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To many minds the question of women in combat is a particularly modern problem; the recent Gulf War seems to have brought the question to a head for the first time. But, as Richard Hall shows in this eye-opening history, women have been distinguishing themselves on the battlefield for far longer than has been acknowledged in the history books.
There were women who went to the Civil War as nurses, daughters of the regiment, or vivandieres, and those who went disguised as men, but when the fighting began such distinctions were lost and the women would adapt to whatever role was necessary. Many went to be with their boyfriends or husbands, some went out of patriotism, others purely for the adventure. In addition to donning a uniform and cutting their hair, these women often learned to drink, smoke, chew, and swear with the best, or worst of the soldiers. The wife of one Colonel Turchin even assumed command of a regiment after her husband had been wounded.
Some of the other women covered in this ground-breaking account include Jennie Hodgers, the longest serving woman, completed a three-year term of enlistment serving as Albert Cashier. It wasn't until 1911 when she was hurt in an automobile accident, that her identity and sex were discovered; Sarah Emma Edmonds probably had the busiest Civil War. She served as private Franklin Thompson in the 2nd Michigan Infantry Regiment, then as a spy disguised variously as a black man and Irish biddy. Later, when Sarah contracted malaria, Franklin deserted. After recuperating, she wrote Nurse and Spy, a fictionalized account of her adventures as if experienced by a female nurse. The book was a huge success. She resumed the war effort as a female nurse and met Linus Seelye, whom she married after the war's end; Lucy Matilda Thompson joined the Confederate forces when already aged 49, and, although she received two shrapnel wounds to her skull resulting in a metal plate being permanently attached, lived to the incredible age of 112; Loreta Janeta Velazquez, born to a wealthy Cuban family and raised in New Orleans, fought in the battle of First Bull Run as Lieutenant Harry T. Buford. Her adventures continued as she worked as a spy, becoming a double agent and even being enlisted by Union forces to capture herself.
Researched from primary source material - memoirs, diaries, letters and old records - this is the first book to fully investigate the role of women exposed to combat conditions in the Civil War. Illustrated with photographs that show women in uniform, this work authoritatively documents a new chapter in Civil War history.