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Soldier Girl Blue by [James Knights]

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Soldier Girl Blue Kindle Edition

4.9 out of 5 stars 11 ratings

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Length: 388 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
Page Flip: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews


A Young Canadienne in the Union Army
Soldier Girl Blue
By James Knights
Courier Review by Katy Berman
            James J. Knights is as an interesting a subject as Emily Edmunds, protagonist of his most recent novel, Soldier Girl Blue. Knights, who lives with his wife in Canada, is a former FBI Special Agent, author of several articles on law enforcement recruiting, has been a volunteer pilot for the Civil Air Patrol, and currently serves on the board of directors for the Society of Women and the Civil War. He is proud of his film debut as an extra in the Tom Hanks film, "You are My Friend." Oh, and he keeps honeybees.

            Soldier Girl Blue intertwines several of Knights' affinities. Emily is Canadian, one of hundreds who fought in their neighbor's Civil War. After fleeing her New Brunswick home in 1858, vulnerable because she is a woman traveling alone, Emily disguises herself as Edmund Fredericton, a traveling Bible salesman. Later, in Maine he (Knights' use of pronouns depends upon Emily being in or out of disguise) witnesses a brutal attempt by a Southern slaveholder to recover his lost property. He intervenes and is supported by a Pastor Broussard, also in the crowd. Outraged by what he has seen, Edmund decides to volunteer for the Union Army.

            Knights peoples his narrative with historical figures, figures of his own imagination, and figures that lie somewhere in between. Men and women such as Generals George C. McClellan and George Meade, spies Antonia Ford and Elizabeth Van Lew are incorporated into the narrative to good effect. He includes a vivid account of Thaddeus Lowe's first launch of an observation balloon near Yorktown, a description of a contraband encampment nearby, and an early sighting of the new ironclad vessel, U.S.S. Monitor.

              Sarah Emma Edmonds was a real person who disguised herself to fight and spy for the Union. She left an embellished account of her adventures that can be read on-line.

             In Knights' version, Edmund (Emily) becomes a nurse, and heroically braves the Bull Run battlefield to rescue wounded soldiers. Later, he assists the brusque, no-nonsense doctor, Captain David L. Macgregor at a hospital in Georgetown. Soon, characters from the Maine episode begin to appear: Pastor Michael Broussard and his wife Kate, the escaped slaves, Henny and her daughter Becca, the slaveholder, and villain of the piece, Hector Cane. The latter holds one grudge against Edmund for intercepting a blow intended for Becca, and another against Broussard for knocking him into a pile of manure. Then, Edmund's neighbor from New Brunswick, James Valentine, is brought to the hospital suffering from dysentery. He too, has volunteered to fight against the injustice of slavery, and serves on General McClellan's staff. Edmund nurses James back to health, and they fall in love.
            Coincidences abound. Cane, considered a despicable boor by Federals and Confederates alike, loses his slaves a second time (that's how they end up in the contraband camp), and again sets off in pursuit. Before venturing across Yankee lines, he is recruited by Antonia Ford to spy for the South: General Joseph Johnston, suspecting a move on Richmond, wants to capture one of McClellan's top aides and interrogate him. Cane's mission is to locate a likely prospect. Cane consents, and ends up mingling with the crowd watching Lowe's balloon on its maiden launch. He spots James and Edmund as they rescue Colonel Fitz John Porter from the balloon's gondola when the wind comes up, and realizes he has seen them together outside the Georgetown hospital. Also standing in the crowd is Pastor Broussard who recognizes Cane from their encounter in Maine and senses danger. Not long afterwards, Cane manages to spy on Emily and James as they enjoy a lovers' tryst in an abandoned shack.  He realizes that Emily was the meddler in Maine who kept him from beating his slave, and vows revenge; James, he will refer to General Johnston as a likely subject for interrogation.

            Hector Cane might be particularly repulsive, but no Southerner in Knights' novel arouses our respect. They are invariably arrogant, fanatical, lecherous, cruel, or willing to be bought. One Confederate woman, Alice Nevitt, is an exception of sorts. She is arrested by Edmund after threatening to shoot him, taken to the Union camp, and is ultimately redeemed through her good works and changing values. In Soldier Girl Blue all virtue belongs to the abolitionists, black and white; ending slavery is discussed as the war's chief aim. Runaway slaves, including Henny and Becca are intrinsic to the plot and the resolution of its most severe crises. Federals are not flawless; some are even cowardly. Nevertheless, in this novel, they possess the highest principles and engage in the noblest endeavors.

            Despite its unfavorable (unfair?) characterizations of Confederates, Soldier Girl Blue is remarkably successful in many of its descriptive details. Particularly gruesome are the accounts of hospital surgeries. Dr. McGregor, with bloodied hands, probes "a ragged hole in the man's thigh." Edmund observes a captain with a mortal abdominal wound: "The unremitting contraction of the stomach muscles relentlessly twisted and ground the wound." On a larger scale, Knights displays a clear sense of place, whether describing the varied fleet of vessels ferrying men and materiel from Alexandria and Annapolis to Fort Monroe, or the immediate environs of Libby Prison in Richmond. 
Read the review online here:

            Soldier Girl Blue will be valued for revealing the part played by many Canadians during our Civil War. In her introduction, Barbara Franco, of the Gettysburg Seminary Ridge Museum, explains that as many as 50,000 Canadians fought, primarily for the Union. Emily's origins add interest to a novel that will appeal to many readers for its drama, action and intrigue.

