In discussing women of the Civil War it's awfully easy to become lost, or at least side tracked. We have so many, many names emblazoned over those years; famous spies and nurses, female soldiers and vivandiers, teachers, abolitionists, Sanitary and Christian Commission workers- race notwithstanding the active contributions made will never cease making History and the Civil War synonymous with the rustle of skirts and calls to duty.
Photographs tell us much of the era but also leave an awful lot unanswered. LoC and National Archives figure large in photographs of camp life, 1861-1865 with the occasional portrait thrown in. We've been speaking of women whose loyalties to their husbands were legendary. Famous women. There were not-so-famous women whose loyalties took them far from home. I think it is tough sometimes to feel a lot of sympathy for them. Officer's wives after all were indeed fortunate. Thousands, hundreds of thousands of enlisted men in camps, not a sweetheart or wife in sight. Officers in comparatively luxurious quarters shared by well dressed spouses evokes images of inequality. It was. It doesn't matter. A husband at war was a husband at war.
Officers and their wives and families, 125 Ohio Regiment
These women left their homes, traveled unknown distances and many faced certain dangers to be with the officer husbands. I've frequently marveled at these photographs! Brandy Station, for instance. Tiny, little cabins, had to be terribly dark, where the outhouse was, goodness knows, a wood fire inside, rustic? I'll say. Cold, damp, buggy, cramped, surrounded by men- and how on earth did any of them manage to look like the did? Starched and ironed, hair dressed beautifully, apparently all her layers maintained.
The further thought is, did men leave that camp never to return? It must have happened, those horrible times, a husband due back after some time away whose tent of cabin was never returned to, wife left to pack their little home. We sometimes see children in these photographs, too. Not as frequent, but they're here. Love to read what their memories were. These little families occupy my thoughts frequently, looking through these photos and it's not their lovely dresses or obvious position- it's what might be occupying their thoughts. War and death. It's what they all lived with.
General and Mrs Rawlins with their daughter, City Point
Camp Stoneman, see the couple to the right, in front of the tent? I think she is holding a baby.
These are wives and a child at Arlington, I do have more of an ID somewhere.
This became parted from ID also, Union officers quarters I think Maryland
How difficult to remain so well put together! I ' think ' this is also City Point
3rd Cav Corps, yes, that is whatshisname, with officer's wives.
all of these photographs are LoC and National Archives, some are to be found in both
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