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Courageous Women of the Civil War: Soldiers, Spies, Medics, and More

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At the outbreak of the Civil War, nearly everybody was caught up in patriotic fervor—men and women, Union and Confederate. Many women supported soldiers through knitting and sewing needed items, growing food, making bandages, gathering medical supplies, and more. But others wished they could be closer to the fight. These women defied society’s expectations and bravely chos At the outbreak of the Civil War, nearly everybody was caught up in patriotic fervor—men and women, Union and Confederate. Many women supported soldiers through knitting and sewing needed items, growing food, making bandages, gathering medical supplies, and more. But others wished they could be closer to the fight. These women defied society’s expectations and bravely chose to take on more dangerous, unconventional roles. Courageous Women of the Civil War reveals the exploits of 16 of these remarkable women who served as medics, spies, battlefield helpers, and even soldiers on the front lines. Meet fascinating figures such as Maria Lewis, a former slave who fought with the Union cavalry as it swept through Virginia. Disguised as a white male soldier, she “put the fear of Hell” into Confederate enemies. Kady Brownell supported her husband’s Rhode Island regiment as a vivandière, training with the soldiers, fighting in battle, and helping the injured. Mary Carroll, a Missouri rebel, forged a copy of a jail cell key to break her brother out before his scheduled execution. These and other little-known stories are told through gripping narrative, primary source documents, and contextualizing sidebars. Civil War history is woven throughout, offering readers a clear overview of the era and the war. Also including numerous historic photos, source notes, and a bibliography, Courageous Women of the Civil War is an invaluable resource for any student’s or history buff’s bookshelf. 


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At the outbreak of the Civil War, nearly everybody was caught up in patriotic fervor—men and women, Union and Confederate. Many women supported soldiers through knitting and sewing needed items, growing food, making bandages, gathering medical supplies, and more. But others wished they could be closer to the fight. These women defied society’s expectations and bravely chos At the outbreak of the Civil War, nearly everybody was caught up in patriotic fervor—men and women, Union and Confederate. Many women supported soldiers through knitting and sewing needed items, growing food, making bandages, gathering medical supplies, and more. But others wished they could be closer to the fight. These women defied society’s expectations and bravely chose to take on more dangerous, unconventional roles. Courageous Women of the Civil War reveals the exploits of 16 of these remarkable women who served as medics, spies, battlefield helpers, and even soldiers on the front lines. Meet fascinating figures such as Maria Lewis, a former slave who fought with the Union cavalry as it swept through Virginia. Disguised as a white male soldier, she “put the fear of Hell” into Confederate enemies. Kady Brownell supported her husband’s Rhode Island regiment as a vivandière, training with the soldiers, fighting in battle, and helping the injured. Mary Carroll, a Missouri rebel, forged a copy of a jail cell key to break her brother out before his scheduled execution. These and other little-known stories are told through gripping narrative, primary source documents, and contextualizing sidebars. Civil War history is woven throughout, offering readers a clear overview of the era and the war. Also including numerous historic photos, source notes, and a bibliography, Courageous Women of the Civil War is an invaluable resource for any student’s or history buff’s bookshelf. 

30 review for Courageous Women of the Civil War: Soldiers, Spies, Medics, and More

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    Interesting read about not-your-average women of the Civil War. Some I had heard about, some not. Each chapter was about a different woman. Many of these women worked hard to do what they had to do to help the war effort, whichever side they were on. Everyone interested in the Civil War should read this. Especially those who thought all women did was sit around and say, "I do declare!" Interesting read about not-your-average women of the Civil War. Some I had heard about, some not. Each chapter was about a different woman. Many of these women worked hard to do what they had to do to help the war effort, whichever side they were on. Everyone interested in the Civil War should read this. Especially those who thought all women did was sit around and say, "I do declare!"

