Saturday, January 1, 2011


The army held no regard for women soldiers, Union or Confederate. Indeed, despite recorded evidence to the contrary, the U.S. Army tried to deny that women played a military role, however small, in the Civil War.

On October 21, 1909, Ida Tarbell of The American Magazine wrote to Adjutant General F.C. Ainsworth: "I am anxious to know whether your department has any record of the number of women who enlisted and served in the Civil War, or has it any record of any women who were in the service?" She received swift reply from the Records and Pension Office, a division of the Adjutant General's Office (AGO), under Ainsworth's signature. His response, in part, read:

"I have the honor to inform you that no official record has been found in the War Department showing specifically that any woman was ever enlisted in the military service of the United States as a member of any organization of the Regular or Volunteer Army at any time during the period of the Civil War. It is possible, however, that there may have been a few instances of women having served as soldiers for a short time without their sex having been detected, but no record of such cases is known to exist in the official files."

Ainsworth's response was obviously untrue. One of the duties of the AGO was maintenance of the U.S. Army's archives, and the AGO took good care of the extant records created during that conflict. By 1909 the AGO had also created Compiled Military Service Records (CMSR) for both Union and Confederate Civil War participants ... carefully copying names and remarks from official Federal documents and captured Confederate records.

The following list will continue to grow as soldier women are found. They'll be moved to a post of their own as expanded details are uncovered:
  • After three months service in an Illinois unit, Harriet Brown was sent to a Kentucky hospital to work as a nurse when she was discovered in 1862. Unhappy with the position, she put her uniform back on and went to Chicago. She was arrested in Indianapolis and taken before the mayor who ordered she be given "suitable" apparel and allowed her to go. In January 1865, she became an army matron at the U.S. General Hospital in Quincy, Illinois and worked there for six months. 
  • Upon the death of her parents, Ida Bruce, a Unionist from Atlanta, traveled to Ohio to join the 7th Ohio Cavalry. 
  • Mary Burns enlisted in the 7th Michigan Volunteer Cavalry under the name John (Burns) in order to be with her lover, who was in the same regiment. Her sex was discovered within two weeks of her company leaving Detroit. She was arrested in uniform, held in the city jail and charged with masquerading as a man. The account of the incident in the Detroit Advertiser and Tribune on February 25, 1863 described the defendant as "a very pretty woman." 
  • A teen aged Elizabeth "Lizzie" Compton reportedly served in the 11th Kentucky Cavalry in 1863, the 125th Michigan Cavalry and a number of other regiments. Known by fellow soldiers as Jack or Johnny, she received a shrapnel wound to her side during the engagement of Greenbrier, TN. When doctors at a hospital at Lebanon, KY peeled her blue uniform away to treat her wound she was discovered to be a woman and discharged from the service. She would go on to reenlist in and be discovered by six more regiments, serving in the Union army a total of 18 months. 
  • Lizzie Cook of Iowa attempted to sign up with her brother at St. Louis and gave herself away by displaying "surprisingly refined table manners." She admitted to the Missouri Democrat that her "strong impulse to shoulder a musket" was due in part to being tired of the "monotony of a woman's life." 
  • Another woman who followed her brother into the 3rd Ohio Infantry provoked suspicion only two weeks later when she displayed an unusual degree of familiarity with him.
  • Nancy Corbin, a Unionist from Tennessee, felt she had little choice but to find the Woods Division soldier who had seduced her as "her father had driven her from home because she kept company with Union soldiers." After being discovered to be a woman, she was sent to General Rosecrans who determined she was not a spy and ordered her escorted out of town. 
  • Sallie Curtis was anxious to "go for the war" after serving in the Federal army for 20 months. 
  • Joining the 1st Michigan Calvary with her husband, Bridget Deavers (Divers/Devan), often called "Michigan Bridget," spent much of her time behind the front lines tending the wounded. When a soldier fell, she often took his place, fighting with determined courage. She rallied the troops, sometimes bringing the wounded from the field. Bridget was always "fearless and daring, always doing good service as a soldier." Her actual combat experience likely ended in 1864 when Gen. Ulysses Grant banished all women from military operations. She went on to work with the U.S. Sanitary Commission, spending the last year of the war caring for wounded soldiers at the Cavalry Corps Hospital at City Point, VA. 
