The Mysterious Private Thompson: The Double Life of Sarah Emma Edmonds, Civil War Soldier

Laura Leedy Gansler, Author
Laura Leedy Gansler, Author . Free Press $25 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7432-4280-6
Paperback - 255 pages - 978-0-8032-5988-1
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This modest but solid biography presents the energetic life of Sarah Edmonds (1841–1898), a Nova Scotia woman and Civil War soldier who served in the Second Michigan Volunteer Infantry under the name Franklin Thompson. Fleeing an abusive father and an unwanted marriage, 17-year old Sarah disguised herself as a man and made a living as a traveling book salesman. When war broke out, she found a place in one of the early volunteer regiments and served for two years. She appears to have had at least two lovers or at least men who knew her true identity, but spent much of her service as a medical orderly, mail courier and (allegedly) Union spy. After the war she settled in Texas, married, raised two adopted children and eventually claimed a pension under her wartime name, with the enthusiastic support of most of her old comrades. Gansler (Class Action ) has done her homework on the Civil War with more than average thoroughness, writing clearly and without jargon, and leaves the question of Sarah's spying undecided. Clearly laid down, however, is the portrait of a young woman who made and carried out major life decisions with honor, clarity and ability. (Sept.)

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