By the time the Civil War started, Edmonds had developed strong feelings about the United States and considered it her home country. She wanted to help defend the Union against the Southern rebellion. But roles for women were limited in those days. They were not allowed to be soldiers, and they were discouraged from taking on other jobs that were not considered ladylike. But Edmonds did not want to sew clothing and blankets for the soldiers, or work in an office or factory, or be a nurse in a city hospital far from the lines of battle. She wanted to be in the middle of the action. So she decided to enlist in the Union Army as Franklin Thompson.
Disguised as a man, Edmonds went to an army recruiting office to volunteer. Luckily, the officials there did not require a complete physical examination. Instead, they just asked her some questions. On May 14, 1861, Franklin
Thompson was accepted as a private in the Second Michigan Volunteer Infantry unit of the Union Army. Edmonds (Thompson) received special training to serve as a field nurse. She would work in a tent hospital near the front lines of battle, providing medical treatment to wounded soldiers. She served in this capacity in the first major battle of the Civil War—the First Battle of Bull Run in Virginia in July 1861.
Edmonds continued working as a soldier and nurse until March 1862, and no one discovered her true identity. But then two things happened that made her want to contribute even more to the Union war effort. First, she learned that a fellow soldier who had been a close friend since she had moved to the United States had been killed by the Confederates. His death made her want to do anything in her power to make the war end sooner. Next, she heard that an important Union spy had been caught and executed in the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. Without information from this spy, the Union generals in charge of her unit could not move ahead with their plans. After thinking about these two things, Edmonds volunteered to become a spy.
Was this article helpful?