Cross Dressing Warriors in the Civil War

CashierOne of the characters our Emmy Evers meets in Book Three of the Widow Walk Saga, The Fairness of Beasts, is a young woman who disguises herself as a Union soldier in order to be close to her lover.

cross-dressed-bearded-man-civil-warCross dressing was not uncommon. Although both the Union and Confederacy forbade women to enlist and women distinguished themselves nobly and notably by their volunteer and nursing activities, there are over 250 well-documented accounts of women on both sides of the conflict who volunteered and served as combatants disguised as men in the infantry or cavalry. Cynthia Vogel, in her book Civil War Women recounts several stories, including vignettes of Bill Thompson of the 18th North Carolina Infantry who was really Lucy Matilda Thompson, and Albert D.J. Cashier of the 96th Illinois Infantry, who was really Jennie Hodges. Vogel notes that many women who were discovered to be dressing as men and thus, were mustered out, simply moved to other areas to serve in different regiments. Louisa Hoffman served in both the Confederate and Union armies, first with the 1st Virginia Confederate Cavalry and, after fighting in both the First and  Second Battles of Manassas, later joined the 1st Ohio Infantry.

Nathaniel_lyon_smallMen also cross-dressed, in most circumstances, usually to avoid combat, but also as a means to effect espionage.

General Nathaniel Lyon, the first general to be killed in the Civil War, allegedly disguised himself as a farm woman to spy on the Missouri State Guard’s actions.



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  1. Angela on June 4, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    How interesting.

  2. Jen on May 7, 2019 at 4:44 pm

    I was wondering about the bearded gentleman in woman’s dress you have included here. It is fascinating that no effort was made to minimize facial hair while the clothing is meticulously treated. Can you tell me anything more about the photograph? Do we know the sitter’s or photographer’s names or the circumstances of this particular photo-session? Thanks very much for any information.