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The Civil War, women, and combat: Author A.J. Schenkman guest posts

Author A.J. Schenkman, author of Unexpected Bravery

War is such a big part of history, whether we like it or not. Women’s contributions throughout history have often been omitted or downplayed, hence the importance of Women’s History Month. Looking back to the American Civil War, how did women fit into the picture? Find out in this compelling guest post from author A.J. Schenkman titled “Civil War, women, and combat.” This historical nonfiction author did considerable research for his book Unexpected Bravery: Women and Children of the Civil War. I look forward to reading it.

Disclosure: As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases through links in this post.

Guest post from A.J. Schenkman: ‘The Civil War, women, and combat’

The American Civil War lasted from 1861-1865. Both armies put about 2.8 million men in the field. During that time, 620,000 soldiers were killed. This translated into 2% of the population of the U.S. Sometimes overlooked is the fact that some women served in the war on both sides, and in combat.

Women who managed to serve in combat were not legally allowed to fight. They managed to join the war because there weren’t comprehensive physicals like there is today to enter the military. Comprehensive physicals would arrive in the 1870s. When women were found out by officials posing as men they were dismissed from the military. Newspapers often sensationalized the stories of women dressed as men fighting in the war.

The question is how they covered up that they were women when serving as soldiers amongst so many men. Many cut their hair, bound their breasts, wore bulky uniforms as well bathed away from others to conceal their identity. When they were found out, it was usually because of sickness or wounds. What is amazing is that women served in many of the major military battles. One example was Catherine Davidson of the 28th Ohio.

Davidson dressed as a man to be with her fiancé, who was ultimately killed during Antietam in 1862. Catherine was shot in the right arm. Only when it needed to be amputated was her true identity realized. She credited Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin for saving her life. Yet another woman was Mary Galloway also at Antietam.

Mary Galloway was 16 when Clara Barton, a nurse, found her shot through the neck during the battle of Antietam. She was trying to remain with her fiancé who was also wounded. She would help reunite the couple. Some women were possibly what we would call today transgendered. Albert DJ Cashier is one such individual.

Albert Cashier was born Jennie Hodgers in Northern Ireland.  Albert began dressing as a man early in life. He claimed this was because he needed to work with his uncle in a shoe factory. Still, later, Albert changed this story stating that he was a sheep herder in Ireland, and it was then that he began wearing male clothing.

Albert was never found out during the war. Even when he suffered from dysentery during the Siege of Vicksburg. Only years after the war when seriously injured was his identity brought to light. Still, many close to him agreed to keep his secret even when he was placed in the Illinois Soldiers and Sailors Home in 1911. When the facility could no longer care for him, he was transferred to Watertown State Hospital for the Insane. This occurred in 1914. When a request for a pension increase was made in 1914, the public became aware that Albert was a woman.

The Federal Pension Bureau started an investigation into the true identity of Cashier because they wanted to make certain became involved and sought to make certain that Jennie Hodgers was Albert Cashier, and should be receiving the pension benefits. During testimony, covered intensely by newspapers, fellow soldiers who served with Cashier, testified that not only did they not know Albert was a woman but seemed not to care much. They testified that he was one of the bravest individuals they knew. Albert died in 1915, he was buried with full military honors in uniform.

It is not possible to definitively know for sure how many women served in combat roles during the American Civil War. It is as American Battlefield Trust states, the “inherently clandestine nature of the activity makes an accurate count impossible….” What is certain is they made a definite contribution to the Civil War.

About today’s writer, author A.J. Schenkman

A.J. Schenkman is a New York-based writer. Since his start writing for local newspapers, Schenkman has branched out into writing for magazines, blogs, and academic journals, in both history and other subjects. Schenkman is also author of several books about local, regional history, and national history, including Unexpected Bravery: Women and Children of the Civil War.

His first children’s book will be published by Muddy Boots in May 2024. Please be sure to visit him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Connect on his self-titled website and his new blog History Made Seamless.

20 thoughts on “The Civil War, women, and combat: Author A.J. Schenkman guest posts”

  1. Resa and KaLena, thank you so much for your thought. Yes, these were amazing individuals. I hope I did them justice.

  2. Thank you for this post and amazing tribute to the women who were committed service. I am so impressed by their passion, will and strong determination to do serve ~ even if it meant altering their identity and the risk of being exposed.

  3. Fascinating! This sounds like a great book.

    Many young people today don’t know much, if anything, about WWII or WWI or the Civl War.
    As the older generations die off, new generations inherit the future.
    The history of the past needs to be part of the future, or else how can “Never again” be a reality.

    This book is timely!

  4. Thank you, Christy, for sharing the post about A.J. Schenkman and his book about The Civil War. This is one of the most profound time periods of American history. The article was enlightening on how women were able to join and blend into the army. I bought the book and am looking forward to reading it.

    1. Linnea,
      Thank you so much for your kind words. You can also follow my blog History Made Seamless. Thank you for purchasing the book.
      Most sincerely,
      AJ 🖖✌️❤️

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