Archive

Tag Archives: Civil War memory

   I’m not sure that this is an acceptable blog but it’s something that has been on my mind for the past couple of weeks.  During class introductions I stated that I am steeply indoctrinated into the Lost Cause vision of the Civil War and Reconstruction.  Later I was deeply offended by Tony Horwitz’s Confederates in the Attic because he seemed to find nutcases and fanatics in the South and seemed to portray them as representative of most southerners.  But I have to admit he forced me to consider the impact of the Lost Cause upon my own attitudes and opinions and how they have effected my life.  In working on defining/identifying the Lost Cause for our final, I have struggled to define this in myself.  What do I consider to be the Lost Cause?  How did I become indoctrinated?  How has it impacted me?

The Lost Cause, as we have learned, has meant different things to different times and places and even to individuals.  I have never held to the Lost Cause belief that slavery was a positive situation for southern society.  The idea that slavery was moral and appropriate seems outrageous and ignorant (yes, I used that word).  Slavery is an embarrassment to me and my ancestors.  (I do know that in the 1790s my forefather included his slaves in his will.)  Nothing can justify slavery.  It is something that one must acknowledge,accept, and deal with as an ancestor of a slave holder.  Nor do I adhere to the racism that accompanies the Lost Cause.  Unfortunately, I was raised in an environment or racism, something I have worked hard to overcome.  I still must guard my thoughts and attitudes at times because those early learning experiences become deeply rooted in our pysche.  My parents and many adults (and a few peers) exhibited racist attitudes and expressions as I grew up and through High School.  However through education and experience, that racism does not live on through me and my sons faced little exposure to those attitudes.

The aspects that I carry with me of the Lost Cause consist of the admiration for the courage and determination of the Confederate soldiers and the military leadership of the South.  My middle name is Lee which is very common among southerners. (This was left out of how we remember)  However I never viewed Lee or Jackson as some kind of superhero or idol.  My admiration for Lee resulted from his successes on the battlefield.  I agree with Gallagher that the military superiority of Lee was not a myth.*  He really was a remarkable military commander that achieved some pretty impressive victories over superior numbers.  That admiration toward Confederate courage and intelligence provides a sense of pride in my southern identification.

A second influence of Lost Cause indoctrination has resulted in my prejudice toward “Yankees.”  I still catch myself being critical of people from ‘the North.”  I’m not even sure what I exactly mean by “the North.”  The concept of the aggressive, intrusive, “nosey” Yankee comes from the Lost Cause influence that presents the North as a society of hypocrites that wanted to remove the “splinter from the eye of the South, but could not see the plank in their own eye.”  This comes from southern responses to the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the enforcement of desegregation (something I strongly support).

I’m not sure how I was indoctrinated.  I think it was more informal rather than being miss-taught  at school.  I heard of the heroics of Lee, Jackson, and Stuart through my parents.  The brief mention of them peaked my curiosity and I became an avid reader of Civil War material.  I did have a Civil War  professor from Mississippi that definitely taught the Lost Cause filled with great admiration of the Confederate cause.  But that really reinforced what I had already accepted.

I guess by accepting some of the Lost Cause I still adhere to it as a historian and teacher.  Through this class I have recognized my bias and the need to be careful how that impacts my memory of the past and how I present that view.  But I am not convinced that admiring the valor and the superior military leadership of the South somehow is demeaning.  I still identify myself as a southerner and that heritage is something of which I am proud.  I resent being looked down upon by some because I speak with a twang or am not quite sophisticated as others.  I enjoy a simpler, less complicated life.  I would rather attend a BBQ than a ballet production. (Sorry, Dr. Epps).

The only other thing that I can think of that may be a result of the Lost Cause doctrine is my conservative political views.  But those came as I got older and being opposed to a larger more powerful federal government doesn’t seem to be a uniquely southern view.

* Gary Gallagher, “Sharing Public Memory of the Civil War,” in The Memory of the Civil War in American Culture, ed. Alice Fahs and Joan Waugh (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2004), 58.

