Library of Congress


The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Presentations and Activities > Timeline
Timeline Home Page
Civil War and Reconstruction
The North During the Civil War
Women in the Union Armies

Women's suffrage advocate Carrie Chatman Catt compiled many arguments in favor of extending the right to vote to women. She included a pamphlet entitled "Women Warriors," written by D.R. Livermore. Livermore listed a number of examples of women serving in Union armies during the Civil War. How common do you think women's army service was during the Civil War? How persuasive are the following examples?

View The Ballot and the Bullet, compiled by Carrie Chapman Catt, from Votes for Women, 1848-1921. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.

"But the evidence is cumulative upon this point. During our late civil war, it is estimated that more than four hundred women enlisted in the Union army, and that a large number of women fought in the Confederate service. It was stated that, at one time there were about one hundred and fifty women soldiers in the army of the Potomac alone. It was never exactly known how so many women could join the army, but this was in 1864, when there was a great demand for recruits, after the army had been depleted by sickness and hundreds of hard fought battles, and probably the officials were not quite as careful about whom they received as at first. Still it is believed that many women had been in collusion with men who had been examined by the surgeons, and after the examination, the women appeared as substitutes for the men and entered the army.

We have an account of a Pennsylvania girl who served in one of the Western regiments for te months, before it was known that she was a woman. She stated that there were many female soldiers known to her and one female lieutenant. She had assisted in burying three female soldiers whose sex was unknown to any one but herself. We have also an account of Mrs. Francis L. Clayton, who enlisted in 1861 with her husband at St. Paul, Minn. The two fought together side by side in eighteen battles, till the husband was killed in the battle at Stone River. After that sad event, Mrs. Clayton concluded to retire from active service, and on informing the commander that she was a woman, she received an honorable discharge. She was wounded three times while fighting bravely for her country, and was once taken prisoner. Could not such a woman defend her vote?

The Brooklyn, N. Y. "Times" of October, 1863, soon after the battle of Chattanooga, gave an account of a young woman who joined the army of the Cumberland, and endured many hardships and showed great courage and heroism. During one of the severest engagements she was terribly wounded in the left side by a minie ball, and was borne from the bloody field to the surgeon's tent, where her sex was discovered. The brave girl was told that her wound was mortal, and she was urged and finally consented to reveal her true name and the home of her parents who had mourned for her as one dead.

In 1863, the Cincinnati "Times" reported a skirmish between the Union forces and General Bragg's army, at Ringgold, near Chattanooga, and among other things said,-"Several of the fair sex were in the Confederate ranks, and certainly conducted themselves with a great deal of courage. . . .

The Louisville "Journal" gave the following account of her, under the head of, "Mustered Out":

"Frank Miller, the young lady soldier, now at Barracks No. One, will be mustered out of the service in accordance with the army regulations which prohibit the enlistment of females in the army, and sent to her parents in Pennsylvania. This will be sad news to Frances, who has cherished the fond hope that she would be permitted to serve the Union cause during the war . She has been of great service as a scout to the army of the Cumberland, and her place will not easily be filled. She is a true patriot and a gallant soldier."

The St. Louis "Times," after the close of the war , gave the following account of a witness in court, in that city:

"This lady is a historical character, having served over two years in the Federal army during the war ; fifteen months as a private in the Illinois cavalry, and over nine months as a teamster in the noted Lead mine regiment raised from the counties of Jo. Daviess and Carrol. She was at the siege of Corinth, and was on duty during most of the campaign against Vicksburg. At Lookout Mountain, she formed one of the party of eighteen, selected to make a scout and report the position of General Bragg's forces. She went through her army life under the cognomen of Soldier Tom."

While the number of women who listed in the Union army is not large, still, they are sufficiently numerous to answer the objection which may make against the fighting ability of woman. All history shows that she can fight in defence of her rights and for the honor of her country. Women are patriotic and self-sacrificing and are abundantly able to enforce their wills and defend their votes. And therefore, this objection of woman's inability to fight and to defend her right to the franchise falls to the ground, as does every objection to woman suffrage when carefully examined.
top of page

View The Ballot and the Bullet, compiled by Carrie Chapman Catt, from Votes for Women, 1848-1921. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.