" Threatened With A Deluge Of Angels ", Camp Life Prettied Up

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JPK Huson 1863

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lady woldier scots nypl.jpg

Different country, same camp. As long as there have been men shooting each other in war, there have been women hanging around camps. It may be more interesting ( because for some reason salacious always is ) to think symbiotic commerce was the reason. And no.

I've been chipping away at the topic " Women In Camp " for a lot of years. Conversations turn again and again to prostitution. Guessing it plain, old sounds more interesting to think they were alllll prostitutes. I mean, look at all those men, how could any female in their midst NOT have a cash agenda? Dismissing various roles filled by women misses a LOT. Nurses and officer's wives tend to get a pass- anyone else showing up? Of course they were the same, old, tired soiled doves.

It'd be good to listen to some of the men. Found an account by a soldier who insisted replacing 5 men per regiment with 5 women would humanize the whole war. His take on it was we girls weren't just decorative, men swore and drank less, bathed once in awhile and stood up straight when we were around.

Here's another- and yes, I post far too many news clippings. The thing is, era accounts by men who were there beats the bejammers out of speculation, conjecture and myth.

women in camp 1.JPG

Orders were issued women be forbidden camps when the serious business of war loomed ahead. It didn't always work- Yellow Tavern traded hands as frequently as a dollar bill, there was always imminent battle. Proof by way of a series of images taken there over time tells us women weren't always good listeners.

ladies look yellow.jpg

12th Pennsylvania Cavalry stationed at the Duncan House/Yellow Tavern guarding RR, images by Sullivan depict a very feminine presence.

I'm not saying every camp was littered with we girls, I'm pointing out there were reasons other than sordid we " cam down like shoals '. Apparently a lot of us.

women in camp 2.JPG


women in camp 3.JPG




women in camp.JPG


women in camp 4.JPG


Writer finishes his not always tongue in cheek article with

" An angel, wandering from her sphere,
Who sees the bright, effulgent gem.
To dew-eyed Pity brings the tear,
And hangs it on her diadem "


I think that's Thomas Moore? Sounds like him. Anyway, the more accounts we can uncover might eventually get we girls out from beneath the covers and humanize the war a tad. Again. We were there once, history will get us there again.

Lucky for us, Lookout Point featured it's very, own photography studio perched on the mountain above camp. We climbed, too.
ladies lookout.jpg
 

19thOhio

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The writing style, be it news reporters or the really literate troops, is highly interesting. To our eyes the sentences seem long and some of the fluff would probably be edited out by contemporary newspapers, but these stories would have provided much entertainment at home before the days of radio, television, and the internet. I really appreciated the descriptions and musings of the men themselves.
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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What a fun read! Women played an important role in camp. We cooked, we handled the laundry, sometimes we were suttlers as well.

Yes, isn't he a blast to read? The more I read the more clear it becomes that we girls were all the heck all over the war. It's odd how it's missed in 2020? I can't tell whether the roles they walked into are a big snore or we're looking at it from the wrong perspective? I'm always a little amazed nurses, who ranged from Dix's legions to Catholic Sisiters to Sanitary and Christian Commission women ( and around a gazillion state and community organizations ) to locals, as at Gettysburg, who opened their doors to wounded to women who just, plain showed up at battlefields to help, aren't more visible through various narratives.

Sutlers, too? Makes sense. Love to find an account by one. You know it's around somewhere!
 

LittleMac

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Thanks for sharing! It always irritates me when the role of women in camps is reduced to that of the 'soiled dove'-- hopefully perspectives like this will become more prevalent.
 
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Cavalry Charger

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I found the article interesting because what first needed to cross the mind of the army was an element of 'suspicion' with regard to women in camp which included questioning by the provost marshal.

"For instance, the lady may be a spy. She may be conveying seedcake and strong liquors to some soldier boy. She may have come to discourage enlistments or to encourage desertion."

Despite the wonderful element of humanity that could be derived from the presence of women, this was still war and women needed to be treated accordingly.
 

byron ed

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...The more I read the more clear it becomes that we girls were all the heck all over the war...
That is the greater truth, and I for one am happy to acknowledge and encourage it -- if only to quelch all the exaggerations of how many women were soldiers. That's gotten out of hand* though I understand the good intentions of wanting to empower girls.

Anymore, particularly over the past decade at CW living histories, CW school days and even at reenactments the spectators are left to suppose that being a woman soldier was somehow just another choice that young women were expected to make in the Civil War: to pose as a man and be soldier, or not.

So overplayed.



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
* May I complete the rant? In the status of things not really a big issue, don't want to leave that impression, but...

Women soldiers were a fraction of a percent of the army, and the vast majority of those were only in ranks for days, weeks or perhaps a few months. Keep in mind that the Albert Cashiers/Jenny Hodgers of that time are remembered precisely because they were so rare. The Vivandier thing has become too prominent as well. Again spectators are literally left to suppose that Vivandier was just another enlisted rank in the Army; just another choice that young women were expected to make during the CW: to join up as a Vivandier, or not.

