Women in the Civil War
Some Unsung Women

I ran across some tidbits about several different women in the Civil War era in a book of mine. So, rather than an individual woman this week, I'm giving you some information on some women (some not even named) not listed in great detail, who probably should have been.

 Mrs. Robert Anderson, extremely upset with the news that her husband and his men had taken refuge in Fort Sumter and were likely to be starved, convinced friend and New York City police Sgt. Peter Hart to quit his job and accompany her to her husband. There he was able to attain permission to become part of the Civil work force in the fort. When a hail of Confederate hot shot set fire to some wooden barracks, it was he who lead the extinguishing of the fire that threatened the entire fort.

Fanny Ricketts, wife of U.S. Army Captain James B. Ricketts was in the vicinity of the capital during the first battle of Bull Run. When her husband didn't return with the rest of his unit, she was able to obtain a pass to go through the Union LInes directly to the site of the conflict. When she reached a confederate outpost, her pass was now worthless and she feared she may have to turn back. She remembered her husband had a friendship with J.E.B. Stuart, and she was able to contact him at Fairfax Court house. Now a professional soldier wearing the uniform of a Confeerate Colonel, he gave her a pass allowing her passage to the Manassas Battlefield. After four days, she found her husband in a makeshift hospital at the Lewis house and from there accompanied him as a prisoner to Richmond. That would have been enough for most women, but it was here that her story began. When Federal Officers were being chosen as hostages for Confederates charged with piracy, the prison in Richmond did not have enough colonels and majors to fulfill their lottery and Ricketts was selected as a junior officer to be threatened with execution should his Confederate counterpart be hanged. Fanny stayed with him in Richmond, made friends with prison guards to gain visiting privileges, and saw her husband almost daily until he was exchanged for a Julius A. deLagnel in January of 1862.

The Eighty-eighth New York Regiment went off to war under the command of Col. Thomas F. Meagher. His wife had gone to extremes to present a U.S. flag to these fighting men and this unit of 'ninety-day volunteers' became known as "Mrs. Meagher's Own". Col. Meagher organized and led the famous Irish Brigade. Later a Brigadier General, he served at Seven Pines, the Seven Days, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville always under his wife's flag. When he tried to resign, after being told he couldn't recruit new members to his command, his resignation was refused and he was kept close to his flag until May of 1865.

Mrs. John C. Breckenridge, at her husband's headquarters most of the time, owned a "handsome silk dress". She had worn it to a state dinner in Washington when her husband was Vice-President. She decided that dress would be an outstanding flag, which was later presented to the Twentieth Tennessee Regiment, the flag saw gunfire at Hoover's Gap, Tennessee in 1863. Color bearer Ben Yeargin died that day and two others were wounded by the gunfire directed at the flag they carried. Three more color bearers were wounded at Chickamaugua. In Jonesboro, Georgia every one of the color guard who bore the responsibility of carrying "the Mrs. Breckenridge flag" was killed or wounded. Those not taken prisoner, saw their General's wife coming to their rescue, her arms filled with lint and bandages. She and General Breckenridge were the grandparents of the famous Mary Breckenridge who founded the Kentucky Committee for Mothers and Babies, later called the Frontier Nursing Service, which was successful in lowering the death rate of newborns and young babies to below the National average in its area.

Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest was quite upset to learn that the identity of a civilian taken prisoner at Holly Springs, Mississippi in 1862 was a woman. His prisoner, Julia Grant, it is believed, was the only wife of a Union Major General taken prisoner by Confederates. Mrs. Grant was with her husband in many camps, and when Grant settled down at City point, Virginia, it was she who made sure that he had "good home-cooked food."

Located close to Columbus, Kentucky, was Mississippi River's Island Number Ten. It was held by Confederates who intended to close the river to Federal traffic. Troops under the command of Union Major General John Pope and Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote took the island April 8,1862. They were stunned to find, among their captives, "a female invalid generally known as Harriett Redd." When questioned, she told them she had come to the installation to be with her husband. When offered a pass, she refused and told them that she preferred to be with her husband and so she joined the men in their prisoner-of-war camp.

Hetty Cary, raised near Baltimore, was related to two of Virginia's "first families," the Randolphs and the Jeffersons. Civil War forced her to choose leaving home or the thought of imprisonment for suspicion of harboring Confederate sympathies. She left, settled in Richmond, and became a leader among those providing clothing, food and other items for the soldiers. After four years, her activity was noticed by 32 year-old John Pegram, who sought and won her affections. On January 19, 1865, the to were married. Hetty had only three weeks of marital bliss. Her husband was killed in the battle of Hatcher's Run on February 5th.


You are listening to "The Cruel War"

The cruel war is raging
Johnny has to fight
I want to be with him
From morning till night

Oh Johnny, dear Johnny,
Morning, noon and night,
I think of you marching,
Left, right, left and right 

I know you're so gentle
When you hold me tight,
Oh how will they make you
Get out there and fight?

Go speak to your sergeant,
And say you want out,
Just say you're allergic
To this kind of bout.

Oh Johnny, dear Johnny,
Yes, I know you're brave,
But oh how I miss you,
It's your love I crave.

  Oh why did the army
Take you from my side,
To go into battle,
Away from your bride.

To be continued next week...................................
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