Behind Rebel Lines: The Incredible Story of Emma Edmonds, Civil War Spy (Great Episodes)

by Seymour Reit

Hardcover, 2008



Local notes

Fic Rei



Harcourt, Inc. (2008), Edition: Reprint, 130 pages, $17.75 (Dec 2017)


Recounts the story of the Canadian woman who disguised herself as a man and slipped behind Confederate lines to spy for the Union army.


Original language


Physical description

130 p.; 6.8 inches


1439517681 / 9781439517680



User reviews

LibraryThing member Treeseed
This is a very quick read even for the 9-12 year age group it is intended for. Never-the-less, it is a very exciting and interesting bit of true Civil War drama. It is the story of Sarah Emma Edmonds, or Emma Edmonds as she was known, a young woman, born in Canada, who, disguised as a man, became a solider, battlefield nurse, spy and detective for the Union army. Emma was sworn into the Union army as Private Franklin Thompson and served bravely and cunningly in many dangerous missions and in many disguises. She was also a devoted and skilled battlefield nurse and tended the wounded of both the Union and the Confederacy with compassion. Her career as a male soldier ended at Vicksburg when she became so ill with malaria that she had to go AWOL in order to escape detection as a female. Her adventures did not stop there. This book is sure to grab the interest of anyone who picks it up. It is not a great work of writing skill, being very episodic with little to link together the various elements of Emma's courageous life. The dialogue is fabricated, of course, and rather stilted, but the facts here are accurate and taken from Emma's memoirs and other historical documents. At least 400 women disguised as men fought for the North during the Civil War, but Emma's tale of espionage is perhaps the most thrilling. I highly recommend this book to young people as a wonderful introduction to the Civil War. Getting to know the people who fought this tragic and bloody war is a wonderful way to understand this astonishing chapter of American history. This book is definitely a page turner and so all the better for keeping interest high and fostering curiosity and discovery.… (more)
LibraryThing member goldfish3
Imaging that you are accepted into the Union army during the civil war. This may sound daring and exciting, but think about needing to hide your identity! That was the life of Emma Edmonds, a teenage girl who disguised herself as a man to be accepted into the middle of the Civil War. Emma’s great battlefield adventures are told in the book Behind Rebel Lines by Seymour Reit. This nonfiction book describes her journey as a Union spy, and gives a great sense of what life was like during the war as a soldier and as a girl. I believe that the book Behind Rebel Lines was very inspiring because it shows Emma’s great bravery and strength in hard times.
This book displays many very important topics of the civil war. One major topic that he included was the life of a girl during the civil war. It stated that Emma was not one to sit around and watch things happen, rather than to make things happen. The main point of this book is that even in the toughest situations, Emma showed true bravery, intelligence and kindness. Emma shows her kindness in many places. For example, when Emma went to the rebel side in disguise to hear of some of their battle plans, she goes to what seems to be an empty house. Inside, she discovers there is a dying Confederate boy in one of the rooms. Instead of abandoning him like another Union spy would, she stays with him until the end. I believe this shows that even though she was serious about her orders, she would still attempt to help someone in need. Emma also strayed from one of her most important missions to send a message to someone as a Confederate soldier’s dying wish. This great book discusses many important and relevant topics of the Civil War.
