Disguised for much of her life as a man, Sarah Emma Edmonds proudly served her adopted country, the United States, as a nurse and spy during the Civil War. After fleeing from Canada to escape her abusive father, Edmonds enlisted in the Union Army as a male nurse named Franklin “Flint” Thompson.
In 1861, she began serving in the hospital unit of the 2nd Michigan Volunteers as Franklin. She didn’t have any problems keeping up her masculine disguise. Her skills in hiding her identity served her well when she enlisted as Franklin as a spy in the Union Army.
As Franklin the spy, she crossed enemy lines disguised as a black man named Cuff. She also infiltrated Confederate lines as an Irish peddler woman, a mammy, and as a man again to identify southern spy work. In total, Edmonds used her alias, Franklin, to pull off 11 missions.
When her time as Franklin ended due to a case of malaria, Edmonds headed back to Washington, D.C., to serve as a nurse through the end of the war. After marrying and moving back to Canada, she died in 1898 in her home country.