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Women during the Civil War


Women during the Civil War On and Off the Battlefield Most of the women at the time of the Civil War did try to remain fair and pure, untainted by the war. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Women during the Civil War

Women during the Civil War
  • On and Off the Battlefield

Majority of the women at the beginning of the
Civil War were considered frail, genteel
ladies.  Those who never let the touch of the
sun spoil their fair complexion. Imagine the
movie Gone with the Wind and what the ladies
looked like dress, hair, manner.
  • Most of the women at the time of the Civil War
    did try to remain fair and pure, untainted by the
    war.  As time passed however, more and more women
    found themselves placed far from the domesticity
    that had enveloped their lives.  Who was going to
    run the plantations and factories while their men
    were at war?  Who was going to become the family
    breadwinner during this crisis? Who would fulfill
    the role of nurses, reporters and lawyers while
    the men were away?

Have you ever wondered what women did during the
Civil War and how their lives changed? Wives,
mothers, daughters, and grandmothers impacted the
War both at home and on the battlefield. Their
lives changed in many ways with the onset of the
Civil War. In what ways did they change? Your
job is to become an expert on the changes the
women experienced in their lives during the Civil
Women were forced into accepting outside
employment so that their families wouldn't go
hungry.  But women who worked in any capacity,
whether they managed or work on a plantation, be
a nurse, reporter, doctor, lawyer, teacher,
factory worker, or who voiced any strong opinion
of advocacy was declared not virtuous, not
genteel, not pure and was open to much unkind
Imagine then, the women, especially the unmarried
women, who laundered, cooked, nursed at the
war's front or became involved in espionage
activity.  Their motives were put under the
deepest of scrutiny.  If a woman went the next
step, disguised herself as a man, and went to
fight in the war, she was accused of being
insane or to have other reasons for being close
to the men, sometimes her family would even
disown her.
Information about these unique women is extremely
approximately 500 - 1000 women soldiers who
fought, disguised as men, on both sides during
the American Civil War
A woman enlisting in either army disguised
herself as a man by cutting her hair short,
wearing men's clothing, binding her chest, and
taking a man's name.  She did her best to act
like a man so as not to draw attention to
herself or her sex.  Those who were successful
in their disguise and died in combat were known
only by their male identity.  Most of their real
names are lost to history.
Imagine you live in the 1860's.  You are most
probably a housewife, whose world circles around
your husband and your children.   Now imaging
being separated from the person that your world
is built around.  Many of the women who enlisted
did so from a desire to be with husbands or
fiancés.  For some, enlistment was a way to
gather some adventure or romance in a world that
was mostly ordered by the males in her
family.   Others enlisted due to patriotism
and still others from particular obsessions. 
This is illustrated in the case of "Emily" from
Brooklyn, whose family saw her desire to enlist
as being mentally unsound and who, they say, had
the idea that she was a second Joan of Arc. She
was fatally wounded on the second day of the
battle of Chickamauga where her sex was
less worthy reason for women to disguise
themselves was so that they could be closer to
the military camps and promote their "trade". 
This adds the difficulty of separating these
"trades women" from the woman actually serving as
a soldier.   An added difficulty is that if a
female soldier's sex was discovered it is likely
that the commanding officer would deny any
knowledge of her and she would be labeled a
prostitute or would be escorted out of camp. 
All the women who for whatever reason disguised
themselves fought hard and well, giving their
last full measure to their chosen cause. 
Jennie Hodgers,a.k.a. Albert Cashier
Albert Cashier, born Irene Hodgers in Ireland,
spent the entire war in the guise of a man, and
continued in that disguise almost until her
dying day in 1915.
Sarah Emma Edmondsa.k.a. Franklin Thompson
Disguised as Franklin Thompson, a bible salesman,
Sarah Emma Edmonds entered the United States
from Canada to avoid an arranged marriage.  She
failed the first attempt at a physical due to a
height requirement, but managed to pass the
second physical and enlisted in Co. F, 2nd.
