Monday, August 22, 2016

Women Civil War Soldiers: Digging up the Evidence

Fellow blogger, Ann Marie Ackermann, recently asked me to compose a guest post for her.  Since her writings center around historical true crime, I thought I'd write about the detective work behind researching women soldiers. 

Click (HERE) for the post.  

Please check out other content on her blog.  She's got some interesting information! 

I am eagerly awaiting the release of her book, Death of an Assassin:  The True Story of the German Murderer Who Died Defending Robert E. Lee to be released in 2017!  Sounds fascinating!  You can read a little more about her project by clicking (HERE).  You can also sign up to receive updates.

Until next

Friday, July 15, 2016


 No, not the explorer.

Dora of the Cumberland; although, she did some exploring  as a Union spy, sometimes in male clothing, sometimes in female garb.  Her prowess led some to compare her to Pauline Cushman.  And, like Cushman, Dora was born a Southerner.  While the former woman was born in New Orleans, the latter was born in Tennessee, east Tennessee to be precise. And, like many in that area, harbored Union sympathies.   

The novel, Dora, the Heroine of the Cumberland, published by Barclay and Co. in 1864, opens in the Volunteer state with the heroine as a prisoner of the Confederates, having been captured while carrying dispatches from General Grant.  Destitute, Dora began to sing in her jail cell, the pleasing melody in turn capturing the Confederates who were enthralled with her sweet voice.  They so enjoyed her talent that they asked her to continue singing.  Seeing an opportunity, Dora replied that she could no longer sing while confined and that she needed to experience freedom outside her jail cell in order to continue her sweet songs.  This prompted a gullible Confederate major to take her to a clearing where he seated himself upon a fallen log next to a drop that lead to a river.  Of course, Dora pushed him off the log and into the water, which enabled her to escape.

As Dora explained, "It was just a trial of woman's wit against man's brute strength."

The heroine wasn't done yet as she went on more missions given to  her by Grant himself.  And through all of her adventures, which took her across Tennessee, Missouri, and Mississippi, Dora carried with her a secret identity that is revealed at the end.  Who was she?  Did she survive?

You can read the wartime novel for free by clicking (HERE).  Then choose an option from the menu on the left.

Click (HERE) to read a previous blog post I wrote about two other wartime novels.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

My Indiana Talks, 6/13 and 6/14/16

Everything was going as planned.  I got home from church, ate a quick sandwich, loaded everything in the car, and headed west to the train station.  I left the same time I always leave, which means I would arrive the same time I always arrive, typically 30-45 minutes prior to boarding.  And then came the congestion on I-12.  Traffic is always heavy in places on the interstate, but I had never just come to a complete stop before.  And it happened in two different areas....both due to wrecks.  One involved five vehicles. 

I nervously stared at my watch as I sat motionless.  I turned off the air and tilted my sun roof before checking the Amtrak app.  Yep, train's on time.  My mind began to whirl as I tried to decide what best to do.  I could depart the and forsake my usual station for the next one.  I checked the app again.  It was now 15 minutes late.  Whew!  That was better, but I still had no idea how long I would be in the quagmire that was Interstate 12.   I decided to chance it and continue to my original station.  We finally started moving again, and I  made it to my exit and then to the station where I breathed a huge sigh.  My relief, though, was short lived.  As soon as I opened the car door, I heard the whistle, which sent me into a frenzy as I began slinging bags out of the car.  Thank goodness I had the presence of mind to lock it as I fled with two roller bags, a small duffel, a back pack, and purse. 

The train was boarding when I raced across the road from the parking lot and up to the platform.  Thank goodness you don't have to go through ridiculous security (not yet anyway) or I would have definitely missed the train.  The nice sleeping car attendant met me half way, took some of my bags, and helped me get everything loaded.  I made my way to my room and noticed someone was in it.  I was already in a foul mood and decided it was best to let the attendant handle it.  The mother and daughter apologized and made their way to their room upstairs.  I finally settled in and collapsed from exhaustion and stress. 

This is actually a Meerkat at the Indianapolis Zoo that Mark and I were able to visit during our trip.

And then it hit me.

Photo by Mark Hidlebaugh

I couldn't remember whether I closed my sun roof or not!  Since it had been intermittently raining, you'd think I'd have enough sense to do so, but in my rush, I couldn't be sure.  Over the next week and a half that I would be away from home, I would stare helplessly at the radar as storms passed through my area.  Surely, my insurance would cover it.  Right?  Getting older is torturous. 

