Women’s Role in the American Civil War.

The American Civil War raged for four years involving not only Armies but families and both sexes. Women were often forced to abandon their conceived roles and went to war.  

Richard Anderson was the name used by one of the many females who fought in the American Civil War. Her real name was Amy Clarke, she   joined the same cavalry regiment as her husband Walter Clarke, as a private. Amy used a different name not only to hid her femininity but to allow her to serve along side her husband.

They fought together until her husband was killed at the Battle of Shiloh. As private Richard Anderson she requested a transfer to the Infantry. It may be she had wearied of cavalry life and missed her husband.

General Braxton BraggServing in the 11th Tennessee infantry under General Braxton Bragg she fought many a battle. At the Battle of Richmond on August 11th 1862 she was taken prisoner by the Union Army and sent to Cairo Illinois prison. On examining a wound she had received during the battle the surgeon discovered her real sex. Amy promised the prison officers she would wear female cloths and would never dress as a man again. The local people on hearing of her plight donated money for her new cloths. The 10 months she had been in the service of the Confederacy had been particularly severe and Amy now longed to go home. Her release was eventually granted as part of a prisoner exchange.
The Mississippian News paper in the December reported her exploits as heroic and self-sacrificing. Detailing how she had fought with her husband and finally having to bury him with her own hands. A soldier in august the following year wrote of seeing a fine dressed Cavalry Lieutenant who was in fact a woman. It may be Richard Anderson tired of civilian life re-entered the fray. 

Women were forbidden on both sides to fight. It was essential if they wished to take part to rid themselves of feminine array. A change of clothing would not be enough, practise in male habits would be an essential requirement. Any transformations would not save them from arduous camp life and exposure to danger and diseases. It was reported that around 400 women took to the colours and fought along side those who believed in the same cause.  

Belle BoydBeing a spy was naturally dangerous but a woman could use her charms to great advantage of the gullible male.

Belle Boyd was known to be flirtatious and have a noted womanly allure. She possessed a quick wit and endearing eyes that flashed a coquettish helpless charm.

Her spy life began when she was 17 years of age. Belle shot the soldier in an argument with a Northern soldier who had insulted her mother. Using her available charms Belle evaded prison and acquired a full a pardon. She ably assisted in the capture of Front Royal Virginia and capturing a Union Cavalryman.

The battle was fought in May 1862 as part of Stonewall Jackson's crucial Shenandoah Valley campaign where more than 700 Union soldiers threw down their weapons and surrendered.

Mrs Rose O Neal GreenhowMrs Rose O Neal Greenhow a woman of some standing used her social position to gather information to help the south. In July 1861 she passed secrets to Confederate General Beauregard regarding Union General McDowell’s plans of the first Battle of Bull Run.

On August 23rd she was apprehended by Allen Pinkerton of the Secret Service ands put under house arrest. For her intrigues she was imprisoned but continued to be determinedly defiant.

Rose wrote, 'The useless series of torments and provocation's to which I was subjected — the changes in my place of imprisonment, and the many attempts to entrap me into a betrayal of myself or the Confederate cause. Hence the long and wearisome captivity, to break my spirit, or to goad me into undignified bursts of indignation – in all of which I trust I may flatter myself that they signally failed.”

Union President Jefferson Davis welcomed her and recruited her as a Courier to Europe. On her confederate missions she travelled to Britain and France. She wrote of her exploits which sold well in Britain. On the way back to the Confederacy her ship was shadowed by a Northern Gunboat.

Rose with the money she received from her memoirs escaped by boat. She intended to hand over the money to the Confederacy Treasury.

But the row boat capsized and Rose with her $2,000 sank to the bottom.   

Rose was buried in North Carolina on her tombstone is scribed. "Mrs. Rose O'N. Greenhow, a bearer of dispatches to the Confederate Government."
Elizabeth Van LewFor the Union there was Elizabeth Van Lew who was not gifted with particular good looks but knew how to use gentle charm. She would use the very effective tool of flattery. Elizabeth would openly support the Union while supplying medical aid in Libby Prison to Confederate Prisoners. Any important information she obtained from the prisoners was send directly to Union General Ulysses Grant.

One of her most daring exploits was to penetrate Southern President Davis’s own household. She developed a persona of Crazy Bet to enable her to do daring deeds and transcend her understandable fears. Her techniques included invisible ink and tearing notes into several pieces so that one piece falling into the wrong hands would be indecipherable.

After the war Grant visited Elizabeth and took tea with her. He appointed her Postmaster of Richmond. Grant said of her "You have sent me the most valuable information received from Richmond during the war." Elizabeth died in 1900 and was buried in Richmond later to become a Member of the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame.

Pauline CushmanPauline Cushman another Union spy had been an actress and invariably used those skills.

When Pauline was sent to Tennessee in 1863 she fell into the hands of General Braxton Bragg the same Confederate General Amy Clarke served under. She was sentenced to be hanged but luck intervened when the town had to be evacuated just three days before the event.

After being rescued by Northern Soldiers at Shelbyville, Tennessee  she travelled back up North. President Lincoln made her an honorary major, and wearing her new uniform, she lectured about her clandestine adventures behind rebel lines. Pauline was forced to retire from the spy game as she had become so well know.

Her real name was Harriet Wood born in New Orleans.

One famous woman spy became a novelist and world correspondent after the Civil War ended opening the door for others to follow. It is for the reader to find out who?

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