I was born and raised in Canada, so the Civil War was not something I formally learned about in school. Because I have always been a curious sort, though, I picked up information about the war here and there so I knew the general gist of the conflict; but it wasn’t until I moved to the U.S. that I learned more and realized how big a deal this conflict was then and in many ways still is now.
Liar,Temptress,Soldier,Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War is Karen Abbott’s contribution to the Civil War accounts (Here is a video of Abbott describing the book). She profiles four women — two on the Union side, two on the Confederate’s — who played active roles in the conflict. One woman, Emma Edmonds, went so far as to impersonate a man and join a Union battle regiment, becoming a key member of the corps. The other three – Elizabeth Van Lew (Union), Rose O’Neal Greenhow, and Belle Boyd (both Confederates) – worked on the home front, collecting and transmitting information for their side.
Two things struck me as I was reading this book, which I enjoyed very much. First, I was impressed by the passion of these women to fight for their side, in all instances risking their own lives in the process. I couldn’t help but wonder how I would have stepped up in a similar situation – is there anything that I am that passionate about to put everything on the line? The second is despite the fact that it was typical of the time I still can’t get over how white citizens (primarily in the South, but I’m sure elsewhere) treated black people with such little respect. The two Confederate women profiled in this book both were imprisoned for a time and raised a ruckus when told they would be together with Negro prisoners. Even though it is historical fact, it still makes me quite uncomfortable to read about.
If you are a Civil War buff, you will definitely enjoy this different perspective of the conflict; but even if you are just vaguely familiar like me I think this book will still prove worth a read.
Be sure to visit the other stops on this book’s tour.