Academic journal article Michigan Quarterly Review

Sarah Emma Edmonds, Memoirs, 1861-1865

Academic journal article Michigan Quarterly Review

Sarah Emma Edmonds, Memoirs, 1861-1865

Article excerpt

See me now: I'm a contraband boy in the rebel camp. My paint rubs off my hands, and one of the other negros says, "I'll be darned if that feller ain't turnin' white." I add more silver nitrate.

I write down the position of eighteen four and a half-inch rifled cannon, twenty-one forty-two pounders, eleven nine-inch Dahlgrens, thirteen ten-inch Columbiads, fourteen ten-inch mortars, and seven eight-inch siege howitzers, tuck the paper in the inner sole of my shoe. On picket duty I step into the darkness and step again and one more time, and I'm gliding through forest back to the union side.

See me now: I'm an Irish pedlar woman, I practice a brogue. In between the picket lines I find an abandoned house.

Inside the house there's red ink that I use to line my eyes, mustard that I make into a plaster for blistering my face, and pepper I sprinkle in my handkerchief. I can cry on caprice. I pull out earthenware, clothing, quilts, add them to my wares. In the reb camp I spot a salesman I've seen before, loitering behind the union lines selling newspapers. He's telling about Yankee fortifications, doesn't notice me.

I'm a nurse-quick, remember-man or woman this time?

I'm a nurse and I hold the one hand a soldier has left. He shifts toward death's all-shifting.

Pull back the tent flap.

Inside a warmth from the bedroll swells toward you, thin smell of bread, sweat. The tent flap in hand, you feel its grain? …

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