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Contrary to what a lot of Confederate soldiers/commanders thought women of the south did serve in a male capacity. General Jubal Early, in 1876, was appalled to learn of Loreta Janeta Velazquez's claims to have served in the Confederate Army. It was just not the thing genteel women of the south did. The thought that women served in the Confederate Army never crossed the Confederate commander's mind so imagine his astonishment when the truth became known.

It was well known that southern women followed the army as vivandieres or as "mothers of the regiment," albeit not in numbers so great as their northern counterparts. At the beginning of the war the idea of women serving as military nurses at the site of a battle was not looked upon with favor and when women were in camp they were thought of as providing motherly care for the soldiers. Heaven forbid that there should actually be a female nurse.

Some joined to be with their husbands/fiancees and stayed for a short time, whether it was because their sex was prematurely discovered or whether it was because they became disenchanted and no longer wished to serve. Sarah Malinda Blaylock was among those who served a short time. She joined shortly after her husband, William McKesson "Keith" Blaylock, did in 1861. Keith, a Unionist in North Carolina, had no intention of serving his full term. Not finding an opportune time to desert, he rubbed poison sumac all over his body to gain a medical discharge. Soon after Keith's discharge, Sarah made her sex known and was given an immediate discharge.

Others stayed even after their loved one was killed. Amy Clarke, who served with a Tennessee unit, was one of those who stayed after her husband was killed at Shiloh in April 1862. Lucy Matilda Thompson served with her husband, Bryant Gause, in the 18thNorth Carolina Infantry Regiment and continued service after Bryant was killed during the Seven Days battles near Richmond, VA.

Then there was a group of women in LaGrange, Georgia, known as the Nancy Harts, who took it upon themselves to protect the town when most of the able bodied men were called to service. Next week we'll see what this group was all about.

Hall, Richard. "Patriots in Disguise Women Warriors of the Civil War" New York, Paragon House, 1993.

© 2006 Winifred Ledoux