PB Review: The Clothesline Code

The Clothesline Code: The Story of Civil War Spies Lucy Ann and Dabney Walker written by Janet Halfmann and illustrated by Trisha Mason, Brandylane Publishers, Inc., 2021

Have you ever thought about becoming a spy? Is it dangerous? What if you get caught? Award-winning author, Janet Halfmann‘s newest book, The Clothesline Code, tells a compelling story about Dabney and Lucy Ann Walker, two black patriots, who fled slavery and became spies for the Union Army during the Civil War.

Dabney and Lucy Ann found refuge and work in a Union camp near the Rappahannock River in Virginia. Lucy Ann worked as a laundress, and Dabney worked as a cook and scout. Camped across the river was Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army. Major General Hooker of the Union army wanted to find out every detail about the enemy. Dabney volunteered to help by becoming a spy. He told Lucy Ann about the flags the Union soldiers used to send coded messages. Together the two of them came up with a clever way to use different colors of clothing and different patterns of hanging laundry on a clothesline to send messages across the river.

Dabney and Lucy Ann worked hard to flesh out every single detail of their code and practiced until they knew exactly how to work it. It was time for Lucy Ann to take her place as a spy. She used her wits to cross the Rappahannock River and blend in with the other women doing laundry in the Confederate camp. She washed clothes for General Lee and his officers, and she also cooked for them. She was in the perfect place to gather information. Spying was a dangerous job, but the clothesline code worked well. Dabney decoded the messages sent by Lucy Ann which then provided General Hooker with valuable information about the enemy forces. Janet Halfmann has written a powerful story of two extraordinary black patriots who were willing to risk their lives so others could enjoy freedom. Trisha Mason‘s illustrations help tell the Walkers’ story, depicting emotions of fear and elation experienced by Dabney and Lucy Ann. This book is a fascinating look at American history and how two heroic people came up with an ingenious idea to help the Union Army during the Civil War.

A perfect book to celebrate African American History Month!

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One Comment on “PB Review: The Clothesline Code”

  1. Janet Halfmann Says:

    Thanks so much for helping to spread the word about this amazing couple. I’m so excited to have this unsung story out in the world!

    Liked by 1 person


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