Well, the trip was off to a challenging start, and I couldn't help but wonder how my presentations would go.  Was my equipment going to blow up? 

Mark and I managed to arrive at the cafeteria where I would be speaking at the year-end banquet for the Indianapolis Round Table.  Everybody was so nice and welcoming!  I am particularly impressed with the work Mrs. Jenny Thompson has done with their newsletter called the Hardtack.  It is packed with lots of information!  Speaking of publications, they presented me with a book documenting the first 50 years of their round table.  And one of their members, Ms. Nikki Stoddard Schofield, gave me an autographed copy of her Civil War novel called Confederates in Canada.  As she explained, it is a romantic tale but not "that kind."

Before the presentation, we shared a nice meal with them.  The conversation, along with the food, was wonderful, and I was good and stuffed by the time I spoke!

Photo by Mark Hidlebaugh
The following day, Mark and I headed to Bloomington, Indiana, where I spoke for the Monroe County Roundtable (Some organizations use one word for "roundtable" while others use two).   Scott Schroeder, the president, had a nice introduction for me, and off I went.

Photo by Mark Hidlebaugh
Afterwards, Scott took us out to eat where we shared a nice meal and wonderful conversation.  Scott is a Lincoln researcher and gives presentations as well.  It was fun swapping stories.

The two groups, which were comprised of between 25-30 guests, were very inquisitive.  Every time I glanced at the gear table at both places, there were tons of people keeping Mark busy with all sorts of questions.  He does an awesome job laying out all of the stuff and explaining the items while I am setting up my electronic equipment.  He is especially adept at pulling in folks who are more shy and may not have otherwise asked any questions.

Photo by Mark Hidlebaugh
At both places, hands shot up everywhere as soon as I was done.  They had some great queries.  One gentleman even asked me to speak in my "man voice!"  I told him it was difficult to do out of uniform and even more so when they kept making me laugh.  But then I suddenly fell into character and abandoned my "teacher voice" in favor of a soft tone.  I also began to speak very slowly, which isn't anything out of the ordinary since we Southern folk tend to do everything slowly anyway.  The gentleman nodded his head in approval as if he was able to understand now how a women soldier would have been able to get away with the vocal part of her disguise.

I'm pleased to say that everything went very well with my talks.  I shared with both groups brand new research regarding one of the better-known women soldiers who had an Indiana connection, and I think the attendees appreciated that.  It also helps when your equipment doesn't turn on you.  That's right.  It actually behaved for both talks!

After bidding the extraordinarily kind folks of Indiana farewell, Mark and I headed to Springfield, Illinois where we spent a couple of days.  During our stay, we encountered an outstanding Lincoln reenactor named Fritz Klein.  We enjoyed chatting with him over ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery.  He listened intently when I told him about the two women soldiers who had connections with Lincoln.  He seemed genuinely interested and asked quite a few questions with a tongue stained red from sorbet.

We took our leave of Springfield and headed to Nashville, Illinois for me to do research.  After coming up empty, we then went to Alton to see the remnants of a prison that once held several woman soldier prisoners.  Pictures are forthcoming on the Facebook page.  We concluded our road trip in St. Louis before returning to Mark's place in Iowa.  After spending three days with him, I returned home by train. 

And yes, my sun roof was closed just the way I left it. 

Until next

"Brave as a Lion"-Alfred J. Luther....Or Someone Else?

On April 6th, 1863, while stationed at Lake Providence, Louisiana with the 1st Minnesota Light Artillery, Fred L. Haywood wrote to his sister, Loesa, .

"One of the members of the 1st Kansas Reg't died in the Hospital yesterday after a very short illness.  After death the somewhat startling discovery was made by those preparing the body for burial, that their companion, beside whom they had marched and fought for nearly two years was a woman.  You can imagine their astonishment.  The Reg't is camped near us and I went to the Hospital and saw her.  She was of pretty good size for a woman with rather masculine features.  She must have been very shrewd to keep her secret for so long when she was surrounded by several hundred men.  The 1st Kansas was one of the first Regiments that entered the service two years ago.  This girl enlisted when they went to Missouri, so they knew nothing of her early history.  She doubtless served under an assumed name.  Poor girl!  Who knows what trouble, grief, or persecution drove her to embrace the hardships of a soldier's life.  She had always sustained an excellent reputation in the Regiment.  She was brave as a Lion in battle and never flinched from the severest fatigues or the hardest duties.  She had been in more than a dozen battles and skirmishes.  She was a Sergeant when she died.  The men in the company all speak of her in terms of respect and affection  She would have been promoted to a Lieutenancy in a few days if she had lived."

