Civil War at the Kosciusko County Historical Society’s 47th annual banquet.
The banquet was held Thursday evening at the Old Train Depot, Pierceton.
Edmonds, portrayed by professional storyteller Carol Knarr, spoke of how she left her home in Canada at 16 to escape her father’s abuse and an arranged marriage.
She changed her last name to Edmonds and immigrated to the United States.
To get a job she disguised herself as a man and took on the name Franklin Thompson. She became a Bible salesman.
For about an hour, the approximately 100 people in attendance, heard of Edmonds’
encounters after joining the Union in the 2nd Michigan Infantry. Guests heard how soldiers would kill livestock along the way to eat, about thinking of her family and wondered if her brother was still alive and her mother.
She told of what she saw during battles, of being a stretcher barrier and a nurse. She spoke of nicknames the older soldiers would give the young boys such as “little women” because of not being able to grow facial hair and their small stature. “I thought they knew I was a woman,” she said.
She told of meeting a soldier on his deathbed who confided he was actually a woman and begged to be buried away from the others so they would not know.
She spoke of how skulls and bones were sold or used to make jewelry; how soldiers would go through the dead’s haversacks, seeing moments of another’s life. “Sometimes we would sit there and read their letters from home and pretend they were written to me.”
“I was dressed like a man with a woman’s heart,” she said, recalling occasions “Katie” couldn’t get over how Frankie knew what was in her heart and how he thought like a woman. Her cover was almost blown when she saw a childhood friend, James, and called out to him. But he didn’t recognize her and for a short time they spent time talking about his homeland and with some prodding learned about her family — her father still mean and her mother missing her baby girl.
She fell in love with James, but when she learned he had been killed, she no longer wanted to be a soldier. It was then “Nellie” suggested he become a spy — a boy dressed as a woman.
She told of her spy experience meeting General Lee and General Grant and how
the two were opposites, of being trained in Washington, D.C., by Pinkerton; of
being a “cuff” or contraband, a light skinned slave and the tasks she had to do and information she learned to take back to her commander.
Other missions were also recounted until she caught “the fever” and slipped away at night, dressed as a woman, stopping to rest under a tree asking herself “what would I call myself? Who would I be? Would I go back to Michigan? Canada? Where do I belong? I wonder if they miss me? Wonder what ever happened to Frank Thompson?”
Knarr took her information from the biography Edmonds wrote titled “Soldier, Nurse & Spy in the Union Army: The adventures and Experience of a Woman in Hospitals, Camps, Battlefields.”
While Edmonds penned other books, Knarr stated information in those were fictional.
Knarr is a 1981 graduate of Whitko High School and is a certified teacher in Indiana and Arizona. She holds degrees in elementary education, secondary education, storytelling and theatre for young audiences. The area resident provides storytelling for all ages from the classroom, retirement home, office, library and church. She teaches theatre at Jay County High School, Portland.