Karen Abbott, the New York Times bestselling author of Sin in the Second City and “pioneer of sizzle history” (USA Today), tells the spellbinding true story of four women who risked everything to become spies during the Civil War.
Karen Abbott illuminates one of the most fascinating yet little known aspects of the Civil War: the stories of four courageous women—a socialite, a farmgirl, an abolitionist, and a widow—who were spies.
After shooting a Union soldier in her front hall with a pocket pistol, Belle Boyd became a courier and spy for the Confederate army, using her charms to seduce men on both sides. Emma Edmonds cut off her hair and assumed the identity of a man to enlist as a Union private, witnessing the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. The beautiful widow, Rose O’Neale Greenhow, engaged in affairs with powerful Northern politicians to gather intelligence for the Confederacy, and used her young daughter to send information to Southern generals. Elizabeth Van Lew, a wealthy Richmond abolitionist, hid behind her proper Southern manners as she orchestrated a far-reaching espionage ring, right under the noses of suspicious rebel detectives.
Using a wealth of primary source material and interviews with the spies’ descendants, Abbott seamlessly weaves the adventures of these four heroines throughout the tumultuous years of the war. With a cast of real-life characters including Walt Whitman, Nathaniel Hawthorne, General Stonewall Jackson, detective Allan Pinkerton, Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, and Emperor Napoleon III, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy draws you into the war as these daring women lived it.
Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy contains 39 black & photos and 3 maps.
In this gripping book, Abbott (Sin in the Second City) tells the moving and fascinating story of four women who played unconventional roles during the Civil War: Belle Boyd, a boisterous flirt and Confederate spy; Rose Greenhow, a seductive widow also spying for the South; Emma Edmondson, who disguised herself as a man and enlisted in the Union army; and Elizabeth Van Lew, a wealthy spinster in the Confederate capital with Unionist loyalties. Meticulously researched and fluidly written, this book draws the reader in and doesn't let go until the four heroines draw their final breaths. Abbott provides an alternate view of this tumultuous time in history by featuring previously untold stories of the impact women and civilians had on the war effort, and she brings these individuals fully to life, with their passion for their causes (Elizabeth for abolitionism, Rose for the Confederacy), personal flaws (Rose was racist and self-involved, Belle was impulsive and vain), and heartbreak (Emma by two different men, Belle for an opposing spy). For example, in an era when men had trouble even picturing women in pants, Emma Edmondson enlisted as a man in the Union army and saw action in her roles as both spy and nurse. In the end, Abbott tells a remarkable story of passion, strength, and resilience.
Great Intrigue, but falls off
I had a difficult time trying to understand & remember who was who, in the 4 main characters, especially as each chapter jumped from one to the other in succession. As I delved deeper into the book, it seemed each that each woman replayed her role again & again, just in different times, places & soldiers. My personal opinion is that the book became monotonous . .
I’m a woman…
and I am all for reading about brave women. But why would I want to read about 4 women who supported SLAVERY!?!
Great Read, Excellent Writer
I had the opportunity to hear Karen on NPR. When I got to work I had an email, from the Filson's Club in Louisville announcing that Karen was going to be there speaking. I signed up, went to hear her, got my "personalized" autographed copy. I read it in about a week, I was not disappointed. Excellent writer, great story teller, my favorite kind of history teacher. A person who can spin a great tale. If you are a history buff, or a civil war buff, this book is for you.