You can read a typescript version of the letter by clicking (HERE).   It is lengthy.  The part where he mentions the woman soldier can be found on pages 11 and 12.

Newspapers such as the Nashville Dispatch picked up the story and printed part of Haywood's letter.

Who was this soldier?  Haywood didn't provide her real name or alias.  Blanton and Cook in They Fought Like Demons (2002) identified her as "Alfred J. Luther" of company A.  Richard Hall in Women on the Civil War Battlefront (2006) agreed.

Let's take a closer look.

Military Portrait of Sgt. Luther:

According to the Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Kansas, 24-year-old Luther enlisted in Co. A of the 1st Kansas Infantry.  The Massachusetts native was living in Elwood, Kansas upon enlistment on May 30th, 1861.  The soldier was appointed to corporal.  Less than three months later, Luther was wounded at Wilson's Creek but recovered.

 After serving in Missouri during the early part of the war, the 1st Kansas was eventually ordered to Columbus, Kentucky where the unit was detailed to guard the Mobile and Ohio Railroad.  During this time, on May 1st, 1862, Luther was promoted to sergeant.

The 1st Kansas was ordered to Tennessee and then to Mississippi where the unit marched to the relief of Corinth in October, 1862, and then participated in the pursuit of the Confederates to Ripley.   Late 1862,  the regiment participated in Grant's Central Mississippi Campaign.  In February, 1863, the 1st Kansas was ordered to Lake Providence, Louisiana where Sgt. Luther fell ill of varioloid, a form of small pox.  There, the soldier died on March 22nd, 1863.


"Alfred J. Luther" was originally buried at Lake Providence and eventually reinterred at Vicksburg National Cemetery, section K, grave 5971.


Photo by Mark Hidlebaugh

 The grave is in the shadow of the remains of the Cairo.

Photo by Mark Hidlebaugh

Click the link below to see Alfred's cenotaph memorial in Naskatucket Cemetery, located in Fairhaven, Bristol County Massachusetts:

Two of Alfred's brothers served:  William in the 3rd Massachusetts Infantry and Leonard in the 18th Massachusetts Infantry and the 5th Massachusetts Light Artillery. 

Alfred Luther Before the War:

There are no names other than the patriarch's listed on the 1840 census.  Other household members are just numbered.  The only female listed must be the mother, Thankful, due to the age.  All others are males.  According to the 1850 census, Alfred Luther was living in the Jenney household in Bristol, Massachusetts.  Next door  was another Jenney family with Charles F. and Susan Luther living with them.  Based on family trees on Ancestry, Jenney was the maiden name of the Luther children's mother, Thankful (Yes, that was her name.).  She died in 1846, when the youngest child, Susan, was approximately a year old.  The father, James Miller Luther, dumped the children off on other families.  Alfred, Charles, Susan, and Edward went to live with their mother's extended family.  William, George, and Leonard were taken in by other families.  The father, James, remarried in 1857.

By 1855, Alfred had moved on to live with the Snow family in North Bridgewater, Plymouth County, Massachusetts.  According to the state census, Luther, now 18, was a carpenter.

While the other siblings remained behind in Massachusetts, Charles and A.J. moved west, eventually ending up in Kansas at the time of the war.  According to the 1860 census, Charles was living in Elwood.  Alfred was there, too, based on the residence listed upon enlistment in the 1st Kansas.  Furthermore, both Luthers show up as registered voters in Elwood in 1859.  But as of yet, I haven't been able to locate Alfred in the 1860 census in Kansas or Missouri.