This book is very organized and told from a third person point of view. In this book, the story of a young teenager name Emma Edmonds is told. Emma was born in Canada. Her father wanted her to be a boy, so she always tried her very best to impress him, and to prove herself. So, when she was just a teenager in the middle of the Civil war, she disguised herself as a boy over eighteen by the name of Franklin Thompson. After she was accepting, she was transferred to a camp in Virginia. There, she heard that her old childhood friend was also nearby in another camp, and was visiting hers. Shortly after, she hears that he took a shot to the neck and bled to death. After she received this startling news, she decided to become a soldier, so her friend wouldn’t have died in vain. From then on, she dresses up as different made up characters, including Cuff, a black slave, Bridget O’Shea, a Confederate peddler and many more. After her Union spy journey, she settles down with a man from her childhood and they had three sons. She was accepted as an honored GAR ex-soldier. She died in 1898, on September 5th.
I believe this book was a great book, and that the author achieved his purpose of writing an exciting story about Emma’s adventures. The writing was easy, and also very powerful and inspiring. The strengths of this book are the amount of information then author had to add, and the easy chronological order they were in. I believe the weaknesses of the book are its lack of quotes from her, and its lack of knowledge of where exactly everything took place. I fully agree that the author did a great job in writing this book, and that all of the information is accurate. I found this book very interesting and a fun read. This book is an easy read with simple vocabulary. I would recommend this to kids in 6th grade, specifically girls, who might relate to it better and find it much more inspiring. I would give this book 7 ½ stars out of 10 stars.
The book Behind Rebel Lines was a great, interesting book. Emma was a very inspiring historical figure in my eyes. This book left me with the impression that you can do anything if you set your mind to it. I would like to emphasize that even though she was a girl, Emma still played a huge role in the Civil War.
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LibraryThing member hsreader
A girl Emma Edmonds who pretended to be a man so she could join the army. As she want a long in the army she went from being a nurse in the army to being a civil war spy. At the end of the book she had kids and died happy knowing she accomplished her goals.
LibraryThing member ks413
I believe this nonfiction book would be great for young girls to read. It shows a powerful girl during the Civil War that dresses as a male to fight. I think this would be a great way to connect girls to history; many girls at this age are all about empowerment. I enjoyed the book the most when it became suspenseful when Emma crossed enemy lines to be a spy for the Union. In a class, I would use this as an option in literature circles because I believe it would engage the girls. In history, we would compare this perspective of the Civil War to the one we read about in textbooks.… (more)
LibraryThing member mushu123
A girl dresses as a man, a general’s wife, your family ripped away from you, and many secrets. The book behind rebel lines was written by Seymour reit. With 130 pages it was a good book because it had many surprises in it.
This book takes place in the northern part of the country. Also Seymour reit the author tells the story of a girl that has so many secrets. The hero or main character of the book is Emma Emonds. I can relate to Emma because she has a secret that she would never tell any on and so do I.
In this book there is this girl named Emma Emonds. She doesn’t want anything elts than to be in the union army. There is one problem, she is a woman. You see woman could not go into the army. So she dressed as a man. She wanted to be a nurse, but she ended up being a spy. She used her secret to her advantage; she was a woman on her side but a woman on the other side. That is how she spied.
This book left an impression on me; that impression was that I think a lot of women dressed as men to be in the army. I would recommend that children and adults would like to read this book. I think they would like it.
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LibraryThing member coolkid18
Final Draft Book Review

