It is argued that Americans thrive under crisis and that crisis yields the best from American citizens. The American civil is termed as the greatest historical event in American history. The significance of this war is that it helped form the foundation of the modern day American civilization marked by freedom, liberty for all and respect to basic human rights (Kingseed 2). Several historians as well as scholars have come forth to offer explanation about the civil.
These explanations highlight a number of issues connected to the war. Some of these issues include the social cultural perspective of the war, the economic aspects, the political dimensions of the wars and the roles that various people played in the war (Kingseed 1). Most significantly the war has been given a masculine connotation such that a lot of credit has been taken away from the involvement of both southern and northern women directly and indirectly in the war.
Studies of the civil war literature reveal that women were active participants in the war in more ways than one. It has been revealed that other than being nurses in nursing homes where they treated soldiers and other war casualties, women also acted as spies and they were also disguised as men who fought gallantly as soldiers.
The involvement of women in was necessitated by a number of factors such as defending civilian camps when men left to engage at the war fronts (Blanton 1). Other roles include cooking, cleaning as well as relief work. Thus gender roles are a significant issue in analysis of the American Civil War as women made significance contributions.
In the south the role of women took a more social economic perspective. This is true especially for the white women. The white women were divided into two social classes; the rich and the poor. The elite rich woman took a more aggitative role during the war. They nudged their men to enlist in the war as soldiers and fight for the secession of states like Georgia.
Elite women appealed to the ego and manhood of their husbands by asking them to honorably register as soldiers. When their men did this left a big gaping hole at home. These roles, among them farming, running of homes, running of business and many other that were traditionally let for men were now being played by women. Elite women thus ensured a smooth running of homes in absence of their men (Georgia Encyclopedia paras 2 – 5). As such this role greatly contributed to the victory of the Federal Forces.
While the elite women took a more active role, the middle class and poor women in the southern states bore the much of the economic grudge of the war. These women were more susceptible to the destructive effects of the war. While their elite counter parts pressed their husband to enlist in the war, these women pressed the pressed the state governments to exclude their husbands from war.
This is due to the fact that they were shouldering the entire burden of feeding their families and due to the sever food shortages occasioned by the war they needed their husbands back home. They also pressed the states government for food relief and when the state government did nothing they lead food looting riots in many towns (Georgia Encyclopedia paras 7 – 9).
The success of any war depends on the roles that spies play in passing important war intelligence especially about the enemy. The American Civil War was no exception. Women provided spy services in many different ways. In some instances women would travel great distances in great peril to warn enemy forces. In 1862, a woman traversed through the woods for more than 40 kilometers to warn the union forces that the confederate forces were intending to damage the Cheat River Bridge.
Such spy work lead to the protection of the bridge by the union forces (Full Valley Archive (a) para 2). Other than travelling in person, women also wrote letters that contained war intelligence and passed it to their armies. Such letters included the letter written to the confederate forces warning of a union wagon movement through Chambersburg (Full Valley Archive (b) para 2).
It is argued that women did better espionage work than men could possibly ever do during this war. This is because women were not expected to be involved in war due to the fact that both the Confederate and the Union Forces looked down upon the involvement of women in war (Blanton para 8). The success of women spies was also reinforced by another some shrewd tactics that enemy forces were oblivious of. The tactic included the charm and the power of women seduction.
One of the renowned seductress spy was Antonia Ford, a federal sympathizer who provide lot of intelligence from the union forces. Ford is said to have used most of her time rehearsing seduction techniques that included dressing, posing and the art of seductive speech. She is said to have possessed such powers that it was so easy for her to retrieved war secrets form the Union Forces (Phillips 55). In one such incident Ford seduced the union soldier who had come to harbor in her family house.
She was able to get and convey useful information about the union’s intent of using confederate colors to confuse the Federal Forces. The consequent saving of the confederates defeat by Fords work highlight the roles that southern and northern women spies played in the war (Phillips 59).
The American Civil War has been presented as a masculine war, with the role of women obscured by men’s. Civil war researchers are of the opinion that women too emerged in front line battles as soldiers (Blanton para 1).
A number of brave women were involved in military exploits as were the male soldiers. These women also suffered the same fate as their male counterparts, such as suffering in military camps as well as the mistreatment subjected to kidnapped soldiers. These women also took arms and engaged in violent confrontations with enemy forces.