Conundrums and Inconsistencies:

Was Alfred J. Luther the woman soldier Haywood wrote about?    One problem I noticed was the timing.  Haywood composed his missive on April 6th, 1863, and noted that Luther died "yesterday," which would have been April 5th.  Yet, records indicate that Luther died on March 22nd, 1863.  Was Haywood's sense of time that off?  He did not write the letter over a period of two weeks.  It is continuous.  Besides, he begins the letter by reminiscing about the Battle of Shiloh, which was April 6th-7th, 1862.  So he was writing on the anniversary.  Was the wrong date of death recorded?   But again, there is a two-week difference between Luther's death and Haywood's letter.  That's a long time.  Furthermore, the enlistment location is another inconsistency.  Luther enlisted in Elwood, Kansas while Haywood mention that the deceased woman soldier enlisted in Missouri when the 1st Kansas went there.  Did Haywood misidentify the regiment?  Or perhaps historians misidentified this woman soldier?  I searched the roster of the 1st Kansas Infantry but could not find a soldier of any rank who died on April 5th.  The closest one I saw was March 31st.  And, unfortunately, I haven't been able to locate any other letters or diaries that mention this account.   Was this a different woman soldier altogether whose records were purged after her identity was discovered prior to burial?

The census records provide a further source of questions.  In all of the reports I've been able to find dating back to 1840, Alfred was listed as a male.  While there were some women, such as Jennie Hodgers, Rosetta Wakeman, and Emma Edmonds, who lived as disguised men before the war for opportunistic reasons, is that the case with Alfred?  Some of the Luther children were originally taken in by their mother's family, the Jenneys, who, undoubtedly knew the identity of the kids.  Or did they?  Did Alfred's parents disguise "her" as a male from a very  young age?  If so, why didn't they do the same with Susan? 

Or perhaps Alfred really was a male as the census reports claim.  It seems unlikely that Alfred J. Luther was a female living in male disguise since birth.  And then there's the whole date of the letter/date of death issue.  There just seem to be too many variables involved for A.J. Luther to be the woman soldier who died while serving in the 1st Kansas Infantry.

Another option would be that if a female who knew Alfred assumed his identity.  But there should still be records of Alfred himself after the war, and I haven't been able to find anything yet, which indicates that it was indeed Alfred J. Luther himself and not a substitute who died.

Unanswered Questions:

Wrong date?  Wrong regiment?  Wrong soldier?   Or was Haywood the victim of a prank rendering his story just flat-out wrong?

Until next

Friday, May 27, 2016

Remembering the Forgotten on Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance.   We pay homage to all of those who served and made the ultimate sacrifice throughout our history.  As you visit their final resting places, you may be surprised to learn that the grave you are gazing upon is that of a Civil War woman soldier.  Many of them took their secrets to their graves.  Because these women were forbidden to serve, they had to remain hidden within the ranks as disguised men.  And because they were hidden, they've largely been forgotten, along with their sacrifices.  These women are resting right next to their male counterparts with whom they stood shoulder to shoulder upon the bloody battlefields of the Civil War.

So this weekend, honor them, so that they will not be forgotten.

I have added a tab at the top of my blog that lists the cemeteries where these women warriors lie.  I've just started with National Cemeteries and will add more later.  It is a work in progress.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Oxford, MS Talk-5/21/16

I met Ms. Reba Greer in April 2015, when I spoke at the Delta Kappa Gamma state convention in Olive Branch, Mississippi.  After that, she worked tirelessly to set up something where I could come speak in Oxford where she lives and volunteers.  I wish I had as much energy as she has!  So after locating a venue at the Burns-Belfrey Museum and Multicultural Center, the group of sponsors, which included the Oxford Newcomers Club, Cedar Oaks Guild, and the Oxford-Lafayette County Retiree Attraction Program, set out to promote my presentation.  And they did a fabulous job!  They advertised by newspaper, social media, radio, and this very nice poster!  

By the time I arrived in Oxford, I felt like a rock star!  They put Mark and me up in a nice new hotel on the square that had a retro feel to it.  When we checked in, we found a goody bag filled with nice things in our room.  And before I spoke, I was presented with a cute gift that I opened later.  It was a nice piece of pottery.  They really rolled out the red carpet for Mark and me.

There were over 50 attendees, including some young ladies from the local Boys and Girls club who were seated on the front row as guests of honor.  Another young guest was a gentleman who was fascinated with Mark's pocket watch.  We set up a table of gear the guests would pass by just as they walked in, and he was instantly drawn to the piece, so much so that he asked his grandmother for one.  Heh.  All of these youngsters were very well behaved, mature, and articulate.  I was impressed with how they interacted with me during my presentation with their comments, questions, and even more so with the structure of their answers to questions I posed to them.   

