A DEGENERATE FEMALE SOLDIER.
The girl, who is now 22 years of age, but who looks much younger, went through her army life under the cognomen of "Soldier Tom," by which name she will be recognized by many who served in the Department of the West. Her business in the police court was in the capacity of a witness in the case of a courtesan named Julia Roberts, who plead guilty to the charge of disturbing the peace at Mozart Hall a few nights ago.
SARAH EDMONDS ALIAS FRANK THOMPSON.
A REMARKABLE CAREER.
Mrs. Seelye is the wife of Mr. L. H. Seelye, a successful and first-class carpenter, who resides now in Southeast Fort Scott. The couple have resided in this city several years and are universally respected and esteemed by all who know them.
Mrs. Seelye's story is told best by herself, as related to a Monitor reporter, beginning back at the events which led up to the remarkable career which has linked her name indissolubly with the greatest of modern wars.
Mrs. S. E. Seelye, formerly Miss Sarah Edmonds, alias Frank Thompson, is a woman between forty and fifty years of age. She has black hair and eyes, a quick, intelligent expression, and a general appearance suggesting the idea that she might have made her toilette with scrupulous care, as to neatness, but possibly without a mirror. Her manner is direct, honest, and free from any traces of self-consciousness. With the exception of an occasional phrase, more current in the church of which she is still an active member, than elsewhere, her diction is as clear and graphic as her manner is unpretentious. She spoke freely of the past and when the reporter expressed a desire to learn something of her early life and of the causes which led her into such exceptional circumstances, she gave an account of her girlhood which is reproduced as nearly as possible in her own words.
"You have expressed a desire to know what led me to assume male attire. I will try to tell you. I think I was born into this world with some dormant antagonism toward man. I hope I have outgrown it measurably, but my infant soul was impressed with a sense of my mother's wrongs before I ever saw the light, and I probably drew from her breast with my daily food my love of independence and hatred of male tyranny.
"Youth generalizes. In our family the women were not sheltered but enslaved; hence I naturally grew up to think of man as the implacable for my sex. I had not an atom of faith in any one of them. If occasionally I met one who seemed a little better than others, I set him down in my mind as a wolf in sheep's clothing, and probably less worthy of trust than the rest.
"My father was a New Brunswick farmer; a descent, or mixture of Scotch and Irish; my mother was French.
"Very early in life I was forced to the conclusion, from close observation and bitter experience, that matrimony was not a safe investment for me. Although I was favored with more than one touching declaration of undying love, I greatly preferred the privilege of earning my own bread and butter. When I was thirteen years old, one of those peculiar little incidents occurred which seems like God's own finger pointing out the way to a struggling soul.
"Late one evening an old peddler came along, weary with his burden. My mother invited him in, gave him supper, and made him comfortable for the night. She never let an opportunity escape of doing a kindness to a stranger, or, in fact, to any of God's creatures who were weak or weary.
"Next morning the old man seemed very grateful, and by way of appreciation of the kindness received, he presented me with a book entitled "Fanny Campbell, the Female Sailor." It was the first novel I had ever seen.
"There were four sisters of us, and I was the youngest--a mere child. Why should that man have selected me as the recipient of such a gift?
"That day my sister and I were sent to the field to plant potatoes. It was a new piece of land, far from the house, and we took--as well as the potatoes--the book and a luncheon and spent the day there. If I remember correctly, the potatoes were not all planted.
"That was the most wonderful day in all my life. The battle of Bull Run was not a circumstance to it. Surely I must have been inspired! I felt as if an angel had touched me with a live coal from off the altar. All the latent energy of my nature was aroused, and each exploit of the heroine thrilled me to my finger tips. I went home that night with the problem of my life solved. I felt equal to any emergency. I was emancipated! And I could never again be a slave.
"When I read where 'Fanny' cut off her brown curls, and donned the blue jacket, and stepped into the freedom and glorious independence of masculinity, I threw up my old straw hat and shouted, as I have since heard McClellan's soldiers do when he rode past the troops on a march--only one small throat could not make so much noise.
