This year marks the 150th anniversary of several key battles of the Civil War. One of the lesser known aspects of those battles is the number of women who served both the Union and Confederate armies.
Historian, Dr. Elizabeth Leonard has written five books on the Civil War and will be talking at 6:30 Thursday night at the Atlanta Cyclorama about her book “All The Daring Of The Soldier: Women of the Civil War Armies.”
Women were spies on both the Union and the Confederate sides. They also served in the battlefield. Experts estimate 500 to 1000 women disguised themselves as men and served as soldiers. Several were called “daughters of the regiment”. They not only provided nursing to those wounded in the field, they served in battle. Some carried the colors of the regiment, some carried water to soldiers loading the cannons. Some even stepped in and acted as gunners if the soldiers fell. They also cheered the men on, to push them in battle.
Many followed their husbands from campaign to campaign, acting as laundresses, cooks, and suppliers. And women of color also served. Harriet Tubman ran a significant spy network.
Susie Baker, born a slave in Georgia, gained her freedom at age 14 when her uncle brought her and other family members to a federal gunboat. As a contraband of war, she and her family were enlisted in a newly formed regiment of black soldiers under the Union’s Department of the South. She served as a laundress, but also nursed the sick and taught soldiers how to read and write.
GPB's Ellen Reinhardt talks with Dr. Leonard about the women who put their lives on the line and disguised themselves as men in order to serve as soldiers.