Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Florena Budwin

Florena Budwin was born about 1845. She disguised herself as a man and followed her husband, John Budwin. Residents of Philadelphia, they enlisted in an unknown unit.

Both were captured and sent to the Andersonville prison camp where he is said to have been killed by a guard. She remained there until September 1864 when Union General William Tecumseh Sherman’s troops got close to Andersonville. Budwin and many other prisoners were moved to the Florence Stockade in Florence, South Carolina. There were about 16,000 Union prisoners held there between September 15, 1864 and February 1865.

While at Florence, her gender was discovered after a routine exam by a doctor. She was moved to a private room and put to work in the prison hospital. Florina contracted pneumonia a few months later and died January 25, 1865 at the age of 21. She's buried in the Florence National Cemetery where she lies in a mass grave in Section D. It's thought that she is the first woman to be buried in a National Cemetery. 

A story on Florena appeared in The Helena Independent on June 24, 1890. It included an interview by Samuel Elliot of the 7th Pennsylvania Reserves:

I knew the female prisoner at Andersonville, having seen her frequently pass our detachment on her way to the swamp for water. I remember her as a woman rather above medium height, sun burnt, with long unkempt hair. Her clothing consisted of a rough gray shirt, a pair of worn-out army trousers, and what was once a military cap, but scarcely enough of it was left to afford protection from the burning sun. Her husband was also in the prison, but what became of him I am unable to say.
     When the prisoners were removed from Andersonville to Florence, between September 6 to 12, 1864, she was among the number, and shortly after our arrival there her sex was discovered by the rebel authorities and she was taken, as rumor had it, to be a nurse in the hospital. This is the last I ever saw or heard of her.
     As to her husband, I never knew what became of him. I never heard of his being killed. I heard her spoken of by the older prisoners as being a married woman. Our detachment at Andersonville was stationed on the north of the prison's old stockade, about 500 yards from the main entrance. She must have been in the detachment, there being 100 to each detachment, adjoining ours. The camp here was not laid off in streets, or were the brush huts laid off in any order. There were winding paths leading to the swamp near the entrance, where the prisoners obtained water. Her hut was never invaded, and she was cared for by two men who guarded and looked after her, ready to protect her from insult, should any be offered, and they always treated her with great respect themselves.

Go to FindAGrave for Florena's memorial.

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