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Women Warriors

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Although women have participated in wars throughout history, women soldiers during the American Civil War were unheard of. After all, the 1860s was the height of the Victorian era, where women—at least high and middle class ones—were thought to be delicate creatures, who needed to be taken care of and protected by their men. The idea of a woman charging into battle, firing on the enemy or worse, yet, being wounded or killed was unimaginable.
Even women who nursed wounded soldiers were often frowned upon by polite society. But in the book, All the Daring of the Soldier, by Elizabeth D. Leonard, or An Uncommon Soldier, by Lauren Cook Burgess, these real life women warriors have finally been exposed for the true heroines they were.

Women weren’t allowed to join either army during the American Civil War, but according to Leonard, many young women were driven not only by “Patriotism and the love of a good man…”  but also by “…their quest for adventure and their hope for a different sort of paying job than was typically available to them.”

My upcoming release from The Wild Rose Press, Confederate Rose, is the story of a fictional woman, an Irish immigrant, who went on such a quest. But although Katie O’Reilly is a figment of my imagination, she’s based on the stories I’ve read of the real heroines who fought this war and were up until now, mostly forgotten.

And if you visit my website, you’ll have a chance to win a copy of the September 25th release.

Blurb: Disguised as a man to serve with her husband as a soldier in the Confederate Army, Irish immigrant Katie Rose O’Reilly vows to remain in the ranks and seek revenge on Yankees after her husband is killed at Sharpsburg. When she falls and almost drowns in a swollen stream, Southerner Alexander Hart, a Yankee spy, saves Katie from drowning then nurses her through a resulting fever, keeping his identity secret from the feisty and beautiful Rebel soldier even as he finds himself falling in love with her. Can Katie reconcile her loyalties with her love?

Excerpt:

“What? Are you telling me you were kissing him?” His blood heated at the thought of her moving on to another man.

“I was tryin’ to escape.”

“By kissing him?”

“Aye.” Anger flashed in her eyes. “And it was working until you came along and hit the poor lad.”

He grasped her forearm and pulled her from the guardhouse. They couldn’t stay here debating. “Come on, we’ve got to get out of camp. I fear I’ve compromised my cover.”

“But what about Nate?” she protested. “You may have killed him.”

Sighing, Alex knelt and felt for a pulse. The lad’s breathing was regular, his pulse steady. “Reckon he’ll be out for awhile, but aside from a nasty headache and some bruising, should be all right.” He rose and glanced into the guardhouse. “They’ll reckon you clobbered him when he came for your dinner plate.” He caught her worried gaze. “Now, let’s skedaddle.”

She nodded, but eyed him again. “Why are you dressed as a priest?”

“It’s a disguise. I’m ministering to the Rebel soldiers.” His eyes roved to the white vee of her bosom. “Button your shirt before we go. We don’t want to attract any more attention.”

I felt compelled to write this romance/adventure story after reading the true accounts of those daring heroines of the past.

If you’d like to read these true life, inspiring stories as well, they’re contained in the books
All the Daring of the Soldier: Women of the Civil War Armies by Elizabeth D. Leonard and An Uncommon Soldier by Lauren Cook Burgess, the Civil War letters of Sarah Rosetta Wakeman.

 

 

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14 Comments

  1. Isabel Roman says:

    I can certainly buy the adventure part. If I was stuck in that time, I’d have been bored senseless. Or comepltely shunned by society. At least I’d like to think so, lol, and not envision myself as a delicate woman.

    Excellent excerpt!

  2. Thanks, Isabel! These real life women who actually lived like this were courageous and very unconventional for the time. I’m sure a lot of them grew up as tomboys, playing and working alongside the boys. When they grew up, I’m sure they didn’t want to shrink back and do what society told them were proper womanly things. True adventuresses!

  3. Helaina Hinson says:

    I’m a relative of Malinda Blaylock, who enlisted with her husband Keith. This was actually with the full knowledge of the recruiter, Captain James Moore. She wanted to go with Keith, and was told that only officers could be visited by wives. So she enlisted as her husband’s younger brother Sam.

    It’s also not true that they were immediately discharged when their sex was discovered; at least four were, by the end of the war, serving under a “don’t ask, don’t tell” basis in the Confederate Army, most notably Jane Perkins. Jane, by 1964, went so far as to grow out her hair and wear it braided under her hat. Her colonel stated after the war that, with such desperate need of men, he wasn’t about to send home someone who was fully trained and experienced.

