Despite the fact that women were not allowed to join the military during the Civil War, hundreds of women fought as secret soldiers during the war and at least seven of these women fought in the historic Battle of Gettysburg.
According to the book “They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War,” about five women fought at Gettysburg: two Union soldiers and three Confederates. Another book, “Women in the Civil War” indicates two additional women fought on the side of the Confederacy at the battle.
One of the female Union soldiers was a woman from New York later identified as Mary Siezgle, but the other was a young teenage girl who still remains unidentified to this day. Both women survived the bloody battle, although the young teenage girl received minor wounds during the fighting.
The three female Confederate soldiers mentioned in “They Fought Like Demons”, who also remain unidentified due to the Confederate’s poor record-keeping, were not as lucky. One of the women was shot in the leg and captured. She was sent to the military hospital in Chester, Pennsylvania where doctors amputated her leg. A Union soldier recuperating in the hospital at the same time as the young woman, Thomas Reed, wrote to his parents about her in August of 1863:
“I must tell you that we have a female Secesh here. She was wounded at Gettysburg but our doctors soon found her out. They say she is very good looking but the poor girl has lost a leg. It is a great pity she did not stay at home with her mother but she gets good care and kind treatment.”
The other two female Confederate soldiers mentioned in “They Fought Like Demons” did not make it off the battlefield alive. They were both mortally wounded during the infamous Pickett’s Charge. One of the women died while storming a stone wall along Cemetery Ridge and the other died on the field. A male Union soldier guarding Emmitsburg Road that evening heard one of the women’s cries of agony as she lay dying on the battlefield and described it as the most awful sound he had ever heard. Their bodies were later discovered by a Union burial detail, as the Confederates had retreated and left their dead and wounded behind.
According to “Women in the Civil War,” two Confederate women soldiers, cousins Mary and Mollie Bell, who served under General Jubal A. Early, did survive the battle of Gettysburg as well as the battle of Chancellorsville and the battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse until their true identities were discovered in 1864 and they were sent to the Confederate prison, Castle Thunder.
“Women in the Civil War”; Larry G. Eggleston; 2003
Manassas Patch; Civil War Women Step Outside Society’s Norms; May Ewald Durkovic:http://manassas.patch.com/articles/civil-war-women-step-outside-societys-norms
“She Went to the Field: Women Soldiers of the Civil War”; Bonnie Tsui
“They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War”; DeAnne Blanton, Lauren M. Cook