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The Civil War: Spies, Secret Missions, and Hidden Facts from the Civil War

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The pigpen cipher, the Devil's Coffee Mill, and germ warfare were all a part of the Civil War, but you won't learn that in your history books! Discover the truth about Widow Greenhow's spy ring, how soldiers stole a locomotive, and the identity of the mysterious "Gray Ghost." Then learn how to make a cipher wheel and send secret light signals to your friends. It's all part The pigpen cipher, the Devil's Coffee Mill, and germ warfare were all a part of the Civil War, but you won't learn that in your history books! Discover the truth about Widow Greenhow's spy ring, how soldiers stole a locomotive, and the identity of the mysterious "Gray Ghost." Then learn how to make a cipher wheel and send secret light signals to your friends. It's all part of the true stories from the Top Secret Files: The Civil War. Take a look if you dare, but be careful! Some secrets are meant to stay hidden...


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The pigpen cipher, the Devil's Coffee Mill, and germ warfare were all a part of the Civil War, but you won't learn that in your history books! Discover the truth about Widow Greenhow's spy ring, how soldiers stole a locomotive, and the identity of the mysterious "Gray Ghost." Then learn how to make a cipher wheel and send secret light signals to your friends. It's all part The pigpen cipher, the Devil's Coffee Mill, and germ warfare were all a part of the Civil War, but you won't learn that in your history books! Discover the truth about Widow Greenhow's spy ring, how soldiers stole a locomotive, and the identity of the mysterious "Gray Ghost." Then learn how to make a cipher wheel and send secret light signals to your friends. It's all part of the true stories from the Top Secret Files: The Civil War. Take a look if you dare, but be careful! Some secrets are meant to stay hidden...

56 review for The Civil War: Spies, Secret Missions, and Hidden Facts from the Civil War

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sue Edwards

    Getting kids interested in history can be tough if they think it is about nothing more than dates and names and lists of tedious facts. Bearce, on the other hand, has written a book about history that kids will want to read. After all, who doesn't want to get in on a good secret? Bearce's series is all about spies, their missions and the tools they used to get the job done. She writes about plots against Lincoln, slaves acting as spies, women disguised as men, submarines, secret codes and attempt Getting kids interested in history can be tough if they think it is about nothing more than dates and names and lists of tedious facts. Bearce, on the other hand, has written a book about history that kids will want to read. After all, who doesn't want to get in on a good secret? Bearce's series is all about spies, their missions and the tools they used to get the job done. She writes about plots against Lincoln, slaves acting as spies, women disguised as men, submarines, secret codes and attempts to steal locomotives. Each book in this series has five sections: Secrets, Spies, Special Missions, Secret Weapons and Secret Forces. Young readers will learn about the part played by the Pinkerton detectives, a woman who used laundry as a code to send messages to Union forces, spy balloons, and the importance of maps. Bright lights were even used as a weapon. That said, not everything Bearce discusses was successful which is fortunate since the Confederacy tried to use germ warfare against the Union. My favorite section was the one on Ft. Davidson. The fort isn't far from my home and I've seen for myself just how small it is. It is featured in Bearce's book because the Union Forces stationed there won a decisive victory by sneaking away and blowing the place up. I also liked the how-to pieces. Readers learn the Confederate Signal Corp alphabet, how to create a scytale and even how to make a working model of a hot air balloon. With so much information in one place, it might be overwhelming but Bearce has broken each section into easily-digestible chunks. A reluctant reader can easy conquer a section of 2 or 4 pages while more eager readers cna devour much more. Readers who are especially intrigued by the topic will find a list of resources in the back of the book. This is a very well balanced look at the Civil War. Bearce shows that the Union and the Confederacy both had successes and failures. She also includes information about men, women and children, slave and free. It isn't a comprehensive look at the Civil War but it does give young readers information that they aren't going to find in other books on the topic. Bearce is a former teacher and she knows both how to hook her readers and how to deliver the facts. Pick this one up for history buffs, those who aren't sure and even adult enthusiasts. Each will find something new in this book. --SueBE