Advertisements

When I was researching for my paper, I found something that I hadn’t thought much about before.  In Harrisonville, Missouri, which is a short drive from where I grew up, they have several interesting ways of commemorating the Civil War.  Harrisonville is the county seat of Cass County, which sits on the Kansas state line.  The county was the scene of really brutal violence before and during the war.  According to the website for the Battle of Lone Jack battlefield (about 20 miles from Harrisonville), the war really started in the region in 1854, when “Dishonorable men, clothing themselves with the contentions of patriotic citizens, crossed the State line from both sides and committed crimes of every kind from larceny to murder.”[1]

General Order Number 11, which I wrote about two weeks ago, turned the area around Harrisonville into a veritable wasteland.  Families had the option of leaving their homes outright, or swearing allegiance to the Union and moving to within one mile of a garrison town.  In Cass County, this meant that there are virtually no antebellum structures still standing.  The county, along with Jackson County, Bates County, and part of Vernon County, became known as the “Burnt District,” because all that remained were blackened chimneys.[2]  The monument today is a chimney, made from stone taken from the homestead of Henry Younger.  Younger was the father of bushwhacker Cole Younger, who, after the Civil War, joined Jesse James’ gang.  In Harrisonville, he is somewhat legendary.[3]

In the square in Harrisonville, murals surrounding the County Courthouse depict scenes from the Civil War era.  One mural is of “Jennison’s Jayhawks” looting the town in 1861.  Another is of the future outlaw, Cole Younger, and his family fleeing a farm put to torch by Union soldiers.  A third mural depicts “significant events, places and people of the Civil War in Cass County,” including burning buildings and what appear to be guerrillas.[4]

It is interesting to see these examples of memory shaping in the area where I’m from.  Growing up, I knew vaguely of the sentiments that these memorializations represent, but I had no idea these examples existed.

[1] “General Order #11,” Lone Jack Historical Society, accessed July 5, 2012, at http://www.historiclonejack.org/order11.html.

[2] “The Burnt District Monument: Inscription (left side plaque),” HMDB.org, September 1, 2009, accessed July 5, 2012, at http://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=22089.

[3] “The Burnt District Monument,” Cass County Historical Society, 2012, accessed July 5, 2012, at http://casscountyhistoricalsociety.com/?page_id=797.

[4] “Civil War Murals on Harrisonville Square,” Cass County Historical Society, February 14, 2011, accessed July 5, 2012, at http://casscountyhistoricalsociety.com/?p=633.

Like most memories, the memories of the American Civil War in the West appear to be fading with time. However, the memories of the American Civil War in the West are in far fewer numbers than the memories of American Civil War in the East. Therefore, I have taken this opportunity to try to preserve and share a local memory of the American Civil War in the West.

 While recently visiting the El Pueblo History Museum in Pueblo, Co, I came across a research document that accompanies the howitzer cannon at the El Pueblo History Museum. In the research document, historian Dustin Clasby writes about the El Pueblo History Museum’s howitzer cannon in the following information:

Mountain Howitzer Cannon – El Pueblo History Museum

“The 12-pound mountain howitzer that sits in the international hall of the El Pueblo History Museum has a long and varied history. The cannon was forged in 1847 in Boston, MA, by Cyrus Alger Iron Company. Cyrus Alger was a big name in the manufacturing of arms for the United States military. He is best known for making shot and artillery during the War of 1812, but his cannons were also used in the Mexican-American War (1846-48) and the American Civil War (1861-65). Alger was the first to create a rifled barrel cannon in the United States.”[1]

“The particular artillery piece that sits in the museum is designated as a mountain howitzer because of its small size and weight, making it mobile enough to traverse rough terrain in the American West. The cannon is made of brass and weighs 220 pounds. It is capable of shooting a twelve-pound shot over 1000 yards with a half pound of black powder.” [2]

 “This howitzer was inspected for military use by James Wolfe Ripley. The ‘43’ on the front of the barrel is the inspection number and Ripley’s initials ‘J.W.R.’ are imprinted on the cannon. Ripley later became chief of ordnance of the Army and was instrumental in the modernization of the American artillery.” [3]