  • Mary W. Dennis of the 1st Minnesota Infantry (Stillwater Co.) fooled the regiment surgeon, but was recognized by a printer in St. Paul. She threatened him should he expose her, but he fled and later related the incident to a newspaper reporter. She was said to have been a lieutenant and over 6 feet tall. 
  • Ida Ellison, a girl from Virginia, served with the Confederate army and was caught when she tried to return home. Authorities sent her to the Old Capitol Prison in Washington, DC and then to Baltimore on release. She returned to Washington "on a spree" and was jailed again. In 1864, the Washington Daily Morning Chronicle, which zealously cheered the exploits of Union women soldiers, informed readers that Confederate Ida Ellison was violent and suicidal. 
  • Mrs. Lewis Epping and Mrs. Mary Watkins enlisted with their husbands in the 2nd Maryland Infantry, Co. G and lasted 6 months before being detected by their captain who remembered, "I was thunderstruck and instantly went to make an investigation." They continued campaigning as laundresses until their husbands were discharged.
  • Mary Jane G. of Trenton, Michigan was a scribe to a Union army general. She was described as a "handsome, fresh-looking detailed man acting as ... clerk." After her discovery, a newspaper reported she was the daughter of "estimable members of society." Her surname was not published ... perhaps to avoid embarrassing her parents. 
  • Edmonia Gates served in March 1864 as a drummer boy in the 121st New York Infantry, Wilson's Zouaves. After being discovered, she was sent to a workhouse in Washington, DC. 
  • Ellen Goodridge served with her boyfriend James Hendrick in an early Wisconsin regiment. She went on skirmishes and raids and was wounded in action. 
  • Two girls from Washington, Miss Graves and Miss Wilson, enlisted in the 24th New Jersey Volunteers. Miss Wilson's sex was discovered after she was wounded. Determined to be a soldier, she went to Cairo and enlisted in the 3rd Illinois Calvary. 
  • Jenni R. Gregg, from the 125th Ohio Infantry, served at Johnson's Island Military Prison where elements of her regiment were employed as guards. She was discovered to be a female and discharged. Her discharge documents stated that her civilian occupation was "Lady." 
  • When Marian Green's beau enlisted in the 1st Michigan Engineers & Mechanics in Fall of 1861, she saw him off to war that December. Unable to bear being away from him, she arranged with a certain surgeon to enlist in a detachment recruited for the regiment and, in summer 1862, joined up. That fall the boyfriend was taken ill and sent to hospital. A couple days later Marian showed up at his bedside, remaining for months to nurse him and other patients. She had kept her sex a secret as a soldier in the regiment. The boy wrote to her parents informing them of her presence and arrangements were made for her return home. Later, when a portion of the regiment returned to Detroit for discharge, Marian met him there and they married. 
  • Lila Greet of Alabama worked with a demolition team to blow up bridges over the Tennessee River in order to prevent supplies from reaching the Union army. 
  • Mary Handcock, a school teacher and abolitionist, signed the muster roll of the North Plato, Illinois volunteers with three of her friends
  • Fanny Harris, of Indiana, was another drummer who "passed through a dozen battles." When she was discovered in the fall of 1864 she was sent to Chicago and discharged. 
  • Confederates Margaret Henry (Crosby's Scouts) was captured with Mary A. Wright (Jenkin's Scouts) in March 1865 while burning Tennessee bridges. They were jailed in Nashville. A newspaper reporting their capture claimed that "one of them rejoices in the rank and uniform of a captain." A northern newspaper described them as "dashing young creatures." 
  • Lizzie Hoffman of Winchester, VA enlisted in the 45th U.S. Colored Infantry. She was arrested while boarding a steamer with the rest of her company and sent to the Central Guard House in Washington where she was ordesred to put on a dress. 
  • Louisa Hoffman enlisted three times and served in all three branches of the Union army. She was with the 1st Virginia Cavalry at the Battle of Bull Run and later served briefly as a cook in the 1st Ohio Infantry. In August 1863 she was arrested by a provost guard soon after signing with the 1st Tennessee Light Artillery. 
  • Elvira Ibecker, alias Pvt. Charles D. Fuller, served in the 46th Pennsylvania Infantry, Co. D. 
  • An 1896 story about Mary Stevens Jenkins, who died in 1881, tells a brief tale. Using the alias John Jenkins, she enlisted in the 9th Pennsylvania Cavalry when still a school girl, remained in the army two years, received several wounds and was discharged without anyone realizing she was a female. 
  • A remarkable coincidence came to light after October 20, 1863, following the battle of Philadelphia, Tennessee. Two soldiers serving in different Union cavalry units were captured. Both were taken to Belle Isle prison in Richmond, VA where they were discovered to be women: One, a soldier named "Tommy" in the 45th Ohio Mounted Infantry, became ill in the prison and, when her sex was discovered in February 1864, she was released. The other, Mary Jane Johnson, had served in the 11th Kentucky Cavalry for one year. 
