Sarah Emma Edmonds was born as Sarah Emma Evelyn Edmondson in December 1837. [Even though one generally sees 1841 as the year Emma was born. her obituaries state that she was age 60 when she died in 1898, therefore this would place her birth in 1837.], on a farm in Maguadanick, New Brunswick, Canada, that was not far from the St. John's river. She was the youngest of the five children of Isaac and Elizabeth Edmondson. Sarah went by the name of Emma. From the time she was born until Emma left home when she was about 20 years old, she was treated like a boy by her father, and misunderstood by her mother. Consequently Emma spent her years as a child trying to act like a boy in order to win her father's love. Therefore one can see why Emma chose to continue this charade when she came to the USA in the late 1850's. [Photo on the right is of Sarah Emma Edmonds as she looked when she went under the name of Frank Thompson]
When Emma decoded to enlist in Company F of the 2nd Regiment of the Michigan Volunteer Infantry for 3 years on May 17, 1861, [Offical Company Muster Roll lists the date of May 25, 1861], in Fort Wayne, MI as
Franklin Thompson, she had been selling Bibles for about a year in Flint, MI under this name. According to the Military Records of Private Franklin Thompson, Emma as Private Thompson performed the duties of nurse, and Regimental Mail Carrier during the war. There are also periods of time that the records show that Private Thompson was
absent on duty. In her book, Emma states that she was a spy for the Union in addition to a nurse, and therefore the general consensus is that the dates when Thompson was listed as
absent on duty coincide with her spy missions. Emma served as Franklin, who was also known as
Frank Thompson until April 19, 1863; it was at this point that Emma felt she had to leave in order to get treatment for her malaria. When Emma left, Franklin Thompson was listed as a Deserter. It remained this way until July 5, 1884, when the Act of Congress, [See H.R. 5334/5335, Congressional Record, 48th Congress, 1st session, Vol XV, 1884 for additional information], that granted Emma a Pension officially removed this from Franklin Thompson's file and Emma was given an
Honorable Discharge. Her Pension was $12.00 a month.
After Emma recovered from malaria, she went to work as a nurse in a hospital in Washington, D.C. until the end of the Civil War. It was during this time period that Emma wrote the book about her experiences in the Civil War, Nurse and Spy in the Union Army: The Adventures and Experiences of a Woman in Hospitals, Camps and Battlefields, that was published by W.S. Williams & Co., Hartford, CT., 1865. Her book was dedicated to the Sick and Wounded Soldiers of the Army of the Potomac. When Emma published this book, she shortened her last name to
Edmonds. Emma's book was written using quite a bit of
literary license in order to make it more interesting. The reports indicate that she sold 175,000 copies, and with the exception of $1,000.00, Emma donated the proceeds of her book to the Soldier's Relief Association.[The State Republican article states that proceeds were donated to the
Christian Sanitary Commission]
In 1867, Emma married Linus H. Seely, [The marriage took place in Ohio], but after they were married she changed their name to
Seelye. During their marriage, Emma & Linus shared their lives with five children; three were biological children, Linus B., Homer, and Alice Louise, and two were adopted, George Frederick, and Charles Finney. Unfortunately Emma & Linus' biological children died as young children. Emma & Linus lived in a number of places during their marriage, they moved to Fort Scott, Kansas in the early 1880's, and in the early 1890's they moved to LaPorte, Texas. In 1883, the Charles T. Foster Post of the Grand Army of the Republic in Lansing, MI, under the command of Col. Frederick Schneider, invited Emma to be a daughter of their Post, and then on April 22,1897, Emma became a member of the George B. McClellan GAR Post in Houston, Texas.
Mrs. S. Emma Edmonds Seelye died on September 5, 1898, and was buried in Morgan Cemetery near LaPorte, Rev. O. C. Sterling, father of her daughter-in-law Lucy, officiated the funeral services that took place in the Seelye home. On Memorial Day, 1901, the members of George B. McClellan GAR Post arranged to move Emma's body from the Morgan Cemetery to the military section of the Washington Cemetery, [Formerly known as German Cemetery], in Houston, Texas.
Mortuary Obituary of Mrs. L. H. Seelye, R. H. Halsted Scrapbook; [From Collection of Clarke Manuscripts, Clarke Historical Library]
Sarah Emma Edmonds-Seeley (Alias Frank Thompson): The Female Soldier of the Second Michigan Veterans Volunteer Infantry-The Story of a Remarkable Life, The State Republican, June 19-June 26, 1900; [From Collection of Clarke Manuscripts, Clarke Historical Library]
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