Civil War Women: Sarah Emma Edmonds as Franklin Thompson

At the age of sixteen in 1857, Sarah Emma Edmondson escaped an arranged marriage and an abusive father. She changed her last name to Edmonds. Emigrating to the United States from New Brunswick, she found a job more easily when disguised as a man, Franklin Thompson. When the war began, she lived in Flint, Michigan. Strong Union views led her to enlist in the 2nd Michigan Infantry as a male field nurse named Franklin Flint Thompson.

Emma nursed her comrades at such battles as the Battle of Antietam. She worked as a hospital attendant. She was also a mail carrier for her regiment, a dangerous job that often required horseback rides of over 100 miles.

A recurrence of malaria struck Emma in the spring of 1863. She requested a furlough, which was denied. Since she dare not visit the army’s medical staff for fear of discovery, she left camp in the middle of the night—Frank Thompson became a deserter.

Emma boarded a train to Oberlin, Ohio, where she recovered in a boarding house as Frank. Then she became a female nurse with the United States Christian Commission, where she served until the war ended. She wrote her memoirs in Nurse and Spy in the Union Army, first published in 1864.

There are no official records of Emma acting as spy for the Union army. She seems to have been talented at disguises. While a spy, she pretended to be Charles Mayberry, a Southern sympathizer; Cuff, a black man; and Bridget O’Shea, an Irish peddler.

After the war, Emma applied for a military pension. An Act of Congress finally cleared Franklin Thompson of desertion and she received the pension in 1884.

In 1897, Emma became the only woman admitted into the Grand Army of the Republic.

Emma left home to escape an arranged marriage, much as one of the sisters faced in my Civil War novel,  A Musket in My Hands. Two sisters disguise themselves as men and muster into the Confederate army in the fall of 1864—just in time for events and long marches to lead them toward the tragic Battle of Franklin.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

Abbott, Karen. Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War, Harper, 2014.

Blanton, DeAnne and Cook, Lauren M. They Fought Like Demons, Louisiana State University Press, 2002.

Massey, Mary Elizabeth. Women in the Civil War, University of Nebraska Press, 1966.

“Sarah Emma Edmonds,” Civil War Biography, 2018/12/10 https://www.battlefields.org/learn/biographies/sarah-emma-edmonds.

“Sarah Emma Edmonds,” National Park Service, 2018/12/10 https://www.nps.gov/people/sarah-emma-edmonds.htm.

 

Advertisements

Civil War Women: Malinda Pritchard Blalock as Sam Blalock

Malinda Pritchard Blalock is one of two women known to have fought for both the Confederacy and the Union during the Civil War. She expressed support for secession before the war started but her husband, William “Keith” McKesson Blalock, was pro-Union. Malinda soon shared his views.

The couple, who lived on Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina, feared Keith would be conscripted into the Southern army. To avoid this, he decided to muster into the Confederate army and then desert to join the Union army. He went with friends to the recruitment office and became part of the 26th North Carolina Regiment, Company F.

Sources disagree here as to whether Malinda signed up as his twenty-year-old brother “Sam Blalock” at the same time or if she disguised herself as a man and surprised him on the march.

The document still exists of her registering as “Samuel ‘Sammy’ Blalock” at Lenoir, North Carolina, on March 20, 1862. Her discharge papers have also survived, documenting a female soldier in the Confederate army.

Unfortunately for Keith and “Sam,” their regiment was stationed at Kinston, North Carolina—not in Virginia where it would be easier to desert.

About a month after they enlisted, Keith’s squad was given a night mission to find a particular Northern regiment. Skirmishing broke out and Malinda was shot in the shoulder. The surgeon who removed the bullet also discovered her identity. She was discharged.

Frantic that her secret was out, Keith found a patch of poison oak in the forest. Discarding his clothes, he rolled around in it and then returned to camp. By morning, a red rash covered his skin. Surgeons gave him a medical release. Malinda confessed that she was his wife and they left together.

Once Confederate forces learned that Keith had recovered they ordered him to return to his regiment. The Blalocks fled to Grandfather Mountain, finding other deserters there. They stayed with this group until Confederate troops found them.

The couple escaped to east Tennessee. Malinda pretended to be Sam again when they joined the 10th Michigan Cavalry. She served as Keith’s aide-de-camp.

