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Known But to God

 

"KNOWN BUT TO GOD": FEMALE SOLDIERS IN THE CIVIL WAR

Women served in combat during the American Civil War in far larger numbers and in more significant roles than has so far been fully recognized in history text books. New stories from diaries, memoirs, and family letters and new access to historical information on the internet have added to the previously published accounts of women who served on the battlefields. The conclusion is inescapable that those who served as soldiers or combat nurses must have been many times larger than the commonly accepted estimate of about 400.

Two Confederate female casualties (one dead, one seriously wounded) were discovered after the Battle of Gettysburg, July 2-3, 1863. As confirmed in the Army Official Records of the war, the body of an unidentified female Confederate soldier was discovered by a burial detail near the stone wall at the angle on Cemetery Ridge. She had been a participant in Pickett's famous charge.

An author reporting on Pickett's charge at Gettysburg noted, "The fact that her body was found in such an advanced spot is testimony to her bravery. However, except for an unverified story that the woman had enlisted in a Virginia regiment with her husband and was killed carrying the colors during the charge, Hays' notation [in the Official Records] is the extent of acknowledgment she received for having given her life for her country."

One of the most famous Confederate female soldiers, who served in both cavalry and infantry, was Mrs. Amy Clarke. A newspaper story from Jackson, Mississippi, on Dec. 30, 1862 reported:

"Among the strange, heroic and self-sacrificing acts of woman in this struggle for our independence, we have heard of none which exceeds the bravery displayed and hardships endured by the subject of this notice, Mrs. Amy Clarke. Mrs. Clarke vounteered with her husband as a private, fought through the battles of Shiloh, where Mr. Clarke was killed--she performing the rites of burial with her own hands. She then continued with Bragg's army in Kentucky, fighting in the ranks as a common soldier, until she was twice wounded--once in the ankle and then in the breast, when she fell a prisoner into the hands of the Yankees. Her sex was discovered by the Federals, and she was regularly paroled as a prisoner of war, but they did not permit her to return until she had donned female apparel. Mrs. C. was in our city on Sunday last, en route for Bragg's command."[xx]

The following August she was seen wearing lieutenant's bars at Turner's Station, Tennessee, and was recognized as the heroic Amy Clarke, causing a bit of a sensation among the soldiers. A Texas cavalry soldier, among those who saw her, wrote a letter home to his father saying that he had heard of her brave deeds. The letter repeated the story of Clarke's husband being killed at Shiloh and she later being wounded and released by the Yankees while required to wear a dress.[

 

Copyright © September 2, 2006 James Boyd. All rights Reserved!
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Last updated 08-09-12