Civil War Women: Sarah Emma Edmonds as Franklin Thompson

At the age of sixteen in 1857, Sarah Emma Edmondson escaped an arranged marriage and an abusive father. She changed her last name to Edmonds. Emigrating to the United States from New Brunswick, she found a job more easily when disguised as a man, Franklin Thompson. When the war began, she lived in Flint, Michigan. Strong Union views led her to enlist in the 2nd Michigan Infantry as a male field nurse named Franklin Flint Thompson.

Emma nursed her comrades at such battles as the Battle of Antietam. She worked as a hospital attendant. She was also a mail carrier for her regiment, a dangerous job that often required horseback rides of over 100 miles.

A recurrence of malaria struck Emma in the spring of 1863. She requested a furlough, which was denied. Since she dare not visit the army’s medical staff for fear of discovery, she left camp in the middle of the night—Frank Thompson became a deserter.

Emma boarded a train to Oberlin, Ohio, where she recovered in a boarding house as Frank. Then she became a female nurse with the United States Christian Commission, where she served until the war ended. She wrote her memoirs in Nurse and Spy in the Union Army, first published in 1864.

There are no official records of Emma acting as spy for the Union army. She seems to have been talented at disguises. While a spy, she pretended to be Charles Mayberry, a Southern sympathizer; Cuff, a black man; and Bridget O’Shea, an Irish peddler.

After the war, Emma applied for a military pension. An Act of Congress finally cleared Franklin Thompson of desertion and she received the pension in 1884.

In 1897, Emma became the only woman admitted into the Grand Army of the Republic.

Emma left home to escape an arranged marriage, much as one of the sisters faced in my Civil War novel,  A Musket in My Hands. Two sisters disguise themselves as men and muster into the Confederate army in the fall of 1864—just in time for events and long marches to lead them toward the tragic Battle of Franklin.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Abbott, Karen. Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War, Harper, 2014.

Blanton, DeAnne and Cook, Lauren M. They Fought Like Demons, Louisiana State University Press, 2002.

Massey, Mary Elizabeth. Women in the Civil War, University of Nebraska Press, 1966.

“Sarah Emma Edmonds,” Civil War Biography, 2018/12/10

“Sarah Emma Edmonds,” National Park Service, 2018/12/10



Explosive Force by Lynette Eason

Military K-9 Unit Series

This book is a page-turner!

Heidi Jenks, reporter, happens to be at the right place at the right time for a story exclusive—except she sees the bomber run from the building. Worse still, he sees her. From then on, she’s in danger.

First Lieutenant Nick Donovan has a duty to protect Heidi even though he doesn’t like or trust reporters. He’s drawn to her despite their differences as his protective instincts escalate to high gear.

Nick saves Heidi’s life and quickly captivates her heart. She fears the bomber yet refuses to allow him to keep her from her job of reporting the news. Her reporter father has been her role model her whole life—and he lost his life tracking down the truth of a story.

She prays it doesn’t come to that for her.

Realistic yet lovable characters quickly endeared themselves to me. Real danger is around every corner for Heidi, making this romantic suspense novel an adventurous read.

I will look for more books by this author.

-Sandra Merville Hart

1870s Comparative Value of Fuel

I’ve learned from other sources—family and friends who have experience with wood-burning stoves or bonfires—that some woods burn faster than others. I found a great table in an 1877 cookbook grading woods on their value as fuel.

Shellbark Hickory topped the list at 100.

Pig-nut Hickory was second on the list at 96.

White Oak was rated at 84 while Yellow Oak was 60.

White Ash was 77 and White Elm was 58.

The only Maple wood listed was Hard Maple—59.

Red Oak—69; White Beech—65; and Black Birch—62.

Chestnut trees grew in abundance in the 1877 and were graded as 52.

White Birch was graded as 48.

I’d always heard that pine wood burns hot and fast. This book rated Yellow Pine as 54 and White Pine (the lowest grade mentioned) as 42.

The cookbook author noted that some woods, hickory being one of them, received their value from the “heat of the coals after burning.”

