They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War Paperback – 19 May 2005
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" This book breaks new ground. . . . Documenting the service of more than 240 women soldiers . . . the authors show that courage and honor under fire were shared by men and women alike." - James M. McPherson, author of" "Battle Cry of Freedom"" " Detailed and convincing" - "Smithsonian Magazine "" A compelling book that belongs in every Civil War library." "--Publishers Weekly"
From the Inside Flap
"Albert Cashier" served three years in the Union Army and passed successfully as a man until 1911 when the aging veteran was revealed to be a woman named Jennie Hodgers. Frances Clayton kept fighting even after her husband was gunned down in front of her at the Battle of Murfreesboro. And more than one soldier astonished "his" comrades-in-arms by giving birth in camp.
This lively and authoritative book opens a hitherto neglected chapter of Civil War history, telling the stories of hundreds of women who adopted male disguise and fought as soldiers. It explores their reasons for enlisting; their experiences in combat, and the way they were seen by their fellow soldiers and the American public. Impeccably researched and narrated with verve and wit, They Fought Like Demons is a major addition to our understanding of the Civil War era. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Clearly, one must ask why women chose to fight. The authors devote a lot of attention to this important question. Many women took up arms in order to remain close to a loved one, be it a husband, fiancé, father, or brother; many fought for truly patriotic reasons, fuelled by the same motivations as men to defend their land and way of life. Some fought for economic reasons, knowing they could earn much more money as a soldier than they ever could as females at home; some loved the independence and removal of Victorian restrictions that a soldier's life offered them.Read more ›
The reasons for the women enlisting are several- patriotism,to be with relatives or escaping dificult domestic conditions.
The stories of the lives the women lived and the battles they fought in are recorded in a truely excellent manner by the two American researchers.
The few pictures and illustrations are good considering their age.There is an extensive bibliography and notes section.
A first class read.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Clearly, one must ask why women chose to fight. The authors devote a lot of attention to this important question. Many women took up arms in order to remain close to a loved one, be it a husband, fiancé, father, or brother; many fought for truly patriotic reasons, fuelled by the same motivations as men to defend their land and way of life. Some fought for economic reasons, knowing they could earn much more money as a soldier than they ever could as females at home; some loved the independence and removal of Victorian restrictions that a soldier's life offered them. Indeed, a small number of women had assumed male identities before the war began as a means of enjoying a better life for themselves, and some continued to live as men after the war ended for the same reasons.
The aspect of this story that I found most interesting was the reaction of male soldiers and the citizenry to the role women played in fighting. To my surprise, contemporary men and women often celebrated these brave women who took up arms. The revelation of discovery often came as a shock to the female soldier's comrades in arms, but by and large they were very supportive of those who were unmasked; even years after the war ended, they lent a lot of support to female soldiers who sought the pension they truly deserved for their service. There was no shortage of newspaper stories about women soldiers during the war, and Victorian society was surprisingly supportive and proud of those women who were motivated to serve out of romantic or familial love or true patriotism. These idealized motivations appealed strongly to the romantic notions of Victorian society. Women who joined up for selfish, economic reasons, on the other hand, were often reviled. The well-known lore and widespread respect for female soldiers continued up until the days of World War I, after which society and historians in particular either ignored, ridiculed, or cast aspersions on the internecine women warriors, and it is for this reason that the history of these unique soldiers was largely forgotten over the course of the twentieth century, only reemerging as a substantive topic in the final decade before the millennium.
There is much of interest in these pages: the means by which women soldiers managed to keep their real identities a secret, accounts of women in battle and the ranks several women attained as a result of their bravery and skill, stories of discovery and reenlistment(s), accounts of women captives in the worst of the prison camps, reports of children born on the front lines, information on the lives of several of these individuals in the years and decades following the war, etc. Numerous anecdotes are as informative as they are extraordinary. One of the slight issues I have with the monograph is the way in which information on each known female soldier was presented in piecemeal fashion-motivations, experiences, discovery, and the like are treated in separate chapters; I would have liked a continuous discussion of at least one prominent individual. As things stand, it is difficult to achieve deep insight into any one such person's motivations, experiences, and thoughts as a whole. This is a small criticism, however, because this book really is excellent. Featuring voluminous footnotes and an impressive bibliography, They Fought Like Demons is a landmark achievement in women's history as well as the history of the War Between the States.
The authors of "They Fought Like Demons" DeAnne Blanton, a military archivist, and Lauren Cook, of Fayetville State University spent more than a decade in researching primary sources to recreate the role of women as Civil War combatants. Their book tells us something about roughly 250 women soldiers, who fought either for the Union or the Confederacy.
The book spends a great deal of space on the motivations that caused women to disguise their sex and enlist. It finds that patriotism and devotion to their respective cause was the chief motive, as it was with men; but also finds that in many cases women enlisted to be with a male loved one, whether husband, lover, father, or brother. This latter motivation seemed important in the accounts and it seems to me different from the motivation of most male combatants.
The book gives good detail on women soldiers and, in the process, of Civil War military life. It describes how many women managed to avoid detection (of course, many were unsuccessful in so doing, particularly if they were wounded), the strength with which they fought, how they were regarded by their peers, both when they were assumed to be men and following the discovery that they were women, how women were treated as prisoners of war, in hospitals, and the extent of female casualties in the war. The book discusses the lives of some of the women after their career as soldiers -- one of the most interesting aspects of the book -- and it recounts some of the literature that was published about women soldiers during the Civil War era. There was more of this than I had supposed.
At the most basic level, Blanton and Cook make a convincing case that women fought in the war and contributed as soldiers on both sides. Women soldiers fought and sustained casualties at every major Civil War battle. I am a student of the Battle of Gettysburg and learned that a Confederate woman soldier died in Pickett's charge and that there were five women soldiers who were known to have fought at Gettysburg. There were also women prisoners at the notorious facility at Andersonville.
The organization of the book makes it difficult to follow the activities of most of the women in detail. This difficulty is also the result of the nature of the historical records. But two or three of the female combatants left memoirs or other records which perhaps could have been highlighted more effectively in this account.
It is worth remembering that there were about 2,750,000 combatants in the Civil War, 2 million for the Union, 750,000 for the Confederacy. Blanton and Cook document about 250 women soldiers and accept the general estimate of about 400 women soldiers serving in the War. This is statistically a very small amount. (One percent of 2.75 million is 27,500)It is also, of course, a tiny fractional percentage of the available pool of women. Thus, one should be hesitant about drawing broad global conclusions from this evidence. Blanton and Cook generally use their data wisely and circumspectly.
The Civil War remains the pivotal experience in our Nation's history. In many respects, it remains a shared American experience. Thus, it is good to have inclusive histories and to remember the role played by women in combat. Blanton and Cook show that during Civil War times, it was known that there were small numbers of determined women in the ranks. This book does a service by recreating this part of of our national experience.
Thank goodness there are folks that care enough to study and tell HERstory as well as history.