 “In 1861, the cannon was surrendered to the Confederate Army of Texas. It was then commissioned for use in the Army of New Mexico led by Henry Hopkins Sibley. The cannon may or may not have been used in the major engagements of the campaign. When the Confederates retreated back to Texas, supplies were destroyed at the Battle of Glorieta Pass. The retreating soldiers buried their remaining artillery and used the carriages to transport their wounded and supplies. The artillery was buried in Albuquerque, NM in 1862.”[4]

 “In 1892, Trevanion Teel, the artillery commander for the Confederates in the Army of New Mexico, led an expedition to recover eight buried cannons. In 1898, four of the cannons were donated to the state of Colorado. The Pueblo howitzer was kept in Denver, except for a short display at Fort Garland, until 1993 when it was officially given to the El Pueblo History Museum.”[5]

 As you can see from the photograph of the mountain howitzer cannon and the information provided within Clasby’s research documentation, the El Pueblo History Museum has in its possession a unique and interesting artifact from the great American Civil War. Upon closer inspection of the artifact’s history, revealed is a history that can be traced across the United States. Teachers can use the howitzer cannon as a tool to help carry on the memory of the great American Civil War and how the war affected the West.

 The El Pueblo History Museum also has a “History Mystery” educational activity, which is a fun way to learn about the museum’s howitzer cannon. The educational activity can be used with a variety of ages. For more information on the educational activity or to schedule a school field trip/large group, please contact the museum. Contact information for the museum can be found at the following web link:

Click for El Pueblo History Museum – History Colorado Website

 

In closure, I hope that by sharing this information, I have helped preserve the memory of the American Civil War in the West. I believe, when a person learns about something that they can relate to first, it then opens them up to the mental urge of wanting to learn about broader topics because they now see how the broader topics relate to them personally.

 


 

[1] Dustin Clasby, “The Howitzer Cannon at El Pueblo History Museum” (Research Documentation, El Pueblo History Museum, 2007)

[2] Clasby, 2007

[3] Clasby, 2007

[4] Clasby, 2007

[5] Clasby, 2007

Cavalry Bugler

Legend has that it in July 1862 Union General Daniel Butterfield had enough.  The military bugle call at the time, a calling derived from a French bugle melody, found its way into the mouthpiece of every bugler.  Used in reveille, lights out, and the honoring of the fallen, the French tune irritated Butterfield to no end.  Thus, he conceived to compose his own bugle call.  At Harper’s Landing, Virginia, Retired Lieutenant Colonel Michael Lee Laming writes, “There he made what may be his most lasting contribution to the military.”[1]  Laming is astute in this observation as Taps, the bugle call credited to Butterfield, has survived the Civil War.  Historical memory has remembered Butterfield and the story of the creation of Taps well.  However, Taps isn’t the only military song of the Civil War to have a colorful history.

One of  the most famous military songs to come out of the Civil War is not “Taps”, and maybe even more shocking, not even Northern.  The Confederate ‘national anthem’, Dixie, is well known today and has entered the American psyche as a powerful statement of rebellion.  In fact, the song is so famous, it is played by the modern United States Military Academy Marching Band.  The song was composed in 1859 by Dan Emmett who composed a lot of music for minstrel shows and appeared many times in blackface.[2]  Emmett, a native of Ohio, said in composing the piece, “Like most everything else I ever did, it was written because it had to be done.”[3]

The tune, in historical memory has taken on epic proportions.  In Gone with the Wind, the song is heard as a rallying cry after the fall of Fort Sumter, and again after the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg.  In the latter, the camera focuses on a band corps playing the tune to strike up pride in the Confederate cause.  The scene becomes disagreeable as a young band member sheds a tear as he plays.  In reality, the song found its origins exclusively on the minstrel stage, and not in the hearts and minds of Southerners.  The Lost Cause pride in the anthem is laughable when considering the true first lyrics of the song and not the longing to be back in the South:

Dis worl’ was made in jiss six days,

an’ finished in various ways,

Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie land.[4]

