Women on the Civil War Battlefront
Richard H. Hall
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.
“Gives readers a wide-ranging overview of the various ways women participated directly in military aspects of the Civil War.”
—Annals of Iowa
“Hall ... delves deeply into primary sources to give readers more details and in some cases separates the myth from the facts of well-known stories. . . . Fascinating facts on individuals ... and excellent photographs, some not usually seen.”
—Journal of Southern HistorySee all reviews...
“Will serve as an important and helpful starting point for the increasing number of scholars wanting to know more about these remarkable women.”
“The author has discovered a great deal of fresh, compelling, and fascinating material. The book is a goldmine of information for military historians and historians of gender.”
—Journal of Military History
“Hall discloses one fascinating story after another of women who cross-dressed, deceived, and lied about their purposes and identities to participate in the Civil War. Hall is committed to interrogating and debunking unreliable evidence regarding women and the war, displaying, as the subtitle of one chapter states, his ‘historical detective work,’ front and center. His research is exhaustive and will become an essential source for anyone interested in women in the Civil War.”
—Civil War History
“The result of Hall’s painstaking labors is a work that demonstrates, even after a full chapter devoted to debunking myths, that innumerable women, perhaps thousands, violated gender norms to serve as soldiers in the American Civil War. Moreover, Hall found instances where disguised women actually rose in the enlisted ranks and a few who advanced as officers. . . . A well-researched and carefully documented volume. . . . Hall has provided grist for further scholarship on the ongoing questions of women’s roles in the Civil War, women’s capacity to serve in the military, and the extent to which Victorian gender roles were as constricted in practice as they were in the prescriptive literature of the day.”
—Journal of American History
“A fascinating, scrupulously researched book about the unsung heroines who took up arms on both sides of the conflict, enlisting in disguise as men to accompany a brother, a husband, or a sweetheart into combat.”
—Easton (Maryland) Star Democrat
“For the general reader, Hall’s book is most satisfying. Hall limits his treatment to a small number of notable women, and covers many more with brief sketches in an ‘Honor Roll,’ thus not overwhelming the reader with biographical detail. Given the additional roles he discusses, the reader can also better appreciate the range of activities in which the women engaged. Hall should be highly commended for his fine effort as this work took years of assiduous, painstaking research.”
“ Should be a hit with both avid Civil War historians and general readers.”
—Civil War News
“The debate of the last twenty years over whether or not women should be allowed in combat would have benefitted from a thorough read of Women on the Civil War Battlefront. Richard Hall demonstrates convincingly that women did everything men did in that War, and in greater numbers than heretofore thought possible. . . . This book is the result of meticulous research. Hall is careful to tell the reader when stories can't be checked against known facts, assess those which might be true, and discount those which cannot be supported with at least some verifiable facts. By the end of the book whether or not women can handle combat is no longer an issue. They did; they can, and someday they will be allowed to serve in all service capacities not in disguise, but as women.”
—Kentucky Historical Register
“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 WomanhoodSee fewer reviews...
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.