Women fought in the Civil War

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This year marks the 150th anniversary of the second year of the Civil War. 1863 was a pivotal year; Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in January and there were a number of significant battles and campaigns, including the battles of Chancellorsville, Chickamauga and Chattanooga; the Vicksburg and Gettysburg campaigns and the siege of Knoxville.

What most people don't realize is that among the hundreds of thousands of men who fought and died in the Union and Confederate armies a small number of women were fighting and dying beside them.

This little-known aspect of the war will be explored in a Palmer Lake Historical Society presentation by Tri-Lakes resident Benny Nasser titled “Women Who Fought as Men in the Civil War” at 7 p.m. on March 21 at the Palmer Lake Town Hall, 28 Valley Crescent.

Most women living during the Civil War stayed home. They ran the family farm or their husbands', fathers' and brothers' businesses. They published newspapers and ran charities and many thousands sewed quilts and uniforms and knitted socks and hats for the men at the front.

However, for some women on both sides of the conflict, these activities weren't enough. According to www.americancivilwar.com, almost 20,000 women worked directly for the Union cause as laundresses, cooks and nurses. Women on the Confederate side also helped the war effort but the numbers aren't as well documented.

Most people are familiar with the story of Clara Barton, whose care for wounded and injured soldiers during the Civil War resulted in the formation of the American Red Cross. Some might also be familiar with Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, who wore men's clothing, served as a Union Army surgeon and became one of a handful of civilians who earned a Congressional Medal of Honor.

Less commonly known is that numerous women fought in the Civil War in both the Union and Confederate. Nasser estimates that 300-400 women fought as men during the war.

“It's hard to say exactly how many women fought as men because a lot of records were destroyed,” Nasser said. “A lot of commanders were not proud to have women there. Officially there were never any women serving but I think some of the men knew. As long as the women served, they were accepted.”

During his presentation, Nasser will describe the environment that faced women during the Civil War period and the reasons they might have chosen to take on the identities of men to fight in the War. He will also detail some of their amazing exploits.

“I only present women I have photos of,” he said. “Some of these women did amazing things.”

Two such women who will be a part of Nasser's presentation are Jennie Hodgers who fought as Pvt. Albert Cashier and Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, aka Pvt. Lyons Wakeman.

“Jeanne Hodgers served for three years and survived the war,” he said. “Sarah Rosetta Wakeman died during the war of disease and was buried in New Orleans as Lyons Wakeman.”

Nasser has made his presentation in a number of venues and is available to give the presentation for history and service organizations. For information, call

This event is free and refreshments will be served after the presentation. For more information, visit www.PalmerDivideHistory.org.

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