Women of a Different Generation: The Lady Spies and Soldiers of the Civil War.by Sarah Emanuel
What History hasn't revealed about the Civil War's Women.
By Sarah Emanuel
Ladies throughout history have been depicted as genteel, pretty creatures, lacking the strength or intelligence to do much for our country. Of course, there have been the marvelous exceptions: Harriet Tubman, Betsy Ross, only Betsy never existed, Deborah Sampson, and so forth. There have been extraordinarily independent women, like Annie Oakley, but the majority of the unconstrained, courageous, violent acts have been attributed to men.
In reality, women were among some of the most forceful movers and shakers in history, especially during the Civil War. They claimed for themselves the role of soldiers and spies, took control of their homes, and spent time and energy healing the sick and wounded. Yet, strangely enough, the most violent actions of women did not take place in battle, but in their daily lives, and sometimes, without warning. Young Emma Edmonds was sent out to collect supplies for a hospital when she was suddenly shot at by a Confederate widow who had just given Emma supplies. Wheeling around on her horse, she sent a round through the widow's hand; the woman fell unconscious, and not daring to risk her life any further, Emma wrapped a belt around the widow's wrist and dragged her along behind the horse until she woke up. Emma then brought the widow to a hospital, where the wound was healed, and the widow became a nurse.
Kady Brownell was also a nurse, as well as a color-bearer, serving with the Fifth Rhode Island during the war. One day, she came to the aid of a Confederate engineer lying wounded in a puddle of muddy water. After she had dragged him to dry land, he began to curse and threaten her, calling her a "damn Yankee", and so forth. Kady became enraged and grabbed a rifle, and was seconds away from plunging the bayonet into the ungreatful rebel's heart, when another soldier intervened and grabbed the gun away.
In 1863, a lady by the name of Mrs. Bickerdyke was put in charge of a hospital in Memphis. One morning she arose and made her daily rounds, and upon entering a ward for severely wounded, she found that the surgeon had not yet risen and made up the list of the special foods for the soldiers. It was nearly noon, and the men, already near the brink of death, were starving. Mrs. Bickerdyke became immediately furious; her temper only worsened when she learned that the surgeon had been out drinking the night before. Upon finding the surgeon, she tore at him verbally, and when he laughed, she had him discharged. The surgeon went to see General Sherman, and explained his case. Sherman asked who the lady was, and the surgeon replied that it was Mrs. Bickerdyke. Sherman merely replied, "Well, if it was her, I can do nothing for you. She ranks me."
These three women are but examples of the courageous acts that hundreds of women performed during the Civil War. They were not afraid to step up and take action, and many of them never received the credit they deserved.
Sarah is the daughter of a member of the 22nd. Along with her mother and sister,
she is one of the women who support
our unit dressing in period costume and assisting
whenever possible. Sarah is was going into her senior year in high school when she wrote these articles.
|Larson, Rebecca D.
Blue and Gray: Roses of Intrigue.
Gettysburg, PA. 1993.
|Our Price: $6.95 + $1.85 special surcharge|
| Moore, Frank.
Women of the War: True Stories of brave women in the Civil War.
Blue/Gray Books. 1997.
|Our Price: $13.56|
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|NOT AVAILABLE||Broadwater, Robert P., and Joseph T. Campbell,ed.
Daughters of the Cause: Women of the Civil War
K-B Offset Printing, Inc.,
State College PA. 1993.
|NOT AVAILABLE||Mehaffey, Karen Rae.
The After-Life: Mourning Rituals and the Mid-Victorians
Laser Writers Publishing,
Pipestone MN. 1993.