"The only drawback in my mind in regard to the book, was this: The heroine went to rescue an imprisoned lover, and I pitied her that she was only a poor love-sick girl, after all, like to many I had known, and I regretted that she had no higher ambition than running after a man. Perhaps later on in life, I had more charity, and gave her a credit mark, for rescuing anybody--even a lover. From that time forth I never ceased planning escape, although it was years before I accomplished it.
"A few weeks before I left home, my father took it into his head to marry me off, and get rid of me. In obedience to orders, I became engaged, but while the preparations were going on for the wedding, one starless night, I most unceremoniously left for parts unknown.
"But before going over to the enemy, I had procured the address of a publishing house in Hartford, Connecticut, and an outfit for canvassing for a family Bible. The next thing was to test the experiment of canvassing. I could not prevail upon myself to go into a house, until I became so hungry that necessity drove me to do so. I traveled all night and hid in the woods all day, until I became accustomed to my new costume, and, finally, when I did venture out, it was in the evening twilight, and I was received with so much respect and kindness that I concluded I must be quite a gentleman. As soon as I got far enough away from home to make it safe, I went to work in good earnest, and such success as I met with deserves to be recorded in history.
"I soon became a famous bookseller. The publishing company told me that they had employed agents for thirty years, and they never had employed one that could outsell me. I made money, dressed well, owned and drove a fine horse and buggy--silver mounted harness and all the paraphernalia of a nice turnout--took my lady friends out riding occasionally, and had a nice time generally.
"After a year's absence, I went home to see my mother; I could not stand it any longer, even at the risk of detection and imprisonment--no doubt you are aware that the British laws, as well as the laws of this free (?) and happy country, punish with imprisonment so great a crime as any infringement on the rights and privileges of the 'lords of creation,' even in so small a matter as the fashion of their most lordly garments. This is what I call masculine law and masculine justice meted out with a vengeance.
"But to return, I went to my mother's house and introduced myself as Frank Thompson. My mother was very kind and invited me to stay to dinner, which I did. While my sister was preparing dinner, my mother entertained me with a brief history of her lost daughter. I sat there and listened and talked for an hour to the mother that bore me, and she never knew that I was her child. Was not that a complete disguise? My father was not at home. My brother soon came in from the farm, and was introduced to Mr. Thompson. I told him I wanted to buy a good saddle horse, and inquired if he had one to sell. He thought he could suit me, and we went to the stables to look at the horses. My pets in the barnyard knew me better than my human friends, and came crowding around me. Under pretense of examining the horses' mouths, I put my arm around their necks and hugged their dear old heads, and they rubbed their noses against me in recognition. The sheep, too, knew me, and flocked around, licking my hands and nibbling at my clothing, and refused to be driven away. The loving remembrance of those dear dumb creatures made me cry, and I turned aside to hide my tears.
"After looking at the horses, I decided that I did not want any of them, and we returned to the house. Dinner was announced, and we sat down and chatted for an hour, but to me it was the hardest dinner to swallow of any I ever ate; finally I stopped trying to eat, and sat with folded arms looking at them. My mother, looking up through a mist of tears, asked my sister, 'Fanny, don't you think this young man looks like your poor sister?'
"That was the straw that broke the camel's back. I burst into tears and went and knelt beside her, and said: 'Mother, dear, don't you know me?'
"But she declared it simply impossible for her to believe that I was her daughter.
"Like Mr. Stuart, she required proof before believing anything so absurd. Her heart was convinced, but her eyes and her intellect refused to admit the fact. While I knelt by her side, her hand rested or wandered lovingly over my short curls, but suddenly rising she drew me to the window and scanned my face closely, and then said with emphasis, 'No, you are not my child. My daughter had a mole on her left cheek, but there is none here,' touching my cheek softly with her hand.
"Mother," I said, "get your glasses and you will see the scar. I had the mole removed for fear I might be detected by it." But before she could attempt to get them, I ran to her room and brought her glasses from the little shelf where she used to keep them, and placed them on her dear face just as I used to do. Then she saw that the mole had really been removed, and was convinced. She cried and laughed both at once, and I caught her up in my strong arms as if she were a baby, and carried her round the room and held her and kissed her until she forgave me for running away from her. Oh! I tell you, we had a grand time there for an hour or two, and the big 'elder' brother did not refuse to come in and rejoice over the prodigal's return.