    Jane was captured with her artillery unit and served time as a POW in Point Lookout. She gave birth to a child while there (in fact, we know of at least four babies who were born in Point Lookout), which was taken from her and given to a Catholic convent in Baltimore. It is unlikely that she ever saw her baby again.

    Several of the women received war pensions and some were buried with full military honors.

    DeAnne Blanton, an archivist with the National Archives, wrote a book called “They Fought Like Demons” about women soldiers. Documentation exists of around 400 women who served; Ms. Blanton is currently updating her work and believes the actual number is closer to 700.

    The presence of these women is generally known because they were captured or killed, and of course we have no way of knowing how many might have survived the war undetected.

    I reenact as one of the disguised women. We take this VERY seriously, and make every effort, as our sisters did, not to be identified as female. I once fooled a film crew, which was very satisfying. We were later interviewed for a documentary about women soldiers by a British filmmaker, but it unfortunately didn’t air in the States.

    My historical features a woman soldier, but it is not published. I did, though, place in the Jasmine Contest.

    Suggested reading: “Hearts of Fire: Soldier Women of the Civil War” by Lee Middleton, and “They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War” by DeAnne Blanton and Lauren Cook

  4. This is so cool, Helaina! I do have a copy of “They Fought Like Demons” around. I’m not sure where it is, but should have included it as a book to read. I haven’t read the other one.

    I’ve done reenacting as a civilian. The group I belong to won’t allow women to reenact as soldiers, but I do know other groups do.

    Thanks for stopping by with such fascinating information!

  5. Well, you know, history is written by the victors and the men, at least in ages past. So, the accoplishments of women were often overlooked or outright ignored. Even now, you hear of the Men Who Won the West…so, I’d say it’s up to us to women to set the record straight.

  6. Well, maybe, Susan, it’s time to take in a few of these histroical books documenting female soldiers to your re-enactment group and ask that the rules be changed. I mean, if they really want to be historically accurate, they should do it all the way.

  7. That is so true on both counts, Anna! I’m a little too old to portray a woman soldier. LOL. But I think if the younger women want to do it, they should be allowed. I don’t know if it’s a safety thing or what, but the group I belong to is run by men, so enough said.

  8. I love your story, Susan. You’ve shown a lot of courage among the women. Interesting concept of adding their role into the reenactment.

  9. Sounds like a great read, Susan. It’s time these women warriors had their day in the sun.

  10. Thanks, Paisley and Gwynlyn! Once I read these true stories, I just knew I had to come up with a heroine to do them justice. Katie is a composite of all these true life stories and in the end, she gets her man, unlike many of the real stories. In one of the true stories I read, the women soldier secretely pined after an army physician who thought she was a guy.

    I still amazes me that these men didn’t have a clue in many of these cases.

  11. Helaina Hinson says:

    There are a lot of so-called “hardcore” reenactment units that won’t allow a woman in their ranks even if you can prove that a woman actually served in that regiment. There’s a jerk named Anders who organizes events, and he won’t allow women even if you can prove that your regiment had a woman and that women were engaged in that battle.

    Check us out at http://www.bonnieblue..net.

    Susan, fall in the with us anytime.

  12. Susan: it’s not just in war that women have hidden as men throughout history. My September release, IN THE MASTER’S BED, is the story of a woman who disguised herself as a man in order to attend a medieval university. And there is documented evidence that this happened, as well. Fascinating thread of history.

  13. I’m sure that happened more than people think, Blythe! Women were repressed throughout history and I’m sure more than a few of them envied what the boys and men were allowed to do.

  14. Greetings to one and all in that mighty name of “Jesus”. Each Christian of whom know him in the power of His resurrection…or, maybe I should say…those who are well acquainted with the fact, that He truly did come back from the dead…also appeared to his disciples.

    Thomas was invited by Jesus to feel the nail prints within His hands. So, those who also have been convinced by only having His spirit to convince them, having never had the opportunity to feel the nail prints in his hands, as did Thomas: Jesus said blessed are those who have seen and then believed, but greater are the blessings that rest upon those who have never seen, but still believe.

    I am a full time writer and an ordained minister. I have written three books so far. My first book: Reviving the dead church, by reminiscing the day of Pentecost. The second one is: Beyond the Golden Sunset and by the Crystal Sea. My third book: Off to visit the Prophet Elijah, on this one, the contract to publish has been completed and soon the book will be published.
    Warm regards

    William Dunigan
    http://www.eloquentbooks.com/BeyondTheGoldenSunsetAndByTheCrystalSea.html

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