Malinda, now pregnant, left the regiment to have her baby son in Knoxville. She rejoined her regiment two weeks later.

Keith and Malinda later joined Union Colonel Kirk’s voluntary guerrilla squadrons on scouting and raiding missions in North Carolina.

In my Civil War novel,  A Musket in My Hands, an ultimatum from their father forces two sisters to disguise themselves as men and muster into the Confederate army in the fall of 1864—just in time for events and long marches to lead them to the tragic Battle of Franklin.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

Blanton, DeAnne and Cook, Lauren M. They Fought Like Demons, Louisiana State University Press, 2002.

“Malinda Blalock,” Wikipedia.com, 2018/12/10 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malinda_Blalock.

“Malinda Pritchard Blalock,” Rootsweb.com, 2018/12/10 http://sites.rootsweb.com/~ncmitche/sam.html.

Silvey, Ania. I’ll Pass for Your Comrade: Women Soldiers in the Civil War, Clarion Books, 2008.

Slappey, Kellie. “Sarah Malinda Pritchard Blalock (1839-1903),” North Carolina History, 2018/12/10 http://northcarolinahistory.org/encyclopedia/sarah-malinda-pritchard-blalock-1839-1903/.

 

 

Civil War Women: Mary Ann Clark as Henry Clark

Mary Ann Clark’s marriage hadn’t been easy. Her husband deserted her and her two children to go to California. According to her mother, Mary Ann suffered two nervous breakdowns when he wrote her that he was returning with a new wife. She divorced him.

At some point, she turned over the care of her two children, Caroline Elizabeth and Gideon P. Walker, to the care of Rev. Father Brady. Then Mary Ann disguised herself as a man (Henry Clark) and joined the Confederate army under General Braxton Bragg.

Clark was wounded at the Battle of Richmond, Kentucky, on August 30, 1862, captured, and imprisoned. Her identity was discovered while in prison. Union troops provided her a dress and asked her to swear to return to civilian life as a lady. Mary Ann agreed and wrote a letter to friends before leaving the prison, asking that they inform her mother of all that had happened to her.

Once free, she made her way back to the Confederate army—with one change. This time she rejoined as a female officer.

Southern newspapers called Mary Ann a heroine, yet they reported her story incorrectly. In their articles, they wrote that she followed her husband into the Battle of Shiloh where he was killed. The article went on to say that she buried him herself and then fought until she was captured.

Mary Ann didn’t follow her husband into war nor did she fight in the Battle of Shiloh.

In my Civil War novel, A Musket in My Hands, an ultimatum from their father forces two sisters to disguise themselves as men to muster into the Confederate army in the fall of 1864—just in time for events and long marches to lead them to the tragic Battle of Franklin.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

Al-Jumaily, Sunshine. “’Tell Her What a Good Rebel Soldier I Have Been:’ Mary Ann Clark Disguised During the Civil War,” Kentucky Historical Society, 2018/12/10 http://history.ky.gov/landmark/tell-her-what-a-good-rebel-soldier-i-have-been-mary-ann-clark-disguised-during-the-civil-war/.

Blanton, DeAnne and Cook, Lauren M. They Fought Like Demons, Louisiana State University Press, 2002.

Howe, Robert F. “Covert Force,” Smithsonian.com, 2018/12/10 https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/covert-force-70629819/.

“Mary Ann Clark, Confederate Soldier,” Civil War Talk, 2018/12/10 https://civilwartalk.com/threads/mary-ann-clark-confederate-soldier.104262/.

 

 

Ten Songs that Mention Snow

It’s that time of year again. Shops play Christmas tunes as background music to get customers in the mood for shopping.

These songs help to set the mood for me. There are several songs that mention snow—not my favorite. But I do love snowy scenes on Christmas cards. And I love watching it snow when everyone I love is safe at home, so snowy Christmas songs still work for me.

Here’s a list of ten traditional Christmas songs that mention snow:

  • “Silver Bells” – Hear the snow crunch
  • “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas” – The sturdy kind that doesn’t mind the snow
  • “Let it Snow”
  • “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” – Please have snow and mistletoe
  • “Winter Wonderland” – In the lane, snow is glistening
  • “Jingle Bells” – Dashing through the snow
  • “Frosty the Snowman”
  • “Over the River and through the Woods” – Through white and drifted snow
  • “Sleigh Ride” – Outside the snow is falling
  • “White Christmas” – To hear sleigh bells in the snow

Can you think of others?