When singing the song today it is only fitting when beginning the Confederate anthem to sing in the original minstrel fashion, and remember the stereotypical black dialect written by Emmett:

I wish I was in de land ob cotton,

Old times dar am not forgotten,

Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie land.[5]

The racial undertones of Dixie come through when examining the lyrics of the piece, which seems to be seldom done.  Historical memory concerning the song has forgotten these undertones and instead focuses on the upbeat nature of the piece, made even more impactful by nature in which the song has been played in recent years by bands belong to the United States military.  However, as memorable as Dixie is, it would be inappropriate to leave out the fact that the Union had a similar prideful tune, minus the racial undertones of course.

 

Battle Hymn of the Republic was composed by an individual that can be considered the exact opposite of Emmett.  Composed in in 1861 by Julia Ward Howe, Howe may actually be considered less of a composer and more of a lyricist.  Around this time she heard a group singing John Brown’s Body, a popular marching song of the day.  This tune proved to be so popular that numerous lyricists wrote variations on the lyrics.  Howe’s lyrics, as the legend told by her goes, were composed while her infant slept.[6]  Published in 1862 in The Atlantic Monthly, the Battle Hymn of the Republic evoked pride and nationalism.  Interesting to note, Howe herself was an abolitionist and devout evangelical.  Her lyrics and the song, like Dixie, have survived the years and entered into American memory, serving as a song of rally during the World Wars.[7]

 

 

While Battle Hymn of the Republic remains in the repertoire of military bands this day, few recall the biblical passages associated with the song.  The lyric, “He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;” most assuredly comes from Revelations 14:19 which reads, “And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.”  The translation, this blogger asserts, is that Howe contends that the institution of slavery has laid over the land for too long and the wrath of God has festered and has now been unleashed upon the South.  Not all marching tunes of the Union, it should be noted, were steeped in abolitionism.

 

 

Another famous rallying tune for the Union was a very old song to the soldiers of the Civil War.  When Johnny Comes Marching Home was an Irish folk song of the seventeenth century and, interestingly enough, was at first an anti-war song.[8]  In 1863, Patrick Gilmore wrote the lyrics to the Irish folk song and became the song we know it as today.[9]  Being a folk song, the tune is less of a military march and more of popular tune.  Much like Johnny Comes Marching Home, Richmond is a Hard Road to Travel, composed in 1863 by John Thompson was less of a marching song.  Thompson’s composition, as Historian Chandra Manning notes that the song, “Mocked the Union Army’s failure to capture Richmond in 1861 and 1862.”[10]  Unfortunately, this wonderful backstory has faded from memory and now resides only with historians.

 

 

Songs of the Civil War are numerous and varied and all of them have interesting stories.  Whether Union or Confederate, abolitionist or pro-slavery, the music of the Civil War is intriguing.  As it is played today, Civil War tunes are much different in terms of connotation, but knowing these stories will elucidate the impact of the Civil War on music of the day.  Concerning music, perhaps  Ulysses S. Grant said it best when he claimed, “I only know two tunes: one of them is ‘Yankee Doodle’, and the other isn’t.”

 

__________________________________________________________________________________

[1] Lanning Lt. Col., The Civil War 100 (Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, Inc., 2008), 345.

[2] Steven H. Cornelius, Music of the Civil War Era (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 2004), 30.

[3] Dan Emmett, quoted in Steven H. Cornelius, Music of the Civil War Era (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 2004), 30.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Diane Ravitch, The American Reader: Words That Moved a Nation, Rev. 2nd ed. (New York, NY: William Morrow Paperbacks, 2000), 257.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Mark Aldrich, A Catalog of Folk Song Settings For Wind Band (Milwaukee: Meredith Music, 2004), 36.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Chandra Manning, What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War, 1st Vintage Civil War Library ed. (New York: Vintage, 2008), 53.

Unfortunately, most people who study the American Civil War and how it is remembered often overlook the Battle of Glorieta Pass. Even as I typed this last sentence, the program that I am using to type does not recognize the word Glorieta, but it does recognize the word Gettysburg. Sadly, most of the people who have heard about the Battle of Glorieta Pass only recognize it as being referred to as “the Gettysburg of the West.” This title that the battle has been coined into, is what mainly caught my attention to the subject. I decided to research the Battle of Glorieta Pass and eventually came across the National Park Service (NPS) website.

