They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War

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LSU Press, Sep 1, 2002 - History - 277 pages
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Popular images of women during the American Civil War include self-sacrificing nurses, romantic spies, and brave ladies maintaining hearth and home in the absence of their men. However, as DeAnne Blanton and Lauren M. Cook show in their remarkable new study, that conventional picture does not tell the entire story. Hundreds of women assumed male aliases, disguised themselves in men’s uniforms, and charged into battle as Union and Confederate soldiers—facing down not only the guns of the adversary but also the gender prejudices of society. They Fought Like Demons is the first book to fully explore and explain these women, their experiences as combatants, and the controversial issues surrounding their military service.

Relying on more than a decade of research in primary sources, Blanton and Cook document over 240 women in uniform and find that their reasons for fighting mirrored those of men—-patriotism, honor, heritage, and a desire for excitement. Some enlisted to remain with husbands or brothers, while others had dressed as men before the war. Some so enjoyed being freed from traditional women’s roles that they continued their masquerade well after 1865. The authors describe how Yankee and Rebel women soldiers eluded detection, some for many years, and even merited promotion. Their comrades often did not discover the deception until the “young boy” in their company was wounded, killed, or gave birth.

In addition to examining the details of everyday military life and the harsh challenges of -warfare for these women—which included injury, capture, and imprisonment—Blanton and Cook discuss the female warrior as an icon in nineteenth-century popular culture and why -twentieth-century historians and society ignored women soldiers’ contributions. Shattering the negative assumptions long held about Civil War distaff soldiers, this sophisticated and dynamic work sheds much-needed light on an unusual and overlooked facet of the Civil War experience.

 

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User Review  - Krumbs - LibraryThing

The authors obviously did some extensive research in putting this book together, and I learned quite a lot about how women managed to pass as men during the civil war and have even greater respect for ... Read full review

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User Review  - briannad84 - LibraryThing

This is such a cool book! Definately something I didn't learn about in my school. A subject I'd really like to look more into! I still wonder how they got by with their monthly visitors though. I ... Read full review

Contents

ENTRENCHED IN SECRECY Women Soldiers of the Civil War
1
THEY FOUGHT LIKE DEMONS A Military History of Women in Combat
8
TO DRESS AND GO AS A SOLDIER Means and Motivations
25
A FINE LOOKING SOLDIER Life in the Ranks
45
FAIRLY EARNED HER EPAULETTES Women Soldiers in the Military Service
64
WHY THEY DETAINED HER I CANT IMAGINE The Prisoner of War Experience
77
I WOULD RATHER HAVE BEEN SHOT DEAD Women Soldiers as Casualties of War
91
A CONGENITAL PECULIARITY Women Discovered in the Ranks
107
WHEN JENNIE CAME MARCHING HOME Women Soldiers in the Postwar Years
163
BEYOND HEROES AND HARLOTS The Changing Historical Perspective
193
I LOVE MY COUNTRY A Summation of Womens Military Service
205
The Female Warrior Bold
211
Bibliography
215
Notes
231
Index
263
Copyright

ROMANTIC YOUNG LADIES Female Soldiers in the Public Consciousness
145

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About the author (2002)

DeAnne Blanton , a senior military archivist at the National Archives, specializes in nineteenth-century U.S. Army records.

Lauren M. Cook, special assistant to the chancellor for university communications at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina, is the editor of An Uncommon Soldier: The Civil War Letters of Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, Alias Private Lyons Wakeman, 153rd Regiment, New York State Volunteers, 1862–1864

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