-Sandra Merville Hart

 

The Story Behind “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”

On July 9, 1861, the screams of his wife, Fanny, wakened Henry Wadsworth Longfellow from a nap. Her dress was ablaze. Instantly awake, he tried to smother the flames with a rug. When that didn’t work, he used his body. By the time the fire was out, Fanny’s burns were too severe to survive. She died the next day. Longfellow’s face was burned so badly that he was unable to attend the funeral with his five children.

That wasn’t Henry’s only turmoil as Civil War ravaged the country. In March of 1863, Henry’s oldest son, Charles (Charley) Appleton Longfellow, left his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, bound for the Union army in Washington, DC. The eighteen-year-old didn’t ask his father’s permission to join.

Charley quickly earned the commission of 2nd Lieutenant in the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry.

Henry was dining at home when a telegram arrived on December 1, 1863. Charley had been shot in the shoulder in a skirmish in the Mine Run Campaign (Virginia) on November 27th.

Henry and his younger son, Ernest, left immediately for Washington, DC. On December 5th, Charley arrived by train. The first surgeon alarmed Henry with news that the serious wound might bring paralysis. Later that evening, three other surgeons gave him better news—Charley’s recovery might take 6 months.

Grieving for his wife and worried for his son, Henry heard Christmas bells ringing on December 25, 1863. He picked up his pen  and wrote “Christmas Bells.”

Two stanzas from this poem written while our country was at war are rarely heard. These speak of the suffering in a nation divided:

        Then from each black, accursed mouth

       The cannon thundered in the South,

       And with the sound

      The carols drowned

      Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

      It was as if an earthquake rent

      The hearth-stones of a continent,

     And made forlorn

     The households born

     Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Families had been separated by war—some forever. Anguish overcomes Henry:

      And in despair I bowed my head;

     “There is no peace on earth,” I said;

     “For hate is strong,

    And mocks the song

    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Faith and hope reach through the anguish in his soul as he continues to listen to the Christmas bells:

     Then pealed the bells more loud and deep;

     “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

     The Wrong shall fail,

    The Right prevail,

    With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Charley survived yet his wound ended the war for him.

In February of 1865, Our Young Folks published Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “Christmas Bells.” John Baptiste Calkin set the poem to music in 1872, and “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” became a beloved Christmas carol.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

Ullman, Jr., Douglas. “A Christmas Carol’s Civil War Origin,” American Battlefield Trust, 2018/11/02 https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/christmas-bells.

“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” Wikipedia, 2018/11/02, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Heard_the_Bells_on_Christmas_Day.

“The True Story of Pain and Hope Behind ‘I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,’” The Gospel Coalition, 2018/11/02 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/the-story-of-pain-and-hope-behind-i-heard-the-bells-on-christmas-day/.

 

Ten Christmas Songs that Mention Reindeer

Many of us grew up watching Christmas specials like Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. And who could forget The Santa Clause movies? I look forward to watching them every year.

It’s that time of year again. I thought it would be fun to search for songs that mention reindeer. I didn’t have any trouble finding them. Here’s my list:

  • “Up on the Housetop” – Up on the housetop, reindeer pause
  • “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
  • “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”
  • “Run Rudolph Run”
  • “Here Comes Santa Claus” – Vixen and Blitzen and all his reindeer
  • “The Christmas Song” – to see if reindeer really know how to fly
  • “The Night Before Christmas” – eight tiny reindeer
  • “This is That Time of the Year” – To Dasher, Dancer, Blitzen, Prancer
  • “Must by Santa” – Eight little reindeer pull his sleigh
  • “Little Saint Nick” – Run run reindeer

Can you think of others?

Merry Christmas!

-Sandra Merville Hart

 

Ten Christmas Songs that Mention Bells

Traditionally, most churches had bells that rang to let folks nearby know of an important event. On Christmas, bells were rung to remember the birth of Jesus.