"I never say anybody look so completely outdone as my brother when I told him who I was. He didn't say a word for some time; then said, 'Well, I thought it was mighty strange that the stock made such a ______ fuss about the fellow.'
"After the first excitement was over, I found myself frequently glancing towards the door, fearing that I might unexpectedly find myself fact to face with the stern master of ceremonies of that demoralized household, but no such happy event transpired.
"That same afternoon I bade them all good bye, and returned to my self-imposed duties. I walked almost all night to reach my destination, the distance I think was nineteen miles, but only a portion of it was an open, well defined road, the other part only a narrow path through the woods.
"Soon after that, by a strange catastrophe, I lost every dollar that I owned and all my books except a Bible--my sample--and my valise. I sold the Bible for five dollars, and with that in my pocket, I started for the United States, in mid winter, snow three feet deep in New Brunswick. In that way I performed the journey from Fredericton, New Brunswick, with the exceptions of a few miles' ride occasionally.
"Oh! I could tell you a tale of suffering and hardships and weariness endured on that journey that no experience of mine in the army ever equaled. I reached Hartford in a most forlorn condition. A stranger in a strange country--a fit subject for a hospital--without money and without friends.
"I went to a hotel just as if I had plenty of money, and rested several days before presenting myself to the publishers. My feet were badly frost-bitten and my boots literally worn out, and my last suit of clothes were rather the worse for wear, and my linen--well, it is hardly worth speaking of. But I had a good watch and chain, which I pawned for a sum sufficient to enable me to make a more respectable appearance.
"Then, with as gentlemanly address as I could get up, I introduced myself to the publishers, and almost in the same breath I asked them if they had any use for a boy who had neither money nor friends, but who was hard to beat on selling books. They laughed a good, hearty, manly laugh, and replied: 'Yes, you are just the boy we want if you are hard to beat on selling books. We will be both money and friends to you.'
"I told them they would have to take me on trial, as I had no security to give them. One of the firm named Scranton, said: 'We'll take your face for it.' Another of the firm, Mr. Hurbert--who afterwards published my book--took me home to his house and introduced me to his family as 'a boy who was hard to beat on selling books.' I dined there that day, and after dinner, was invited to go with them in their carriage for a drive around the city. The kindness I received that day was worth a thousand dollars to me. I have never forgotten it, and I hope they have never had reason to regret it. The next day they employed me as their agent, and gave money and books sufficient for a successful campaign in Nova Scotia--I think it required over fifty dollars cash to pay my way there and my expenses after I got there until I had sold and delivered my first lot of books. Oh, how manly I felt; and what pride I took in proving to them that their confidence in me was not misplaced.
"I went to Nova Scotia in February and returned in November of the same year, and in that time I cleared nine hundred dollars. I stopped at first-class houses, lived well, dressed well, gave away more money to benevolent societies, etc., than in all the rest of my life, and came near marrying a pretty little girl who was bound I should not leave Nova Scotia without her.
"The next trip I made was out west, according to Horace Greeley's advice to young men 'to go west and grow up with the country.' But before I had time to grow up much, the war broke out and I became a soldier. So, you see, 'tis true that
"The best laid plans o' mice and men, gang aft agley."
"When the rebellion broke out, I was in the vicinity of Flint, Michigan, and was present when the first troops bade farewell to their home and friends and marched to their place of rendezvous at Detroit, Michigan. It was while witnessing the anguish of that first parting that I became convinced that I, too, had a duty to perform in the sacred cause of Truth and Freedom.
"I spent days and nights in anxious thought in deciding in what capacity I should try to serve the Union cause; and during all my deliberations this fact was borne in upon me, viz: That I could best the interest of the Union cause in male attire--could better perform the necessary duties for sick and wounded men, and with less embarrassment to them and to myself as a man than as a woman.
"I enlisted under the name of Franklin Thompson, as a private soldier, in Co. F., 2nd Michigan Infantry Volunteers, one or about the 25th of May, 1861, and was mustered into the service by Lt. Col. J. R. Smith, U. S. A., Wm. R. Morse, Capt. Co. F, Col. Israel B. Richardson commanding Regiment.