The Battle of Glorieta Pass

Southwest United States 1862 – Click on Image for Larger View

Once on the NPS website, I found a summary of the Battle of Glorieta Pass. Within the summary, the description of the battle states the following, “Glorieta Pass was a strategic location, situated at the southern tip of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, southeast of Santa Fe, and on the Santa Fe Trail. In March 1862, a Confederate force of 200-300 Texans under the command of Maj. Charles L. Pyron encamped at Johnson’s Ranch, at one end of the pass. Union Maj. John M. Chivington led more than 400 soldiers to the Pass and on the morning of March 26 moved out to attack. After noon, Chivington’s men captured some Rebel advance troops and then found the main force behind them. Chivington advanced on them, but their artillery fire threw him back. He regrouped, split his force to the two sides of the pass, caught the Rebels in a crossfire, and soon forced them to retire. Pyron and his men retired about a mile and a half to a narrow section of the pass and formed a defensive line before Chivington’s men appeared. The Yankees flanked Pyron’s men again and punished them with enfilade fire. The Confederates fled again and the Union cavalry charged, capturing the rearguard. Chivington then retired and went into camp at Kozlowski’s Ranch. No fighting occurred the next day as reinforcements arrived for both sides. Lt. Col. William R. Scurry’s troops swelled the Rebel ranks to about 1,100 while Union Col. John P. Slough arrived with about 900 men. Both Slough and Scurry decided to attack and set out early on the 28th to do so. As Scurry advanced down the canyon, he saw the Union forces approaching, so he established a battle line, including his dismounted cavalry. Slough hit them before 11:00 am. The Confederates held their ground and then attacked and counterattacked throughout the afternoon. The fighting then ended as Slough retired first to Pigeon’s Ranch and then to Kozlowski’s Ranch. Scurry soon left the field also, thinking he had won the battle. Chivington’s men, how-ever, had destroyed all Scurry’s supplies and animals at Johnson’s Ranch, forcing him to retreat to Santa Fe, the first step on the long road back to San Antonio, Texas. The Federals had won and, thereby, stopped Confederate incursions into the Southwest. Glorieta Pass was the turning point of the war in the New Mexico Territory.”[1]

The Battles of Glorieta Pass and Apache Canyon – Click on Image for Larger View

In addition to the summary, I was delighted to find that the NPS website also has a section titled “Teaching with Historic Places Lesson Plans.” Within this section is a lesson plan titled, “The Battle of Glorieta Pass: A Shattered Dream.” I believe that this lesson plan has the potential of being an excellent tool for teachers to use in educating students about the importance of this battle. The reason that the Battle of Glorieta Pass has been termed “the Gettysburg of the West” is for the fact that it was this battle that prevented the Confederate Army from advancing further west with the hopes of attaining the Confederacy’s much needed economic resources (gold, silver, access to seaports,etc.)[2]

In closure, I hope that teachers not only in the West, but that all American Civil War teachers study and in turn teach about the Battle of Glorieta Pass. This battle is highly important to the studying of the American Civil War because it was a major loss for the Confederacy. As a result of this loss, the Confederacy was denied advancement to the West and the economic resources that they needed to finance the Battle of Gettysburg and other battles that were yet to happen in the great American Civil War.

 

[1] National Parks Service, “Battle Summary: Glorieta Pass”

http://www.nps.gov/hps/abpp/battles/nm002.htm (accessed June 28, 2012)

[2] National Parks Service, “The Battle of Glorieta Pass: A Shattered Dream”

http://www.nps.gov/nr/twhp/wwwlps/lessons/91glorieta/91glorieta.htm (accessed June 28, 2012)

One of the questions asked in class this past week was . . . “Are there any memorials to Civil War African Americans?”  The only one we could come up with was the Robert Shaw Memorial in Boston.  After searching the internet, I have discovered a number of monuments dedicated to the African American (referred to in the past as “Colored”) veterans of the Civil War.  In fact there is not only a monument in Washington, D.C. but a museum dedicated to the service of African Americans during the Civil War.  The “Spirit of Freedom” and the African Civil War Memorial and Museum can be seen at:    African American Civil War Memorial and Museum.  The museum opened in 1999 and relocated to its present location in the “U” Street District in 2011.

