Saturday, January 8, 2011

Frances Hook

According to the November 17, 1864 Nashville Daily Press, a soldier woman going by the alias George Smith (of Indiana) arrived by train with Frank Martin and was turned over to Sherman's provost marshal. They were described as being, "... rather handsome in the face, graced with delicate hands and feet and well turned ankles ..."

Frances Hook and her brother were orphans who enlisted together in the 11th Illinois Infantry. She was 14-years-old, of medium build, with hazel eyes and brown hair. Even though her brother was killed in action at Pittsburgh Landing, She served for 90 days under the alias Pvt. Frank Martin, Frank Miller/Frank Henderson/Frank Fuller and was mustered out without her sex being discovered.

The pair re-enlisted and fought at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson before her brother was killed at the Battle of Shiloh. She left her old regiment and, as Frank Henderson, she enlisted in the 33rd Illinois and was wounded at the Battle of Fredericktown.

While receiving medical care, her gender was discovered and she was promptly discharged. She then enlisted in the 90th Illinois and served during the Siege of Vicksburg and Battle of Missionary Ridge. She was captured near Florence, AL by the Confederates in the summer of 1863 and sent to a prison in Atlanta. Attempting to escape, she was wounded in the thigh and recaptured. In searching her person for papers, her sex was discovered and she was sent to Hospital No. 2 in Chattanooga on February 18, 1864. 

Dr. Mary Edwards Walker described her as "...about medium [height], with dark hazel eyes, dark brown hair, rounded features and feminine voice and appearance." No bones were broken, "...but there was a deep, ugly flesh wound, as if torn by a fragment of a shell." 

She was exchanged in February 1864 and was discharged. Reports as to her further activities vary, but Hook eventually married and had a daughter.

She was transferred to the Officers' Hospital (also known as Hospital No. 17/the former Planter's Hotel) in Nashville on March 1, 1864. She remained there until May 5 when she was transferred to Hospital No. 1. She was described by Annie Wittenmyer as having " abundant hair ... cut very close."

The wound crippled her to the extent it required long hospital stays. During this time, her captors respected her as a woman, giving her a separate room while she was in prison at Atlanta, GA. During her captivity, Jefferson Davis wrote her a letter, offering her a lieutenant’s commission if she would enlist in the rebel army. But she preferred to fight as a private soldier for the stars and stripes, rather than accept a commission from the rebels. 

After her exchange at Graysville, GA, she was cared for in Union hospital in Tennessee, then discharged and sent North in June.

"This young lady was educated in a superior manner, possessing all the modern accomplishments. After her release from the rebel prison, she again enlisted in the 2nd East Tennessee Cavalry. She was in the thickest of the fight at Murfreesboro, and was severely wounded in the shoulder, but fought gallantly and waded in the Stone River into Murfreesboro on that memorable Sunday when the Union forces were driven back. Her sex was again disclosed upon the dressing of her wound, and General Rosecrans was informed, who caused her to be mustered out of the service, notwithstanding her earnest entreaty to be allowed to serve the cause she loved so well."

The General was favorably impressed with her daring bravery, and himself superintended the arrangements for her transmission home. She left the army of the Cumberland, resolved to enlist again in the first regiment she met.

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. 1, 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 be easily filled. She is a true patriot and a gallant soldier.”

Frank, found the 8th Michigan at Bowling Green, in which she again enlisted, remaining connected with this company. She said she had discovered a great many women in the army, one of them holding a lieutenant’s commission, and had at different times assisted in burying three women soldiers, whose sex was unknown to any but herself.

Francis later married and, on March 17, 1908, her daughter wrote the AGO seeking confirmation of her mother's military service. AGO clerks searched pertinent records and located documentation.

About the Carte de Visite: Seen in an oval waist up portrait, young Frances Hook is wearing the uniform of a Union soldier. The photograph is surrounded by an ornate border printed on a T. J. Merritt's National Portrait Gallery, Nashville mount measuring 2.5" x 4". She is identified on the verso by one of her aliases, "Frank Henderson / Co. G, 90th Illinois," as well as in a pencil inscription below the back stamp giving her true identity. Light toning in the upper right corner does not affect the image. Mounting remnants are seen in the upper right and lower left corners.

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