"I had no other motive in enlisting than love to God, and love for suffering humanity. I felt called to go and do what I could for the defense of the right--if I could not fight, I could take the place of someone who could and thus add one more soldier to the ranks.
"I at first enlisted for three months; and afterwards re-enlisted for three years or during the war. I had no desire to be promoted to any office. I went with no other ambition than to nurse the sick and care for the wounded. I had inherited from my mother a rare gift of nursing, and when not too weary or exhausted, there was a magnetic power in my hands to soothe the delirium.
"I went to Fort Wayne, Detroit, Michigan, and drilled, did fatigue duties, and performed all the necessary duties of a soldier in camp, and when off duty I assisted in caring for the sick. I went to Washington with the above named company and regiment, stood guard and picket duty, and drilled with Co. F, 2nd Michigan, until the regimental hospital became filled from sunstroke and other causes, then I was detailed to hospital duty--Dr. A. B. Palmer, surgeon in charge. Then the sick were sent to city hospitals and preparations made to march to Bull Run.
"When the Union army retreated to Centreville Heights, stacked arms, and threw themselves on the ground, as I supposed for the night, I went into the stone church, which was used as a hospital at Centreville, and became so much engaged in doing what I could for the wounded and dying that I forget everything outside the hospital, and before I knew it the whole army had retreated to Washington; but I escaped under cover of darkness and made my way alone to Washington, not arriving there until 24 hours after the troops had reached their old camp.
"The defeat at Bull Run filled the hospitals and I was again detailed on hospital duty. Some months after this--I cannot remember the date--I became mail carrier for the 2nd Michigan Infantry, and subsequently postmaster and mail carrier for the brigade to which the Second Michigan Infantry belonged, Berry's, I think. In this capacity I went to the peninsula with General McClellan's army, and remained there as postmaster and mail carrier all through the peninsula campaign.
During the siege of Yorktown, I carried the mail on horseback for the brigade, from Fortress Monroe to the troops in front of Yorktown--letters, papers, and packages, averaging, I think, from two to three bushels each trip--the distance, about 25 or 30 miles. Owing to the condition of the roads, I was often compelled to spend the nights alone by the roadside. It was reported that the bushwhackers had murdered a mail carrier on that road and robbed the mail, and there seemed to be evidence in the fact, for in the most lonely spot of all the road, the ground was still strewn with fragments of letters and papers, over which I often passed when it was so dark that I only knew it by the rustle of the letters under my horse's feet.
"I was at the battle of Williamsburg, where many of the brave Second Michigan Infantry were killed and wounded, and among the wounded was Wm. R. Morse, Captain Co. F., Michigan Infantry, whom I assisted in removing to the transport which took the wounded to Fortress Monroe.
"When the battle of Fair Oaks occurred, I was sick with chills and fever, but worked among the wounded till they were sent away, and then tried to assist in identifying and burying the dead, E. J. Bonnie, surgeon in charge of Second Michigan.
"While the Union troops lay in front of Richmond, the floods frequently carried away the Chickahominy bridges, and I was more than once obliged to swim my horse across the swift running stream in going back and forth with the mail. Those cold baths in the Chickahominy river fastened the chills and fever upon me, which eventually drove me from the army; setting drenched in the saddle for hours, sometimes all night, shivering by the roadside watching for daylight to pick my way through the dangerous mud holes through which mule teams had wallowed.
"I was also in the seven days fight crossing the peninsula to the James river, and more than once I narrowly escaped with my life. I cannot, at this time, after a lapse of twenty years, remember by whose order or suggestion I went to a farm house which stood some distance from our line to secure some stores for our famishing men. I went, however, and while there the enemy opened fire upon our troops at that point, and before I could return I found myself between two fires, our men having responded; but I secured the provisions and returned unhurt.
"After the army went into camp at Harrison's Landing, I resumed my duties as postmaster, and when General McClellan's army was ordered from the peninsula, I returned to Alexandria with Company F., Second Michigan Infantry. Upon the arrival of the troops at Alexandria, they were sent forward to re-enforce General Pope in the Shenandoah Valley, and I did not join them again until at the battle of second Bull Run.
"I was at the battle of Fredericksburgh, and by my own request, acted as Orderly for General O. M. Poe during the battle, Burnside commanding.