By: Seymour Reit
How would you feel if you had to disguise yourself just to help your country? Emma Edmonds, a young Canadian, had no idea what was in store when she cut of her hair and put on slacks to become a man. The Civil War was a stressful time. The North and South needed the help and the numbers. The book was intriguing, because Emma Edmonds was willing to risk her life to be a part of this amazing time in history.
Emma’s mother died and she was tired of being neglected by her Father. Her plan to be a part of the war was a perfect escape route. Except for one thing: She was a girl. She planned to disguise herself as a guy and help by nursing. Her plan went smoothly, but after a while she couldn’t keep her secret anymore. She told her closest friend who was also the General’s wife, Mrs. Butler.
Hoping that Mrs. / Butler would keep her secret, Emma took on another challenge. A confederate spy job opening popped up. Risky yet very brave, Emma took the job. Scared, but somewhat prepared Emma took on her first spy mission as a slave. She was a great spy! Emma went on to do other missions too. She was so successful as a spy, She went on to tell her story by writing a book about her amazing journey.
The Book Behind rebel Lines was intriguing because Emma Edmonds was willing to risk her life to be a part of this amazing time in history. I would recommend this book to any History lover or teacher. Emma Edmonds was strong and brave and her story will be remembered forever! She was so talented and played all different roles in life and she realized that just by the way you look affects a lot on how you are treated. This book gave me a little bit better understanding of what life was like during the Civil War.
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LibraryThing member zwhite
I enjoyed this book because it showed the life of both a female in the war, and a spy in the war. It showed both of these because Emma, the main character, is a female spy in the Civil War. No one knows she is a woman, except for one person. She has to go through the war without showing that she is a female.
LibraryThing member imamazing13
If you were a girl and wanted to be in the army, would you dress up as a man? Behind Rebel Lines is a book where all this happens. The main characters are Emma, Cuff, Bridget, and Mr. and Mrs. Butler. It has 130 pages and it is nonfiction. Its author is Seymour Reit. This is a book where all this happens plus more.
Emma Becomes a field nurse for the confederate states, then later becomes a spy. She goes on dangerous missions as Cuff, Bridget and her other costumes as a spy.
This book would get 7 out of 10 stars because it was kind of slow but then I got faster as it interested me more. She did achieve her purpose because no one found out she was a girl. It was a happy because of the font in the book.
This book could be read by anybody who likes civil war books, especially middle schoolers. I think it was really interesting for a civil war book, and people should read it.
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LibraryThing member imamazing123
Behind Rebel Lines
If you were a girl and wanted to be in the army, would you dress up as a man? Behind Rebel Lines is a book where all this happens. The main characters are Emma, Cuff, Bridget, and Mr. and Mrs. Butler. It has 130 pages and it is nonfiction. Its author is Seymour Reit. This is a book where all this happens plus more.
Emma Becomes a field nurse for the confederate states, then later becomes a spy. She goes on dangerous missions as Cuff, Bridget and her other costumes as a spy.
This book would get 7 out of 10 stars because it was kind of slow but then I got faster as it interested me more. She did achieve her purpose because no one found out she was a girl. It was a happy because of the font in the book.
This book could be read by anybody who likes civil war books, especially middle schoolers. I think it was really interesting for a civil war book, and people should read it.
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LibraryThing member johncenaedge