The following list is found on the website “ Monuments to the United States Colored Troops (USCT): The List  http://jubiloemancipationcentury.wordpress.com/2011/05/30/monuments-to-the-united-states-colored-troops-usct-the-list/

List of USCT Monuments:
1. The Connecticut Twenty-Ninth Colored Regiment, C. V. Infantry; New Haven, Connecticut.
2. The African-American Civil War Memorial – The Spirit Of Freedom; Washington, District of Columbia
3. 2nd Regiment Infantry, U.S. Colored Troops; Fort Myers, Florida
4. Colored Soldiers Monument (AKA Kentucky African American Civil War Veterans Monument); Frankfort, Kentucky
5. In Memory of More Than 400 Prominent United States Colored Troops from Kent County; Chestertown, Maryland
6. Memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts 54th Regiment; Boston, Massachusetts
7. African American Monument; Vicksburg, Mississippi
8. 1st Kansas Colored Infantry Civil War Monument – “Battle of Island Mound”; Butler, Missouri
9. 56th United States Colored Troops Monument; St. Louis, Missouri
10. Soldiers’ Memorial at Lincoln University, Missouri; Jefferson City, Missouri
11. In Memory of the Colored Union Soldiers: Hertford, North Carolina
12. United States Colored Troops National Monument; Nashville, Tennessee
13. West Point Monument (AKA Norfolk African-American Civil War Memorial); Norfolk, Virginia

It seems noteworthy that most of these memorials dedicated to African American soldiers are located in previously Confederate states or in what were border slave states.  There are memorial statues or monuments in Norfolk, VA, Hertford, NC, Nashville, TN, and Vicksburg, MS.  One must admit that the impressive statue in Vicksburg is surprising.

Most of these monuments have been placed in recent times (after the 1990s).  However it does depict a willingness to acknowledge the role and impact of African Americans during the American Civil War.  It seems impossible to place these monuments in southern locations and previous slave states without recognizing the issue of slavery and its role upon the division of our nation and the agency of African American men in playing a decisive role in achieving northern victory.  Granted, there are only a few of these monuments in contrast to the hundreds depicting the courageous Confederate soldiers; but a few may signal something significant in how this nation’s memory of the Civil War may be changing.  Do a few memorials to African American veterans of the Civil War mark a new view of the Civil War or are they simply a way to appear more diverse and appease the African American populations of the South?  Could they be an attempt to include the “Colored Troops” in the reuniting effort of all the soldiers uniting in valor and courage?

Perhaps the most famous heroine in American combat history is Molly Pitcher.  At an early age children know her name and how she was on stand-by with water to cool the canons at the Battle of Monmouth (1778) then took up her husband’s station at the cannon when he fell in battle.  One children’s book proclaims, “General Washington heard what Mary had done.  He honored her by making her a sergeant in the army. From then on, Mary was known as ‘Sergeant Molly.'”[1]  This particular work is geared towards children of six years of age and does some interesting ‘adult’ things by including detailed information on her and her husband’s lineage .  On the cover is a strong, powerful, striking image of Pitcher and so striking is this image, that the battlefield fades away in the background in a haze of gunpowder smoke.

Monument of Molly Pitcher in Old Carlisle Cemetery, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. Erected in 2000 for the 250th anniversary of the founding of Cumberland County

Molly Pitcher’s monument from afar.