  • Emma Kinsey's husband said that his wife held an honorable discharge as a lieutenant colonel in the 45th New York Infantry. Mr. Kinsey did not provide his wife's alias, so the veterans of the local GAR post, who tried to look into the matter, were unable to locate documentation. 
  • Fannie Lee of Cleveland served with the 6th Ohio Cavalry. She was discovered in Washington, DC whereupon she requested a nursing position. An irate Provost refused her request, stating that she had "so far unsexed herself", was unworthy of the job and sent home. 
  • Margaret Leonard served in the 2nd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery. 
  • Maria Lewis, a black woman in the 8th New York Cavalry, disguised herself as a white man and served for 18 months. It's been noted that she "wore uniform & carried sword & carbine & rode & scouted & skirmished & fought like the rest." In April 1866 she presented herself to northern abolitionists who assisted freed slaves in Alexandria, VA. 
  • Annie Lillybridge fought with the 21st Michigan Infantry. One of the men serving with her knew about her disguise but kept her secret. After the Battle of Pea Ridge, she was shot in the arm and taken to a hospital in Louisville. She swapped her discharge with Joseph Henderson in order to reenlist. 
  • Jenny Lockwood, a former private in the 2nd Michigan Infantry, stayed in Washington, DC after the war. She was to the attention of a local newspaper when she appeared at a police station seeking help. She told them of her veteran status and pleaded "that she was sick and without a home." A police officer delivered her to a local hospital. 
  • Julia Marcum was from Kentucky. No other details known. 
  • Hattie Martin was a young Pennsylvania newlywed who wanted to be with her husband in the ranks. She "made known her sex to the examining surgeon, and at her earnest solicitation he accepted her as a recruit" despite it going against army regulations. When her husband "grew unkind towards her" she returned home. 
  • Mary McCreary was another woman who followed a loved one into battle. She enlisted a private with her husband in the 21st Ohio, Co. H. After several months, she "found herself in a delicate condition", obtained leave from her colonel, went home and never returned. 
  • Harriet Merill joined the 59th New York Infantry in order to leave behind the brothel where she worked.
  • Charley Miller, who had preferred living as a male since childhood, served in the 18th New York Regiment as a drummer boy using the name Edward O. Hamilton
  • Sarah E. Mitchell, alias Charles Wilson, was a 16-year-old soldier who served with Imboden's Cavalry. She was arrested at Sandy Hook, VA on August 8, 1864, accused of being a spy and jailed at Old Capitol Prison in Washington, DC. To gain her release, she told her captors that she was pregnant. When the ruse failed, she was transferred to Fitchburg in October 1864. 
  • Molly Mooney was a married woman who enlisted in the 7th Iowa Infantry. Her husband stayed behind when she marched off to war. She served nearly 6 months before she was recognized in St. Louis by a policeman who knew her before the war. A newspaper reporter wrote that Molly "would scarcely be admired in feminine dress." 
  • Madeline Moore joined the army to be with her boyfriend and was elected lieutenant. She served in West Virginia under Gen. George B. McClellan and fought at Bull Run. 
  • In 1912 Mary Ann Murphy, of Worcester, claimed to have served in the 53rd Massachusetts Infantry as Samuel Hill with her brother Tom Murphy. [The muster rolls of this regiment did not list either name. (She may have been Mrs. Peter Johnson.] 
  • Mary Owens' affection for her fiance William Evans was so strong that, over her father's objection, they eloped. Shortly after the war began, she disguised herself as William's brother, Pvt. John Evans, and enlisted with him in the 9th Cavalry. The couple fought courageously side by side until William was killed in action. Mary tenaciously soldiered on until she was seriously wounded and her gender was discovered. She returned home to a warm welcome in Pennsylvania, ending an 18-month military career that spanned three major battles. 
  • After Jane Perkins of the Danville artillery was captured at Hanover Junction, VA she was sent to White House Landing on June 2, 1864. Her guard, John Harrod, noted in a letter to his wife that she was wearing her hair braided and tucked up under her hat. 
  • Rebecca Peterman (aka Georgiana) served first as a drummer boy in the 7th Wisconsin Infantry in 1862, seeing action at Antietam. Her stepbrother and a cousin were in the same regiment. 
  • Mary Ann Pitman was a lieutenant in Forrest's Cavalry Brigade. 
