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Comrade Mine


Emma Edmonds of the Union Armycity lit theater

By Maureen Gallagher

Directed by Anna C. Bahow

At City Lit Theatre, Chicago

Amazing story of a brave woman who served valiantly a  soldier in the Civil War

City Lit Theater commemorates the sesquicentennial of the Civil War with an amazing story of bravery and courage with Maureen Gallagher’s Comrade Mine now playing . It is based on the true story of Emma Edmonds (1841- 1893) who served for two years in the Army of the Potomac as a man. As Private Franklin Thompson, she served at both Bull Run battles, at Antietam and Fredericksburg among her battles. She served as s foot soldier, field nurse, courier and spy.

city lit theatre

We meet Franklin as she enlisted in the Union Army just before the first major battle as a man – the persona that she adapted earlier to both escape her abusive father and to find employment as a traveling book salesman. She had plenty of practice  living as a man so fooling her fellow soldiers wasn’t very hard for her especially  when physical exams were not given in  those days. We see how Franklin was just one of the “boys.” among the soldiers of the Michigan regiment. She bravely served and was well liked by her mates.

We move forward to the Michigan state office of Veteran Affairs where two clerks work processing war pension request in 1885. Nathan Grandy (Manny Buckley) and Charles Wright (Nate Santana) find  a strange request from Emma Edmonds for her pension from her service as a soldier in the Civil War. They search her records as she referred to her serving as Franklin Thompson to no avail. That starts a series of correspondence and research based largely on the book Emma wrote while recovering from wounds and illness she acquired while serving in the Union Army.

This is an amazing story that is nicely told and well stage. Buckley and Santana with help from Joseph Stearns present the quest for justice and recognition for Emma. But the most effective and honest performance came from Justine C. Turner as both Franklin and Emma. She was quite believable as the young soldier.

Emma’s story is one of bravery, loyalty and commitment as well as a glimpse into the sexist attitudes of 19th Century America. The Congressional Committee denied Emma’s request to vacate the desertion charge when overwhelming evidence that she only left the Union Army to recuperate from war related injuries and sickness. This is a story that needs to be told and it is presented as well stage and acted stage theatrical event. Kudos to City Lit Theater for presenting a little know story of bravery that was apart of the American Experience.


Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: April 21, 2013

Jeff Recommended

For more info checkout the Comrade Mine page at

At City Lit Theater, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr, Chicago, IL, call 773-293-3682,, tickets $28.50 with discounts for seniors, students & military,Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm, sundaes at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission, through May 19, 2013

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