The downside of all that overplaying is that the real history of women heroes of the war, in greater numbers and in more important and significant roles that truly affected the wars outcome, have been glossed over (to the point of the OP). The woman nurse, homefront support rallying organizer, field hospital organizer, homefront sewing circle or Christian Commission impression are by comparison not as exciting as "Cav girl" and "Vivandier girl" are. I'd be ok if "Cav girl" and "Vivandier girl" would explain, but typically it's left unsaid, as if their impression can be assumed authentic.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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That is the greater truth, and I for one am happy to acknowledge and encourage it -- if only to quelch all the exaggerations of how many women were soldiers. That's gotten out of hand* though I understand the good intentions of wanting to empower girls.
I sincerely ( really really really ) don't wish to be argumentative but the topic of female soldiers isn't discussed enough. Albert Cashier's case may not be the best example to use? When discovered the poor person was thrust into the lime light and was horrified to be there. It was a huge shock/horror kinda salacious story at the time. Albert had lived an entire war time and post war life undetected, was a quiet, gentle, soft spoken person and had served this country well. When they forced him back into skirts, and being Jenny again it broke his heart.

The thing is, had Albert not been in an accident, we'd never know of the case. Albert Cashier would have been one, more elderly Civil War veteran and honored and buried as one. Point there is how many others were there? We'll sincerely never know. Another reason we won't know is that women who came forward post war received such negative attention along with scoffing they stopped coming forward. One family I won't mention still dislikes their ancestor's story being discussed- she did what she did and to have it scoffed at 150 years isn't acceptable.
 
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byron ed

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...the topic of female soldiers isn't discussed enough.
This is likely just a matter of our different encounters with the topic. I accept that perhaps the topic of female soldiers has not been discussed enough in the settings that you've encountered. You will have to concede that in the settings I've encountered (primarily in the Midwest and a few national events) the topic of female soldiers has been much overplayed. I would also mention school library young adult shelves, historical fiction and non-fiction.

Albert Cashier's case may not be the best example to use? When discovered the poor person was thrust into the lime light and was horrified to be there. It was a huge shock/horror kinda salacious story at the time. Albert had lived an entire war time and post war life undetected, was a quiet, gentle, soft spoken person and had served this country well. When they forced him back into skirts, and being Jenny again it broke his heart...The thing is, had Albert not been in an accident, we'd never know of the case. Albert Cashier would have been one, more elderly Civil War veteran and honored and buried as one.
Well not quite. Jenny was raised in the role of a boy. At the time it was a form of protection for a young girl who by necessity was on her own much of the time. She became accustomed to it, and when the opportunity to make $13 a month as a soldier came up it was not a difficult thing for her to enlist, as she was patriotic anyway, and very experienced in the role of a male.

Having participated in her memorial here in Illinois (we literally serenaded her at her two grave plots) I had never heard of the "quiet, gentle, soft spoken" stuff. Rather, by accounts, she comported herself quite boldly as a man throughout her life, and was not particularly shy, stepping up to any duty she was called to perform. She wasn't exactly a victim of a male society, she merely absorbed it.

btw before going any further, it's also not appropriate to refer to Jenny as "him" in hindsight. She did not self identify as male so the modern concept of "respecting gender preference" does not apply. She knew, and we know, that Albert was a male persona that she took on in order to reach her goals; in other words there was no "him."

To go on, it has been floated by some historians that have studied her life that in fact her soldier compatriots were aware that Albert was a woman, but because she carried the full weight of soldier duty, and very well at that, she was afforded full cover for her secret and no one in her unit was going to act on it. The incident you cite of her being discovered was long after the war.

After the war she had continued as Albert, picking up on her pre-war life. She had a career as a local handyman. Per town hearsay today Some in her adopted town of Sounemin, IL likely were aware Albert was a woman, but again she was afforded cover out of respect. It was her being struck and injured by a vehicle that forced the media discovery of her identity. As she aged she had some issues, and ended up at the Veteran's facility in Quincy, IL, being an honorably-discharged veteran. And yes they attempted to put her in skirts and she rejected that as a refutation of the way she had spent her entire honorable life, in her view. So it wasn't exactly a "they broke her heart" thing, it was a pride thing.

Point there is how many others were there? We'll sincerely never know...
That is something that can be supposed, and that is the very supposition I've heard at events that's used to champion the idea of "women soldiers" and how many there were. And again I get that it's felt a way to empower young women and be inclusive. But I would only caution that's also one of the suppositions also used to champion "black Confederates" and how many of those there were. So if you're comfortable with the historical validity of the one you should be comfortable with the historical validity of the other.
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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That is something that can be supposed, and that is the very supposition I've heard at events that's used to champion the idea of "women soldiers" and how many there were. And again I get that it's felt a way to empower young women and be inclusive. But I would only caution that's also one of the suppositions also used to champion "black Confederates" and how many of those there were. So if you're comfortable with the historical validity of the one you should be comfortable with the historical validity of the other.
Oh, I think maybe that's way off base. I'm sorry but comparing the search for women soldiers to an agenda ridden controversy seems a stretch. That's a fairly aggressive statement on your part, telling me or anyone that somehow, opening an historical window on women who fought in the war means I must get behind, or am actively behind the Black Confederate agenda?

I'm too annoyed to continue what seems to me to be either deliberate provocation or an unwarranted judgement call on my personal integrity. You are welcome to neither.
 
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