Women in the Civil War Essay
Women in the Civil War
During the civil war, the contributions made by women both in the north and the south, though somewhat unheralded, were nonetheless significant. In fact many women were not contented with merely supporting the war efforts from the home front. Hundreds of them were actually with their armies in the battlefronts. Many were serving as field nurses while others were general purpose aides. When the soldiers had to march for days, they, too, marched with them, living in camps and eating army rations. They also endured the heat, rain, mud, and snow borne by the soldiers, protected by the same ineffective shelter and insufficient clothing.
As bullets flew and cannons roared, some of these women were actually in the battlefields playing the role of “medics. ” They were often caught in the crossfire, rushing to help wounded soldiers, equally endangering their lives in the process. (Hall, n. d. ) Stories had been going around about some of these women. One nurse was mentioned – Augusta Foster who came from Maine. She fell off her horse when it was shot, missing her by inches. That near miss, however, did not scare her. She went on with her duties as if nothing had happened.
One of the most talked about nurses was Anna Etheridge, who was a mere “Daughter of the Regiment” in Washington, D. C. when the war started in April 1861. (A “Daughter of the Regiment” was only supposed to inspire soldiers going to war. Dressed in fancy uniform complete with decorative feathers and a bonnet, she would be with other women like her, leading the parades which presented and paid tribute to the soldiers before they were sent off to the battlefronts).
When the war started getting really bloody and news of hundreds of soldiers getting wounded and killed started filtering back to Washington, D. C. , Anna was one of the many members of the “Daughter of the Regiment” who made themselves scarce. They decided to actually “go to the front” and do their share. “Gentle Annie,” as she came to be known, marched from Michigan with the 2nd Infantry “and was under fire on several occasions. ” Her efforts were recognized in 1864 with the Kearny Cross, an award given for gallantry in action. The Confederacy had their share of courageous nurses. Lucy Ann Cox was one of them. Lucy started out as a “vivandiere” (a woman who goes with the army simply to sell things to soldiers).
She, however, later became a field nurse for Company A of the Confederate Army’s 13th Virginia Infantry which fell under the command of General Lee, where her husband belonged. She marched with the group during the two times that Lee invaded the North. She was conferred full military honors when she was buried after the war. (Hall, n. d. ) Another interesting woman in the Confederacy was Mrs. Juliet Opie Hopkins from Alabama. According to information picked up from a scrapbook prepared by a certain Captain J. C. Featherston and included in the papers of the Irvine, Saunders, Davis, and Watts families, when the war started Mrs.
Hopkins sold her properties in “New York, Virginia, and Alabama” and donated the proceeds to the Confederacy for the purpose of setting up hospitals for their soldiers. Afterwards, she volunteered to act as the chief matron in the hospital in Richmond. Accounts had it that she, herself, even suffered gunshot wounds two times when she personally went to the battlefield. She was christened “Florence Nightingale of the South” for her efforts and her picture appeared on the currency of the Confederate government printed in Alabama.
(As cited in Hearts at Home: War Work, n. d. ) Working with the wounded in hospitals was one of the ways where women demonstrated their patriotism. They did their best to keep the morale of their soldiers alive not only through their nursing work but also by holding all sorts of events such as dinners where they would entertain the wounded. (From the diary of Louisa H. A. Minor, as cited in Hearts at Home: War Work, n. d. ) However, although they were working at the home front, their work was not without dangers.
Take for instance the report printed in the March 14, 1864 issue of the Daily Richmond Examiner about a March 13, 1863 mysterious explosion in a laboratory in Brown’s Island. That incident left 35 women killed and 31 injured. Many of the victims were reported to have been burned “beyond recognition. ” (Hearts at Home: War Work, n. d. ) Some of the women in the North as well as in the South helped with the war efforts in the home fronts – knitting socks for their soldiers, fabricating bandages for their wounded, sewing shirts, and attending to some other supplies needed in the battlefronts.
Some even manufactured small arms and the ammunition that went with them. In Fayetteville, an arsenal managed by women was able to turn out about “900,000 rounds of small arms munitions in 1864” before it was destroyed. Organizations like the “Sick Soldier’s Relief Society and the Soldier’s Aid Society” were organized by women to offer any help they could. (Women of the American Civil War, n. d. )