American Civil War in the News is a edited review of American Civil War related news and articles, providing collection of hand-picked 1861-1865 era history.

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Women during Civil War

Latest hand-picked Civil War news and articles.

Secret Agents in Hoop Skirts: Women Spies of the Civil War
In July 1861, Rose Greenhow obtained critical information about the Union Army`s planned attack of Manassas, Virginia. She sent her 16-year-old courier, Bettie Duvall, through 20 miles of Union territory with a coded message for Beauregard tucked into her hair. Confederate President Jefferson Davis later credited Greenhow for his army`s success at the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas). On August 23, 1861, Allan Pinkerton, head of the federal government's secret service, arrested Greenhow. She was placed under house arrest and later sent to prison. Despite her confinement, Greenhow still managed to transmit cryptic notes to Confederate leaders.

Nurse, Soldier, Spy: The Story of Sarah Edmonds, a Civil War Hero by Marissa Moss and John Hendrix
"Nurse, Soldier, Spy" is a fast-moving true story of the Civil War, offers a mix of history, adventure and "old-fashioned girl power," explains artist John Hendrix. Written by Marissa Moss, the book tells the true tale of teenager Sarah Emma Edmonds, who dressed as a man and enlisted in the Union Army under the name Frank Thompson. Thompson rescued the wounded on battlefields, nursed them and served as a spy, disguising herself as a slave to get behind Confederate lines.

Stealing Secrets by H. Donald Winkler -- How female spies altered the course of the war
"Stealing Secrets: How a Few Daring Women Deceived Generals, Impacted Battles, and Altered the Course of the Civil War" explores the tales of women and girls who spied for either the Union or the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Belle Reynolds: The only woman who was commissioned as an officer during the civil war
When the Civil War broke out, many women wanted to serve too, although the Army only accepted male soldiers. Some women became nurses at the battlefields and an unknown number disguised themselves as men and served in the Army. Then there was Union Maj. Belle Reynolds, the only woman who was commissioned as an officer during the war. She was born Arabella Macomber in 1843 in Shelburne Falls, Mass. She faced her greatest trial at the Battle of Shiloh on April 6 and 7, 1862. The Army had gone into camp, not expecting a Confederate attack - but that's what happened. The unprepared Union Army was pushed back, almost into the Tennessee River.

Civil War Wives: Angelina Grimke Weld, Varina Howell Davis, and Julia Dent Grant by Carol Berkin
The 3 women whose lives are explored in "Civil War Wives" came from Southern elite slaveholding families. Through marriage to prominent men, they gained access to power, but had none themselves. Even though they differed temperamentally, each experienced privileges, sacrifices, and restrictions that few others could imagine. And unlike many famous wives Angelina Grimke Weld, Varina Howell Davis and Julia Dent Grant left behind a lot of direct source material - letters, essays, memoirs, and diaries - making them ideal biography topics, allowing us "to glimpse aspects of the nineteenth century that might otherwise be lost in the roar of cannon and heated debate."

Female Confederate spy Isabelle Boyd - Cleopatra of the Secession
Isabelle Boyd - one of the most infamous of Confederate spies, who provided information to General "Stonewall" Jackson - today lies buried among the very "Yankees" she plotted so hard against. She became known as "Le Belle Rebelle" by French war correspondents and the "Cleopatra of the Secession" by the North and is now sometimes referred to as the "Wisconsin's Southern Belle." Isabelle's town was occupied by the Union in 1861. One day a band of drunken Union soldiers broke into her home looking for souvenirs. They found nothing and one soldier intent on raising the Union flag pushed her mother. Belle drew her pistol and shot the man dead - She was just 17.

Jennie Hodgers fought like a man for freedom in Civil War
Albert D.J. Cashier was the shortest soldier in the 95th Illinois Infantry. In one of the few existing pictures of Cashier during the Civil War, you can faintly see the outline of breasts under his military uniform. But that's if you're looking for it. And the military was not. Jennie Hodgers, disguising as Cashier, marched thousands of miles during the war. She was at the Siege of Vicksburg and the surrender of Mobile. Her regiment participated in over 40 clashes and battles. After her secret was exposed, Hodgers told different stories to different people about why she had lived as a man. "The country needed men, and I wanted excitement."

