Civil War Union Spy Emma Edmonds

About the Civil War Union spy Emma Edmonds, her biography and history of her adventures as nurse and spy.

Emma Edmonds. Canadian. Worked for: Union Army, Civil War.

When Union nurse Emma Edmonds volunteered for espionage missions, she was asked to submit to a "cranial" efficiency test. After the bumps on her head were "read" by a phrenologist, who pronounced her capable of keeping secrets, she stained her body with walnut juice, donned a wig, and crossed Confederate lines posing as a young black laborer. Upon entering Yorktown, she was given an ax, shovel, and wheelbarrow, and put onto construction work on the town's fortifications. As Emma painfully labored, she sketched a map of the fort and noted the number and size of the enemy's armaments. Hiding the diagram in the bottom of a shoe, she walked it back to the Union Army. Emma completed 10 additional missions for the North, ofttimes posing as an Irish peddler woman and sometimes as a soldier. When she fell seriously ill at Vicksburg, Emma was given an honorable discharge and she returned to her New England home to write Nurse and Spy, an account of her life as a Union agent.

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