Women Soldiers of the Civil War

It was believed that the Civil War was a man’s fight. The men went to war, lived in germ-ridden camps, engaged in heinous battle, languished in appalling prison camps, and died horribly. Men were not the only ones to fight. Women also joined in the war. They bore arms and charged into battle. They too lived in camp, suffered in prisons and died for their respective causes.

Both the Union and the Confederate armies forbade the enlistment of women. Women soldiers of the Civil War therefore assumed masculine names and disguised themselves as men. It is hard to estimate the number of women that served in the Civil War. Estimates place as many as 250 women in the ranks of the Confederate army

Post-Civil War, the topic of women soldiers continued to arise in both literature and press. The existence of soldier-women was no secret during or after the Civil War. The reading public, at least, was well aware that these women rejected Victorian social constraints confining them to the domestic sphere. Their motives were open to speculation, but not their actions as there were numerous newspaper stories and obituaries of women soldiers.

The army held no regard for women soldiers, Union or Confederate. The U.S. Army tried to deny that women played a military role, however small, in the Civil War.

Source: Women Soldiers of the Civil War
The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

Back to top