  • Union soldier Ida Remington fought at South Mountain. Her second battle was three days later at Antietam. She spend part of her two-year service detailed as an officer's servant. In September 1863, still dressed as a man, she was detected and jailed when she applied for work at the U.S. government arsenal in Indianapolis. She was arrested in a saloon in Harrisburg after receiving her honorable discharge and put in jail for being drunk in public as well as impersonating a man. Union authorities sent her to Old Capitol Prison in Washington, DC and then to Baltimore on release. 
  • Belle Reynolds served with her husband, a lieutenant in the 17th Illinois Infantry, and saw combat while under fire at Shiloh. 
  • Jennie Robertson enlisted twice in the regular army but was discovered within three months each time. 
  • Rose Quinn Rooney served with the 15th Louisiana, Co. K from June 1861 until the end of the war. There are reports of her on the field under fire at Bull Run and Gettysburg. When some of the men in her regiment were briefly imprisoned after Appomattox she insisted on joining them. After the war she became the matron of a soldier's home in New Orleans. 
  • Mary Y. Seaberry/Scaberry, alias Charles Freeman, enlisted as a
    private in the summer of 1862 at the age of 17 and served in the 52nd Ohio, Co. F. After serving for 16 weeks, on November 7 she was admitted to the General Hospital in Lebanon, KY with a recurring fever and was transferred to a hospital in Louisville. On the 10th of November hospital personnel discovered her secret. On December 13th, Mary was discharged from Union service on grounds of "sexual incompatibility." 
  • Mary Siezgle originally went to the front and served as a nurse, but decided to stay with her husband in the 44th New York Infantry. The only way for her to do so was to put on male clothing and do "her share of actual fighting." She fought at Gettysburg. 
  • Diana Smith served with the Virginia Moccasin Rangers. 
  • Mary Smith enlisted in the 41st Ohio Infantry (McClellan Zouaves) sometime in August or September 1861 to avenge the death of her only brother at Bull Run. She was "full of pluck, and aged about twenty-two years." While at Camp Wood, Ohio she was suspected of being a woman because of her "peculiar wring of the dish cloth" and her ability to sew as well as a professional seamstress. 
  • Sarah Smith served briefly in the 2nd Indiana Cavalry and was discovered in April 1862. 
  • Henrietta Spencer joined the 10th Ohio Cavalry in 1863 to avenge the death of a loved one. 
  • Jennie M. Spencer [still searching] 
  • Margaret Spencer [still searching] 
  • Sarah Stover [still searching] 
  • Elizabeth Thompson served three years in the 59th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.
  • Ellen P.L. Thompson served in the 139th Illinois Infantry. 
  • Sophia Thompson was an Ohio farm girl who served two years before her superiors discovered she was a woman. She was sent to the Indianapolis mayor's court and released because of her ardent support of the Union. 
  • Nancy Slaughter Walker fought with William Clarke Quantrill's guerrillas and joined them in their infamous raids in Indian territory and Texas after the defeat of the Confederacy. 
  • Mary Walters enlisted with the 10th Michigan Infantry to be with her husband, though he was unaware of her actions. She stayed in the service until he failed to return from a scouting expedition. Mary applied for a discharge and returned to Michigan. A recurring dream, in which she claimed to have seen where she lived, led her to Natural Bridge, VA where she found him working on a farm. He had evidently suffered a head injury and lost his memory. His memories "supposedly" rushed back when she appeared before him after a separation of 20 years. The reunited couple returned to Michigan. 
  • Miss Weisener, a planter's daughter from Alabama, loved a struggling lawyer of whom her father did not approve. E.E. Stone joined the Confederate army and was stationed in Tupelo, MS. On the pretext of delivering supplies to the troops, Miss Weisener traveled to Tupelo, where the pair secretly married. She then became a soldier in his regiment. 
  • Laura J. Williams was a woman who disguised herself as a man and used the alias Lt. Henry Benford in order to raise and lead a company of Confederate Texans. She and her company participated in the Battle of Shiloh. 
  • When asked about her reasons for enlisting in the 2nd Iowa Infantry, Nellie Williams replied that she volunteered merely to be a soldier, adding that she liked the life. In August she was arrested in Louisville "unhappily under the influence of liquor." She was described as having black eyes, short black hair and "features very feminine indeed, and a woman's voice beyond all question." After her arrest, her captain vowed that she was not a soldier, but rather "one of the inmates of a disreputable house on Seventh Street."


  1. Ellen Levasay was actually a man.

  2. Looking for more information about Mary Wise of the 34th Indiana Infantry as I had a ggg grandfather in Company K of the regiment. But the 34th Indiana were not at Lookout Mt. They were in the Mississippi Campaign. Other sources say she was wounded in action in the battles for Vicksburg for the 3rd and last time when she was discovered to be a woman.

    1. Mary Ellen Wise now has her own page. Go there for an expanded biography.