This isn’t the only recent children’s book written on the heroine.  There is: Jessica Glasser’s,  Molly Pitcher: Young American Patriot (2006), Anne Rockwell’s, They Called her Molly Pitcher (2006), Augusta Stevenson’s, Molly Pitcher: Young Patriot (Childhood of Famous Americans) (1986), and Frances E. Ruffin’s, Molly Pitcher (American Legends) (2002). These are just a few and don’t include academic works.  In fact, so much is written on Pitcher it would seem that she won the Battle of Monmouth single-handedly.  Unfortunately, the American forces at the Battle of Monmouth only fought to a standstill and Pitcher has seemingly become the only legend out of the battle.[2]  So convoluted is this picture that on the back of a sing-along book dedicated to Pitcher it reads, “She helped win a big battle in the American Revolution.”[3]  In the ‘big battle’ Pitcher ‘helped win’, British General Henry Clinton was able to retreat and later the same year, sacked Savannah.[4]  The battle itself is important to remember as it was the first major battle fought along side America’s strongest ally, the French, and includes one of the most heroic moments in American history when General George Washington met retreating Continentals and rallied them to turn around and engage in a frontal assault on Clinton, forcing him to retreat.

Sarah Edmonds as herself: Left. Sarah Edmonds as Franklin Thomas: Right.

Voices aloud, calling attention to this work being intended to focus solely on the American Civil War and not the Revolution, are correct in pointing this out.  However, where are the children’s books on Sarah Edmonds, or the sing-along of Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, and the robust statue of Albert Cashier?  Nowhere.  Indeed, cross-dressing women in the Civil War have been ignored and their role in combat downplayed.  For all intents and purposes, Sarah Edmonds, Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, and Albert Cashier would be forgotten if not for a new wave of historiography giving proper due to the cross-dressing women of the Civil War.  While it may be argued that some of their stories were of no secret during and after the conflict,  the fact remains that the cross-dressing women that helped win the war lack a proper memorial.

The story of Sarah Edmonds begins in Canada.  Born in New Brunswick in 1841, her father didn’t much care for a daughter and fled south to the United States as ‘Franklin Thompson’.[5]  After joining the Union first as a male nurse, she applied to be a spy under General George B. McClellan.  What is amazing about this is that she successfully spied on the Confederates as a black man.[6] Edmonds contracted malaria after eleven successful spy missions and left the military having proved herself a heroine in the world of gathering information against the enemy.  In 1884 ‘Franklin Thompson’, by this time going by Emma Seelye, petitioned Congress to grant a pension which Congress did so at $12 a month for service during the Civil War for the rest of Edmond’s life.[7]

Pension of Sarah Edmonds listed as Franklin Thompson.

Edmonds was open about her time during the Civil War, going so far as to give interviews and write on her experiences.  In an incident at the Battle of Antietam (1862), Edmonds recalled that she discovered the dead body of another female soldier disguised as a man.[8]  Historian Anita Silvey contrasts this by pointing out that, “At least six women remained undiscovered in the army until they gave birth to babies.”[9]  Edmonds didn’t stay in the role of Thompson for any long period of time, but bravely served her country on the front lines.

Sarah Rosetta Wakeman volunteered as a man in the 153rd of New York after her brother was killed in battle.[10]  Wakeman went by the first name Lyons and sent letters during the war addressing herself as both Rosetta and Lyons.[11]  She died before the end of the war contracting dysentery.[12] Wakeman is the archetype heroine, showing bravery in the face of danger.  In a letter she wrote to her father on July 2, 1863 Wakeman writes, “Our regiment has laid out in the fields for some time every night, awatching [sic] for the rebels.  For if they do, they will get lick.”[13]  She is amazingly candid and brings to light some of the issues of the soldiers on the battlefield like pay.  She was steadfast in every way proclaiming, “For my part I am ready at a minute’s warning to go into the field of battle and take my stand with the rest.”[14] Wakeman invokes emotions that are certain to make individuals laugh and empathize with a true heroine, but are also sure to instill wonderment in her courage as a soldier.  In a memorable letter she writes, “I am as independent as a hog on the ice.  If it is God [sic] will for me to fall in the field of battle, it is my will to go and never return home.”[15]

