Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy

Four Women Undercover in the Civil War

Book - 2014
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Abbott tells the true story of four women who risked everything—their homes, their families, and their very lives—during the Civil War. 17-year-old Belle Boyd, an avowed rebel with a dangerous temper, shot a Union soldier in her home and became a courier and spy for the Confederate army, using her considerable charms to seduce men on both sides. Emma Edmonds disguised herself as a man to enlist as a Union private named Frank Thompson, witnessing the bloodiest battles of the war and infiltrating enemy lines, all the while fearing her past would catch up with her. Beautiful widow Rose O'Neal Greenhow engaged in affairs with powerful Northern politicians, used her young daughter to send information to Southern generals, and sailed abroad to lobby for the Confederacy, a journey that cost her more than she ever imagined. Elizabeth Van Lew, a wealthy Richmond abolitionist, hid behind her proper Southern manners as she orchestrated a far-reaching espionage ring—even placing a former slave inside the Confederate White House—right under the noses of increasingly suspicious rebel detectives. Abbott's narrative weaves the adventures of these four forgotten daredevils into the tumultuous landscape of a broken America, evoking a secret world that will surprise even the most avid enthusiasts of Civil War–era history.
Publisher: New York : Harper, c2014
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780062092892
Characteristics: xiii, 513 p. : ill., map ; 24 cm


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RandomLibrarian Aug 20, 2019

Review excerpt: "'Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy' is a riveting non-fiction book about four women who conducted espionage (and, in one case, fought undercover as a soldier) in the Civil War. Two women worked for the North and two for the South. The book is interesting and exciting and paints incredible pictures of very different women who, love them or hate them, lived unusual lives of great political and personal passion and daring."

Aug 15, 2019

Absolutely fascinating look at the women who made their own stands during the Civil War, on both sides of the conflict. Brilliant.

Jun 04, 2018

Reading this book is a continuation of my journey to learn about the Civil War. Was wonderful to see how women influenced the War in major ways. Had not read of Women getting much credit in my previous books. I had to re-orient myself when reading after a break due to changes in the main characters. As the book progress and personalities develop, this became easy. Emma (Frank), Belle, Elizabeth and Rose are all strong women who went above and beyond what protocol allowed in the mid+ 1800s. They were certainly groundbreakers, helping pave the way for the advancement, understanding and appreciation of women's abilities. Highlights the importance of "Intelligence" in giving the edge in many battles.

DBRL_ReginaF Mar 10, 2018

It's rare that we get to learn of the contributions of women in the cause of our earlier wars. No matter which side they were on, these women were incredible whether fighting alongside the men, slipping past lines as spies, smuggling escaped captive or simply standing up to authority. These are fascinating stories that leave me wanting to learn more.

Nov 14, 2017

The Civil War is, of course, an epic event. What I appreciated about Karen Abbott's book was the reminder that epic events are made up of many individual actions. Using diaries, eyewitness accounts, contemporary news articles and official records she told the true stories of four women. At a time when women were assigned very rigid roles, each of these women responded with her own vision of patriotic action. These actions often meant the difference between life and death for themselves and others. I found the book to be a fascinating, up-close-and personal glimpse into a turbulent time.

Jun 03, 2017

In LIAR, TEMPTRESS, SOLDIER, SPY author Karen Abbott offers a fascinating look at the lives and exploits of 4 women (2 Union & 2 Confederate) who ignored the societal norms of the time and risked it all for their respective causes during the American Civil War. It is very well researched but a bit too long, and with references to many historical figures and events it can be confusing.

ArapahoeLesley Nov 10, 2016

Granted, I did read this book on and off for over a year (jeeeez!) I don't think my one complaint about this book is due to that. Rose, Elizabeth, Belle and Emma... I couldn't keep track of who was who! The book flitted so often between the four women that I had to stop and look back and spend a lot of time trying to remember if Belle was in England still or was that Rose this time, is Elizabeth the union spy and Rose and Belle the Confederate ones? I had to constantly remind myself. The only one that really stood out was Emma who dressed as a man and was as often in the text referred to as Frank as Emma. Well written and containing a wealth of interesting information that ultimately got muddled in this head of mine.

Aug 29, 2016

Abbott’s account of a Union soldier, a Union sympathizer living in Richmond, a Confederate spy living in Washington and a precocious young girl in western Virginia is told from first-person accounts, but reads engagingly like a good story.

Social norms didn’t give women any role. These women seized opportunities. Recommended.

mvkramer Mar 30, 2016

This enjoyable volume of popular history explores the stories of four women - two Union and two Confederate - who gave their all to make a difference in the Civil War. While many of their achievements were in espionage and diplomacy, more "feminine" spheres, one actually disguised herself as a man and enlisted. An exciting volume that proves that truth is stranger than fiction. Really enjoyable.

rb3221 Feb 10, 2016

The story of four women, four unsung heroes dedicated to their causes during the American Civil war who 'chafed at the limitations society set for them and were determined to change the course of the war'. Belle Boyd, the hot headed teenager who supported the South, worked as a courier and used her charms to seduce men and believed it was her duty to entrap the Yankee spys. Emma Edmunds, a Canadian who ran away from a forced marriage, joined the Union army as a male nurse (even though she was a female), post master and effective spy. Rose Greenhow, a Confederate spy while living in Union territory charmed military leaders and senators for information. As she created a vast espionage ring in the federal capital, she provided key intelligence about the enemy's plans, even while watched by the Pinkerton men. Elizabeth Van Lew, an abolitionist who ran a sizable spy ring for the Union as well as a safe house in Richmond for Union soldiers.
This is a very well researched and thorough account of these four women. It reads like a novel but it is sometimes hard to follow all of the secondary characters. Overall a very interesting book.

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mvkramer Mar 30, 2016

Violence: Plenty of wartime carnage.

mvkramer Mar 30, 2016

Sexual Content: Some excerpts from a prostitute's diary.


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