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The Role of a Woman


Many women were the spark that lit the fire under husbands, sons, brothers, and fathers. It was illegal for women to fight in war; they figured that a woman’s place was at home. But, many women fought in the Civil War.

     Women who wanted to fight would cut their hair, pad their clothing to make them look more masculine, and enlist under a male name. They would be looked upon as "fresh faced young boys". Some did such a good job at hiding their gender that no one knew they were female until they gave birth. There were two babies born in the Andersonville Prison in Andersonville, Georgia. But I was unable to find what became of them. Both of the mothers (Union soldiers) died in the prison and are buried there. 

     Women who didn't want to enlist or didn't want to become a nurse could become a spy. To hide important information, all a woman had to do is use cryptic notes. These notes would be hidden in a bun of hair or in a petticoat.  An example of a spy is Rose O'Neal Greenhow. She was born in Maryland in 1817. By the first year of the war, 1861, she was widowed with four daughters. She used her contacts to provide Gen. Beauregard with information pertaining to the battle of Bull Run, which the Confederacy claimed. She was imprisoned in the latter part of 1861 and was deported to Richmond in 1862. She was later sent to Europe as a courier. While in Europe, she found information and headed back to the Confederacy in 1864. She sailed back on the Condor, a blockade-runner. She reached the mouth of the Cape Fear River, just outside of North Carolina. The Condor was then chased by a Union gunship. Fearing capture, she and two servants fled by a rowboat. She knew that if she was caught again, her death was certain. Rough waters tipped the small boat over, she drowned, carrying $2,000 in gold on her person, which weighted her down. Her body washed ashore a few days later. She was buried with full Confederate Military honors.

     Over 400 women served as nurses for the North and the South during the war. When most people think of nurses, they seem to think that all they did was distribute medicine. In many cases the nurses had to become the doctor and perform surgeries and amputations, all the while giving stitches, bandages and medicine. An example of a nurse is Clara Barton. She was born in Massachusetts in 1821. At the age of 15 she became a teacher. Later, in 1861-she became a nurse for the Union. She served for three years in Virginia. In 1881, she founded the American Red Cross. She resigned in 1904 and died at her home in Washington, D.C. on April 12, 1912. The same day as the Titanic sank.  

     So when we think of all the men who fought and gave their lives, let's try to remember the women who were more than willing to do the same.



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