Sarah Wakeman as Lyons Wakeman

One of the most interesting and tragic occurrences of a cross-dressing female soldier during the Civil War is that of Albert Cashier.  Cashier was born Jennie Hodgers.  Serving in  the 95th of Illinois during the Civil War, Cashier lived his entire adult life as a man.  His immersion into the cross-dressing role was not, it should be pointed out, intended to solely help him serve during the Civil War.  As such, he can be viewed as a hero in the modern transgender community, serving his country through battles like the Siege of Vicksburg (1863).  It was not discovered until 1911 that Cashier was physically female when he was examined by a doctor for a wound in a car crash.[16]  In a 1915 deposition given by a soldier that served with Cashier the comrade said, “I never suspected anything of that kind.”[17]  Any memorial depicting Cashier is sure to invoke controversy, but his contribution in the struggle for equality should never be forgot.

Albert Cashier

Grave of Albert Cashier

Deposition Concerning Cashier

Remembering the role of women in the Civil War is paramount, properly done only through memorialization.  The statue of Pitcher is feminine in nature, safe in assurance that she stayed within cultural conventions and stepped into the role of heroine by taking up her position from a masculine figure, only to continue his work.  What is not conventional is the role of women in the Civil War, cross-dressing and posing as men in order to fight.  A children’s book on cross-dressing soldiers during the Civil War will most likely never be written.  However, the women that fought during the Civil War deserve no less recognition.  It may be contented that Cumberland County chose Pitcher to represent the area and as such, have discretion in the manner in which she is depicted.  Pitcher, however, is not the typical heroine in American history as the women mentioned here prove.  The Civil War female crossdressing soldiers broke social boundaries that existed then and indeed, even today.  These individuals, it must be contented, should not be memorialized out of the act of crossdressing alone, but also the extreme bravery and courage they displayed in defending their country.  The Civil War may have been a war between ‘brothers’, but the role of ‘sisters’ cannot be discounted either.  Only by incorporating cross-dressing female soldiers in the story of the Civil War, through memorialization, can the full picture of the Civil War really come to light.

Frances Clayton as a male soldier.

_________________________________________________________________________________

[1]Rick Burke, Molly Pitcher (Chicago: Heinemann-Raintree, 2003), 23.

[2]Dennis P. ed. Ryan, New Jersey in the American Revolution, 1763-1783: A Chronology (Trenton: New Jersey Historical Commission, 1975), 343.

[3]Michael Dahl, Bring Us Water, Molly Pitcher!: a Fun Song About the Battle of Monmouth (Minneapolis: Picture Window Books, 2004), Back cover.

[4] Henry Beebee Carrington, Battles of the American Revolution, 1775-1781 (Charleston, SC: Nabu Press, 2010), 477.

[5]Susanna McLeod, “Canadian Sarah Edmonds a Civil War Spy,” Canadian History, http://suite101.com/article/canadian-sarah-emma-edmonds-a-civil-war-spy-a186190 (accessed June 22, 2012).

[6] Ibid.

[7]Laura Leedy Gansler, The Mysterious Private Thompson: The Double Life of Sarah Emma Edmonds, Civil War Soldier (University of Nebraska: Bison Books, 2007), 98.

[8]Anita Silvey, I’ll Pass For Your Comrade: Women Soldiers in the Civil War (New York: Clarion Books, 2008), 66.

[9]Silvey, I’ll Pass For Your Comrade, 77.

[10]Silvey, I’ll Pass For Your Comrade, 84.

[11]Maureen Zieber, “Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, ‘Private Lyons Wakeman’,” http://suite101.com/article/sarah-rosetta-wakeman-private-lyons-wakeman-a80449 (accessed June 26, 2012).

[12]Ibid.

[13]Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, An Uncommon Soldier: the Civil War Letters of Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, Alias Private Lyons Wakeman, 153rd Regiment, New York State Volunteers (New York: Oxford University Press, USA, 1996), 36.

[14]Ibid.

[15]Ibid., 42.

[16]DeAnne Blanton, “Women Soldiers of the Civil War,” Prologue Magazine, Spring, 1993, 25.

[17]Robert D. Henneh, Deposition on the Case of Albert J.D. Cashier, 1915