Another interesting guest was a lady from Orleans, France!  She wins the prize for the guest who traveled the farthest.  Ha!  If I remember correctly, she is going to be teaching French at Ole Miss, which is in Oxford, and she was getting settled in with her host family who just happened to find out the day of my talk about it and asked to attend.  Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to speak to either lady due to so many people asking questions and chatting with me afterwards.

I was honored to have Scott attend.  He has been my Facebook friend for a while, and I had never met him in person until he came to my talk.    The three of us had a good conversation afterwards, and I wish we had had more time.

Two gentlemen approached me after my talk and expressed particular interest in a reference I included about several women soldiers spotted in their hometown of Henderson, Tennessee in 1862.  One of the men is writing an article about his experience at my presentation for his local newspaper.  I thought that was very nice and a good way to spread the word about women soldiers.  He is also writing a book dealing with Civil War stories from his community.  Best wishes to him for his project.

As for the talk itself, it went pretty smoothly.  My haunted equipment messed with me only a couple of times.  The battery in my lapel microphone had died.  I put a new one in only a few months ago, and it worked fine a couple of weeks ago when I spoke for the American Legion.  Thank goodness, the one in the hand-held mic was still good.  So I took it out and used it in the lapel mic.  It meant Mark had to use what I call a "teacher voice" for his part.  Also, my first chapter slide had disappeared.  Yeah, it just wasn't there.  So these were nothing major.  Either that or I've become adept at dealing with my possessed stuff.

There were lots of great questions as usual.  Some posed queries that nobody has asked before, including the average age of women soldiers and a request for Mark and me to explain our uniforms.  I was wearing mine at the behest of Ms. Greer.  Since Mark always dons his Federal kit for the part he plays in my talk, I  wore my Confederate uniform for variety.  So I got to briefly explain the commutation and depot supply systems.   We also displayed authentic, handsewn replicas of the 2nd Mississippi Infantry's battle flag and a generic Hardee corps flag, and we explained those as well.   The 2nd Mississippi was formed mostly from counties surrounding Lafayette County where Oxford is located.  Residents of Lafayette County formed two companies of the 11th Mississippi, one of which was the University Grays composed of students from the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss).  They suffered 100% casualties at Gettysburg.  So my talks sometimes aren't exclusively about women soldiers.

Following the talk, the plantation home, Cedar Oaks, opened its door for tours.  So Mark and I joined docents in period clothing there.  The ladies were so nice and welcoming.   I have a picture, but it won't load.  So check my Facebook page later.  I'll add it, and others, there.

As for the journey to get to Oxford and back, Mark and I decided to make a week-long trip out of it.  We drove up through Natchez, Port Gibson, the ghost town of Rodney, and Vicksburg where we spent two days visiting the battlefield and the grave of "Alfred J. Luther," a woman soldier buried in the national cemetery there.  We were worn out by the time we got to Oxford.

After our stay in Oxford, we went north to Memphis where Mark was to catch a flight back home.  Before going to the airport, we stopped at the national cemetery to visit the grave of another woman soldier.  Forgetting to record the section where she is buried made the search more challenging.  I blared "The Ecstasy of Gold" from my phone in order to set the mood for the task at hand....and to drown out all the rap music coming from the other side of the fence.  So with the appropriate soundtrack, off I went:

While this was fun, I finally broke down and conducted a search on my phone to find the right section.  After finally locating the grave, we paid our respects while offering apologies to Eli Wallach, Sergio Leone, and Ennio Morricone.

The following day, we spent some time in the nice little town of Collierville where Sherman nearly avoided capture, and then headed off to the airport so Mark could catch his flight home.  Just like on the way down, the TSA decided to pull his bags aside for additional screening.   Neither of us was too happy with that.  But I personally didn't have to deal with it since I no longer fly due to the implementation of the "enhanced" screening techniques five years ago.  So I drove home.

 It was pretty uneventful except for when I was nearly run over by a teenaged boy with a handicapped tag hanging from his rearview mirror.  Something tells me this was bogus.  Maybe because he lacked the same handicapped emblem on his license plate.   And then later on, I looked in the rearview mirror in time to see a teenaged girl holding a cellphone aloft nearly run over me as if she were in a monster truck.  I moved out of the way just in time.  If she had been going any faster, I would have missed the Hello Kitty bumper sticker.  I felt as if I were a part of an Allstate commercial.

Until next

Friday, May 13, 2016

He Ain't a Unionist; He's My Brother

My apologies to the Hollies.....