Diary shows city divided - Civilian life during the Civil war   (Article no longer available from the original source)
On one corner was the hub of Confederate activity. Across the street, the place where Unionists held forth. And from her window Frances Peter, a supporter of the Union cause, observed and chronicled the goings-on as Lexington fell to the Confederate rebels and wrestled to come back under Union control. "July 14th, 1862: The excitement increases. Gen War has command here and martial law is stricter then ever. The Secesh [Secessionists] on the boarders of Scott and Fayette have risen, taken Pa's mill and done other damage... Sept. 18 1862: the rebels took possession of the depot & government storehouses at the edge of town but found no rolling stock."

10 myths about women in the Civil War and how to dispel them
Myth 1: The most important role of women during the Civil War was as soldiers-in-cognito. The stories of the several hundred women passing as soldiers in the ranks are fascinating, but the more essential group were domestic laborers, the thousands who provided hospital relief services in urban centers, military camps, and the field. --- Myth 8: Clara Barton was an exceptional battlefront nurse: In fact, Clara Barton was a superb self-promoter. Hundreds of women spent more time in relief work, and dozens of them in battlefield roles - but Barton's postwar lecture tour depicted her as the Civil War nurse whom all would remember in perpetuity.

A Civil War re-enactment without the soldiers - Life in the home front
A Civil War re-enactment without the soldiers. Few have heard of such an exploit, but two women took part in one. Debbie Douglas and Patty Payne acted in a Civil War documentary shot in late January. The film focuses on the diaries of 3 women during the American Civil War. They portrayed two of the characters and did voiceovers for the roles. The documentary will show what the war was like on the home front. When completed, the scenes will be a part of a permanent exhibition of the East Tennessee Historical Society for the History Center in Knoxville.

Ann Walker, only woman Medal of Honor holder, ahead of her time
The Union Army wouldn't hire women doctors, so Ann Walker volunteered as a nurse and treated wounded soldiers at the Battle of Bull Run in Virginia. In 1862, she received an Army contract appointing her as an assistant surgeon with the 52nd Ohio Infantry. The first woman doctor to serve with the Army Medical Corps, she during the Battle of Atlanta. Confederate troops captured her on April 10, 1864, and held her until the sides exchanged prisoners of war on Aug. 12, 1864. The Army nominated Ann Walker for the Medal of Honor for her wartime service. President Andrew Johnson signed the citation on Nov. 11, 1865, and she received the award on Jan. 24, 1866.

Women fought to fight during Civil War   (Article no longer available from the original source)
Illinois was to have no battlefields in the Civil War, but it offered its men... and women. When the war broke out James Hobbs volunteered. His wife, Clarissa, decided to go along. At first, the military did not know what to do with resolute lady. The colonel in charge of enlistment said, "Mrs. Hobbs, there is no provision made for women nurses." Hobbs replied, "Well, I'm going, colonel." The colonel knew a decisive woman when he saw one, and he went to see what break in military red tape might be made. He returned: "If you are willing to be enrolled on the roster as a soldier, you can draw your rations and have 2 blankets issued you."

Event explores role of women in the American Civil War   (Article no longer available from the original source)
90 Civil War aficionados from the North and the South came together in Exton for a conference that focused on the "herstory" behind the Civil War and the idea that the war was about more than just battles. Hosted by the Society of Women and the Civil War, the crowd of women and a few men gathered to discuss the history of women's efforts in the war. Speakers talked about women's roles as nurses, composers and depot workers. Exhibits included an array of Civil War medical instruments, war badges and original sheet music composed by women of the era.

A Woman Called Moses: Heroine who went from bondage to bravery
It's no wonder that we continue to be mesmerized by Harriet Tubman, this brilliant former field hand who defied 19th-century assumptions about what women - especially black women - were supposed to be. Although a latecomer to the Underground Railroad, she has become the paramount icon of the entire system, which spirited fugitive slaves northward. Just the barest rendering of her life describes an astounding trajectory. She was born Araminta Ross in 1822, in the marshy country of Maryland's Eastern Shore, and "grew up like a neglected weed," as she told an interviewer.

Women in the Civil War
In decent years, 3 solid treatments of women who served in nontraditional roles during the American Civil War have been published. --- Women on the Civil War Battlefront by Richard H. Hall. They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers of the Civil War by De Anne Blanton & Lauren M. Cook. All the Daring of a Soldier: Women of the Civil War Armies by Elizabeth D. Leonard. --- All are excellent but cover much the same territory: the most outstanding women who served in the Union or Confederate armies. The two most famous are S. Emma E. Edmonds aka Pvt. Franklin Thompson, and Loreta Janeta Velazquez aka Lt. Harry T. Buford.