"I went to Kentucky on or about the 20th [?NOT SURE OF DATE?] of March, 1863, with Company F., Second Michigan Infantry. About this time the Second Michigan was transferred from Ferry's brigade, Birney's division, third corps, to first brigade, Burns' division, ninth corps, Col. Wm. Humphrey, commanding regiment. I remained with Co. F., Second division, at Bardstown, and Lebanon, Kentucky, until I became debilitated by chills and fever contracted on the peninsula. I had, previous to this, applied for a leave of absence, but was refused, my papers having been returned "disapproved." I now became discouraged, and feared that if I remained longer, my sex might be discovered.
"I left the army some time in April, 1863, and proceeded to Oberlin, Ohio, where I remained four weeks in the same costume in which I had served as mail carrier. Then I changed my apparel, and resumed my own proper dress, and have never worn any disguises since, except when sitting for pictures.
"I went to Hartford, Connecticut, and made arrangements with Hulbert, Williams & Co., to publish a book entitled "The Nurse and Spy," which I wrote for the benefit of the sick and wounded soldiers, to whom it was dedicated. The book was accordingly published by said company, which proved a success, and furnished remunerative employment to many disabled soldiers and war widows in selling it by subscription.
"Knowing the publishers of this book to be faithful men, and true to the interests of Union soldiers, I left it in their hands to superintend and pay over to different organiza-tions--Santa--my Commission, Christian Commission, and Soldiers' Aid Societies--all the proceeds of the book which belonged to me, and I returned to hospital duty once more, under the auspices of the Christian Commission, at Harper's Ferry, Rev. J. R. Miller, agent for the Department of the Cumberland. I remained in that department nursing the sick and wounded, visiting different hospitals from Harper's Ferry to Clarksburgh, West Virginia, distributing the delicacies and more substantial comforts furnished through the agencies of the "Nurse and Spy," until the close of the war. Then, when finally victory perched upon the national banner, and the dear old stars and stripes once more floated over every city, town, and hamlet of the South, as in the North, I went to Oberlin, Ohio, where I studied for a time but found it too monotonous, after so much excitement.
"In 1886 I went home to visit my people in New Brunswick, and returned to Ohio the same year. In 1867 I was married to L. H. Seelye, of Saint John, New Brunswick, whose love and tender care still bless my declining years.
"I make no statement of any secret service. In my mind there is almost as much odium attached to the word "Spy," as there is to the word "deserter." There is so much mean deception necessarily practiced by a spy, that I would much prefer everyone should believe that I never was beyond the enemy's lines, rather than fasten upon me by oath a thing that I despise so much. It may do in war time; but it is not pleasant to think upon in time of peace. I never was wounded in battle, nor taken prisoner, but I was disabled by accident on three different occasions while on duty, from the effects of which, I think, I have never fully recovered.
"I have never received any bounty or back pay from State or Government. I do not remember the date to which I was paid in the army."
The book, The Nurse and Spy, mentioned by Mrs. Seelye was written by her about the first of the third year of the war under the auspices of the Sanitary Commission, and was published and sold for the benefit of the wounded and sick soldiers of the war. An idea of her services in that direction and the sterling quality of her character may be gathered from the following letter bearing upon the subject.
HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT, March 8, 1882.
Mrs. E. E. Seelye.
MADAM: Your letter of the 23rd of February is received and contents noted. I am willing to state all I know in regard to your services in the Army and among the sick soldiers. I suppose you did enlist in a Michigan regiment as Frank Thompson; heard nothing from you until you left the army. When you returned you wrote a book called "Nurse and Spy," which gave an account of your doings in the war, which had a large sale, I think 175,000 copies. We, as publishers, gave the sanitary commission and other causes hundreds of dollars from the profits of the book; also gave you, I think, two $500 bonds, 1,000 of which you sued among the sick and wounded soldiers at Harper's Ferry. I understood at the time you had appropriated the amount in that way. You spent some months, I think at Harper's Ferry; often heard of you by the way of chaplains of my acquaintance who had met you thee. You ask me if S. Eursua E. Edmunds and Frank Thompson are one and the same. I answer, yes. I know they are same person; I knew of Frank Thompson in Nova Scotia and knew of Miss S. E. Emma Edmunds here; can state that she was a good Christian lady, honest and true as far as my knowledge extends. When Frank Thompson left for the army in Michigan, he returned the books and wrote us that he had enlisted. It was his duty to do so, if he knew he would be killed. You, Mrs. Seelye, have done everything in your power for the sick and wounded soldier and for the Union cause. You deserve a pension from the government.
