Women on the Civil War Battlefront
By Richard H. Hall
May 2006 ; 384 pages, 23 illustrations, 6 x 9; Modern War Studies; Cloth ISBN 978-0-7006-1437-0, $34.95
During the Civil War women did a lot more than keep the home fires burning. Expanding on his pioneering Patriots in Disguise, Richard Hall has now produced the most accurate and up-to-date survey available of women who were determined to serve their nation in that time of crisis.
Drawing on a wealth of regimental histories, newspaper archives, and a host of previously unreported accounts, Hall shows that women served in more capacities and in greater number—perhaps several thousand—than has previously been known. They served in the infantry, cavalry, and artillery and as spies, scouts, saboteurs, smugglers, and frontline nurses. From all walks of life, they followed husbands and lovers into battle, often in male disguise that remained undiscovered until they were wounded (or gave birth), and endured the same hardships and dangers as did their male counterparts.
Hall presents the most complete portrait yet available of these courageous women—including Sarah Bradbury, Lizzie Compton, Frances Hook, and Confederate spy Loreta Janeta Velazquez—many of whom earned the praise of the male soldiers they served with and rose through the ranks to become sergeants, even officers. Through his investigation of specific case histories, he has authenticated many previously undocumented reports while debunking myths and exposing previously published errors about the subject. The book also includes a biographical directory of nearly 400 women participants and dozens of Civil War documents attesting to women’s role in the war.
As a new synthesis and critical appraisal, Women on the Civil War Battlefront is a richly anecdotal work that unearths a hidden history and opens a new window on women’s lives in the nineteenth century. These women were determined to serve, and Hall’s research confirms that they did so in significant numbers—and with distinction.
“Hall’s main argument is that far more women were active in military affairs than previously thought, that women were in military places unknown to most historians of the war (such as prisoner-of-war camps), and that much of what we think we know about women’s activities is not necessarily accurate. . . . A substantial and significant contribution to the history of women during the Civil War.”–Janet L. Coryell, coeditor of Negotiating the Boundaries of Southern Womanhood
Civil War scholar RICHARD H. HALL is a free-lance writer and editor based in Brentwood, Maryland. He is the author of Patriots in Disguise: Women Warriors of the Civil War.
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