Southern women as clandestine Confederate warriors
"Confederate Heroines" by Thomas P. Lowry is about Southern women who were involved in clandestine activities against the Union Army, and were convicted by Union military commissions. It is not a book about why Confederate women supported the Confederacy, but rather about how these women were perceived by the Union powers. Southern women, set adrift in the chaos of the Civil War, were forced to devise ways to cope. Most women who took part in activities to thwart and sabotage the Union Army did not base their actions on well thought out moral convictions. Many simply found themselves protecting life itself while thrown in a situation not of their choosing or making.

Daring duty - The Secret Soldiers of the Civil War   (Article no longer available from the original source)
"Full Metal Corset" sounds like a joke, but it features a serious subject: women who took incredible risks to fight in the Civil War. One subject of The History Channel documentary, a rich Confederate, did commission a tailor to make her male uniforms reinforced by wire mesh that enabled her to masquerade as a Confederate lieutenant. Subtitled "The Secret Soldiers of the Civil War," the documentary relates two tales that would be scoffed off the tube if presented as drama. They and the whole documentary raise the question of just how many women went to extraordinary lengths to risk death to join a savage conflict that some men purchased their way out of.

Women combat troops topic of Civil War talk   (Article no longer available from the original source)
While many people know about efforts of women as nurses and medical assistants during the Civil War, it might come as a surprise that at least 400 women fought as soldiers. Women disguised themselves as men and fought with military units on both sides of the war 1861-1865, said Dee Dee Wacksman, chairwoman of the 7th Michigan Cavalry Civil War Round Table in Bay City. Some of the women were regular citizens who found themselves in strange circumstances, such as Rose Greenhow, a socialite who worked as a spy for the Confederate Army.

Did Women Fight in the Civil War?
At least 400 women fought in the Civil War as men; and in many cases, they were never "outed". One such woman was Sarah R. Wakeman, a farmer's daughter who first disguised herself as a man to get a job on a coal barge. In 1862, at the age of just 19, she joined the Union Army for a $152 bounty - or about a year's wages. Most of her stretch was spent in non-combat situations, but Sarah did fight in at least one battle.

Dolly Harris confronting Confederate troops in Greencastle   (Article no longer available from the original source)
The heroic gesture of a young woman has been preserved for generations in a painting donated to the Allison-Antrim Museum in Greencastle. At 17, Dolly Harris had the courage to confront General George Pickett and his Confederate troops only days before the Battle of Gettysburg. Museum Director said young Dolly Harris rushed out of her home as Pickett passed, the American flag wrapped around her waist and shouting "Traitor, traitor!"

Confederacy heroine of the War Between the States
One unsung heroine of the American Civil War was not a Southerner, or even an American. Yet she became a beloved figure to Confederate troops. When she died, she was got all the rites of an officer of the Confederacy. When her brother, Samuel William Hill, moved to New Orleans from England in Dec 1850, she came with him. All went well until they had some sort of altercation, and Samuel left to join the Confederate army. Mary Hill felt that he was not cut out to be a soldier. When he enlisted in the 6th Louisiana Infantry and was later transferred into the Irish Brigade and ordered to Richmond, she went there. Her diary describes daily episodes of camp and war life.

First Lady of the Confederacy -- Reluctant but beloved symbol
Varina Howell married to Jefferson Davis in February 1845 in Natchez. She was 19 years old, and he was 36. Davis -- planter, soldier, politician -- was a handsome, commanding man whom Varina claimed to love right up to his death in 1889, but he was also demanding and headstrong. He accepted without question every clause of the Southern code, and he expected his wife to honor that code as well. He "expected her to abide by his wishes, which he said was demanded by her 'duties as a wife,' " and he "did not see marriage as a partnership." Varina by contrast "wanted a reciprocal relationship... in which husband and wife both had obligations."

Pauline Cushman: Dramatic espionage career of Yankee spy
In March 1863 in Louisville... To create a disturbance, paroled rebel officers offered actress Pauline Cushman $300 if she would drink a toast to Jeff Davis and the Confederacy while on stage. She hid the $300 in her shoe and reported the offer to federal authorities. Colonel Truesdale recruited Cushman as a Yankee spy. He told her to go ahead with the toast - She would be a heroine in the south. Her career in espionage lasted less than a year. She was used as a courier, contacting loyal groups in the south, and collecting information on Confederate plans. In early l864 she was captured by scouts from General Nathan Bedford Forrest's cavalry.