Yours truly, A. M. HULBERT.
If Mrs. Seelye needed further authentication, which it does not, the following makes it complete.
STATE OF MICHIGAN, COUNTY OF GENESEE ) ss.
Damon Stewart by me duly sworn, deposes and says that he is a resident of the City of Flint, County of Genesee, and State of Michigan, and that he was enlisted as a private in Company "F.", Second Regiment, Michigan Infantry Volunteers at Flint, Michigan, on or about the eighteenth day of April, A. D., 1861; and that he was subsequently promoted to Corporal and Sergeant of said company respectively. And deponent further says that Emma E. Seeyle is the identical person who enlisted under the name of Franklin Thompson, as a private in said Company "F.", Second Regiment, Michigan Infantry, Volunteers at Detroit, Michigan, on or about the first day of May, A. D. 1861. And deponent further says that the said deponent remained with said company and regiment until May 5th, 1862, when he was wounded and left said company and regiment. And the deponent further says, that during said time from on or about April 18th, 1861, until May 5th, 1862, when the said deponent was with said company and regiment, said Franklin Thompson (S. Emma E. Seelye) remained with said company and regiment, and performed cheerfully and fully and at all times any duty which was assigned her, and this deponent further says, that so far as he can remember, said duty consisted chiefly of either acting as nurse or carrying mail. And deponent further says, that during all of said time, said Franklin Thompson (S. Emma E. Seelye), bore a good reputation, always behaved as a person of good moral character and a consistent Christian, and was always ready for duty. And deponent further says, that he makes this statement from personal knowledge, having known said Franklin Thompson as aforesaid, and that he knows that said S. Emma E. Seelye is the identical Franklin Thompson as aforesaid. And the deponent further says, that on or about the fifth day of August, A. D. 1882, he was mustered in as First Lieutenant and Adjutant of the Twenty-Third Michigan Infantry Volunteers by Lieutenant Col. J. R. Smith, U. S. A., at Detroit, Michigan, and was mustered in as Captain of Company "K" in said regiment on September 12th, 1882, and further saith not.
DAMON STEWART, Late Captain Co. K. 23rd Regiment, Mich. Inf. Vol's.
JOHN J. CARTER, Clerk of the Circuit Court, Genesee County, Michigan.
Besides these, Mrs. Seelye has in her possession a large number of similar affidavits and statements taken at about the same time, which, was the first intimation that the members of the Second Michigan had that their former comrade was a woman and fixing her identity.
From "Michigan in the War," a historical sketch of all of the Michigan regiments which served in the war, carefully compiled by John Robertson, Adjutant General, the following allusion to Frank Thompson appears.
In Company F, 2nd Michigan, there enlisted at Flint, Franklin Thompson (or Frank, as usually called), aged twenty, ascertained afterwards and about the time he left the regiment to have been a female, and a good looking one at that. She succeeded in concealing her sex most admirably, serving in various campaigns and battles of the regiment as a soldier; often employed as spy, going within the enemy's lines, sometimes absent for weeks, and is said to have furnished much valuable information. She remained with the regiment until April, 1868, when it is supposed she apprehended a discloser of her sex and deserted at Lebanon, Kentucky, but where she went remained a mystery.
HEADQUARTERS 1st BRIGADE, BURN'S DIVISION.
Signed, O. M. POE, Colonel Commanding Brigade.
In closing this interesting and dramatic sketch, the reporter feels constrained to remark that Mrs. Seelye said well, when she declared her belief in early life that:
"Honor nor shame from condition rise,
Act well your part there all the honor lies."
In all of the struggles and vicissitudes of her eventful career she acted her part nobly and courageously, and now as a respected wife and mother, she acts well the duties assigned to her by the cares and responsibility of husband and children.
Winfield Courier, April 3, 1884.
GOOD FOR MRS. SEELYE.