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nia Rose fell in love with in 1921 was
And, as exotic as Albania still was, it
to her parents.
She did not travel abroad again until
All references are made to the Rose Wilder Lane Papers at the
'Detroit Book Week Speech, Laura Ingalls Wilder series, box
2Diary, July-September 1918,
NEW FROM THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES
IMAGES OF THE - AMERICAN WEST
This handsomely illustrated book, based
The awe-inspiring panorama of the Grand Canyon (as shown
William Henry Holmes entitled The Grand Cañon at the foot of
Western Ways Exhibition Poster
Women Soldiers of the
By DeAnne Blanton
t is an accepted convention that the Civil War was a man's fight. Images of women during that conflict center on selfsacrificing nurses, romantic spies, or brave ladies maintaining the home front in the absence of their men. The men, of course, marched off to war, lived in germ-ridden camps, engaged in heinous battle, languished in appalling prison
camps, and died horribly, yet heroicly. This conventional picture of gender roles during the Civil War does not tell the entire story. Men were not the only ones to fight that war. Women bore arms and charged into battle, too. Like the men, there were women who lived in camp, suffered in prisons, and died for their respective causes.
Both the Union and Confederate armies forbade the enlistment of women. Women soldiers of the Civil War therefore assumed masculine names, disguised themselves as men, and hid the fact they were female. Because they passed as men, it is impossible to know with any certainty how many women soldiers served in the Civil War. Estimates place as many as 250 women in the ranks of the Confederate army. Writing in 1888, Mary Livermore of the U.S. Sanitary Commission remembered that:
Some one has stated the number of women soldiers known to the service as little less than four hundred. I cannot vouch for the correctness of this estimate, but I am convinced that a larger number of women disguised themselves and enlisted in the service, for one cause or other, than was dreamed of. Entrenched in secrecy, and regarded as men, they were sometimes revealed as women, by accident or casualty. Some startling histories of these military women were current in the gossip of army life.?
Livermore and the soldiers in the Union army were not the only ones who knew of soldier-women. Ordinary citizens heard of them, too. Mary Owens, discovered to be a woman after she was wounded in the arm, returned to her Pennsylvania home to a warm reception and press coverage. She had served for eighteen months under the alias John Evans.
In the post-Civil War era, the topic of women soldiers continued to arise in both literature and the press. Frank Moore's Women of the War, published in 1866, devoted an entire chapter to the military heroines of the North. A year later, L. P. Brockett and Mary Vaughan mentioned ladies “who from whatever cause ... donned the male attire and concealed their sex ... (who] did not seek to be known as
Woman Who Fought In
Dies, Aged Ninety-two
the regiment on the seventh. Later that Loreta Velazquez published her memoirs
official record has been found in the
month, Williams was discharged on the in 1876. She served the Confederacy as War Department showing specifically grounds: "proved to be a woman.
The that any woman was ever enlisted in Lt. Harry Buford, a self-financed soldier
the military service of the United States
Confederate CMSR for Mrs. S. M. Blaynot officially attached to any regiment. as a member of any organization of the
lock, Twenty-sixth North Carolina InfanThe existence of soldier-women was no Regular or Volunteer Army at any time try, Company F, states: secret during or after the Civil War. The during the period of the civil war (sic).
is possible, however, that there may This lady dressed in men's clothes, reading public, at least, was well aware
have been a few instances of women Volunteered (sic), received bounty and that these women rejected Victorian so
having served as soldiers for a short for two weeks did all the duties of a cial constraints confining them to the do- time without their sex having been de- soldier before she was found out, but mestic sphere. Their motives were open tected, but no record of such cases is her husband being discharged, she disto speculation, perhaps, but not their ac
known to exist in the official files.? closed the fact, returned the bounty,
and was immediately discharged April tions, as numerous newspaper stories
20, 1862.9 and obituaries of women soldiers testified.
Another woman documented in the Most of the articles provided few spe
records held by the AGO was Mary Scabcific details about the individual woman's
erry, alias Charles Freeman, Fifty-second army career. For example, the obituary of
Ohio Infantry. Scaberry enlisted as a priSatronia Smith Hunt merely stated she
RARITAN, N. J., Oct.
vate in the summer of 1862 at the age of
4.-Mrs. enlisted in an Iowa regiment with her Elizabeth A. Niles, who, with close- seventeen. On November 7 she was ad
cropped hair and a uniform, confirst husband. He died of battle wounds,
cealed her sex and is said to have
mitted to the General Hospital in Lebabut she apparently emerged from the war fought beside her husband through non, Kentucky, suffering from a serious
the civil war, is dead here today, unscathed." An 1896 story about Mary aged ninety-two.
fever. She was transferred to a hospital in Stevens Jenkins, who died in 1881, tells The war call found the couple on: Louisville, and on the tenth, hospital per
their honeymoon. The husband, an equally brief tale. She enlisted in a Martin Niles, joined the ranks of
sonnel discovered "sextual incompatibilPennsylvania regiment when still a
the Fourth New Jersey Infantry, and when the regiment left Eliza
ity (sic).” In other words, the feverish solschoolgirl, remained in the army two beth Niles marched beside him. She dier was female. Like John Williams, years, received several wounds, and was
fought through many engagements,
Scaberry was discharged from Union serdischarged without anyone ever realizing her sex undiscovered. Her husband vice.
died several years after the war. she was female. The press seemed un
Not all of the women soldiers of the concerned about the women's actual mil- Much of the information available on fe- Civil War were discharged so quickly. itary exploits. Rather, the fascination lay male Civil War soldiers is found in their
Some women served for years, like Sarah obituaries. in the simple fact that they had been in
Emma Edmonds Seelye, and others
This response to Ms. Tarbell's request served the entire war, like Albert D. J. The army itself, however, held no re- is untrue. One of the duties of the AGO Cashier. These two women are the best gard for women soldiers, Union or Con- was maintenance of the U.S. Army's ar- known and most fully documented of all federate. Indeed, despite recorded evi- chives, and the AGO took good care of the women combatants. dence to the contrary, the U.S. Army the extant records created during that
Records from the AGO show that Satried to deny that women played a mili- conflict. By 1909 the AGO had also cre- rah Edmonds, a Canadian by birth, astary role, however small, in the Civil ated compiled military service records sumed the alias of Franklin Thompson War. On October 21, 1909, Ida Tarbell of (CMSR) for the participants of the Civil and enlisted as a private in the Second The American Magazine wrote to Gen. War, both Union and Confederate, Michigan Infantry in Detroit on May 25, F. C. Ainsworth, the adjutant general: "I through painstaking copying of names 1861. Her duties while in the Union army am anxious to know whether your de- and remarks from official federal docu- included regimental nurse and mail and partment has any record of the number of ments and captured Confederate records. despatch carrier. Her regiment particiwomen who enlisted and served in the Two such CMSRs prove the point that the pated in the Peninsula campaign and the Civil War, or has it any record of any army did have documentation of the ser- battles of First Manassas, Fredericksburg, women who were in the service?" She vice of women soldiers.
and Antietam. On April 19, 1863, Edreceived swift reply from the Records and The Union CMSR for John Williams of monds deserted because she acquired Pension Office, a division of the Adju- the Seventeenth Missouri Infantry, Com- malaria, and she feared that hospitalizatant General's Office (AGO), under pany H, shows that the nineteen-year-old tion would reveal her gender. In 1867 she Ainsworth's signature. The response soldier enlisted as a private on October 3, married L. H. Seelye, a Canadian meread in part:
1861, in St. Louis and was mustered into chanic. They raised three children. In