Cuban woman as confederacy soldier in the Civil War
Loreta Janeta Velazquez sounded like a mythical figure: a Cuban-born woman raised in New Orleans, where she masqueraded as a male soldier and fought in the Civil War. With a fake mustache and a soldier's uniform, the Latina enlisted in the Confederate Army as Lieutenant Harry T. Buford. Velazquez didn't just fight as a soldier in the historic battles of Bull Run and Shiloh, but posed as a spy after she was wounded. Velazquez chronicled her adventures as a soldier in a 600-page memoir called "The Woman in Battle: The Civil War Narrative of Loreta Janeta Velazquez, Cuban Woman and Confederate Soldier." It features rare images of her as both a woman and a man.

Reenactment honoring female Civil War soldier of 95th Infantry
Albert Cashier was the name taken by Jennie Hodgers when she enlisted in the Union Army in 1862. Hodgers came to the U.S. from Ireland. Her true gender was discovered only a few years before her death in 1915 and she was buried wearing a Union Army uniform. She was a member of the 95th Illinois Infantry, which fought in bloody battles including the battle of Vicksburg. Civil War reenactment groups will mount "living history" displays in the Saunemin Summer Celebration, one of them will depict Albert Cashier. Watchers can guess who is depicting Cashier. The winner will be able to fire a cannon.

Civil War Angel of the Battlefield - Clara Barton   (Article no longer available from the original source)
Clara Barton is widely known as the Civil War's "Angel of the Battlefield" and as the founder of the American Red Cross. But most people don't know that she was the first female employee of the federal government who received a paycheck in her own name. Most people know of Barton's heroic work in providing the first battlefield nursing for thousands of wounded soldiers during the Civil War. She refused to join the small, inadequate nursing staff of the Union Army at the beginning of the Civil War because it's leader, Dorthea Dix, hired only women who were over 30 years old and unattractive.

Letters believed lost sheds light on madness of Mary Lincoln
In August 1875, after spending 3 months in a sanitarium, put there by her son against her will, Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of the martyred President, wrote: "It does not appear that God is good, to have placed me here..." This letter, along with 24 others, completely unknown and unpublished, was discovered in a steamer trunk owned by the children of Robert Todd Lincoln`s attorney. They are known as the "lost" insanity letters of Mary Lincoln, and their discovery will forever rewrite this famous—and infamous—chapter in the Lincoln-family history.

Civil war cross dressers - Female combatants and spies
Of the thousands of brave women who served as nurses (including Florence Nightingale), some 400 "others" - Northerners, Southerners, free, slave, and citizen - also served as combatants or spies. Two well-known cross dressers received high honors for valor: Dr. Mary Walker, and Flint's neglected hero(ine), Sarah Emma Edmonds, aka Frank Thompson. Dr. Walker, a surgeon, lived in drag most of her long life, and spent four months undetected in a Confederate prison. She received a Medal of Honor from President Andrew Johnson.

Civil War women are hailed as heroines   (Article no longer available from the original source)
Military museum exhibit traces their military and home front roles during nation's great conflict. Women served as nurses, activists, educators, spies and even impersonated men to fight as soldiers during the Civil War, according to a new exhibit at the State Military Museum. "Lost Ladies" details two dozen women who contributed significantly to the nation's Civil War effort but are rarely mentioned in classrooms. It also features several mid-19th century dress styles, interpretive panels, pictures, stationery, jewelry, hand fans, purses and other female belongings of the time.

Only Woman Medal of Honor Holder Ahead of Her Time   (Article no longer available from the original source)
The Union Army wouldn't hire women doctors, so Ann Walker volunteered as a nurse and treated wounded soldiers at the Battle of Bull Run. In 1862, she received an Army contract as an assistant surgeon with the 52nd Ohio Infantry. The first woman doctor to serve with the Army Medical Corps, Walker cared for wounded troops in Tennessee and in Georgia during the Battle of Atlanta. Confederate troops captured her on April 10, 1864, and held her until prisoners exchange on Aug. 12, 1864. The Army nominated Walker for the Medal of Honor. President Andrew Johnson signed the citation on Nov. 11, 1865. Her citation cites her wartime service, but not valor in combat.