Uncommon Soldiers: Women’s Role in Civil War

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Whether they were on the Union side or the Confederate side, the women living during the Civil War era were fiercely loyal and did what they could to aid their cause.

Pat McAlhany, a member of the Columbia County Historical Museum Historical Sewing Society, said the situations of women in the North and women int the South different.

“What is the least discussed many times, is the fact that women in the North didn’t have the war taking place right in their backyard,” she said. “For Southern women, things were much harder as much of the war took place near their homes.”

McAlhany pointed out that Southern women had to take care of “grandma, grandpa, the kids, the plantation, the animals left and put food on the table.”

Food and supplies were so hard to obtain that Southern women had to invent new ways to doing things to conserve resources – or just do without.

Steve Knight, a reenactor, agrees.

“Women had to plow the fields, chop wood, and take care of livestock that was left in addition to their regular duties,” he siad.

The Union Army would send out scavengers to find food and resources to steal, so many times families were left with nothing, he said.

Knight said that for many women, the challenges seemed to grow even after the war.

“Besides being left to take care of things when all the men left to fight, some women never say their husbands, fathers, brothers, and uncles again even after the war ended.”

Those men fortunate enough to return home were often crippled or sick, he said.

The women, in particular Southern women, had emotional problems and extreme stress in dealing with the loss or illness of their loved ones.

The University of Virginia hosted and exhibit in 1997 called “Hearts at Home: Southern Women in the Civil War” and included authentic diary entries, letters and other pieces from that time.

“Virginia used every honorable means to preserve this once glorious Union; but when she found her efforts in vain she silently and sadly withdrew from the tottering fabric and joined her destinies,” wrote Sarah A. G. Strickler, a Virginia schoolgirl in her diary in 1861.

The exhibit also showed information confirming that women often tended to injured and ill soldiers.

Lynchburg Hospital Association ads described how women were volunteering to write letters to soldiers families. Another ad in 1862 thanked a woman for her donation of chickens to feed the soldiers.

Lucy Davis cared for injured Confederate soldiers on a hospital area located on the lawn at the University of Virginia.

In an August 1862 letter to her brother, Davis wrote, “Most of our immediate neighbors are getting on well, but just across the lawn there are some of the worst cases and the sight and sounds we have to encounter daily are most distressing.”

Called the “Florence Nightingale of the South,” Juliet Opie Hopkins, sold properties in Alabama, Virginia and New York and donated all the money to the Confederacy for the creation of additional hospitals.

Later she traveled to Richmond to serve at a hospital and was even shot at twice while aiding soldiers on the battlefield.

A woman name Adana Bocock wrote a letter on May 11, 1864 describing how students at her academy sewed uniforms for a Confederate infantry and even formed a pretend company called, the “Female Dare Devils.”

Barbara Ann Duravan showed how far she dared to go to show her support of the Confederacy by disguising herself as a man to join the fight.

Duravan was captured and held at a penitentiary in Illinois before her death and burial in the Confederate Cemetery.

Her captors didn’t know she was a woman until after she died.

Some women got involved by serving as a spy, like Belle Boyd.

Boyd was imprisoned for carrying papers across enemy line to aid the Confederacy.

She was captured by Union officers, and ended up marrying a Union naval captain.

During the war, white women were pictured on Confederate currency to represent beauty, family, and everything good in the war.

The one dollar note in Virginia and North Carolina each depicted women.

Missouri and Tennessee also had notes with women on them.

Cornelia Spencer wrote her thoughts about the war in her 1866 book, The Last Ninety Days of the War in North Carolina.

–Ashley Cisneros
Ashley Cisneros is a co-founder of Chatter Buzz Media, an Orlando Internet marketing firm that helps companies and organizations engage with their target markets through inbound marketing via the Internet. Chatter Buzz Media, which won the Social Madness competition for the Orlando small business market, is a full-service digital marketing firm specializing in website design, search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing and content creation. Prior to founding Chatter Buzz, Ashley worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine editor, technical writer, marketing manager, public relations practitioner and freelance journalist. To see Ashley’s content writing, visit www.ashleycisneros.com. You can also reach Ashley on her Google profile.

By | 2017-04-28T07:32:46+00:00 February 16th, 2005|Categories: Blog, News, Samples|Tags: , , , , , , |0 Comments

About the Author:

Ashley Cisneros Mejia is a journalist, entrepreneur and marketer. She began her career as a newspaper reporter and later as an editor at Florida Trend business magazine. Ashley has worked as a professional freelance writer since 2009, as a technical writer, marketing manager, and public relations practitioner. She also founded two digital marketing agencies in Orlando. Named one of Orlando’s 40 Under 40 and honored by the Women’s Executive Council of Orlando for achievements in media and communications, Ashley earned a B.S. in Journalism and an M.S. in Entrepreneurship at the University of Florida.

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