Even the same type of woods can vary in density. Trees grown in open areas on dry land are best.

I remember walking through the forest with my dad as a child. He showed me how to tell the different species of trees—the bark and the shape of the leaves were the biggest clues. Yet the height and width of the trees are also considerations.


-Sandra Merville Hart


Compiled from Original Recipes. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, Applewood Books, 1877.

Civil War Women: Malinda Pritchard Blalock as Sam Blalock

Malinda Pritchard Blalock is one of two women known to have fought for both the Confederacy and the Union during the Civil War. She expressed support for secession before the war started but her husband, William “Keith” McKesson Blalock, was pro-Union. Malinda soon shared his views.

The couple, who lived on Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina, feared Keith would be conscripted into the Southern army. To avoid this, he decided to muster into the Confederate army and then desert to join the Union army. He went with friends to the recruitment office and became part of the 26th North Carolina Regiment, Company F.

Sources disagree here as to whether Malinda signed up as his twenty-year-old brother “Sam Blalock” at the same time or if she disguised herself as a man and surprised him on the march.

The document still exists of her registering as “Samuel ‘Sammy’ Blalock” at Lenoir, North Carolina, on March 20, 1862. Her discharge papers have also survived, documenting a female soldier in the Confederate army.

Unfortunately for Keith and “Sam,” their regiment was stationed at Kinston, North Carolina—not in Virginia where it would be easier to desert.

About a month after they enlisted, Keith’s squad was given a night mission to find a particular Northern regiment. Skirmishing broke out and Malinda was shot in the shoulder. The surgeon who removed the bullet also discovered her identity. She was discharged.

Frantic that her secret was out, Keith found a patch of poison oak in the forest. Discarding his clothes, he rolled around in it and then returned to camp. By morning, a red rash covered his skin. Surgeons gave him a medical release. Malinda confessed that she was his wife and they left together.

Once Confederate forces learned that Keith had recovered they ordered him to return to his regiment. The Blalocks fled to Grandfather Mountain, finding other deserters there. They stayed with this group until Confederate troops found them.

The couple escaped to east Tennessee. Malinda pretended to be Sam again when they joined the 10th Michigan Cavalry. She served as Keith’s aide-de-camp.

Malinda, now pregnant, left the regiment to have her baby son in Knoxville. She rejoined her regiment two weeks later.

Keith and Malinda later joined Union Colonel Kirk’s voluntary guerrilla squadrons on scouting and raiding missions in North Carolina.

In my Civil War novel,  A Musket in My Hands, an ultimatum from their father forces two sisters to disguise themselves as men and muster into the Confederate army in the fall of 1864—just in time for events and long marches to lead them to the tragic Battle of Franklin.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Blanton, DeAnne and Cook, Lauren M. They Fought Like Demons, Louisiana State University Press, 2002.

“Malinda Blalock,”, 2018/12/10

“Malinda Pritchard Blalock,”, 2018/12/10

Silvey, Ania. I’ll Pass for Your Comrade: Women Soldiers in the Civil War, Clarion Books, 2008.

Slappey, Kellie. “Sarah Malinda Pritchard Blalock (1839-1903),” North Carolina History, 2018/12/10



Home of Our Hearts by Robin Jones Gunn

Christy & Todd: The Married Years Series, Book 2

Sometimes it’s hard to keep a promise.

Christy had promised her best friend that she’d be at her wedding—only it’s in Kenya.

Todd’s long ago promise that he’d be at his dad’s wedding is now coming true. The problem is that the ceremony is in the Canary Islands where his dad will live with his bride. Thousands of miles will separate Todd from his father in the future but that’s not all—the Todd and Christy had been living in his father’s home that must now be sold.

Loss of jobs, financial difficulties, and serious illness of a family member plague the young couple expecting their first child.

This young adult novel is an easy read. Lovable characters easily drew me into their world. They made me want to spend more time with them so it’s great that this is a series.

I enjoyed this story.

