Famous Women and Their Role During the Civil War

The Civil War was one of the worst wars in American history because it claimed so many lives, including soldiers, as well as civilians. This war was a turning point and the deciding factor that determined the union or division of the States. Our school’s textbooks sing the praises of some famous people who served in that war. Men, such as General Lee, General Grant, and Colonel Singleton, and women who nursed the wounded and sick, such as Clara Barton and Harriet Tubman was instrumental in helping Slaves make their way north through the Underground Railroad.

There are other equally famous women that you may not know much about who played an integral part during the Civil War. These courageous and resourceful women were spies, soldiers,humanitarian organizers, and smugglers.Some of these women were Belle Boyd, Sarah Edmonds, and Dorthea Dix.

Isabelle “Belle” Boyd was born to a very wealthy family in West Virginia. When the Union soldiers had come to her family’s estate, she used her wits and charm to obtain enemy information. Then, Belle transposed it into a secret code and had messages sent to General Stonewall Jackson, with whom her father was serving. When one of the soldiers insulted her mother, she shot him. On another occasion, Ms. Boyd hid in an upstairs closet in her aunt’s house. Union soldiers had made the residence their headquarters for a time. She rode her horse for 15 miles at night and took the information to a Confederate Colonel.The Union soldiers captured and jailed Belle for transporting the secret codes to the “enemy.”Ms. Boyd was a fearless young woman and was a great asset to the Confederate soldiers.

Sarah Edmonds was a Canadian who was a “runaway” because she did not approve of her pending arranged marriage. She disguised herself as a man and crossed the border into the US. Ms. Edmonds changed her name to Frank Thompson and sold books for a time before enlisting in the Union Army. At that time, the army did not require physical exams. Her identity was safe, at least for a while, since she had a deep voice and short hair. Although she was of small build, it was to her advantage that she had masculine mannerisms. Unfortunately, in 1963, Ms. Edmonds became very ill. Sarah did not want to be discovered, so she deserted the army. After many years had passed and she was a marriedwoman with her own family, the US government pardoned her for her desertion and gave her a pension.

Dorthea Dix was a renowned nurse in her region for improving insane asylums. Soon, she took on the oversight and management of the war hospitals and infirmary camps. Ms. Dix was sixty years old when she witnessed the nurses tending the Union men in horrid conditions Dorthea was determined to provide much-needed assistance and guidance in their mission. She also took it upon herself and toured the North learning that the hospitals were in grave disrepair, were understaffed, and lacked necessary supplies. As soon as she discovered these deplorable conditions, she spoke to the surgeon general directly.Dorthea also implemented better meal preparations through food drives, for the wounded that were in the nurses’ care. Ms. Dix took caring for the soldiers seriously and immediately dischargedany doctor who was drunk while on duty, as well as having them court-martialed. She was a dedicated and genuine woman who frequently was found sleeping on the floor of her home because she gave her bed and other rooms to the nurses. Once the Civil War ended, she began caring for the mentally challenged once again.

Some other famous women who served both sides of the Civil War include Mrs. Mary Todd Lincoln, a humanitarian for equality, Loreta Velazquez who was a Confederate soldier and fought in the Battle of Shiloh in 1862 and Mary Frances Battle, who was also a Confederate spy and smuggler. If you would like additional information about these and other brave women during the Civil War, please see the following websites, History.com and the Middle Tennessee State University website.