Title: Soldier Girl Blue
Author: James Knights
Publisher: S&H Publishing
Pages: 379
Price: $19.95
Soft Cover
Soldier Girl Blue Reviewed By Kimberlee J. Benart for Readers' Favorite

If you're a fan of Civil War fiction with drama, suspense, an engaging plot, and an interesting historical twist, Soldier Girl Blue by J. J. Knights is for you. Inspired by the true story of a young woman who escaped an arranged marriage by fleeing to the United States, disguising herself as a man, and serving in the army during the Civil War, it recounts the fictional story of Emily who does just that. Pretending to be a young man, she serves as a corporal and battlefield nurse on the Union side. The complication of a secret romance with a fellow Canadian, and the introduction of a brutal antagonist who crosses her path more than once and has revenge in his eyes add to the unfolding drama. 

I enjoyed reading Soldier Girl Blue. In Emily, Knights presents a heroine of great courage, conviction, passion, and ability: an ordinary young woman who willingly marches into an extraordinary situation and places herself in harm's way. The narrative is well paced, flowing, descriptive, and suspenseful. Emily's series of adventures, set against the historical background of bloody battlefields and well-disguised espionage, introduces a wide spectrum of secondary characters from both sides of the conflict. I especially liked the portrayal of several former slaves whose intelligence, courage, and loyalty prove invaluable to Emily's survival. In recounting Emily's story, Knights offers a tribute to Canadians who made the journey south to join a war that wasn't theirs, and to women who served in non-traditional roles as combatants and spies. An entertaining and educational read.

From The Buzz, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada:
Soldier Girl Blue, by James Knights, is a fictionalized account of the true story of Sarah Emma Edmonds of New Brunswick who, disguised as a man, fought in the American Civil War. During her two years in disguise, she went behind Confederate lines as a spy as many as nine times.

More than 550 women disguised themselves as men to fight in the war. And up to 55,000 Canadians and Maritimers fought, most on the side of the North. Edmonds was the only person we know of who was a member of both groups.

A young Canadian woman escapes her abusive father by disguising herself as a man and seeking refuge in the United States, a country about to be torn apart by civil war. Though able to claim neutrality as a foreigner, she finds it impossible to turn her back on an enslaved people and risks everything to continue her masquerade and join the fight to free them. As a Union soldier, she learns that neither the constant fear of being unmasked nor the danger she faces under fire can compare to the unrelenting peril she must endure as a spy behind Confederate lines.

Jim Knights is an American whose 19th century family members fought on both sides of the Civil War, including his paternal great-great-grandfather who served with Company E, 6th Massachusetts Militia Infantry. Another of his great-great-grandfathers was a "Bluenose" sea captain from Windsor, Nova Scotia. Through this connection Knights began researching Canadian involvement in the Civil War. He came across the story of Sarah Emma Edmonds. He says that he found it astounding that Edmonds was one of 400-550 women who disguised themselves as men to fight and that she was a foreigner, one of between 40,000-55,000 Canadians who joined the fight.

The book is published by S & H Publishing with print and ebook editions are available on or from the publisher at The Kobo ebook is available on

From the Author

As a native of New England, I, like many Americans, have 19thcentury family members who fought on both sides of the Civil War, including my paternal great-great-grandfather who served with Company E, 6thMassachusetts Militia Infantry.  Another of my great-great-grandfathers was a "Bluenose" sea captain from Windsor, Nova Scotia. As I have Canadian progenitors, I began researching Canadian involvement in the Civil War after several trips to the Gettysburg National Battlefield in Pennsylvania. It was during the research that I came across the story of Sarah Emma Edmonds. I was quite surprised that she had disguised herself as a man in order to fight for the Union. Even more astounding was that Edmonds was one of 400-550 women who did so AND she was a foreigner, one of between 40,000-55,000 Canadians who joined the fight. 
Given that I'd been studying the war for some time, yet wasn't aware of the role 'distaff soldiers' or Canadians had played in the conflict, it was clear to me that I wasn't alone. I felt compelled to write the book in order to honor Edmonds and the women like her as well as the Canadians who came south to help shape our history.

Product details

  • File Size : 4006 KB
  • Publisher : S & H Publishing, Inc. (May 22, 2019)
  • ASIN : B07S987FDB
  • Print Length : 388 pages
  • Word Wise : Enabled
  • Publication Date : May 22, 2019
  • Language: : English
  • Text-to-Speech : Not enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
  • Simultaneous Device Usage : Unlimited
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN : 163320068X
  • X-Ray : Not Enabled
  • Screen Reader : Supported
  • Lending : Enabled
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.9 out of 5 stars 11 ratings