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

By Bonnie Tsui | Go to book overview

Sarah Rosetta Wakeman

AKA PRIVATE LYONS WAKEMAN, UNION

[I feel perfectly happy. If I go into a battle I shall be alright. It is
what I have wish[ed] for a good while …. If it is God['s] will for
me to be killed here, it is my will to die.]

—letter from Rosetta Wakeman to her family, dated April 13, 1863

THE MAJORITY OF FEMALE—as well as male—Civil War soldiers came from a rural, agrarian background. Many were poor and looking for a better life (high-society girls would have had better prospects and education, thus the soldiering life would not have held much allure for them). Sarah Rosetta Wakeman certainly was representative of these quintessentially poor and less educated soldiers. Born January 16, 1843, she was the eldest of nine children—seven girls and two boys—to Harvey Anable and Emily Hale Wakeman. The family lived in Bainbridge in upstate New York's Chenango County. In 1857 the half of the town in which they resided became the town of Afton. A farming community on the Susquehanna River not far from Binghamton, Afton was primarily a cow town where most farmers relied on dairy production for their livelihood.

The conditions in which she grew up contributed to Rosetta's

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