Farm girls in the Confederate Cavalry

| November 29, 2012

In the Washington Post Times, Martha M. Boltz tells the tale of two Virginia cousins who left the farm when their uncle left them alone on the farm. Apparently they were a bit angry when their uncle joined the Yankees and they went off to join the Confederate Cavalry. They cut their hair, bound their breasts, affected deeper voices and a manly walk. Which seemed to have worked as one was promoted to Sergeant and the other to Corporal until their secret was uncovered.

As many girls similar serving had done, they told their secret to their captain, who kept it for them until his capture in 1864. It was [his successor] who gave the information to Gen. [Jubal] Early.

During their time with the troops, Mary was promoted to Sergeant and Mollie to Corporal. This did not matter to Early when he learned their true gender, and they were falsely accused of being “camp followers” or prostitutes and were put in prison.

But you should read the whole story.

Category: Historical

Comments (17)

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  1. Doc Bailey says:

    Southern women are always a bit wild.

  2. FatCircles says:

    It’s cool, women still cannot be held to the same basic physical requirements to hold the same military jobs though.

  3. 2-17 Air Cav says:

    They must have smelled great. When the other troops were bathing in a creek they were where?

  4. DaveO says:

    #4 AirCav – the rules of modesty were a bit more buttoned up and observed. Probably taking a sponge bath. Plus, horses smell. You can hide a whole school of tuna in a herd of horses.

  5. 2-17 Air Cav says:

    One more step and we’re banned.

  6. Stacy0311 says:

    But how many pull ups could they do?

  7. riflemusket58 says:

    I’ve read a few interesting first hand accounts where woman were discovered in the rank and file. There were some old tin types of them and to be honest they looked like just another man in uniform. When they were discovered, especially on the Union side they were merely given a discharge. Some where even able to procure a pension later in life. I’ll have to check my sources on that to be sure. It seems they were able to shoulder their knapsack and riflemusket with no problem and keep up on the long marches. I can tell you from personal experience that a fully loaded double-bag is not a comfortable pack top carry.
    Back in my reenacting days (I did both Federal and Confederate impressions) I recall seeing women dressed as soldiers. Sorry but they werent at all convincing, and it was obvious what the their gender was. We used to call them Gal Troops. The majority of the events I participated in did not allow these ‘ gal troop impressions.’
    H.M. Adams

  8. RandomNCO says:

    “They cut their hair, bound their breasts, affected deeper voices and a manly walk.”

    I think I knew some “girls” in the Army like that…

  9. 2-17 Air Cav says:

    @9. Okay, I’ll say it. Being butch is not unique either to the 20th or 21st century. Neither is homsexuality. It’s just that it wasn’t celebrated in previous centuries.

  10. PintoNag says:

    In rushing to look for the oddities, the more traditional — and more vital — role of women in the Civil War is overlooked. The women who tended the soldiers, and were known to go onto the battlefield while the fighting still raged, is all but forgotten. Since when did acting like a man become the “womanly” thing to do?

  11. 679Prig says:

    Were they hot?

  12. 2-17 Air Cav says:

    @11. During the Civil War, some soldiers suffered what was called soldier’s heart, what was later called shell shock, battle fatigue, and PTSD. I can only imagine the suffering of the nurses who took care, as best they could, of the wounded on the field and off. The results of impact of grape shot canisters and gazillion mm rounds on the human body must have made them want to run. But they didn’t. These women–the best known of them, Clara Barton–were nothing less than amazing and truly heroic. You’re right. They are overlooked, both those of the Civil war and those of the wars that have followed.

  13. Drew Payson says:

    The article was in the Washington Times. The Post would never post such a story.

  14. Ex-PH2 says:

    @4 AirCav, what makes you think anyone was bathing anywhere during the Civil War?

    I think a few higher officers had portable bathtubs that went with their tents and gear to the field, but the troops? Nah. They all smelled like mules and lived with it.

    Now, how do I know this? I have my grandfather’s diary from his trip to the Klondike in 1898, in which he mentions finally having a chance to change his underwear for the first time in more than three months.

    Bathing in a creek in the middle of war? Silly man!

  15. 2-17 Air Cav says:

    @15. If the troops didn’t bathe, why did the quartermasters issue rubber ducks? Tell me that, Miss Smarty Pants.

  16. Ex-PH2 says:

    @16 — Durn burn it! You owe me a new keyboard, you goofball!

    Bathing in a creek? The first thing that popped into my head was the scene in “Barry Lyndon” where those two gay Brit army guys are romancing each other while Barry the Con Artist is stealing their uniforms and gear.