A female enlisted in the Union Army as a man? Behind Rebel Lines, published by Harcourt Brane Jovanovich in 1988, is the captivating true story of Emma Edmonds. This 102 page non-fiction novel hooks you in and keeps you reading till the last word. The book Behind Rebel Lines was enjoyable because it was a true story with real facts. Emma Edmonds, 21, wants to be a field nurse in the Union Army during the Civil War. One small problem, only male nurses were given this position. Emma decides to enlist in the Union Army. As a man. The author proves that Emma really is a tough woman. Through all her struggles she continues to be happy. There are many great points in this story, but my favorite part is when Emma dyes her skin black with a toxic chemical, just to go on a mission. To me, this really proves just how tough Emma is. In the beginning of the book, we find out the Emma’s father always wanted her to be a boy. Emma always tried to please him, and win his approval. When Emma’s mother died, her father became even more cruel and criticizing. When Emma was just 16 years old, she packed a bag and ran away from home. When Emma is 21 she disguises herself as a man to enlist in the Union Army, hoping to be a nurse. Emma gets enlisted in the Union Army as Pvt. Franklin Thompson, a field nurse. After a while Emma tells her secret to Mrs. Butler. After some time the General recruits Emma as a spy. Emma works very hard on many missions behind the rebel lines. At the end of the book, after the war ended Emma went back to her old life of nursing work and such. Although I enjoyed this book it had some weaknesses. I feel like is could’ve had much more detail. I also feel like it was strong because the author gave specific names as shown on page 41. I found the book a little dull due to the lack of detail, but overall enjoyable. I would recommend this book to people with free-time on their hands, because it is very boring in some parts and it just seems to drag out. I would give this book 6 stars, because it was a good read, but needed more details and information. In conclusion, this book left an alright impression on me. I will probably not read another book by this author again. People interested in the Civil War and female rights would enjoy this book. I recommend this book for children 11&up.… (more)
LibraryThing member benuathanasia
Brilliantly written, fascinating characters, and great pacing. I love this book.
LibraryThing member APPLESAUCE1300
“It was not my intention, or desire, to seek my own personal ease and comfort while so much sorrow and distress filled the land. But the great question to be decided was, what can I do? What part can I myself play in this great drama?
Behind Rebel Lines by Seymour Reit was an excellent book. It wasn't just about the civil war and the hardships of the war but about how someone that wasn't “able” to do something proved everyone wrong and was the best at it. The main character was Emma Edmonds. She wasn't an average girl, she went into the war dressed as a man. She did this because she felt that there was something she could do to help, even if it was a field nurse or first combat. She went into the army as Franklin Thomas.
She went behind the enemy line 11 different times and came back perfectly fine. To do this she dressed herself as other people, she pretended to be a slave and a woman. But during this time frame of the war she got sick with malaria. She couldn't go to the army’s nurse because they would figure out that she was a woman. So she left, and went to a hospital and she planed that once she got better she would return to the army.
The book over all was amazing. It was so detailed. The author did an excellent job of explaining the events that happened in this time period. When you read the book it wasn't hard to understand, once you started to read the book it just flowed. I found the book to be very interesting and I learned a lot of new things that happened in the war. I would recommend this book for anyone. It had action, adventure, and bravery. I would give it a 9 3/4 out of 10.
Once I was done reading the book, I wanted to read it over and over again. The book has taught me so much I didn't know about the civil war. The best crowd for the book would be really anyone, but I think that young girls interested in history and independence would be best.
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LibraryThing member lovejollyranchers7
Behind Rebel Lines is the book I read and it was amazing but it had its sad moments. Reading this book was never boring but it was very exciting. So I want you to read it!!!

