The Civil War, which lasted for four long years, was a “total war” involving every aspect of society. During this time in one of the bloodiest of wars, northern and southern women were as equally involved as their male counterparts, if not more. Because of this war, women were forced to abandon their traditional roles of the 19th century, and participate in the war effort. Some fearless women disguised themselves as young men, and took on the role of soldiers, in order to show their patriotism. Some of the more cunning women freelanced as spies outside the government sphere, so that they could participate in the war. Others supported the war effort by taking on the roles of nurses who risked their lives on the battlefield; however, most of them worked in hospitals located in the rear. No matter how big or small the role they played during the civil war, the significance of their effort and support broadened beliefs about the abilities of women and what they could achieve outside of the home.
One of the more significant roles that women played during the civil war was that of a soldier. Both Union and Confederate armies forbade the enlistment of women, so those that wanted to enlist, crossed gender boundaries and disguised themselves as young men and assumed masculine names. This war was not only a man’s fight, but it was also a woman’s fight. Female civil war soldiers, like the male soldiers, lived in camps, suffered in prisons and died for their respective causes. They were wounded prisoners of war, and killed in action. Going to war was strictly by choice and they were all aware of the risks involved. Many had never fired a rifle before much less contained the understanding of the army way of life, but nevertheless, they still managed and some were very successful.
It was estimated that 400 women rolled up their pants, bound their breasts, and cut their hair, in order to enlist with the fighting forces. Among those that joined the Confederate Army ranks was Mrs. Amy Clarke, “who enlisted with her husband and continued service after he was killed at Shiloh. It was not until she was wounded a second time and captured by the Federal that Mrs. Amy Clarke’s gender was detected”. Female soldiers had plenty of guts; they did not faint at the sight of blood, nor did they swoon in unbearably hot weather. They endured the same physical and...
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...ty, NY: Hanover House, 1954.
The author of this book provided a plethora of biographies, techniques and accomplishments of women, who spied for the Union Army listing the most influential to the least.
Markle, Donald C. Spies and Spymasters. New York : Hippocrene Books, 1994.
This book gave examples of female spies from both the Union and the Confederate Armies. These examples included the most significant women and the methods they used that are still practiced in espionage today.
United States National Park Service. “Clara Barton – Angel of the Battlefield.” Home page on-line. Available from http://www.nps.gov/anti/clara.htm; Internet; accessed 30 July 03.
This article provided a brief biography of Clara Barton, to include, her experiences on the battlefield as a nurse during the Civil War and a brief outline of her accomplishments after the war.
Zeinert, Karen. Elizabeth Van Lew: Southern Belle, Union Spy. New Jersey. Dillon Press,
The author gave an intimate view of one of the most significant spies during the Civil War with a thorough background of Elizabeth Van Lew, not leaving out her adventures and hilarious techniques used.