Wednesday, July 8, 2015

What-I'm-Reading-Wednesday: Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott

If your country went to war, would you be able to sacrifice your life, your money, your reputation, or your young daughter for victory?  Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War is the story of two Confederate women and two Union women who became spies for their respective nations during the Civil War (1861-1865).  They put their lives and those of their families, friends, servants/slaves, soldiers, and politicians at risk, often pulling individuals into their spy rings to obtain any and all information they could to pass on to those in command.

Rose Greenbow lived in Richmond, Virginia with her young daughter and provided information to the Confederate commanders about troop strength, morale, battle plans, and equipment.  She and her daughter not only went to prison; but were also envoys for the Confederacy in Europe.

Belle Boyd lived in Martinsburg, Virginia (West Virginia after 1863).  She was an ardent supporter of the Southern way of life and spent time as a spy.  She gained information by using any ruse she could and often charmed the men to learn what they knew.  Her information proved vital to the Confederacy and changed the course of early events.

Emma Edmonds of Michigan cut her hair, donned men's clothing and enlisted in a Michigan infantry unit as a male -- the only way to avoid an arranged marriage and to fight for the Union cause.  While in uniform, she worked with the medical men, served as a courier, and a spy.  She saw the war through battles, the wounded and dying and those living in the region of the battles.

Elizabeth Van Lew grew up in the North; however, her father owned a business in Richmond, Virginia.  The wealth of her family helped provide the money and status to become a spy for the Union.  She was suspected by her neighbors; however, she was never caught with any evidence verifying that she was a spy or that she hid escaping Union soldiers in her house.  Elizabeth planted her personal slave in the Confederate White House where Jefferson and Varina Davis lived.  The slave remembered anything she read or heard, providing  pertinent information to the North.

Abbott brings these four women together through a seamless writing of the Civil War, their exploits, and how their efforts made a difference to both sides.  There are books written by Greenbow, Boyd, and Edmonds  about their lives,  Liar, temptress, Soldier, Spy  allows the reader to read about the soldiers, commanders, politicians, women and children left at home, and Lincoln and Davis.  This book gives the viewpoint of war through its participants, their devotion and dedication, suffering, and desire for victory.

Abbott provides historic information about the Civil War along with fascinating lives little known to many.

This volume is available to request from the Ort Library catalog here: Click on "Availability", then click on the yellow "Request" button, and log in using your last name and 14-digit Library barcode number on your ID. If you need assistance, please contact the Circulation Desk at 301-687-4395.

Written by MaryJo Price

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