Civil War Women

Belle Boyd
Elizabeth Van Lew

Civil War women served their countries in various ways, but whatever way they chose, they often left behind some very interesting stories...

Some women served in the camps of the armies, doing things for the soldiers, such as sewing, fixing, and washing clothes, as well as cooking food.

Others formed ladies’ aid societies and worked at home, sewing uniforms, canning food, and making just about anything else that might be of use to the "boys" on the front lines.

Some other women chose to aid their cause by serving as nurses for the wounded and sick soldiers. Some of the most outstanding nurses of the Civil War were Clara Barton and Phoebe Pember.

There were some Civil War women who wanted more excitement, and therefore became spies for their respective governments. Two of the most famous Civil War spies were Belle Boyd (above left) and Elizabeth Van Lew (above right). Other famous spies include Mary Bowser and Rose O'Neal Greenhow.

 Finally, there were some women who needed even more excitement, so they decided to become soldiers. True Story! There were at least 400 women who disguised themselves as men and served in both the Confederate and Union Armies. Among these women can be found the fascinating stories of Jennie Hodgers and Loreta Janeta Velazquez.

Civil War Women Quick Links:

Mary Bowser

Belle Boyd

Martha Coston

Phoebe Pember

Elizabeth Van Lew

Rose O'Neal Greenhow

Mrs. Gordon

Some of the most remarkable Civil War women were the wives of officers who accompanied their husbands to battle. There are countless stories of these wives waiting within earshot of a battle... Waiting for word of their husbands...

One example of such a wife was Fanny Gordon, the wife of Confederate General John Brown Gordon...

After the war, General Gordon wrote about the fact that "Mrs. Gordon" was with him throughout the entirety of the war, and he credited her for keeping him alive on more than one occasion. He liked to tell the story of one particular time when, "The doctors told Mrs. Gordon to paint my arm above the wound three or four times a day with iodine. She obeyed the doctors by painting it, I think, three or four hundred times a day."

Fanny Gordon was so often at General Gordon's side, that General Early once joked that he wished she would be captured by the enemy so that she would no longer be a distraction to General Gordon.

On one occasion, when the Confederates were in retreat, General Gordon rode to the rear with his men where, to his horror, he found Mrs. Gordon trying to stop the retreat:

"I saw Mrs. Gordon ... under fire, her soul aflame with patriotic ardor, appealing to retreating Confederates to halt and form a new line to resist the Union advance. She was so transported by her patriotic passion that she took no notice of the whizzing shot and shell, and seemed wholly unconscious of her great peril."

"Mrs. Gordon," is just one example of brave Civil War women who did all they could to aid the side they supported in the war...

Women During The Civil War

There are many interesting stories involving Civil War women, and each one had a unique impact on the conflict. On this page, I will try to bring together as many of those as I can for your enjoyment.

This list is not intended to be exhaustive. As we add more pages the list will grow. Feel free to contact me with suggestions of Civil War women you would like to hear about in the future.

  • Mary Bowser - Former slave turned Union spy who infiltrated the Confederate White House.
  • Martha Coston - Inventor who overcame great personal tragedy to provide for herself and her sons.
  • Elizabeth Van Lew - Union spychief who ran an extremely successful spy ring in Richmond.
  • Belle Boyd - Teenage Confederate spy, started career by shooting Union soldier.
  • Rose O'Neal Greenhow - Confederate spy in Washington and courier to Europe.
  • Phoebe Pember - Confederate hospital matron who oversaw the largest hospital of the 1860s.

American Civil War Story-Home

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