  2. 4 out of 5

    Becky Loader

    Nicely done biographies of women in the Civil War. I was especially interested in the chapter on vivandieres, since they are controversial in the re-enacting community.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ben Truong

    Courageous Women of the Civil War: Soldiers, Spies, Medics, and More is written by Melinda R. Cordell and pays homage to sixteen women heroes that participated in the American Civil War as medics, spies, battlefield helpers, and even soldiers. This book is divided into four sections, which group these women as Soldiers, Spies, Nurses, and Vivandiéres. Cordell has written powerful, riveting, and concise biographies of each of these sixteen women war heroes. She writes intelligently with engaging n Courageous Women of the Civil War: Soldiers, Spies, Medics, and More is written by Melinda R. Cordell and pays homage to sixteen women heroes that participated in the American Civil War as medics, spies, battlefield helpers, and even soldiers. This book is divided into four sections, which group these women as Soldiers, Spies, Nurses, and Vivandiéres. Cordell has written powerful, riveting, and concise biographies of each of these sixteen women war heroes. She writes intelligently with engaging narrative, among historic photos, source notes, and a rather in-depth bibliography. Cordell has also given an overview of the Civil War and summaries the state of the United States of America where these women lived and breathed. All in all, Courageous Women of the Civil War: Soldiers, Spies, Medics, and More is a wonderfully written book and a magnificent collection of mini-biographies of sixteen war heroes, who happens to be women. It is a good read and reference book for anyone who wants to learn more about women in history.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Oghafoerkhan

    I really enjoyed reading this book, I found it to be extremely engaging and informative. I feel I learned more about the civil war reading this book than I did in both my high school and my college history courses. The author did an amazing job gathering sources, which then enabled her to provide quotes from letters and diaries that helped bring these women to life. I'd love to meet some of these women, they are amazing, and they truly feel real to me now. I highly recommend this book to anyone I really enjoyed reading this book, I found it to be extremely engaging and informative. I feel I learned more about the civil war reading this book than I did in both my high school and my college history courses. The author did an amazing job gathering sources, which then enabled her to provide quotes from letters and diaries that helped bring these women to life. I'd love to meet some of these women, they are amazing, and they truly feel real to me now. I highly recommend this book to anyone with a teenager, who teaches high school, or who is just interested in history. I think some middle school students would even enjoy this book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mcat

    This is a book which gives snippets of information regarding several women in the American Civil War, but not lengthy chapters or a full biography from the information we know. The role of women in history is one of my greatest interests, particularly women who took up arms and dressed as men to go to war. Many of these women I’d heard of before, but I’d never read about Frances Quinn, who was discovered and rejoined the army numerous times I was a bit disappointed Jennie Hodgers wasn’t included This is a book which gives snippets of information regarding several women in the American Civil War, but not lengthy chapters or a full biography from the information we know. The role of women in history is one of my greatest interests, particularly women who took up arms and dressed as men to go to war. Many of these women I’d heard of before, but I’d never read about Frances Quinn, who was discovered and rejoined the army numerous times I was a bit disappointed Jennie Hodgers wasn’t included, but this book doesn’t profess to tell of every single woman soldier in the America Civil War, and I’ll definitely read the other books in the series.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rrshively

    This was a totally engaging book about women who served as soldiers (in disguise), spies, medics, and vivandieres during the Civil War. If you don't know what the last category is, that's all the more reason to read the book. I learned so much from this in an enjoyable way, even the circumstances around Fort Sumpter. I also learned about a battalion of men known as the Zauves with a very unique uniform of whom I had never heard even though I have read and seen a lot of movies about the Civil War This was a totally engaging book about women who served as soldiers (in disguise), spies, medics, and vivandieres during the Civil War. If you don't know what the last category is, that's all the more reason to read the book. I learned so much from this in an enjoyable way, even the circumstances around Fort Sumpter. I also learned about a battalion of men known as the Zauves with a very unique uniform of whom I had never heard even though I have read and seen a lot of movies about the Civil War. These women were really very courageous and many found that large skirts were a hindrance. The vivandieres even wore short skirts with trousers, a harbinger for future women.