  2. 5 out of 5

    Peggy Archer

    So you think you don’t like reading about history? Pick up a copy of TOP SECRET FILES: THE CIVIL WAR by Stephanie Bearce, and be prepared to change your mind! In these true stories, you’ll read about the failed assassination attempt on President Lincoln, the nurse who dressed like a man in order to become a Civil War spy, and the Confederate’s capture of an empty fort. No computers in the 1800’s? No phones? No problem! Find out how secret messages were sent using spy fans, eggs and secret codes. So you think you don’t like reading about history? Pick up a copy of TOP SECRET FILES: THE CIVIL WAR by Stephanie Bearce, and be prepared to change your mind! In these true stories, you’ll read about the failed assassination attempt on President Lincoln, the nurse who dressed like a man in order to become a Civil War spy, and the Confederate’s capture of an empty fort. No computers in the 1800’s? No phones? No problem! Find out how secret messages were sent using spy fans, eggs and secret codes. Then try out your own spy skills with the activities provided throughout the book. Find out how men, women, slaves and even young boys worked together for a cause that they believed in, using their skills and creativity. Once again, Stephanie Bearce’s quick-paced writing, along with the illustrations and photographs, will draw readers in and make a fan of even the most reluctant history reader. Another excellent read for students as well as adults who want to know more than just dates and dry facts.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kim Piddington

    Author Stephanie Bearce is a former teacher—and it shows—in her creative nonfiction series: Top Secret Files, The Civil War. I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Spies, Secret Missions, and Hidden Facts from the Civil War. The book delivers little known facts that are extremely interesting and well researched. (My two favorite sections: Spy, Soldier, Nurse-the story of Sarah Emma Edmonds-who disguised herself as a man in order to serve her country and Widow Greenhow-a spy who meets an untimel Author Stephanie Bearce is a former teacher—and it shows—in her creative nonfiction series: Top Secret Files, The Civil War. I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Spies, Secret Missions, and Hidden Facts from the Civil War. The book delivers little known facts that are extremely interesting and well researched. (My two favorite sections: Spy, Soldier, Nurse-the story of Sarah Emma Edmonds-who disguised herself as a man in order to serve her country and Widow Greenhow-a spy who meets an untimely end .) The book’s format is appealing-plenty of graphics, pictures, and sidebars to keep the eyes busy and engage young readers. Lastly, there are a variety of projects sprinkled throughout for those that learn by doing. Where was this book when I was teaching?

  4. 5 out of 5

    Yvonne Hurst

    The Top Secret Files Series is a dream come true for young readers who love history and a surprise and delight for those who really really don't. Here is a treasure trove jam-packed with details not widely known about the Civil War, details that will spark interest in the most disinclined young reader and bring that era to life. Nine to twelve years old are sure to enjoy these books, but adults may find they're unable to stop turning the pages. For me it was like eating peanuts in that it was ha The Top Secret Files Series is a dream come true for young readers who love history and a surprise and delight for those who really really don't. Here is a treasure trove jam-packed with details not widely known about the Civil War, details that will spark interest in the most disinclined young reader and bring that era to life. Nine to twelve years old are sure to enjoy these books, but adults may find they're unable to stop turning the pages. For me it was like eating peanuts in that it was hard to stop. This book generates curiosity. Clearly considerable research went into gathering information for this book. It is replete with little known facts that surprise and inspire fresh question for the reader. For example, I didn't know that a good map was a rare and highly prized valuable or that it's maker was, to quote the author, “a secret weapon better than any gun”. I'd also never thought of light as a secret weapon before, but the Union Army used a blinding white light made from lime to attack Confederate soldiers. I loved learning that spy messages were conveyed on ladies' fans and in the way laundry was hung out to dry. Some secret messages were even hidden in hollow eggs! The text of this book is concise and engaging, and the writing quick paced without rushing the reader. Differing historical viewpoints are shown evenly as are people of the time across racial, class, political, gender, and geographic lines. Fun activities are also included in the book so children can learn by doing as well as by reading. My favorites were the one making a scytale, an ancient device for sending secret messages, and the one using flashlights to send code made from the Confederate Signal Corps' alphabet. This book is not only an interesting reference for school projects and papers, but a satisfying read for those nine years old and up.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Taren

    The book was good if you want to learn random facts about the sivle war.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Carissa Burks

