Confederate Heroines: 120 Southern Women Convicted by Union Military Justice

Overview

From 1861 through 1865, southern women fought a war within a war. While most of their efforts involved activities such as rolling bandages and organizing charity fairs, many women in the Confederacy, particularly in border states, challenged Federal authority in more direct ways: smuggling maps, medicine, and munitions; aiding deserters; spying; feeding Confederate bushwhackers; cutting Federal telegraph wires. Thomas P. Lowry's investigation into some 75,000 Federal courts-martial—uncovered in National Archives ...
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Overview

From 1861 through 1865, southern women fought a war within a war. While most of their efforts involved activities such as rolling bandages and organizing charity fairs, many women in the Confederacy, particularly in border states, challenged Federal authority in more direct ways: smuggling maps, medicine, and munitions; aiding deserters; spying; feeding Confederate bushwhackers; cutting Federal telegraph wires. Thomas P. Lowry's investigation into some 75,000 Federal courts-martial—uncovered in National Archives files and mostly unexamined since the Civil War—brings to light women caught up in the inexorable Unionist judicial machinery. Their stories, published here for the first time, often in first-person testimony, compose a remarkable picture of courage and resourcefulness in the face of social, military, and legal constraints. Lowry focuses on 120 women who were convicted of war-related offenses against the U.S. army or government. The court records tell of unusual pluck and bravado among women ranging from plantation elites and city dwellers to impoverished individuals from the margins of southern society. Their crimes included spying and smuggling, desecrating the U.S. flag, participating in invalid marriages to Union soldiers, and managing brothels in which Federal soldiers contracted venereal diseases. Rarest, and perhaps most intriguing of all, are cases in which women took part in armed robberies dressed as men or they concealed documents inside their bodies. Many of the convicts spent time in the little-known Fitchburg Female Prison in Massachusetts. At long last giving these women their place in the pages of history, Lowry shows them striking—and receiving—a blow for the Confederate cause, against the conventions of passive femininity. Confederate Heroines brings a new and surprising perspective on the conduct of the Civil War.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Lowry (Don't Shoot That Boy: Lincoln and Military Justice) recounts the exploits of women who broke the law to serve the South. These feisty Scarlett O'Haras spied, smuggled medicine and cut telegraph wires. Even women who didn't intentionally help the Confederacy are included: prostitutes spread venereal disease that made Union soldiers "that much less of a threat to the men in butternut and gray." As the title suggests, there is more than a little lost cause Confederate patriotism in this book; Lowry praises the women as "heroic," but never grapples with the fact that their daring deeds were acts of treason against the U.S. government. A retired psychiatrist, Lowry doesn't bring the questions of a trained historian to bear, nor does his prose transcend the workaday. Nonetheless, this book is remarkable for the amount of research it represents the author and his wife, Beverly Ann Lowry, slogged through transcripts of over 80,000 Union military trials, and they have done Civil War buffs a great service by digging up so many accounts of Confederate women's wartime activities. 4 b&w photos, 1 line drawing. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807129906
  • Publisher: Louisiana State University Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas P. Lowry is the author of seven previous books, including Don't Shoot That Boy: Abraham Lincoln and Military Justice and Venereal Disease and the Lewis and Clark Expedition. He is a retired psychiatrist and lives in Woodbridge, Virginia.

LSU Press

LSU Press

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Table of Contents

1 Missouri 1
2 Maryland 37
3 Tennessee 77
4 South of the line 113
5 North of the line 147
6 It takes a village 169
Epilogue : where are the others? 179
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