Here’s a list of ten traditional Christmas songs that mention bells:

  • “Silver Bells”
  • “Jingle Bells”
  • “Jingle Bell Rock”
  • “Carol of the Bells”
  • “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”
  • “Sleigh Ride” – Just hear those sleigh bells jingle-ing
  • “Ding Dong Merrily on High” – In heav’n the bells are ringing
  • “Caroling, Caroling” – Christmas bells are ringing
  • “Here Comes Santa Claus” – Bells are ringing
  • “White Christmas” – To hear sleigh bells in the snow

Can you think of others?

Merry Christmas!

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

“Christmas Bells,” The Merry Syndicate,  18/11/02 http://www.noelnoelnoel.com/trad/bells.html.

 

WWII Gave Job Opportunities to Women

Today’s post was written by fellow author, Linda Shenton Matchett. Welcome to Historical Nibbles, Linda!

When I was growing up, my folks didn’t believe in “girl jobs” and “boy jobs.” Hence, my brothers learned how to cook, wash dishes, and do laundry, and my sister and I learned how to mow the yard and shovel the driveway among other chores. That philosophy is decidedly different from the cultural norms prior to WWII.

Then war came, and men began to leave the workforce in droves. Support for women to seek volunteer and employment opportunities began at the highest level. In one of his fireside chats, President Roosevelt said, “There need no longer be any debate as to the place of women in the business life of this nation. The enlarging war effort calls for the services of every qualified and able-bodied person, man or woman.”

Unfortunately, for the first eighteen months of the war, organizations and employers struggled to go against deep-seated traditions and concepts making them reluctant to hire women. As a result, there were “boy jobs” and “girl jobs.” One of the organizations where a young lady could work or volunteer without recrimination was the United Service Organization (USO). Founded in 1941 by combining the Salvation Army, YMCA, YWCA, National Catholic Community Services, National Travelers Aid Association, and the National Jewish Welfare Board, the USO had over 3,000 clubs worldwide at its height (there are only 160 day).

Despite ties to the military, the USO is not part of the government, but rather a private nonprofit organization. Therefore, fundraising was necessary to finance its operation. Thomas Dewey (FDR’s opponent in the 1944 election) and Prescott Bush (Grandfather of former President George W. Bush) spearheaded the campaign, and more than thirty-three million dollars was raised. Activities were countless: from billiards and boxing to dancing and darts. Services ranged from sewing on insignias to writing letters on behalf of the men. Candy, gum, newspapers, and other items were available for purchase.

Strict rules ensured the clubs were safe places for the junior hostesses-unmarried women typically in their mid-twenties. Senior hostesses acted as chaperones, and the younger hostesses couldn’t dance with the same man more than twice. Soldiers, sailors, and airmen could smoke at the club, but no was liquor served. In addition, formal attire was required of the girls, and the wearing of slacks was forbidden.

For more information about this worthwhile organization, visit http://www.uso.org.

-Linda Shenton Matchett

 

Blurb: Murder of Convenience

May 1942: Geneva Alexander flees Philadelphia and joins the USO to escape the engagement her parents have arranged for her, only to wind up as the number one suspect in her betrothed’s murder investigation. Diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, she must find the real killer before she loses her sight…or is convicted for a crime she didn’t commit.

Set in the early days of America’s entry into WWII and featuring cameo appearances from Hollywood stars, Murder of Convenience is a tribute to the individuals who served on the home front, especially those who did so in spite of personal difficulties, reminding us that service always comes as a result of sacrifice. Betrayal, blackmail, and a barrage of unanswered questions… Murder of Convenience is the first in the exciting new “Women of Courage” series.

 

Linda’s Bio:

Linda Shenton Matchett is an author, speaker, and history geek. Born in Baltimore, Maryland a stone’s throw from Fort McHenry, Linda has lived in historical places most of her life. A member of ACFW, RWA, and Sisters in Crime, she is also a volunteer docent at the Wright Museum of WWII and a Trustee for the Wolfeboro Public Library. Connect with Linda on her blog. 

Sign up for her newsletter newsletter and receive a free short story, Love’s Bloom!

Amazon

 

Attitudes Toward Women Civil War Soldiers

Approximately four hundred known cases of women serving as Civil War soldiers on either side–and an unknown number of ladies who slipped away or died without detection– subjected themselves to possible criticism from the general public and their comrades.

Society and the military were critical of women soldiers who didn’t accompany a male relative such as a husband or brother. The general public was not ready for unmarried women on the front lines.

