A Trilogy: Women in the United States Civil War

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Date: 12 Apr 1861 to 9 May 1865
Location: United Statesmap
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The Women of the United States Civil War Trilogy

Women of the Civil War, Illustration by Winslow Homer


This page, the free space page projects linked here, and related pages are committed to identifying, creating WikiTree profiles, and memorializing as many of these dedicated, daring, courageous, and sometimes clandestine, women as possible according to Wikitree guidelines, style, and procedures.
Intrigued? How did women serve in the Civil War? Read on!

Part One: Civil War Nurses

12 April 1861, the day the United States War Between the States, aka the United States Civil War started, marked the beginning of four years of the bloodiest battles and most casualties in the United States' military history. All told, 620,000 Americans died in the conflict, which ended 9 May 1865, with more than half of those dying off the battlefield from disease or festering wounds.
This war was the first time women were allowed to serve their country, although much opposition ensued allowing women to serve in any capacity, as nurses, caring for the sick, wounded and dying men. In previous wars only men served in this capacity. Caring for wounded in hospitals, battlefield encampments, and civilian homes were the only way women could officially serve in the war effort.
The Civil War marked the beginning of the nurse profession in the United States, and from it developed the military nurse role in the armed services. Many medical procedures were initially established and used in the Civil War by these women, and still used today, such as disinfection, anesthesia, (and the nurse anesthetist occupation).
Sometimes the nurse's most important tasks were giving their time and comfort to sick, wounded, and dying men, often writing letters for the soldiers, wiping their brows with cool water, reading to a newly blinded man, or simply holding their hands and being with them so they did not die alone.
Ever hear of Louisa May Alcott? Her fame as an author had humble beginnings as a young nurse in the United States Civil War.
Of the 2-6,000 women who, for any length of time, served as nurses, 600-750 sisters in the Catholic Church were trained nurses (many educated in Europe nursing schools, and with Florence Nightengale), and ran the only existing hospitals in the United States at that time. Most of these trained professionals served on floating hospital ships docked near battlegrounds, or in established hospitals already run by the Catholic Church.
Sidebar : While this page and the title implies "women only", some men served in the Civil War as nurses at the time, usually POW soldiers caring for the sick and dying while imprisoned in the POW camps on either side, often succumbing to the same horrendous diseases themselves. Dysentery, Typhoid fever, and Malaria, to name a few, were rampant in the camps.
Some men who served as nurses, went on to become famous for other reasons. Did you know Walt Whitman served for a time as a nurse in the United States War Between the States?
There you learn more about their service, and embark on the journey to find, profile, and commemorate these caring individuals who did so much, volunteering their time; practically 99.99% of these women never received a penny for their contributions to the war effort.

Part Two: Women Spies in the Civil War

Harriette Tubman, Union Spymaster

Women from the beginning of time unofficially helped their men in battle and supported conflicts to help win their cause. As spies, Civil War- era women hid guns and ammunition in their huge hoop skirts, the fashion of the day. When opposing forces commandeered homes for lodging, meals, etc., women would poison soldiers and officers by lacing their drinks with arsenic hidden in their children's doll heads. Some crossed the North and South boundaries to scout troop movements and gather intelligence to help their side's cause.

We might never know the true number, but hundreds of women reportedly surreptitiously undertook stealthy missions to help, not only the war effort for the Union or the Confederacy, but also in the Underground Railroad helping slaves to freedom, and advancing women's rights, among other causes that would jeopardize their freedom and life if ever caught.
A famous woman and slave-born, Araminta Harriet "Minty, Moses" Tubman, pictured here, was a famous spy in this era.
A free space page project. specifically about these brave and daring women, ATrilogy of Women in the Civil War: Part Two: Women Spies in the Civil War is under development.

Part Three: Women Soldiers in the Civil War

Sarah as Franklin
Although the inherently clandestine nature of the activity makes an accurate count impossible, conservative estimates of female soldiers masquerading and serving as men in the Union and Confederate troops puts the number somewhere between 400 and 750.
Some women went to war in order to share in the trials of their loved ones. Others were stirred by a thirst for adventure, the promise of reliable wages, or ardent patriotism.
In the words of Sarah Edmonds Seelye, also known as Franklin Flint Thompson, of the 2nd Michigan Infantry stated: "I could only thank God that I was free and could go forward and work, and I was not obliged to stay at home and weep." Seelye holds the honor of being the only woman to receive a veteran's pension after the war. [1]
A free spage page project about these confident, courageous, and covert women is under development. . Please see A Trilogy: Part Three: Women Soldiers in the Civil War.
Please see this WikiTree category for some profiles of "Victoria/Victor" [2]soldiers.


  1. Smithsonian Magazine - Female Soldiers: Civil War.
  2. A play on words of the delightful 1982 movie starring Julie Andrews: "Victor Victoria"

See also:

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Maybe you could add something about these women? https://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/history-archaeology/nancy-harts-militia/

Just ran across this while researching some Civil War categories.

Regards, Natalie, Military & War

posted by Natalie (Durbin) Trott
Thank you, Natalie - we'll review and try to find the participating members.' looks like there were 30 women.
posted by Sheryl Moore