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They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War
     

They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War

by DeAnne Blanton, Lauren Cook Wike
 

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Popular images of women during the American Civil War include self-sacrificing nurses, romantic spies, and brave ladies maintaining hearth and home in the absence of their men. However, as DeAnne Blanton and Lauren M. Cook show in their remarkable new study, that conventional picture does not tell the entire story. Hundreds of women assumed male aliases, disguised

Overview

Popular images of women during the American Civil War include self-sacrificing nurses, romantic spies, and brave ladies maintaining hearth and home in the absence of their men. However, as DeAnne Blanton and Lauren M. Cook show in their remarkable new study, that conventional picture does not tell the entire story. Hundreds of women assumed male aliases, disguised themselves in men’s uniforms, and charged into battle as Union and Confederate soldiers—facing down not only the guns of the adversary but also the gender prejudices of society. They Fought Like Demons is the first book to fully explore and explain these women, their experiences as combatants, and the controversial issues surrounding their military service.

Relying on more than a decade of research in primary sources, Blanton and Cook document over 240 women in uniform and find that their reasons for fighting mirrored those of men—-patriotism, honor, heritage, and a desire for excitement. Some enlisted to remain with husbands or brothers, while others had dressed as men before the war. Some so enjoyed being freed from traditional women’s roles that they continued their masquerade well after 1865. The authors describe how Yankee and Rebel women soldiers eluded detection, some for many years, and even merited promotion. Their comrades often did not discover the deception until the “young boy” in their company was wounded, killed, or gave birth.

In addition to examining the details of everyday military life and the harsh challenges of -warfare for these women—which included injury, capture, and imprisonment—Blanton and Cook discuss the female warrior as an icon in nineteenth-century popular culture and why -twentieth-century historians and society ignored women soldiers’ contributions. Shattering the negative assumptions long held about Civil War distaff soldiers, this sophisticated and dynamic work sheds much-needed light on an unusual and overlooked facet of the Civil War experience.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
At least 250 women served-disguised as men-in the ranks of both North and South during the Civil War. Although works about female Civil War soldiers have appeared over the past several years, this volume, by National Archives archivist Blanton and Cook, a Fayetteville State University employee in North Carolina, makes a nice summation. After covering the major combat actions in which women served (and in which several were killed), the authors reconstruct the reasons why women entered the armed forces: many were simply patriotic, while others followed their husbands or lovers and yet others yearned to break free from the constraints that Victorian society had laid on them as women. Blanton and Cook detail women soldiers in combat, on the march, in camp and in the hospital, where many were discovered after getting sick. Some even wound up in grim prisons kept by both sides, while a few hid pregnancies and were only discovered after giving birth. Many times the rank and file hid them from officers, who were duty-bound to discharge women if they were found out. Some remained in disguise for years after the war; Albert D.J. Cashier (nee Jennie Hodgers) of the 95th Illinois Infantry was only unmasked in 1911, when she suffered a fractured leg in an automobile accident. The authors make a strong case that the controversial Loreta Janeta Velazquez (alias Lt. Harry T. Buford, C.S.A.) actually did perform most of the deeds she wrote about in her 1876 memoir, which has previously been discounted as fiction by most Civil War historians. Solid research by the authors, including a look at the careers of a few women soldiers after the war, makes this a compelling book that belongs in every Civil War library. (Dec.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780807158562
Publisher:
Louisiana State University Press
Publication date:
09/01/2002
Series:
Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
277
Sales rank:
687,544
File size:
3 MB

Meet the Author

DeAnne Blanton , a senior military archivist at the National Archives, specializes in nineteenth-century U.S. Army records.

Lauren M. Cook, special assistant to the chancellor for university communications at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina, is the editor of An Uncommon Soldier: The Civil War Letters of Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, Alias Private Lyons Wakeman, 153rd Regiment, New York State Volunteers, 1862–1864

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