Forced to leave the army

In 1863, Edmonds contracted malaria, a serious disease carried by mosquitoes. She could not check into the military hospital, because everyone there knew her as Private Franklin Thompson. She decided that the only way to prevent her unit from discovering that she was a woman was to leave the army. Without telling anyone, she went to a private hospital in Cairo, Illinois, on April 22. She checked into the hospital under her real name and spent several weeks recovering. Afterward, she hoped to rejoin her old unit. But then she saw an official notice listing Private Franklin Thompson as a deserter, meaning that he had left the army without permission before his term of service ended. Edmonds knew that she would be punished if she went back as Thompson.

Instead of creating a new male identity, Edmonds joined a relief organization as herself. She worked as a female nurse in Washington, D.C., until the end of the war in 1865. The following year, she published a book about her wartime adventures called Nurse and Spy in the Union Army. In it, she finally revealed the secret she had kept for so many years. The book sold many copies, and she donated all the profits to the U.S. war relief fund.

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