Sarah Emma Edmonds was born in Canada in 1841. Her father was both physically and verbally abusive which forced her to run away from home at an early age. In fear of her father catching her, Edmonds disguised herself as a man. She cut her hair, dressed like a man, and took on her first new identity as Franklin Thompson. Still in fear that her father would catch her, by 1856 she fled to the United States.
During the Civil War, she decided it a patriotic duty to enlist in the Union army. She was one of only approximately 400 women that actually successfully made the enlistment. At the time, women were not allowed in the army, but the physical evaluations were not extensive enough to catch the imposters.
There was an opening in intelligence gathering and Edmonds sought this opportunity as a spy. She studied intensely to gain valuable knowledge on military tactics, weapons, and geography. Edmonds interviewed in front of the committee and impressed them with her knowledge and was granted the position.
During Edmond’s career as a spy, she took on many more disguises. Her first was that of a black man named Cuff to enter the Confederacy. She colored her head, hands and arms with silver nitrate and obtained a wig “of real negro wool”.
As with any extreme imposing, she ran a risk of wardrobe malfunction. She even heard one slave say, "I'm darned if that feller ain't turning white” as her sweat caused the silver nitrate to fade. Edmonds responded to the slaves with: "I've always expected to come white at some time; my mother's a white woman."
She was a very successful spy and would return back to the Union only to be sent out on additional missions. She continued her duties as a spy by posing as an Irish Peddler Woman as well as a black woman.
During her career as a spy, she was injured on multiple occasions, but never sought medical attention because of her fear of being kicked out the army.
After her services were no longer...