They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War

TitleThey Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2002
AuthorsBlanton, DeAnne, and Lauren M. Cook
Number of Pages277
PublisherLouisiana State University Press
CityBaton Rouge

Popular images of women during the American Civil War include self-sacrificing nurses, romantic spies, and brave ladies maintaining hearth and home in the absence of their men. However, as the authors show in this study, that conventional picture does not tell the entire story. Hundreds of women assumed male aliases, disguised themselves in men's uniforms, and charged into battle as Union and Confederate soldiers--facing down not only the guns of the adversary but also the gender prejudices of society. This volume is the first book to fully explore and explain these women, their experiences as combatants, and the controversial issues surrounding their military service. Relying on more than a decade of research in primary sources, the authors document over 240 women in uniform and find that their reasons for fighting mirrored those of men---patriotism, honor, heritage, and a desire for excitement. Some enlisted to remain with husbands or brothers, while others had dressed as men before the war. Some so enjoyed being freed from traditional women's roles that they continued their masquerade well after 1865. The authors describe how Yankee and Rebel women soldiers eluded detection, some for many years, and even merited promotion. Their comrades often did not discover the deception until the "young boy" in their company was wounded, killed, or gave birth. In addition to examining the details of everyday military life and the harsh challenges of warfare for these women--which included injury, capture, and imprisonment--the authors discuss the female warrior as an icon in nineteenth-century popular culture and why twentieth-century historians and society ignored women soldiers' contributions.

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