She Went to the Field: Women Soldiers of the Civil War

She Went to the Field: Women Soldiers of the Civil War

She Went to the Field: Women Soldiers of the Civil War

She Went to the Field: Women Soldiers of the Civil War


"Women Soldiers of the Civil War" profiles several substantiated cases of female soldiers during the American Civil War, including Sarah Rosetta Wakeman (aka Private Lyons Wakeman, Union); Sarah Emma Edmonds (aka Private Frank Thompson, Union); Loreta Janeta Velazquez (aka Lieutenant Harry T. Buford, Confederate); and Jennie Hodgers (aka Private Albert D. J. Cashier, Union). Also featured are those women who may not have posed as male soldiers but who nonetheless pushed gender boundaries to act boldly in related military capacities, as spies, nurses, and vivandieres ("daughters of the regiment") who bore the flag in battle, rallied troops, and cared for the wounded.


[Lots of boys enlisted under the wrong name. So did I. The
country needed men, and I wanted excitement.]

—Albert D.J. Cashier, Co. G,
Ninety-fifth Illinois Infantry, aka Jennie Hodgers

DURING THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR, 1861–1865, women from the North and South disguised themselves as men and enlisted in their respective armies. In the late 1880s, when Civil War nurse and soldiers' aid activist Mary Livermore heard the speculation that at least 400 women [bore arms and served in the ranks] for the Union army, she wrote in her autobiography that though she couldn't [vouch for the correctness of this estimate,] she was [convinced that a larger number of women disguised themselves and enlisted in the service, for one cause or other, than was dreamed of.]

Scholars today estimate that about 250 women joined the Southern troops and that up to 1,000 women may have enlisted in both the Confederate and Union armies. These women warriors represent an enduring historical trend of women posing as men to fight patriotically in battle, both in fact and popular fiction—from twelfth-century French (and later English) queen Eleanor of Aquitaine to Joan of Arc to the American Revolutionary War's Deborah Sampson to fictional heroine . . .

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