When researching, I will often come across non-woman soldier references that I find rather unique, odd, and/or humorous.   This one is courtesy of the St. Louis provost.  Basically, G.G. Ebert was employed by the Union to carry dispatches for Rosecrans in Virginia during the winter of 1861.  When he returned to St. Louis the following year, he paid a visit to his brother, E.B. Ebert, who called him a

.....and promptly called the police. How's that for a greeting????

As if the provost didn't have enough to deal with....

From Fold3 or Ancestry....I forgot.

Not sure how this was resolved as I didn't look further into this case, but I'm sure mama would have dealt with it promptly.  Heh

Until next

Monday, April 18, 2016

Women Soldiers of the 95th Illinois at Camp Fuller

Camp Fuller was established at Rockford, Illinois in 1862, following Lincoln's call for volunteers to serve the Union.  Soldiers began arriving in August.  In all, four regiments trained at the camp before being sent to the front.   One was the 95th Illinois Infantry which was mustered into service there on September 4th and began making preparations for war.  Camp Fuller "...became busy with the hum and tramp..." of "Squad drills, company and battalion drills, [and] dress parades...."   The 95th remained there until November 4th, 1862, when it was ordered initially to Cairo, Illinois, and thence to the front.    When the unit left Rockford, there were at least two, possibly four, women in the ranks.

Jennie Hodgers, alias "Albert Cashier," was one of them.  If you conduct an on-line search for women soldiers, you will readily find information about her.  She is perhaps the best known.  But it is relatively unknown that she wasn't the only one in the 95th Illinois.    

Thomas Hannah
After departing Rockford, the unit made its way to the Volunteer State.  While in camp near Jackson, Tennessee on November 17th, 1862, Private Thomas Hannah of company G penned a letter to his wife detailing the discovery of a woman in the ranks.  "We have just discovered one of our soulders (sic) belonging to this rigment (sic) is a women (sic) and she is found out and sent home[.] [S]he is one of those loose coractors [characters] that used to run around camp in Rockford[.] [S]he put on men[']s clothes and enlisted just before we started[.]

This account brings up several questions.  Was this woman indeed a prostitute as Hannah hinted?  It was a common presumption soldiers made when a woman was discovered in the ranks because they couldn't understand why one would want to defy societal norms.  So she must be up to no good.  At this time, there is no proof that the woman was indeed a "soiled dove."  This may have been merely Hannah's perception.  Even if she was, she may have been using the army to escape the institution.  As a "man," she would have freedom to control her own life, something she certainly lacked as a prostitute.  On the other hand, one must ask why did she not show up to the camp already in male disguise if she had sincerely desired to be a soldier.  It appears that this was a spontaneous decision perhaps prompted by a male soldier.  Regardless of her motives, she would have performed the same duties as any other male soldier during the three months she was with the regiment.

Hannah didn't specify which company this unknown woman was with, but what he didn't realize was that he was serving with one within his own company, Jennie Hodgers, who was not a "loose coractor."

Also in company G was Sergeant Charles W. Ives who related the story of two other women soldiers whose mannerisms gave them away, "One day an officer threw apples to six fellows of the company.  Four of them caught them man fashion.  But the girls, dressed in military uniform, forgot and made a grab for their aprons.  The next morning the orderly sergeant had two less to assign to duty."

What an amusing sight that must have been!

It is unknown when the women Ives mentioned enlisted.  But he did say that they were discovered "from the first."  This implies that they were at Camp Fuller with the others.  If this is the case, that means at least four women soldiers trained at Camp Fuller in Rockford with the 95th Illinois, three of whom belonged to company G alone.

To read more about Camp Fuller, click on the link below.

There is a marker that was supposedly placed at the camp's entrance.  

Photos by Aaron Rowland

However, one researcher claimed it was in the wrong place.

It was moved last fall but not to the location where the researcher claimed to be the correct spot.

I guess we can say that these women were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Until next


Wood, Wales J. A History of the Ninety-Fifth Regiment, Illinois Infantry Volunteers, p. 13-26

Thomas Hannah letter:,_1862-11-17,_Jackson,_TN.pdf

Image of Thomas Hannah:

Ives quote:  Davis, Rodney O. "Private Albert Cashier As Regarded by His/Her Comrades," Illinois Historical Journal, Volume 82, no 2, summer 1989, p. 110-112.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

South Mississippi Genealogical and Historical Society Talk AAR, 4/5/16

When I have a talk approaching, I create an event for it on Facebook in order to help spread the word for those who are interested in attending.  At one point, I was able to embed one of those events into a blog post so I could share it here, too.  But alas, it hasn't worked since.  I keep getting an error about privacy settings and some such.  But my event announcements are set to public, so I don't get it.  Grrr.....