A Southern journalist categorized women in Confederate military camps in three ways: families of officers, laundresses and cooks, and prostitutes. So how did he classify female soldiers, scouts, and nurses?

The wives of officers living in army camps generally maintained the military’s respect. Union General Ulysses S. Grant sometimes had his family in camp.

The motivation of other women present in camps puzzled the public. There was a tendency to doubt the female soldier’s conduct. Some endured unjust accusations of misbehavior.

There were also female visitors in camp who came to see loved ones. Most parents refused to allow their young, unmarried daughters to visit army camps. They sometimes sneaked in anyway.

Many women simply wanted to be near their men.

Prostitutes followed the camps. Government records show that camp followers numbered in the thousands around army camps. Some bootlegged liquor and acted as spies.

Hundreds of women became pregnant in army camps.

The military and the public knew all this. Unfortunately, those experiences affected how men viewed women soldiers. There were instances of female soldiers becoming pregnant while in the army.

The women who served as Civil War soldiers endured many obstacles. Public opinion during and after the war was one of them.

In my Civil War novel, A Musket in My Hands, two sisters have no choice but to disguise themselves as men to muster into the Confederate army in the fall of 1864—just in time for events and long marches to lead them to the tragic Battle of Franklin.

-Sandra Merville Hart

 

Sources

Abbott, Karen. Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War, Harper, 2014.

Blanton, DeAnne and Cook, Lauren M. They Fought Like Demons, Louisiana State University Press, 2002.

Massey, Mary Elizabeth. Women in the Civil War, University of Nebraska Press, 1966.

Silvey, Anita. I’ll Pass for Your Comrade: Women Soldiers in the Civil War, Clarion Books, 2008.

Velazquez, Loreta Janeta. The Woman in Battle: The Civil War Narrative of Loreta Velazquez, Cuban Woman & Confederate Soldier, The University of Wisconsin Press, 2003. (Previously published 1876)

 

Consequences of Discovery for Women Civil War Soldiers

There are about four hundred known cases of women serving as Civil War soldiers on either side. They enlisted for varying reasons. They faced challenges  at every turn. They were discovered in a variety of ways.

The consequences for the women varied. They could be dismissed or imprisoned, depending on the officer’s decision.

Newspaper reporters wrote of Southern women who were arrested while in uniform. Federals captured two female soldiers and imprisoned them.

A female Union soldier was captured after being wounded in battle. She was sent back to Union lines with a note, “As Confederates do not use women in war, this woman, wounded in battle, is returned to you.”

After being imprisoned on Johnson Island, a Confederate officer delivered a baby boy in December of 1864.

A Union major ordered her men in battle. They later discovered her identity and imprisoned her for violating the “regulations of war.”

Loreta Janeta Velazquez disguised herself as Confederate soldier Lieutenant Harry T. Buford. She was arrested when the apparatus of her disguise slipped. She was charged with acting as a spy and then released. She was later arrested when comrades suspected her of being a woman. Loreta confessed. The mayor fined her $10 and ordered ten days imprisonment. After her release, she reenlisted in a different company, this one in the 21st Louisiana.

Confederate women who were imprisoned as POWs usually were kept there even after their identity became known.

Female soldiers facing a provost marshal received varying degrees of punishment.

Women were sometimes sent to civilian authorities where some were ordered to time in the city jail or the Guard House. Some women were sent to the workhouse while others were released.

One woman was court-martialed.

In my Civil War novel, A Musket in My Hands, two sisters have no choice but to disguise themselves as men to muster into the Confederate army in the fall of 1864—just in time for events and long marches to lead them to the tragic Battle of Franklin.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

Abbott, Karen. Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War, Harper, 2014.

Blanton, DeAnne and Cook, Lauren M. They Fought Like Demons, Louisiana State University Press, 2002.

Massey, Mary Elizabeth. Women in the Civil War, University of Nebraska Press, 1966.

Silvey, Anita. I’ll Pass for Your Comrade: Women Soldiers in the Civil War, Clarion Books, 2008.

Velazquez, Loreta Janeta. The Woman in Battle: The Civil War Narrative of Loreta Velazquez, Cuban Woman & Confederate Soldier, The University of Wisconsin Press, 2003. (Previously published 1876)