Michigan Infantry on May 14, 1861 at the age of
20.  This soldier started out as a field nurse
serving at First Manassas (Bull Run) and the
Seven Days Campaign.  She served as an
accomplished spy and buried another female
soldier at Antietam.  The regiment was moved to
Kentucky early in 1863, where Thompson came down
with malaria.  Fearing discovery she deserted on
April 22. 
Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, alias Private Lyons
Madam Loreta Velazquez
Otherwise Known as Lieutenant Harry T. Buford,
Confederate States Army
Cuban woman fought in the Civil War for the
Confederacy as the cross-dressing Harry T.
Buford. As Buford, she organized an Arkansas
regiment participated in the historic battles of
Bull Run, Balls Bluff, Fort Donelson, and Shiloh

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Dr. Mary Edwards Walker
early suffragette,one of the earliest women
physicians,a champion for more
comfortableclothing for women and a pioneer for
women in many areas thatwe take for granted
today.Her medal was rescinded, then
subsequently restoredby President Carter.
At the start of the war, Mrs. Hopkins sold her
estates in New York, Virginia and Alabama and
gave the proceeds to the Confederate government
to establish hospitals for Confederate soldiers.
She then went to Richmond to serve as chief
matron of the hospital corps for Alabama. Mrs.
Hopkins was even shot twice while attending to
the wounded on the battlefield. Called the
Florence Nightingale of the South, her picture
appeared on Confederate currency from Alabama.
The most famous of all nurses was Clara Barton.
She went on and formed the Red Cross which is
still in existence today.
Annie Etheridge Courageous Nurse
known for her courage in giving medical help to
the wounded on the battlefield as a part of the
Michigan Volunteers, serving the regiment as a
nurse. She was an expert horsewoman and at the
start of the war she filled her saddle bags with
lint and bandages and often rode through battles
caring for the wounded.
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Rose O'Neal Greenhow
By the outbreak of the war, neither the Union nor
the Confederacy had established a full-scale
espionage system or a military intelligence
embryonic spy ring out of Washington, D.C., set
up late in 1860 or early in 1861
She produced intelligence of great value to the
Much of it reportedly came from an infatuated
Suitor, Henry Wilson of Massachusetts, chairman
of the Senate Military Affairs Committee.
Through a ring of couriers that included a woman
named Bettie Duval, Greenhow smuggled information
about the southward-marching army under Brig.
Gen. Irvin McDowell to Confederate troops in the
vicinity of Virginias Manassas Junction. There
it was received by Colonel Jordan, now chief of
staff to the local commander, Gen. P.G.T.
Beauregard. The intelligence helped turn First
Bull Run into a Confederate victory.
Pauline Cushman
"Major" Pauline Cushman claimed Confederate
sympathy yetshe actually spied for the
Union,often as an actress.Her many adventures
were capitalized upon by P.T. Barnum who
advised her tours.
Ginnie and Lottie Moon
two sisters who cleverly and brazenly spied for
the Confederates during the Civil War - and got
away with it.
One disguised herself as an old woman and passed
through enemy lines with no trouble and the
other passed through by claiming she was going to
see her boyfriend (beau)
The Moon sisters adventures for their beloved
Confederacy led them into danger and eventually
brought down - and they were quite successful as
spies. Proving once more that in every conflict
- women were there!
Emmeline Piggott
became North Carolina's most famous spy and
smuggler. She is said to have carried
dispatches in the large pockets under her full
skirts. She avoided capture many times but was
finally caught, arrested and imprisoned. She was
eventually released and sent home.
Elizabeth Van Lew
Union spy who made notable contributions
throughout the war
Resident of the Confederate capital of Richmond.
"Crazy Bett," as the eccentric Unionist was known
to her neighbors, ran the largest and most
successful spy ring concentrated in any city.
Her team of operatives included a freed slave
whom she placed as a servant in the Confederate
White House to eavesdrop on Pres. Jefferson Davis
and his visitors.