    This book is truly well put together. The author balances everything out and makes sure not to pay more attention or credit to one side or the other. She acknowledges the triumphs and tragedies of both sides in the war. She also celebrates women, children, and blacks that helped out whatever side they believed in. The chapters are short and very approachable. They're interesting and give enough facts without it being overbearing. It's a great supplement, especially when textbooks and history clas This book is truly well put together. The author balances everything out and makes sure not to pay more attention or credit to one side or the other. She acknowledges the triumphs and tragedies of both sides in the war. She also celebrates women, children, and blacks that helped out whatever side they believed in. The chapters are short and very approachable. They're interesting and give enough facts without it being overbearing. It's a great supplement, especially when textbooks and history class only tell you so much. The author also includes a few websites or videos for kids to check out if they're more interested in an event or mini project that is in the book. At the end of each section there are two different "Spy Trainings". These can be used to help get a child more interested in history or even more engaged in a classroom. They range from map skills to hiding secret messages in eggs. There's plenty of activities to choose from and most children should be able to find one that looks interesting to them. It is a well structured and thoughtfully organized and executed book. I highly recommend this for teachers or parents, especially those that have kids interested in history or the military. Quick and easy read that makes history fun and approachable! (*Note I was given a free copy in exchange for an honest review through Goodreads Giveaways.)

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tara Lee

    The stories in this book cover some fascinating people and unknown or little-known elements of the American Civil War. It's not very well-written (or perhaps it was poorly edited), but will be easy for a young middle grade audience to understand. The stories seem to be truncated oddly and sometimes details don't fully connect, which is what leads me to believe that this was an issue of editing to fit a predetermined layout at the expense of better storytelling. I really loved the stories that we The stories in this book cover some fascinating people and unknown or little-known elements of the American Civil War. It's not very well-written (or perhaps it was poorly edited), but will be easy for a young middle grade audience to understand. The stories seem to be truncated oddly and sometimes details don't fully connect, which is what leads me to believe that this was an issue of editing to fit a predetermined layout at the expense of better storytelling. I really loved the stories that were chosen and the emphasis on women and on slave/former slaves' stories, which my school history books didn't contain. There is a wealth of great stuff, but only the extremely snappy, brief top layers of it. Be prepared to spend some time researching and reading other books to fill out what you learn when this book whets your appetite!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kristin

    If your kid (about 7-10 years old) is interested in spies and/or history, it's alright. The writing could be better, but gives you snippets that may lead to further discussion and interest in the topic at hand.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    A mix of lesser-known Civil War stories and activities to recreate codes used in the war. Recommended for upper elementary and middle school students who need some enrichment or want to go deeper than the textbook.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Nice little book aimed at late grade school and middle school kids. Lots of cool facts in short chapters. I also liked the experiments for the kids to do at home: make a mini hot air balloon! A cypher wheel! A secret message egg! Fun! Free goodreads giveaway.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Cecilia Dunbar Hernandez

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tracy

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lynda

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kristin Nitz

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

  16. 4 out of 5

    Roxanne

  17. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Bearce

  18. 5 out of 5

    Robert Watts

  19. 4 out of 5

    Robin

  20. 5 out of 5

    Cece

  21. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Burden

  22. 4 out of 5

    Cecilee Pulley

  23. 4 out of 5

    Desiree Drury

  24. 4 out of 5

    Crystal Caudill

  25. 5 out of 5

    Megan

  26. 4 out of 5

    Richard and Mary Commerford

  27. 5 out of 5

    Barth Massey

  28. 4 out of 5

    Frederick Rotzien

  29. 5 out of 5

    Marty

  30. 5 out of 5

    Brian Snyder

  31. 4 out of 5

    Alina Brown

  32. 4 out of 5

    Sue

  33. 4 out of 5

    Artemis

  34. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette

  35. 5 out of 5

    Debby

  36. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia

  37. 5 out of 5

    Rhonda

  38. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

  39. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Cobb Sabatini

  40. 4 out of 5

    Desi

  41. 4 out of 5

    Betty

  42. 5 out of 5

    Abby

  43. 4 out of 5

    Khanh Nguyen

  44. 5 out of 5

    Juneau Alaska

  45. 5 out of 5

    Kayt18

  46. 4 out of 5

    Carly

  47. 4 out of 5

    Kim Hathorn

  48. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  49. 4 out of 5

    Amber

  50. 4 out of 5

    Michael Confoy

  51. 5 out of 5

    Steve Sengele

  52. 5 out of 5

    Connie Chu

  53. 4 out of 5

    cheryl

  54. 4 out of 5

    Ms. Reader

  55. 5 out of 5

    Deena Scintilla

  56. 5 out of 5

    Toni Mcintire

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