  7. 4 out of 5

    S.G.D. Singh

    From soldiers to spies, from nurses to vivandières, these women will leave you inspired by their unwavering courage and in awe of their service. Absolutely unputdownable! This book should be required reading in every school in The United States, and even the world! I'm definitely recommend this book—not even a little bit dry, it's full of photographs, the words of the actual women, images from newspapers —the stories are brought to life! Check it out, you won't regret it! From soldiers to spies, from nurses to vivandières, these women will leave you inspired by their unwavering courage and in awe of their service. Absolutely unputdownable! This book should be required reading in every school in The United States, and even the world! I'm definitely recommend this book—not even a little bit dry, it's full of photographs, the words of the actual women, images from newspapers —the stories are brought to life! Check it out, you won't regret it!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    Great reference book. I didn't read it straight through. I skimmed through it. Great reference book. I didn't read it straight through. I skimmed through it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    great book for high school age

  10. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin Green

    I read this out loud with my 7th grader; it was informative and the right length for her age.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Brianna Westervelt

    “Courage? I should think, sir, a soldier’s wife ought to have courage.” This quote, in the introduction of Courageous Women of the Civil War from Chicago Review Press, is the first inkling of the book’s ensuing subject. However, the women in this book proved themselves to be much more than soldier’s wives. In this volume, author M.R. Cordell includes both Union and Confederate women, divided up by their roles: soldiers, spies, nurses, and vivandières. In this reviewer’s opinion it is best to read “Courage? I should think, sir, a soldier’s wife ought to have courage.” This quote, in the introduction of Courageous Women of the Civil War from Chicago Review Press, is the first inkling of the book’s ensuing subject. However, the women in this book proved themselves to be much more than soldier’s wives. In this volume, author M.R. Cordell includes both Union and Confederate women, divided up by their roles: soldiers, spies, nurses, and vivandières. In this reviewer’s opinion it is best to read each portion in one sitting, lest you get lost in the numerous aliases used by women soldiers and spies. Unfortunately, the sections on each woman are short in length, which leaves the reader wanting more. One of the more compelling portions was about Mary Carroll, a Missouri teenager who was a Confederate sympathizer. When her brother was jailed by the Unionist Missouri militia for trying to join the Confederate army, Carroll did everything she could to get her brother out of jail, including agreeing to an engagement (albeit a short-lived one), hiding a crowbar under her skirts, stealing keys, and even carving a key out of wood. Another compelling story in this book was that of Mary Jane Richards, a half-black, half-white slave who became a spy within a woman-run covert operations unit and was placed in the Confederate White House! In my opinion, this story certainly deserves a more-detailed and crafted narrative in an individual title. In fact, a number of these women’s lives have strong narratives. Therefore, each of these women deserve their own book, and that should be your next action, Chicago Review Press, in your Women of Action series. This book is an excellent primer for continued exploration of these women’s lives, especially as author M.R. Cordell provides short “Learn More” bibliographies at the end of each woman’s section. However, this volume certainly could have benefited from some sort of conclusion or epilogue. Instead, it just ends. And that’s not adequate for the lives of these courageous women.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    Had I the motivation to do so, I could have finished this book in one sitting. The profiles themselves only take up 3/4 of the book, the other quarter being dedicated to acknowledgments, author's notes, etc. They were also interesting to read, especially since most of these women are never addressed in they typical Civil War education that public school children receive. Or, at least, that I did when I was in school, Harriet Tubman being the only figure I recognized. I liked that the stories put Had I the motivation to do so, I could have finished this book in one sitting. The profiles themselves only take up 3/4 of the book, the other quarter being dedicated to acknowledgments, author's notes, etc. They were also interesting to read, especially since most of these women are never addressed in they typical Civil War education that public school children receive. Or, at least, that I did when I was in school, Harriet Tubman being the only figure I recognized. I liked that the stories put emphasis on the contributions of other women, like Julia Wilbur who is mentioned on several occasion throughout the book, even if those women didn't have a full chapter devoted to them. Great emphasis was also placed on the atrocities of slavery and the poor treatment of people of color once they'd been freed, even in the Union states. Often, people forget that gaining freedom was only one step for former slaves.

  13. 5 out of 5

    S.

    Always a pleasure to read the work of Melinda R. Cordell!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Cheri L. Mize

  15. 4 out of 5

    SarahO

  16. 4 out of 5

    Brad

  17. 5 out of 5

    Colleen Bavins

  18. 4 out of 5

    Boyd Dart

  19. 5 out of 5

    Chrissy

  20. 4 out of 5

    Liz Carter

  21. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

  22. 4 out of 5

    Angela

  23. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Rightler

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Eldredge

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

  26. 5 out of 5

    Julie Williams

  27. 5 out of 5

    Laure Burt

  28. 4 out of 5

    Denise Griffith

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ele Fogg

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