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Sarah Emma Edmonds
 Ceramic Sculpture   
12” x 14” x 8"

Sarah Emma Edmonds (1841-1898)

Edmonds was born in Canada and at age 17 left her home for America. She was deeply offended by slavery and during the Civil War enlisted in the Union Army dressed as a man. At the time, doctors were not required to give enlisted men a physical. Sarah went by the name of Frank Thompson and developed a skill for disguises. She participated in the first and second battles of Bull Run, the battle of Antietam, and the battle of Fredricksberg. She became a spy for the Union. In one instance, she used silver nitrate to darken her skin and cross enemy lines as a black man named Cuff.

She was aided in her efforts by her pastor's wife who helped her create her disguises and never betrayed her confidence. Edmonds was assigned duty as a male nurse in an army hospital where she could fulfill her ambition to nurse the sick and care for the wounded. She contracted malaria and knew that if she went to the hospital it would be discovered she was a woman. She walked to a far-away hospital where no one knew her and admitted herself as a woman. When she recovered she could not reenlist as she was already labeled as a deserter. She signed up as a female nurse until the end of the war. In 1867 Edmonds wrote a book about her life called "Nurse and Spy in the Civil War." It sold 175,000 copies and Edmonds gave all her profits to the war relief efforts. She eventually married and raised three children. In 1884 she received an honorable discharge from the Army and was awarded a $12 per month pension from the War Department. Edmonds is one of 400 women who fought in the Civil War disguised as men.