Books on Women and the American Civil War

Books About Women in the American Civil War

After attending a reenactment event and seeing a huge selection of books on the Civil War, only one of which focused on women's roles, I've been working to identify the best books on women and the Civil War. You'll find here an interesting mix of books from and about the era. Readers new to the topic of women and the Civil War will want to start with some of the overview books below.

by Catherine Clinton. One of the best scholars of women's history takes on the myths of Southern women during the Civil War. She covers the experiences of women -- white and black, wealthy and ordinary -- in the South before, during and after the war, debunking many common misconceptions. She also covers the post-Civil War story about the creation of the "plantation legend."

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A Black Woman's Civil War Memoirs

Subtitle: Reminiscences of My Life in Camp With the 33rd U.S. Colored Troops, Late 1st South Carolina Volunteers

by Susie King Taylor.  You'll find two editions, one edited by Patricia W. Romero and the other by Catherine Clinton.  Taylor writes of her experience of enslavement, her freedom, her work in the Union Army, her hearing of the Emancipation Proclamation, and her disappointment at the betrayal of the promises of freedom that she had assumed the Civil War would bring.

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Women in Slavery: Selections from her Journal

...  of Residence on a Georgian Plantation, by Frances Anne Kemble, with an introduction by Catherine Clinton. An eyewitness account by an English actress of the 19th century, from her Journal of Residence on a Georgian Plantation. Her insights into the institution of slavery, from the perspective of someone married to a slaveholder, were published during the American Civil War, though the observations were written in the late 1830s.

by Nancy Scripture Garrison. Women working as nurses and administrators in the Sanitary Commission found themselves functioning in roles unlike those they'd been allowed in peacetime. This book, which focuses on the Virginia experience of some of these volunteers, begins with the creation of the Sanitary Commission. Find a different perspective than many books on the Civil War and women.
by Stephen B. Oates. Popular historian Oates turns his efforts to Clara Barton, one of the most familiar names of Union women in the Civil War. He pulls no punches in analyzing not only her daring and assertiveness in getting a job done that needed doing, but also her prickly personality and the difficulties she had sharing leadership.
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All the Daring of the Soldier: Women of the Civil War Armies

by Elizabeth D. Leonard. Focusing on women who actually fought in the Civil War -- disguised as men or not -- this book brings many stories of individual service alive. The women had many reasons for fighting: some wanted to accompany husbands or boyfriends into the field, others fought out of concern for the Confederate or Union cause. Also includes the stories of spies, nurses and laundresses.
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Amazing Women of the Civil War

by Webb B. Garrison. A good overview book on women and the Civil War, it covers women in their many roles, including nurses, soldiers, journalists and spies. Major figures like Harriet Tubman, Belle Boyd, Clara Barton, Susan B. Anthony are included. There's not a lot of depth on any particular topic, but it's a good survey of the huge number of women important to the Civil War.
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Hospital Sketches

by Louisa May Alcott. Better known for "Little Women," a story of a family at home during and just after the Civil War, in this recently-reissued book, Alcott vividly describes her life as a volunteer nurse and the people she met. She suffered life-long ill effects from the mercury-based treatment for typhod. This book, completed during her recovery, helped bring her writing to public attention.
by Drew Gilpin Faust. Faust highlights the way that the Civil War challenged women of the South. Women had to perform tasks and assume responsibilities that were not only non-traditional for women, but difficult for anyone. Then, many of these same women helped to reestablish the old power relationships between women and men when the war was over.
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Kate: the Journal of a Confederate Nurse

by Kate Cumming, edited by Richard Barksdale Harwell. A first person account of life in Confederate hospitals during the war as well as reflections on civilian life in the South. Helpful for understanding what the war years were like for women in the South.
by Frank Moore. Written soon after the Civil War, and deliberately excluding women who disguised themselves as men, this book contains some nearly-contemporary stories of women who served in many different roles. Part of the importance of this book is also its perspective: what an immediate post-Civil War audience made of women's service and sacrifice.
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Gone With the Wind: ... the Book, the Movie and the Legend

by Herb Bridges and Terryl C. Boodman. For many people, the movie Gone With the Wind has shaped their images of the Civil War. Gone With the Wind lovers will love the illustrations, star biographies and behind-the-scenes information. (Just please, don't use this as a resource for a Civil War history research paper or for preparing your Civil War era reenactment!)
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Harriet Tubman, Secret Agent

Subtitle: How Daring Slaves and Free Blacks Spied for the Union During the Civil War 
by Thomas B. Allen
This book is written for grades 5 to 8, but it's worth reading for any age, for the information that's in it about an often-neglected part of both Civil War history and Harriet Tubman's story: her work as a spy.  Other Civil War spies are also mentioned.  For Tubman's story, including before, during and after the Civil War, also see Catherine Clinton's book (written for an adult audience), Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom. (2004).