Elizabeth C. Howland
Elizabeth C. Howland, trained in medicine by her
father, was highly successful as a Confederate
spy. She often sent her young son and daughter
to carry dispatches. Appearing innocent, the
children were allowed to pass through enemy
lines undisturbed
Susie Baker, later King Taylor
Born a slave in 1848 in Georgia. She learned to
read and write while living with her
grandmother. Susie gained her freedom in 1862 as
contraband of war and was appointed laundress of
the 33rd U.S. Colored Troops.
At the age of 14 she taught the soldiers in her
husband's regiment to read and write and did
their laundry. In January 1863, Susie King began
to nurse the wounded men who returned to camp
from a raid up the St. Mary's River. Susie also
learned to clean, load and fire a musket
In the South, army signalers were expected to be
proficient not only with flag and torch, but
with the key and sounder
dot code was developed in the 1860s, he said,
because of difficulty between the Army Signal
Corps and the semi-private US Military Telegraph
Service. Executives of the Northern telegraph
companies were afraid the military would take
over their lines, Mathers explained. "Everything
of importance was sent in cipher. Union generals
weren't shown the secret codes. Even Lincoln was
out of the loop."
Uncle Tom's Cabin is probably the most
influential work of fiction in American history.
This Christian epic turned millions of Americans
against slavery, bringing the "peculiar
institution" closer to its destruction.
Harriet Beecher Stowe Three Novels Uncle
Tom's Cabin Or, Life Among the Lowly The
Minister's Wooing Oldtown Folks
Confederate women Forced to finally face reality
and change their lifestyle from Lizzie Neblett,
a housewife facing a life of physical labor for
the first time, to Sallie Tompkins, a Virginia
aristocrat turned military nurse, to Belle
Boyd, a ruthless teenaged spy. Their lives
changed overnight and they found themselves head
of the family responsible for the entire family
and/or plantation
One black woman started life as a slave, then
managed to buy her freedom, and later set up a
successful living as a seamstress, eventually
going to work for Mary Todd Lincoln in the White
Women not only had to tend to the family and the
land but take on other issues as well. Slave and
class relations, regional politics, lynchings,
farm management, medical practices, mental
illness to name a few.
During the Civil War, one of the tasks which
Southern women took up for the Cause was to sew
uniforms for soldiers
Southern women organized within their
communities to support the war effort and care
for sick and wounded soldiers.
many other activities women undertook, from
going "daily to the Hospitals..." to "offer(ing)
to write letters to the dear ones at home."
..contribution of chickens to feed the soldiers.
She explains that at the depository in
Lynchburg, soldiers "use an average of five
dollars worth of chickens daily." In addition to
chickens, vegetables to pickle were also in high
demand since "the soldiers are particularly fond
of it."
.occupied with caring for sick and wounded
Confederate soldiers in hospitals set up on the
Lawn at the University of Virginia. In a letter
to her brother Eugene at camp, she describes the
horrors of a Confederate hospital. "Most of our
immediate neighbours are getting on well but
just across the lawn there are some of the worst
cases the sight sounds we have to encounter
daily are most distressing. I am mightily afraid
we shall have some sort of infectious fever here
for it is impossible to keep the place clean
there is a bad smell everywhere. Despite the
conditions, she writes, "(t)hey say though that
the patients are much more comfortable at this
hospital than anywhere else. I should think the
hospitals must be very uncomfortable indeed."
Confederate States of America. Congress. Senate.
A bill to regulate the pay and allowances of
certain female employees of the government.
Richmond, January 5, 1865.This measure
established equitable wages and other
compensations (including firewood and additional
rations) for women employed in hospitals, and in
the Quartermaster's Department and the Ordnance
Daily Richmond Examiner, March 14, 1864 "City
Intelligence--Terrible Laboratory Explosion
Brown's Island--Between Forty and Fifty Persons
Killed and Wounded--Horrible Scene." Throughout
the war, women made the ultimate sacrifice for
Confederate patriotism. This incident illustrates
the dangers of their wartime industrial
employment. The explosion occurred on March 13,
1863, killing thirty-five women and injuring
thirty-one. The explosion horribly burned many
victims beyond recognition.