Both the union and the confederate armies did not allow for enlisting of women soldiers. As such the women who intended to engage in war disguised themselves men. They even took masculine names and shed of anything that might have given their feminine identity way. All this was in the desire to help their Armies win the war. Amongst the most famous women soldiers was Mary Owens who had adopted the name John Evans (Livermore 2, 5).
Jane Schultz a professor of American and Women studies at the University of Indiana – Purdue University, Indianapolis has moved to expound a number of mythical beliefs surrounding the roles of women in the American civil war. Under her article Schultz explains that the common myth holds that only a few number of women become nurse to take care of war casualties which included soldiers.
Through out her exploration of the civil war archive the professor came up with valid evidence that proves that the union forces had employed more than 21 000 women who acted as nurses in military hospitals (Schultz para 3). Furthermore she discovered that even though the federal forces had a lesser number of women nurses, the number was no less than 10 000 women nurses (para 4).
Her evidence is backed evidences from the Full Valley Archives records. In one of the letters from Gen. Lee, a federal officer, the General notes that in one of the casualty hospitals there had been about forty nurses taking care of about 300 war casualties. This explains that the hospitals were well supplied with nurses to take care of the victims of war (Full Valley Archives (c) para 5).
Professor Schultz continues to explain that other that other key roles played by women in both the south and the north had been perceived to be minor but never the less were of utmost importance. Women also acted as cleaners, who ensured that her was proper hygiene and also provide sanitary services in hospitals (para 3).
Moreover women also acted as relief workers and as such provided relief services such as food and drugs to soldiers in battle torn regions. The social dimension of the war time society is also evident in this role. While the elite women provide relief services because they had the capacity to, their counterparts from the lower echelons of society did it for a wage. Professor Schultz findings from war time hospital cards reveals that the average woman relief worker received between 6 to 12 dollars per month (para 10).
Other than this women were also vey useful in preparing and war attires for soldiers. As such they worked in industries as seamstresses as helped in preparing military cloths (para 11). Further evidence reveals that women also acted as waitresses in army camps. As such they helped cook and serve food for army officers
One of the most overtly expressed significance of the American civil war was the outcomes that helped America shape its future s a true democratic and federal state. This exemplified the fact that Americans have the ability to get the best out of a very dire situation.
However, the role of women in then war is greatly denied by scholars who have fallen short in appreciating the vital gaps that women filled to make the wars a success. Without women the war would have had severe consequences such as an unimaginable loss of human capital. This loss was curtailed by the fact that women selflessly served as nurses who helped stabilize war casualties. Other than nursing the roles of women as spies helped alter the course of the war.
The relief services that women offered were of great effect as they helped sustain armies in dire times. Furthermore these women motivated their men to enlist in the wars. Therefore the civil war in America can attribute its course to the influence of women as it can to the influence of men.
Blanton, DeAnne. “Women Soldiers of the Civil War” Prologue Magazine, 25, 1. 1993. May 5, 2011
Full Valley Archive (a). “ Records Related to Augusta County Regiments.” The valley of the shadow . n.d. May 5, 2011 http://valley.lib.virginia.edu/or/R11928631 n.d.
Full Valley Archive (b). “Records Related to Franklin County Regiments.” The valley of the shadow . n.d. May 5, 2011 http://valley.lib.virginia.edu/or/R122896
Full Valley Archives (c). “Records Related to Augusta County Regiments.” The valley of the shadow . n.d. May 5, 2011 http://valley.lib.virginia.edu/or/R13770153
Georgia Encyclopedia. “Women during the Civil War.” 2011. May 5, 2011
Kingseed, Cole. The American Civil War. West Port, CT: Greenwood Press. 2004. Print
Livermore, Mary. My Story of the War: A Woman’s Narrative of Four Years Personal Experience. Hartford, CT: A. D. Worthington and Company. 1889. Print
Phillips, Larissa. Women Civil War Spies of the Confederacy. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc. 2004. Print
Schultz, Jane E. “Ten Common Myths about Women in the Civil War and How to Dispel Them.” Foreign Policy Research Institute, 13, 15. 2008. May 5, 2011 http://www.fpri.org/footnotes/1315.200807.schultz.mythswomencivilwar.html