Monday, I pulled up my schedule of talks in order to get the address of the location where I would be speaking Saturday so could add it to the event I was creating.  What I saw absolutely scared me to death.  I probably resembled a cartoon character whose eyes were bugging out of the head.  With a tingly feeling rushing through my body in a wave of panic, I quickly pulled up the other two copies of my schedule I have posted elsewhere.  They only confirmed what I feared.  My talk was the very next day, not Saturday! 

I had not heard from the president of the South Mississippi Genealogical and Historical Society, so I shot her a quick email.  All kinds of frightful thoughts were running through my head.  Had they forgotten about me?  Did I have the wrong date?  No, an email wouldn't do........this was an emergency, so I decided to call.   Thank goodness Ms. Goss answered and we were able to confirm everything.   Disaster diverted!  PHEW!!!

So yeah, I showed up on the right day and proceeded to set everything up.  The room was the smallest I have ever spoken in.  But everything fit.  So all was well.

.....except for my technology.  You know how it's always messing with me?  This time, it was my title slide.  Yeah, right off the bat!!  I have it set up so that as soon as I display it, a song plays.  The melody serves two purposes:  entertains the attendees as they are getting settled in, and allows me to adjust the volume of my sound system.  It's hard to do that when it doesn't play!  Oh big deal.  So I started talking and when I mashed the button to advance the slide, music permeated the air.   Right.  But at least that was the only issue I had to deal with.

The tiny room was packed.  I honestly don't know how they got all of those people in there.  One lady had also come to my presentation to a DAR group back in September.  It was good to see her again! This group was awesome!  They laughed, smiled, made comments and asked questions during and after my talk.    

I was asked to keep my talk to 45 minutes, which means I had to cut out a lot of cool stuff.  But there were so many questions afterwards that it ended up going nearly the full length anyway!  Since this was a genealogical society, a lot of folks shared their own history,  and I enjoy listening to them.  I think the most interesting question I got was which battle I have enjoyed reenacting the most.  Hmmm......Pickett's charge at the 150th BGA Gettysburg was neat just for the numbers involved.   We did Peachtree Creek at Boscobel, Wisconsin a couple of years ago which was also memorable. I've always been drawn to Franklin, so that was special to recreate several years ago, again at Boscobel.  

A lady mentioned that she read this particular novel about a woman soldier and wanted my opinion of it, so I told her.  It sucked.   But that's a whole other discussion.

Mark was unable to accompany me, so there aren't any of his cool pictures to share.  You have to settle with this poor attempt of me snapping this one with my phone of the banner draping the table that held the lectern. 

 Until next

Friday, April 1, 2016

Fool Me Once...

The two nurses moved about the steamship headed south, the vessel carrying them and the soldiers toward their fate.  The women wondered how many of these boys would not make the return trip home.  They knew the blue-clad warriors were pondering the same possibility, and so the ladies began to hand out handkerchiefs to them in hopes the pieces of cloth would perhaps remind them of the home they just left behind and help ease their mind in the turbulent times to come.

"Thank you, ma'am," was the common response as each soldier gladly took the handkerchief and stuffed it in a pocket.  The women smiled inwardly knowing that their small gesture was bringing a little comfort to these boys who surely were gripped with fear and anxiety.  They moved from man to man, offering kind words of encouragement, until one of the ladies found herself standing in front of a sight that left her stunned:  a small, slender individual with long hair.  This was a woman in uniform!  Disgusted that one of her own kind would dare to step outside her station, the woman quickly withdrew her outstretched hand holding a handkerchief and presented it to the next soldier.  Private James H. Guthrie, 1st Iowa Infantry, witnessed the snubbing and stealthily presented the little soldier with one anyway.

The other lady saw what had happened and they both shunned the woman soldier.  They went out of their way to avoid her and refused to even acknowledge her presence among the men as they continued handing out their gifts.  With the handkerchiefs gone, they proceeded to find the surgeon on board and reveal their startling discovery.

"Look at the shape of her ankles, legs, and hips which proves her to be a female!"

