karen Abbott, and what appears to be reputable sources from around the web after a cursory search.

Sarah Emma Edmunds as Frank ThompsonSarah Emma Edmonds was born in December 1841. She was also known as Frank[lin] Thompson … because she disguised herself as a man and fought for the Union in the Civil War! … How cool is that?! She also apparently fell in love with one of her fellow soldiers but of course she couldn’t do anything about it because you know “she was a dude” – and just … ahh, right? RIGHT?! SOMEONE NEEDS TO WRITE A BOOK ABOUT THAT. (Apparently the guy was also drawn to her but couldn’t figure it out because you know – dude.) In fact, this image is Sarah as Frank. (Thanks public domain!)

Sarah Emma Edmonds was actually born in Canada, as Sarah Emma Edmondson. Her father was apparently a farmer and resented the fact that she was a girl, so you know, his loss. She fled Canada to get away from her (abusive?) father and an arranged marriage. And she changed her name to Edmonds. (Some things were simpler then, no?) She became a traveling Bibles sales[man] as Franklin Thompson in Hartford, Connecticut. “On May 25, 1861, Edmonds was mustered into the 2nd Michigan Infantry as a 3 year recruit.” She saw some action in the war, and you can read about it here. What breaks my heart is that she left the army and was listed as a deserted because she got malaria and was afraid to get treated for it. Being totally awesome, Sarah then became a nurse to help the war effort.

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.

Sarah wrote a book, Nurse and Spy in the Union Army and it’s free as a kindle book!!!

So a little more detail, she enlisted as a male nurse, and was at the Second Battles of Manassas and Antietam. How badass was she? (And there are records that show when the situation called for it, she’d pick up a weapon and fight. And that her fellow soldiers liked and respected her, and welcomed her into her group years later when she’d been “outed” – and was trying to get a pension.)

She is also said to have served as a Union spy and infiltrated the Confederate army several times, although there is no official record of it. One of her alleged aliases was as a Southern sympathizer named Charles Mayberry. Another was as a black man named Cuff, for which she disguised herself using wigs and silver nitrate to dye her skin. And yet another was as Bridget O’Shea, an Irish peddler selling soap and apples.

Nurse and Spy in the Union ArmyIt kinda tickles me that she was allegedly “in disguise” as a woman. 😀 It makes me sad though that Sarah “married L. H. Seelye, a Canadian mechanic” in 1867. She had three children, which is great, but my little romance loving heart wishes it had been her fellow Union soldier.

Had you guys ever heard about Sarah? I think historians believe ~400 women were involved in fighting in the Civil War? Probably there were more. Imagine the bravery and heroism that led a woman to do such a difficult thing.

Do you have a favorite female soldier? Or female spy? Someone in disguise? We’ll be talking more female figures and awesomeness … well in general, but of course this month. So let’s chat! Who should we be talking about?

6 thoughts on “SWHM Look at Sarah Emma Edmonds: A Badass Woman Who Fought in the Union Army

  1. dholcomb1

    Growing up in Northern Delaware, I was close to Philly, so many related Revolutionary War stories and lore. I remember the story of Molly Pitcher–we saw a movie about her in school. I’ve been to Valley Forge, other battle sites, and after I met my husband, I saw the battlefield at Monmouth (in his hometown area).

    So, I’ve always been fascinated with the Molly Pitcher story: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molly_Pitcher


    1. Limecello Post author

      So cool, Denise! I remember hearing about Molly but didn’t remember her name. i wish elementary schools would take more time to teach about these amazing women – I mean in general, but especially March.

  2. dholcomb1

    Yes, that would be great. I’m telling my age a little bit, but I learned this in elementary school before we had Women’s History Week (1980, Jimmy Carter proclamation), and I was in college when they were finally having Women’s History Month in most of the USA. I did take some Women’s Studies classes in college which were cross-majored with Poli Sci–one had a lot of important women in US History. I may sill have that book in my basement.

    I also love Lucretia “Lucy” Mott and the importance of Seneca Falls.

    1. Limecello Post author

      You know, it makes me sad that I was a polisci major as well (and Chinese so the latter “doesn’t count”) – but there was so little focus on women. And yes! The female abolitionists and suffragists! I swear I learned more about them in elementary/middle school than high school, and basically … never again. :\ And law is … not so kind? to women – so definitely beyond the no “social studies” aspect, no lauding of women there.

  3. dholcomb1

    Agreed. One of my female Poli Sci profs did a class called Politics of Poverty–mostly about women and children. It was another class cross-majored with Women’s Studies. (University of Delaware, Poli Sci major, History minor) I guess I was one of the few who didn’t go on to law school. I do have a Paralegal certificate at the suggestion of one of my Poli Sci profs.

    Interestingly, two of the guys with whom I went to college were the guys who ran the campaigns for Obama (Plouffe) and McCain (Schmidt).

    1. dholcomb1

      And, I only know the experience as a white girl with naturally curly hair–I had to defend that to my other Women Studies professor. She was claiming all the girls had the same hair, going on and on how it was unnatural and we should stop perming it. Practically making us Stepford Wives. I did go to her and say not all girls had permed hair and it was unfair to lump us all together with that kind of comment. (I have hair issues and that added to my bravery to comment to a prof like that.)

      I also had to prove to her that Mother’s Day wasn’t a holiday made up by florists and Hallmark. When I did, she offered to give me extra credit hours if I wrote a paper on it. I had to decline because I was graduating in less than two weeks! lol


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