Female Soldiers in the Civil War

Female Soldiers in the Civil War

Female Soldiers in the Civil War

ON THE FRONT LINE

BY SAM SMITH

The outbreak of the Civil War challenged traditional American notions of feminine submissiveness and domesticity with hundreds of examples of courage, diligence, and self-sacrifice in battle.  The war was a formative moment in the early feminist movement.

Clayton
Frances Clayton disguised herself as “Frances Clalin” to fight in the Civil War. (Library of Congress)

In July of 1863, a Union burial detail at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania made a startling discovery near Cemetery Ridge.  Among the bodies covering the ground–the wreckage of the Confederate attacks during the battle–the Union men found a dead woman wearing the uniform of a Confederate private.

The burial detail had stumbled upon one of the most intriguing stories of the Civil War: the multitudes of women who fought in the front line.

Although the inherently clandestine nature of the activity makes an accurate count impossible, conservative estimates of female soldiers in the Civil War puts the number somewhere between 400 and 750.  Long viewed by historians as anomalies, recent scholarship argues that the women who fought in the Civil War shared the same motivations as their male companions.

Some women went to war in order to share in the trials of their loved ones.  Others were stirred by a thirst for adventure, the promise of reliable wages, or ardent patriotism.  In the words of Sarah Edmonds Seelye, also known as Franklin Flint Thompson of the 2nd Michigan Infantry: “I could only thank God that I was free and could go forward and work, and I was not obliged to stay at home and weep.”   Seelye holds the honor of being the only woman to receive a veteran’s pension after the war.

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Read more at http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/untold-stories/female-soldiers-in-the-civil.html

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