As the American Civil War raged on, Louisiana's Sarah Morgan complained to her diary, "Oh! if I were only a man. Then I could don the breeches, and slay them with a will!" Though Morgan never did "don the breeches," in All the Daring of the Soldier
, historian Elizabeth D. Leonard
reveals that many women did
. Leonard recounts the stories of dozens of women who joined the war effort, such as Richard Anderson, a.k.a. Amy Clarke, who fought with her Confederate cavalry regiment at the battle of Shiloh. Other women served as "Daughters of the Regiment," doing everything from serving as mascots and nurses to bearing regimental colors in battle and even fighting in combat. Still others engaged in espionage, such as Elizabeth Van Lew, who hid behind a cultivated persona and the nickname Crazy Bet so that she could spy for the Union.
Interesting capsule biographies aside, the strength of this book lies in Leonard's historical analysis. While many historians (and most Civil War novelists) have assumed that women went to war because they were motivated by love--either of men or their country--Leonard is quick to point out that whereas many women did follow the men they loved, and that others were sincere patriots, many others were motivated by economic need or even the desire for adventure and a wider range of opportunity than 19th-century society allowed them. Leonard's thorough research in archives and memoirs adds great detail to these women's stories and makes All the Daring of the Soldier an excellent addition to both the scholarly and general literature on the Civil War. --C.B. Delaney
From Publishers Weekly
At the core of this well-researched investigation into the role of women in the Civil War armies is a sensitivity to the plight of Victorian-era women. Leonard (Yankee Women) notes that "domestic service continued in the late nineteenth century to represent the primary waged occupation for women." It's no wonder, then, that a few intrepid women decided that the war offered them a better chance to be all that they could be. A Colby College history professor, Leonard has plowed through archives to bring readers the stories of dozens of women who served in both the Union and Confederacy during the Civil War. Some were spies, but many more adopted men's names, dressed in men's clothes and lived and fought and died alongside mostly unsuspecting men. One Union general "became outraged when an unnamed sergeant under his command 'was delivered of a baby,' which, he irately noted 'is in violation of all military law and of the army regulations.'" Often, when women were discovered in the ranks, they were accused of being clever prostitutes who enlisted because of the promise of steady business. Leonard dismisses this theory, noting that there was hardly a need for prostitutes to go incognito. Leonard's engaging portraits of these female soldiers are neatly contextualized, and she makes it clear that women enlisted because they were patriots, because they wanted to be near husbands and brothers and, perhaps above all, because they felt the war offered them a chance at autonomy and adventure. (July)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.