Book Review: Courageous Women of the Civil War: Soldiers, Spies, Medics, and More

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by M. R. Cordell

Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2016. Pp. xxiv, 230. Illus., map, gloss., notes, biblio, index. $19.99. ISBN: 1613732007

Women Who Served in the Civil War

For some years now the Chicago Review press has published a series for younger readers called “Women in Action,” several of which deal with women at war, as is the case with this volume.

Courageous Women of the Civil War is lance writer Cordell’s her first contribution to the “Women of Action” series. Noting that thousands of women served in various ways – including perhaps 500 or so in the ranks – Cordell offers us profiles of sixteen women who served in various ways during the war, grouped into four categories, “Soldiers,” “Spies,” “Nurses,” and “Vivandiers”.

Cordell wisely includes only a few of the women already rather well known, such as Harriet Tubman, Loreta Velazquez, Annie Etheridge, or Sarah Emma Edmonds. In that way, is able to gives us accounts of a number of lesser known cases of women who served in some fashion. So we get a look at Maria Lewis, a teenaged African-American girl who managed to “pass” as a Union cavalryman, volunteer Southern nurse Susie King Taylor, and Confederate spy Mary Carroll, among others.

Cordell does a good job of sorting reality from myth in the stories of some of these women, notably the self-promoting Velazquez, while introducing us to yet more young women who served in various ways. She also makes use of side-bars to help the reader understand events and aspects of contemporary military life that are likely to be unfamiliar to the younger reader.

Courageous Women of the Civil War is an excellent introduction to women’s role in the Civil War, the War itself, and can be read with profit even by adults.

Note: Courageous Women of the Civil War is also available as an e-book, $12.99, ISBN 978-1-6137-3203-8.

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Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   


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