 They then implored him to examine the supposed woman in uniform, and, if their suspicions were correct, to put her overboard.

The seriousness of such an event would hardly be considered amusing, yet Guthrie struggled to contain a smile over the satisfaction he was receiving from this whole odd situation.

You see, this was all a prank facilitated by him.  The woman soldier was actually a young boy described by Guthrie as possessing "very long hair [more than likely shoulder length] and the most feminine appearance I ever saw."   He admitted that he "...posted him where he played the joke finely."  The charade "created quite a sensation and lots of fun."

Maybe for him and the boy but certainly not for the two women!

Much of a soldier's life was spent trying to relieve the boredom that plagued them in between the moments of sheer terror they experienced in battle.  In order to occupy their time, mischievous soldiers played jokes, some of which, like Guthrie's, centered around the presence of women soldiers.....and babies.

In 1863, some men of the Zouaves d'Afrique (114th Pennsylvania) had fun convincing their comrades that a
114th PA;  photo from Library of Congress
corporal of Company I was really a woman who had given birth.  The man had received a life-sized doll, complete with a  Zouave uniform, from friends who had won the toy at a fair.  The corporal fell ill soon after receiving the box, and rumors spread like wildfire that he was really a woman, specifically a rich heiress trying to escape an oppressive father, and that "her" confinement was due to childbirth.  Hundreds stopped by the tent in order to get a glimpse of the supposed mother and her new baby (the doll).  However, the pranksters took special care to keep anyone from lingering long enough to see through their ruse.  They also convinced a number of men to swear they were witnesses.   But the "cream of the joke" was when the corporal received a 10-day furlough, which, to unsuspecting victims, proved to be the mother being sent home with her child.

Similarly the following year, Federal prisoners held at Tyler, Texas played a joke on the Confederates by  "...imitating the crying of a baby, [which] actually caused many of the moral women of Tyler to firmly believe that we had female soldiers in our army, and that the crying babies were a natural result."

The joke was actually on the prisoners because there were indeed women soldiers in both armies.

These accounts, while humorous, also provide a sobering reminder that researchers must take extra care when examining stories involving women soldiers, especially considering that disguises are involved.   Sometimes things aren't what they seem.  And that can go both ways.  For example, I've come across quite a few soldiers with girlie names.  A name, however, doesn't necessarily mean that the individual is a woman.  Census reports have confirmed that they were men with with girlie names.....but men nevertheless  And similarly, while the presence of young boys in the ranks made it easier for women soldiers to blend in because they, themselves, looked like beardless youths, a boy is sometimes just a boy, as the female victims of Guthrie's prank discovered.  As for the baby hoaxes, I am curious as to whether or not these are the origins of the accounts of women soldiers being discovered after giving birth in the ranks.  You can read more about them by clicking (HERE).

Most of those stories seemed to have happened in the spring of 1863, about the same time as the Zou Zou hoax.  Without exact dates of the supposed births, it is impossible to place these on a time line, leaving us to ponder the question of what came first, the chicken or the egg?  Were these births legitimate (or at least some of them), and the Zouaves just carried out their own copycat version?  Were the births legitimate, but Zouaves were ignorant of them when they carried out their own  unrelated prank?  And, therefore, the timing was just a coincidence?  Or were the letters home and newspaper accounts of these births really detailing elaborate hoaxes perpetuated by their mischievous comrades, as described in the stories above?

It is rather odd, and suspicious, that half of the birth stories I discussed in the post I linked to above involve a  soldier mother who had been promoted to either a corporal or sergeant, and that she goes into labor while out on picket.  It could be mere coincidence, but it does throw up a red flag.

If the 1863 Zouave hoax is indeed the explanation behind the birth stories for that year and those subsequent, it does not account for two births reported in 1862, one of which does contain the common theme of the mother giving birth while on guard.  She was a mere private though.  (I did not mention these 1862 accounts in the blog post I linked to earlier.)

Due to the lack of details in these stories, they may never be verified.  The names of the mothers and babies have been lost to history.

But they cannot be summarily dismissed either.

Until next

John H. Guthrie diary quoted in Battle Cries and Lullabies by Linda Grant DePauw, p. 151

 Zouave hoax:  Pittsburgh Daily Post, May 5th, 1863.  The reporter stated that the account illustrated how rumors spread in the army.

Joke by Federal prisoners at Tyler, Texas:  Davenport Daily Gazette, August 10th, 1864