-Sandra Merville Hart

1870s Liquid Measures

Leafing through a cookbook from 1877, I found a great table of liquid measures. Some of these are common measures today while others were better known by our great-great grandparents.

1 teaspoon full = 45 drops of pure water at 60 degrees Fahrenheit. (This measure was included due to the varied sizes of teaspoons.)

1 teaspoon = about 1 fluid drachm

4 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon or ½ fluid ounce (today’s measures are 3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon so this shows the change in measuring spoon size over the years)

1 ounce = 8 fluid drachms (1/4 gill)

1 pint = 16 fluid ounces (4 gills)

16 tablespoons = ½ pint

1 tea-cup = 8 fluid ounces (2 gills)

4 tea-cups = 1 quart

1 common-sized tumbler holds about ½ pint (8 ounces)

4 gills (gi.) = 1 pint

2 pints = 1 quart

4 quarts = 1 gallon

The cookbook author mentions old French measures for liquids used “1 tea-cup equals 4 fluid ounces or 1 gill.” The author does not say how many years ago that measure had been used. The tea-cup was about twice that size in the 1870s.

These important variations make it challenging to figure out ingredient measurements for historic recipes.


Has anyone run across recipe measuring in gills or drachms?

-Sandra Merville Hart


Compiled from Original Recipes. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, Applewood Books, 1877.

Civil War Women: Mary Ann Clark as Henry Clark

Mary Ann Clark’s marriage hadn’t been easy. Her husband deserted her and her two children to go to California. According to her mother, Mary Ann suffered two nervous breakdowns when he wrote her that he was returning with a new wife. She divorced him.

At some point, she turned over the care of her two children, Caroline Elizabeth and Gideon P. Walker, to the care of Rev. Father Brady. Then Mary Ann disguised herself as a man (Henry Clark) and joined the Confederate army under General Braxton Bragg.

Clark was wounded at the Battle of Richmond, Kentucky, on August 30, 1862, captured, and imprisoned. Her identity was discovered while in prison. Union troops provided her a dress and asked her to swear to return to civilian life as a lady. Mary Ann agreed and wrote a letter to friends before leaving the prison, asking that they inform her mother of all that had happened to her.

Once free, she made her way back to the Confederate army—with one change. This time she rejoined as a female officer.

Southern newspapers called Mary Ann a heroine, yet they reported her story incorrectly. In their articles, they wrote that she followed her husband into the Battle of Shiloh where he was killed. The article went on to say that she buried him herself and then fought until she was captured.

Mary Ann didn’t follow her husband into war nor did she fight in the Battle of Shiloh.

In my Civil War novel, A Musket in My Hands, an ultimatum from their father forces two sisters to disguise themselves as men to muster into the Confederate army in the fall of 1864—just in time for events and long marches to lead them to the tragic Battle of Franklin.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Al-Jumaily, Sunshine. “’Tell Her What a Good Rebel Soldier I Have Been:’ Mary Ann Clark Disguised During the Civil War,” Kentucky Historical Society, 2018/12/10

Blanton, DeAnne and Cook, Lauren M. They Fought Like Demons, Louisiana State University Press, 2002.

Howe, Robert F. “Covert Force,”, 2018/12/10

“Mary Ann Clark, Confederate Soldier,” Civil War Talk, 2018/12/10



House of Secrets by Ramona Richards

This Love Inspired Suspense novel kept me on the edge of my seat!

June Eaton is a strong woman, a leader in her community because of her deceased husband’s position as pastor of the church. She moved from the parsonage after his death three years ago, though longing to stay in the Victorian home with all its hidden rooms and compartments.

Sheriff Ray Taylor cares about June—and those feelings shift into overdrive when she finds the new pastor murdered at the parsonage. June is in constant danger from the murderer because she interrupted the pair. Yet the danger opens old wounds for her that are difficult to overcome.

This book is a page turner! I was constantly worried for June and what would happen next. The parsonage fascinated me. Loved these believable characters. The sheriff is a true hero in a tough situation.

Well-written. Recommend!

-Sandra Merville Hart