“A SOLDIER’S SECRET: The Incredible True Story of Sarah Edmonds, a Civil War Hero,” by Marissa Moss, Amulet, Sept. 1, 2012, Hardcover, $16.95 (ages 12 and up)
Some of the best stories are based in truth. Such is the case with “A Soldier’s Secret: The Incredible True Story of Sarah Edmonds, a Civil War Hero.”
Sarah Emma Edmonds fought in the Civil War. That wouldn’t be such a novel idea if she had been a man, but it was almost unheard of for a woman to serve as a soldier. Sarah dressed as a man and used the name Frank Thompson.
Sarah became Frank before the war, finding she was able to move freely and accomplish more when people thought her to be a man. When the chance came to enlist, it seemed the natural choice.
Sarah/Frank served as a nurse on the battlefield and as a spy for the Union Army. At one point, she was captured by and escaped from the Confederates. Following the war, she became the only woman to be recognized by acts of Congress as an honorably discharged soldier, with rights to back pay and a pension. And she was the only woman allowed to join the Grand Army of the Republic, which was the association for Civil War veterans.
Though “A Soldier’s Secret” is a fictionalized version of Sarah/Frank’s life in the army, author Marissa Moss did considerable research and built a strong foundation from historical materials — including Frank’s diary and letters and journals of other soldiers who served with him. Also included in the book are a Civil War timeline, archival photos, a glossary of names and a detailed note on sources.
Sarah tells her own story in “A Soldier’s Secret,” giving readers a front-row seat to all the action and inner turmoil Sarah and her fellow soldiers experienced.
Sarah’s story is captivating from beginning to end. If not for the proof that it happened, one could easily believe her life a complete work of fiction.
What really makes this book work, however, is Marissa’s skilled storytelling. Her use of pacing and her easily accessible prose take readers beyond wanting to read Sarah’s tale to actually reading it. Marissa effortlessly sets the tone, giving balance to the daily drudgery of waiting to the panicked moments of battle.
“A Soldier’s Secret” is a fascinating read that you won’t want to put down.