Emma Kline and the Spies among us

Published 9:28 pm Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Unbeknownst to many a Union soldier, there were spies among them — women spies.

Perhaps the guile of these women went unnoticed due to the notion a “lady” would never behave in such a fashion. Or maybe these soldiers were just unaware of their capabilities. One of these female spies was Vicksburg resident Emma Kline.

Kline’s actions came following the surrender of Vicksburg on July 4, 1863. Described as “hostile in spirit” by Vicksburg native and author Jeff Giambrone, Kline was among a group of women who smuggled much-needed supplies out of Vicksburg into an area east of the Big Black River, which was still held by the Confederacy.

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In doing so, she was arrested for smuggling by Alonzo L. Brown, captain of Company E, 50th U.S. Colored Infantry.

Brown’s account of the incident as published in The Vicksburg Herald on April 16, 1908, stated, “Capt. Brown said that as Kline and a friend approached his post to leave the city, ‘The writer could hardly repress a smile as he noticed their distended skirts. He informed Miss Kline that he had received instructions not to allow her to go through the lines, but to send them back to the city under guard.’”

Kline was imprisoned, but before she was sent to jail, a photograph was taken in 1864 of the 20-year-old in which she is standing between two guards from the 5th Iowa Infantry.

Kline died in 1878, shortly after the birth of her daughter and namesake, Emma Lane. The cause of her death may have been complications from childbirth or a Yellow Fever epidemic that scourged Vicksburg in 1878. She is buried in Asbury Cemetery, located just south of Vicksburg.


Kline was referred to as a “hoop-skirt smuggler,” because ladies’ clothing of the era included crinoline, which was a rigid, cage-like structure worn under skirts that, at the height of its popularity, could reach a diameter of six feet.

Historians say female spies of the time capitalized on the “cumbersome and cavernous garments” by using them to hide all kinds of loot.

It has even been said that one woman “managed to conceal inside her hoop skirt a roll of army cloth, several pairs of cavalry boots, a roll of crimson flannel, packages of gilt braid and sewing silk, cans of preserved meats and a bag of coffee,” one expert on the era wrote.

Now, that’s a lot to stuff up a skirt.

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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