Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War

by Karen Abbott


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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. 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062092908
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/08/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 544
Sales rank: 84,881
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Karen Abbott is the New York Times bestselling author of Sin in the Second City, American Rose, and, most recently, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy. She has written for the New York Times Book Review, Wall Street Journal, Smithsonian magazine, Salon, and other publications.

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Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was a fascinating look into women's roles in the Civil war. It was so interesting I could hardly put it down. I would recommend this book not only for Civil War buffs but for everyone.
bookchickdi More than 1 year ago
Karen Abbott shows us a unique perspective of the American Civil War through the fascinating stories of four women. Two of them supported the cause of the Confederacy and two of them worked to keep the Union together. Emma Edmonds ran away from her family, cut off her hair, and enlisted as a Union soldier. She became Frank and ended up working first as a medic, carrying injured soldiers off the battlefield and assisting the doctors in their care. It was brutal and bloody. Her next job was as a postmaster, but she eventually came to the attention of the Secret Service, run by Allen Pinkerton. He had Emma, whom he believed to be a man, pose as an Irish peddler and as a black slave and infiltrate the Confederate lines to get information. She was a woman posing as a man posing as a woman- crazy! Pinkerton also became involved with Rose, a Washington DC widow who used her feminine charms to seduce prominent Union politicians to get information to send to the Confederacy. Pinkerton worked hard to get evidence against her and eventually arrested her for espionage. I was shocked that not only did Rose use her eight-year-old daughter to pass information to her spies, but when Rose was arrested, her daughter was held in jail with her. The conditions were horrible, and to subject a young child to that was unfair. Elizabeth Van Lewis was from a prominent Richmond, Virginia family. She supported the Union, not a popular thing to do in Richmond. She used her superior intellect to organize a spy network through her work assisting Union prisoners held in a Richmond compound.  She was able to recruit many spies, hide prisoners and send them back North, and get information to Union generals about Confederate troop movements. Jennifer Chiaverini wrote a historical fiction about Van Lew last year, titled Spymistress, that told Van Lew's story more in depth. Belle Boyd was a young, headstrong teen when she shot and killed a Union soldier who was in her family's home. She loved the spotlight, and after escaping punishment for her crime, she became further emboldened and began to spy for the Confederacy. She thought nothing of riding behind enemy lines to get the information to pass onto General Stonewall Jackson, who she had romantic feelings for. I found it interesting that Rose and Belle both traveled to Great Britain in their quest to get England to aide the Confederacy. It was also fascinating to note that Pope Pius IX was the only world leader to recognize the Confederacy. These women were brave and clever, using every feminine wile and intellect they had to advance the cause they held dear to them. Whether sewing secret messages in Jefferson Davis' wife's dresses or creating fake documents to fool the opposition, these women were remarkable and Abbott tells their stories with breathtaking interest. Like many soldiers, the end of the war was difficult for them. The excitement was over, and it was difficult to return to their old lives. It was sad to find out how their lives ended. Abbott brings these exciting women to life on the page, and I found their stories thrilling. Although this is a big book, I read it quickly, waiting to see what these brave women would do next. This is a book any history buff, but especially women, will enjoy.
wyvernsea More than 1 year ago
Excellent story of four women and how the Civil War affected their lives in unexpected ways. One chose to dress as a man to fight in the war. One chose to hide Union soldiers and help transport them back home. Two chose to spy. Two were on the side of the Union and two on the side of the Confederacy. I learned so much from reading this book as it went into great detail and was non-fiction based on much research and history. I never quite grasped the reality that 10,000 men could lose their lives in one day in such awful, desperate measures. As a transplant to the South, much of the Southern frame of mind became clearer through my reading of this book. The author graced us with a Skype visit at our book club and that was such a highlight. We were able to ask questions that she so graciously answered. I look forward to reading her other books and she has one in the works! 
richard11 More than 1 year ago
A different look at the civil war. Women played a bigger role than often thought. Well worth the time.
efm More than 1 year ago
Well written and enjoyable, learned a lot of interesting things.
Anonymous 9 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was intrigued by thr,e story but saddly coul not get into it. Not sure why but it did not draw me in. I do hate not finishing and i may go back and finish later.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was a fascinating read. Before reading Abbott’s book, my knowledge of the Civil War was limited by history classes in K-12. I am college educated, but have known very little about the roles of women in the Civil War. We hear so much about the bravery, the courage, and honor of men who have been soldiers in various wars. Much of horrors of war were show on TV during the Vietnam War; however, this book gives descriptions of the pain, tears in family units, horror, and destruction of the Civil War. This book shows us the courage, bravery, and honor of four women who lived and fought for their beliefs and principals. I would encourage everyone to read and enjoy this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author makes reading history and non-fiction a joy. Excellent!! This would be a great book for book clubs. The book follows 4 women during the Civil War. Each is unique and fascinating. One is a rebel. One disquises herself as a Northern soldier. One wealthy older woman spies for the North. One engages in many affairs to help the South. I kept my computer nearby to look further about other historical figures in the book. Many generals, officers, soldiers are profiled as well. This is a book both male and females will enjoy. The book deserves an A+++++++++
LM_Bookreader More than 1 year ago
I originally found this book through Book Bub and was drawn to it due to the descriptions of the women who were underestimated by men during the Civil War. Remarkable women in history always pique my interest and this book did exactly that. Also, my book club was planning to visit Charleston and I believed Liar Temptress Soldier Spy would be excellent as another point of view of the south during this time period. The book was everything I hoped for with the book and the ladies fascinating. I was impressed by the way the author moved back and forth between the women and their stories as the war progressed with the book always keeping my interest to see what would happen next. After reading the book, I visited the author's website; and found it to be an amazing resource to go along with the book and through the website I was able to email Ms. Abbot to invite her to video chat with our book club to discuss the book. She was generous with her time and our chat with her increased our understanding of the four ladies even more so as she discussed her process and research in bringing this book to life. Ms. Abbot was very gracious and a wonderful resource to us. We all agreed we loved the book and were impressed with Ms. Abbott and look forward to reading more of her work. I definitely recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book kept my attention. I loved all 4 womens storylines. I struggled with jumping between characters but once I was hooked on one character, I wouldn't put the book down so I could learn more about that character. Great read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So wonderful to read of females furing this time period
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have just started your book I am impressed with your writing and imagery - however, it bothers me to see you use the term "civil war " it was the war " between the states " .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thanks put it on the book plz