Sunday, April 27, 2014

Civil War Sunday - A Woman of the Civil War

We are coming up on the anniversary of some major Civil War battles.  With that, I want to take up a suggestion of one of my blog readers, who asked me a couple of years ago (sorry it took so long!) to check into the lives of some lessor known Civil War figures.

One of the most fascinating of them was Sarah Emma Edmonds, a Canadian woman, who participated in the Civil War as both a man (disguised as a man, that is) and a woman.

Several months ago, I saw a book in the Young Adult section of our local public library called "A Soldier’s Story: the Incredible True Story of Sarah Edmonds. A Civil War Hero" by Marissa Moss.  I didn't have a chance to really look at the book due to what else was happening in my life at the time. It's too bad, because the story is one fascinating story.

Initially Sarah ran away to escape an intolerable home situation, disguising herself as a man, and working as a traveling Bible salesman in the United States.  When war broke out, she enlisted in the Union army and worked a number of positions, including in combat, in nursing, and in espionage.  She ended up deserting. Sick with malaria, she was fearful her female identity would be discovered.

Once she recovered, she continued to work in the war, as a woman.  Her memoir, written in 1864, is available online.  

After the war, she married, had three children (all of whom died in childhood) and adopted two other children.

In her fight to be awarded a military pension, many of the men she served with supported her efforts.  I think, of everything, this is what fascinates me the most about her life - given the times, and the attitudes towards women, I admit to a bit of surprise as to how her fellow soldiers rallied around her. In order for her to be awarded a pension, the charges of desertion first had to be dismissed - and, finally, they were.

Even more astonishing, Edmonds is the only woman to have been inducted into the Union veterans group Grand Army of the Republic, although she was far from the only woman who fought in the Civil War.

Is there a "person not widely known in history" (any part of history) who fascinates you?


  1. I find this subject fascinating. Firstly, that a woman had to resort to pretense of being a man if she wanted to join up. Secondly, that she actually fooled everybody she lived with in such close quarters. That must have been extremely tricky. I'm interested to know how she achieved the status of a man while she toileted etc.

  2. Ane I followed your link to find that the book is completely free of charge. I downloaded it to my kindle. Thank you for the tip.

  3. This is fascinating I find that whatever the place or time, women are often written out of the history books.

  4. This is the power of woman.. Nowadays most women are working on men's job. This is how women are flexible.

  5. Gosh what an amazing woman! I would never have the guts to do that!

  6. This is a great story. Sorry I missed it last week and definitely sharing!


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