Karen Abbott tells the stories of four courageous women - a socialite, a farmgirl, an abolitionist, and a widow - who were spies during the Civil War.
Karen Abbott illuminates one of the most fascinating yet little known aspects of the Civil War: the stories of four courageous women - a socialite, a farmgirl, an abolitionist, and a widow - who were spies.
After shooting a Union soldier in her front hall with a pocket pistol, Belle Boyd became a courier and spy for the Confederate army, using her charms to seduce men on both sides. Emma Edmonds cut off her hair and assumed the identity of a man to enlist as a Union private, witnessing the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. The beautiful widow, Rose O'Neale Greenhow, engaged in affairs with powerful Northern politicians to gather intelligence for the Confederacy, and used her young daughter to send information to Southern generals. Elizabeth Van Lew, a wealthy Richmond abolitionist, hid behind her proper Southern manners as she orchestrated a far-reaching espionage ring, right under the noses of suspicious rebel detectives.
Using a wealth of primary source material and interviews with the spies' descendants, Abbott seamlessly weaves the adventures of these four heroines throughout the tumultuous years of the war. With a cast of real-life characters including Walt Whitman, Nathaniel Hawthorne, General Stonewall Jackson, detective Allan Pinkerton, Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, and Emperor Napoleon III, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy draws you into the war as these daring women lived it.
From Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott
The Fastest Girl in Virginia
(or Anywhere Else for That Matter)
The Shenandoah Valley, Virginia
In the town of Martinsburg on the lower tip of the Valley, a seventeen-year- old rebel named Belle Boyd sat by the windows of her wood-frame home, waiting for the war to come to her. It was July 4 and the war was still new, only two and a half months old, but Belleknown by one young rival as "the fastest girl in Virginia or anywhere else for that matter"had long been accustomed to things operating on her schedule, and at her whim.
She tracked the progress of Union forces as they stormed down from the North, all those boys sweating and filthy under blue wool coats, lean as the rifles slung at their sidesnearly fifteen thousand of them, a few as young as thirteen, away from their mothers for the very first time. She felt they had no respect at all, waving American flags with the stars of thirty-four states ...
Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy is quite simply a fun excursion into an obscure aspect of the Civil War that deserves a wide audience. Abbott's ability to present her subject in an entertaining yet informative manner makes this one a winner. It's sure to delight history buffs and readers interested in women's studies alike, as well as those who simply enjoy delving into a great, fast-paced work of general non-fiction.
(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).
Full Review (981 words).
In addition to the four women profiled by Karen Abbott in Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, many others had well-documented military careers. Some of these famous female soldiers include:
Frances Clalin enlisted as Jack Williams. A Minnesota farmer's wife and mother of three, Clalin signed up to be with her husband, Elmer. Her fellow soldiers considered her a "hard-drinking, tobacco-chewing, foul-mouthed son of a gun" who was also an outstanding horseman, deadly with a sword and an expert poker player. She fought in 18 battles, was wounded three times and taken prisoner once. When Elmer was killed a few feet in front of her at the Battle of Stones River on December 31, 1862, legend has it that she stepped over his body and charged when ...
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