The book Behind Rebel Lines talked about how the civil war could have many hardships. This book was nonfiction so all of the events really happened. The Book was really good but it also was sad. Behind Rebel Lines showed what it was like way back when.

This book took place in 1861, and Emma Edmonds who wanted to take a stand for her country wanted to fight in the war but how? She decided to dress up like a man and sign up to fight in the war. She was sent to a place to stay and she stayed there dressed as a man just so she could take a stand for her country. The author Seymour Reit did an amazing job describing all of the charters that Emma Edmonds ‘’played’’.

When Emma had to act as a slave ‘’Cuff’’, nobody even recognized her. She claimed she was looking for frank Thomson the man Emma ‘’was’’. But what really stood out was how he or she got the job and really getting in the first place desisted as a man. It was crazy how someone like her could just walk in dressed as a man and become part of a war. Also one thigh that stood out to me is how she stood out and really made a difference, like how she decided she wanted to be in the war not just as a nurse (a women job for veterans) but she went out and was a spy for the war she knew what she had to know so she took her part and she shot it across the world!!!

Behind Rebel Lines was an amazing book and there were so many things that would be so cool to experience today minus the huge war and getting hurt! So I encourage you to read this book.
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LibraryThing member lily33
Imagine disguising as a guy and a girl. In the book Behind Rebel Lines by Seymour Reit, the main character, Emma Edmonds, disguised as a guy soldier for the union side. This book is nonfiction. Behind Rebel Lines was a very interesting because it shows what war was like back then and showed what the consequences were.
Emma Edmonds disguised as a guy to go in the war but she was also a spy on the union side also, which was very risky to do considering the consequences. If she was caught she could’ve been hung! The time period was the 1860’s. The main important event was when she decided she wanted to go in the war to be a spy for the union.
The war needed American men to join the army. Despite Emma being a girl she was determined to enroll in the army. When she finally got in the army she saw her childhood friend who eventually died. This was hard on Emma. Emma was a union soldier who spied on the confederate side and reported back to the union. The consequences for being caught as a traitor were very harsh.
Behind Rebel Lines was a very good book. The book was not a difficult read at all. This book was very detailed and really went in depth. Seymour Reit wanted to write about this concept because it’s obviously a very interesting topic about the civil war. I would recommend it to middle schoolers because I thought it was detailed, easy read, and a good book. I would give it 10 stars.
Before I read this book I didn’t know that much about what the war was like back then but this book gave me a new perspective on what war is like. The reader should be prepared on changing what they think about the war, also. Read the book to experience a really good book.
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LibraryThing member meblack19
I absolutely love this story. It's about Emma Edmonds, a Canadian who disguises herself as a man to fight for the Union army during the US Civil War. While in the army, working as a nurse, an opportunity arises for her alias, Frederick Thompson to cross rebel lines as a spy. He does this many times under the assumed identities of a contraband slave named Cuff, a middle aged Irish woman named Bridget O'Shea, and a Confederate sympathizer named Charles Mayberry. She is forced to desert because she got very ill and didn't want to reveal her secret. Later on after the war, she did get the honorary discharge she deserved after coming clean about her real identity. As it turns out, she wasn't the only woman who went into the army as a man. Nearly 400 women did the same things. It's a very inspirational story and is great for kids to read. It's not well-written, but the story is amazing. I would recommend that copies be kept in classrooms.… (more)
LibraryThing member sparkles2
Could you imagine living with the fear that maybe they would see through your disguise. Behind Rebel Lines is a nonfiction piece by Seymour Reit, Also Houghton Muffin Harcourt published Behind Rebel Lines, and the book has 144 pages and was copyrighted in 1998. The book Behind Rebel Lines was an interesting book because it used descriptive information and lots of true facts about real events in history.
Behind Rebel Lines is about the Civil War and spies. Some of the most interesting main points in the book are when Emma disguises herself as a man to become a nurse in the war. The most important event was when spies would penetrate enemy lines and take the army’s plan so they could make their next move.
Have you ever thought women would want to be in the war? Emma Edmonds wants to become a solider but she is a women. So she disguises herself as a man and becomes a nurse. Some major events that stood out to me were, when she becomes a spy and when she goes Behind Rebel Lines.
I think the author achieved his purpose because he also included what happened after she went home. Yes the writing makes me picture what’s happening and a quote in on page 102. Some strengths are because both sides have spy’s and weakness are they both discovered each other’s spy’s. The author’s qualifications are he used U.S Army records and files from the National Archives and wrote more than 80 books for young people. I agree with the author’s arguments and conclusions because the events are true but the time line isn’t. The book is interesting. I would recommend this book because its age appropriate. I would say 10 because it gives you real information.
The book left a positive expression. 11 and up should read this.
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LibraryThing member asomers
This quick story made me want to know much more about the fascinating Emma Edmonds. HOw could she have pulled off these disguises so convincingly? My two star rating is due to the fact that this is a book clearly meant for a younger reader and I don't think the author puts some of the racial commentary in the proper context for a student that does not know much about this period of history.… (more)
LibraryThing member thing2priest
great book
LibraryThing member SAM_7
I don’t know what to do! I have swamp fever and no one can find out I’m a women, not a man. Behind Rebel Lines was written by Seymour Reit. Behind Rebel Lines was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2001. It is 144 pages long and Emma Edmonds was a field nurse then a spy. Emma posed as a man for 2 years without getting caught. She ran away from home when she was pretty young. Emma’s parents didn’t care about her that much because they wanted a boy. She came to America and became an American citizen. Soon after that she became an American soldier.
The topic of Behind Rebel Lines I think was to tell a story about a woman that posed as a man and that dreams or goals can come true, no matter if you’re a women or man. Behind Rebel Lines was a pretty good book. I just didn’t like how historic it was. I would suggest a Social Studies/History teacher to read it.
Emma Edmonds was in war in 1861. Emma supported the North. Emma was a strong bold girl. Before she went into war she lived in Canada with her family. Her dad treated her bad because he wanted a boy. Emma became a field nurse in war then a spy. Emma made a friend at the hospital where she worked and gained trust with her. Emma told her that she was a women not a man.
Behind Rebel Line was a Historical Fiction book. It was pretty good and gave me a lot more information about War of 1861.
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(68 ratings; 3.7)
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