Female Soldiers at the Battle of Antietam

A total of eight women, disguised as male soldiers, fought in the historic Battle of Antietam in September of 1862. The battle was a decisive one for the Union, as its victory spurred Abraham Lincoln to announce the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves in Union-occupied areas of seceded states and laid the groundwork for the passage of the 13th amendment.

According to the book “They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War,” seven of these women at Antietam were Union soldiers and one was a Confederate.

Sarah_Edmonds

Sarah Edmonds

Several, although not all, of the female Union soldiers who participated in the battle have been identified but the sole female Confederate’s identity remains a mystery due to the Confederate’s notorious lack of record-keeping. These female Union soldiers included Sarah Emma Edmonds of the 2nd Michigan Infantry, Catherine Davidson of the 28th Ohio Infantry, Mary Galloway, an unidentified pregnant woman from New Jersey who was in her second trimester at the time of the battle, Rebecca Peterman of the 7th Wisconsin Infantry, Ida Remington as well as another unidentified woman.

Most of these women survived the battle, although many were wounded. The unidentified pregnant woman received an unknown type of wound during the battle but she quickly recovered and later went on to fight at Fredericksburg. Rebecca Peterman, Ida Remington and the Confederate woman fought in the early and deadly phase of the battle commonly referred to as The Cornfield. Peterman and Remington escaped unharmed but the Confederate woman was killed.

Battle_Antietam_Dunker_Church_Antietam_1862

Dead Confederate artillerymen photographed by Alexander Gardner in front of Dunker Church

Mary Galloway was shot in the neck and lay wounded in a ravine for nearly thirty-six hours before she was discovered and carried to a field hospital. According to the book “Woman of Valor: Clara Barton and the Civil War,” Clara Barton, the famous “Angel of the Battlefield,” treated Mary Galloway for her wounds after a male surgeon discovered her in the hospital refusing treatment from the male doctors. Galloway finally allowed the male surgeon to operate on her and remove the bullet that had entered her neck and embedded itself under the skin of her shoulder. She survived and made a full recovery.

Catherine Davidson also survived the battle but received a serious wound when she was shot in the right arm. According to the book “Savage Thunder: Antietam and the Bloody Road to Freedom,” Davidson was carried to an ambulance by Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Gregg Curtin. Thinking she was dying, she gave Curtin her ring to thank him for carrying her. Davidson survived but her arm was amputated halfway between the shoulder and elbow:

“Later, Davidson, dressed now as a woman, met Curtin and told the surprised governor who she was. Curtin, who had worn the ring since that day at Antietam, offered it back to her, but Davidson refused, saying, ‘The finger that used to wear that ring will never wear it again. The hand is dead but the soldier lives on.’”

These female soldiers at Antietam were just a handful of the estimated 400 women who fought in the Civil War and took part in some of the most historic battles such as the Battle of Antietam and the Battle of Gettysburg.

Sources:

“They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War”; DeAnne Blanton, Lauren M. Cook; 2002

“Woman of Valor: Clara Barton and the Civil War”; Stephen B. Oates; 1995

“A Savage Thunder: Antietam and the Bloody Road to Freedom”; Jim Murphy; 2009

Female Soldiers at the Battle of Gettysburg

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 battle_of_gettysburg_illustrationyoung 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.

Sources:

“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

The Alabama County That Tried to Secede from the South

After the state of Alabama seceded from the Union in January of 1861, a small county within the state, known as Winston County, disagreed with the decision and tried to secede from the South.

Winston County was populated at the time by what Alabama residents called “Hill people.” The residents got their name from the county’s rugged, hilly terrain. As this rough terrain was unsuitable for plantations and farming, slaves were not used in the county and most residents opposed the slave trade.

According to the book “Best Little Stories from the War,” When Alabama lawmakers gathered in January of 1861 to vote on whether to secede from the Union or not, Winston County sent a young school teacher named Chris Sheets to represent them at the meeting. Sheets threatened that the county would secede from the state if lawmakers voted in favor of secession. The lawmakers called his bluff and voted to secede:

“A maverick among the fire-eaters and other secession-minded delegates to the convention, Sheets argued long and vociferously for the hill country’s point of view. As cited in Alabama writer Drue Duke’s anecdotal history, Alabama Tales, the hot debates in Montgomery left to name-calling and, for Sheets, even worse. ‘When Sheets refused to sign any papers of oath that the Secessionists offered him [after voting for secession], tempers flared more violently. ‘I am an American,’ Sheets declared, ‘and an Alabamian, I don’t need to sign anything to prove who I am.’ He might as well have spoken to the wind. ‘At that point, he and the remaining few who sided with him were seized and dragged off to jail,’ writes Duke.”

Upon hearing that Alabama had seceded, the residents of Winston County were outraged. They viewed secession as illegal and immoral and opposed the idea of going to war solely to support slWinston_County_Alabamaavery.

Local Alabama newspapers began to mock Winston County for its opposition and jokingly referred to it as the “Free State of Winston”

After Fort Sumter was attacked by Confederates in April of 1861, Winston residents began to seriously discuss seceding from Alabama and forming a new state known as Nickajack. The discussions didn’t build steam until the Alabama governor threatened to impose a military draft on Winston County if they didn’t produce more volunteers for the war.

On July 4 1861, around 3,000 residents of northern Alabama met at Looney’s Tavern for a convention. During the convention, the residents debated the idea of seceding from Alabama but realized it would be unable to survive in the deep south surrounded by Confederates.

The residents instead drew up a document known as the Declaration of Neutrality and threatened that if provoked they would officially secede from Alabama.

The county remained neutral throughout the war but faced many difficulties. Tension remained high between the two sides and there was a constant threat of violence.

In 1862, Alabama lawmakers officially imposed a draft on the county. In response, many of the men disappeared into the backwoods or joined the Union army instead. One Union regiment, known as the First Alabama Cavalry, was made up entirely of Winston County residents. Winston County residents remained under constant threat of attacks from the Confederates during the war and several residents, including probate judge Thomas Pink Curtis and Henry Tucker, a private in the 1st Alabama cavalry, were mutilated and killed in the county before the war ended in 1865.

Sources:

“Best Little Stories from the Civil War” C. Brian Kelly; 2008

“Declarations of Independence”; James L. Erwin; 2007

1st Alabama Cavalry: http://www.1stalabamacavalryusv.com/Default.aspx

CNN; She Was a Soldier…And Other Strange Civil War Stories; John Blake; April 13 2011:
http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/04/12/civil.war.strange/index.html