As the war progressed and conditions in the South
worsened, it became increasingly difficult for
families to keep their daughters in school. In
this 1863 letter from Fannie Booth of Danville
Female College, to her grandmother, she mentions
that "several girls have left on account of the
high board." However, the cost of education did
not diminish its value in Fannie's eyes. "I value
an education higher than property, therefore I
will remain at school as long as Brother Edwin
thinks we can afford it."
a favorite of Confederate soldiers after the
war many Southern women were named "Lorena
"Lorena," Macon, Georgia John C. Schreiner
Son 186?, sheet music. "Lorena" was an
antebellum song with Northern origins.
"Pray, Maiden, Pray," Richmond, Virginia George
Dunn Co. 1864, sheet music. This ballad,
"respectfully dedicated to the patriotic women of
the South," suggests the prayers of Confederate
women could bring victory to the cause of
Southern Independence "Maiden, pray that yon
trumpet blast/And rocket's signal light/But
summon squadrons thick and fast!/To win in our
victorious fight/For Home, for Freedom and the
Right/Pray, maiden, pray!"
Approximately 258,000 Confederates died from
bullets or disease. We can never know the
number of women who died of broken hearts.
As much as possible Confederate women tried to
live normal lives despite shortages of specific
foods and goods.
The fact that the war took so many men from home
was particularly worrisome to women left on the
plantations and in towns, as Mrs. Roberts
describes in this March, 1862 letter. "(S)hould
the darkies trouble I assure you we would be in a
bad way are (sic) men are thinned out so."
However, hard times did bring about ingenuity.
Mrs. Roberts describes her innovation of using
rye as a substitute for coffee, which was in
short supply due to the blockade
Henry County, Virginia resident complains to her
sister about hard times and high prices, August
23, 1862 "Times are very hard here every thing
is scarce and high . . . corn is selling for ten
dollars, bacon 45 cents per pound, brandy is
selling about here from 4 to 5 dollars per
gallon, in Danville it sells for eight dollars.
We cannot get a yard of calico for less than
one dollar we cannot get a pound of copperas a
sulfate used in making ink for less than a
dollar and 25 cents."
Southern women were determined to protect
themselves against the "ultimate outrage"
(rape) -63-year-old Lucy Johnston Ambler confided
in her diary "I intend to get Mr. Downs to show
me how to shoot tomorrow and how to load."
.gloating March 6, 1863 letter from a Baltimore
brother-in-law describing the good life in the
North, latest fashions, parties and balls,
museums, and churches. He offers to send her
ribbons of any color she wants and urges her to
"Come down and see for yourself."
January, 1865 letter from one sister in rural
Virginia to another explains the toll the war
had taken on the social interactions and social
life of Southerners. "You can tell what ladies
we have been all this year. I have nothing to do
but sit in the house sew all day."
The federal government preferred to expel
Confederate women suspected of disloyalty
As Union forces made their way across the South,
many women were forced to flee from their homes,
moving from one Confederate state to another just
ahead of advancing armies.
pass signed by Confederate Secretary of War
James A. Seddon, January 23, 1865 allows this
lady to cross enemy lines to visit
Confederate soldiers and civilians, including
women, were required to take oaths of allegiance
after the war and formally apply for pardons if
they wished to obtain federal assistance, return
of captured property (excepting slaves) or
restoration of their civil rights
After the war, Southern women remained loyal to
the Confederacy. An 1866 invitation to a benefit
supper to raise funds for a Confederate
cemetery, this Ladies' Memorial Association of
Charlottesville describes its mission as "to
embrace the sisterhood of those who once called
the Confederate cause their own
  • Your Task
  • Now that you have become familiar with the lives
    of women
  • during the Civil War, it is your task to publish
    the employment section
  • of a magazine. This magazine will become a
  • permanent part of an exhibit at the Museum of
  • You must include two (2) of the following job
    descriptions in your employment section.
  • Each job description needs to be a half page and
    include an illustration to support the job
  • Nurse
  • Spy
  • Soldier
  • Slave owner
  • 5. Any other vocation or position you want to
  • (be creative!!)
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