A REVIEW OF DEANNE BLANTON AND LAUREN COOK’S BOOK ‘THEY FOUGHT LIKE
AREVIEW OF DEANNE BLANTON AND LAUREN COOK’S BOOK: ‘THEY FOUGHTLIKE DEMONS: WOMEN SOLDIERS IN THE CIVIL WAR
Theauthors of this book, one a re-enactor of Civil War during the othera military archivist, took ten years to research National Archivesrecords and discovered documentation to prove that more than 250women made an appearance in the Civil War. Of the women, some weremothers and wives. Some of the women were discovered, some not yet.Some of them even applied for pensions and received them because oftheir service. Most women never received recognition for their rolein war. It is somewhat hard to believe why married women would enlistfor war. How did the women keep from being discovered by authorities?What kind of warriors were they? Why didn`t people know about womenin the military before? The book helps to tell it as it happened.
Blantonand Cook look at the trend of female soldiers who fought on bothsides. Records available in the Union Army gave enough informationconcerning women who hailed from the North side. The title of thisbook appears from a line in a letter of a soldier about a war inGeorgia: “They fought like demons… I saw three…women soldiersin the heap of bodies.”1The motives of women joining the war were the same in both camps:they did not want to be separated from loved ones, faith in the causeof the war, or longing to live as independent, free person- an optionthat was not readily available to nineteen century women. The twoauthors examine how women could slip in as recruits. The women justshowed hands and feet. Some women are seen in the book dealing withlife in the army, the experience of the prisoner of war, theperception of the public towards, and women as casualties.
Blantonand Cook write about over 240 women in military and discover thattheir motive of fighting reflects those of men-honor, patriotism,desire for excitement and heritage. The two authors rely on more than10 years of research in various sources. Some women enlisted toremain with their husbands and brothers, while other women haddressed disguising as men before the war. Many women were happy forbeing freed from women’s functions that they continued theircover-up well after 1865. The book shows how Yankee and Rebel womenmanaged to elude detection, some even for many years, and deservedmerited promotion. The women’s comrades did not notice thedishonesty until a young boy was wounded, killed, or some women gavebirth. As well as examining everyday’s military life details andthe ruthless warfare challenges of these women that includedcaptures, injury, and imprisonment. Blanton and Cook describe thefemale warrior as a symbol in the 19th century admiredculture and why 20th century historians and communityignored the contribution of women soldiers.2Breaking the negative suppositions thought about Civil War distaffarmy men, the sophisticated and vibrant work sheds light on the oddand over-looked aspect of the experience of Civil War.
Thefirst revelation of the book is that female soldiers fought for thesimilar reasons men fought- they were patriotic or they wanted to benear their husbands, brothers, or fathers. Some women joined the armyjust for money. At a period when a housemaid could earn 50 cents in aweek, the $11 per month soldiers earned was an approach out ofdependency and poverty. Some female candidates enlisted to departfrom poverty or the difficult physical labor of farming. Many youngwomen happily exchanged the view of life-long chore for the danger ofbeing shot by enemies.3The book makes these women’s stories credible by showing how thetruth diminished from national memories. The book is an impressivebody of researched and fascinating work.
Blantonand Cook’s greatest success in the book grow out of experiences anamateur historian and a professional archivist. Blanton has a job atthe National Archives, where he deals with 19th centurymilitary records. Cook participated in the reenactments of Civil War,until it was known that she was a woman. That experience stirred herinterest in the same fate of many of the distaff soldiers of theCivil War of America. The nature of the issue here, women compelledby the norms of their culture to hide their identities to besoldiers, makes the investigation extremely challenging. The book’sextensive notes and citations are collected from private sources,societies, and collections of manuscript from records of thegovernment, National Parks, newspapers, and state libraries and frompublished accounts, histories, and articles.
Cookand Blanton make a sensible and thematically descriptive advance totheir book, organization of chapters around different experiences:the shift into the persona of male military, "Life in theRanks," and become a war prisoner, for example. The authors dothis in order to make sense of a large body of material at theirdisposal. The authors carry their personal synopsis into post-warlife. The authors add two final critical chapters one concerns thehandling of the histories of soldiers since the Civil War, andanother on the general conclusions that were drawn from theirresearch. An appendix that outlines the Victorian Warrior literarymotif sustains their regular references all through the book to thecontrol of popular culture on the views of women of themselves andthe "reading" of their lives.
Anadditional goal of the book is to contribute to a precise history ofexperience of women in war as part of the present debate on women’splace in the military. Since they do not enter completely into theargument, their place seems clear in their frequent admiration forand faith in the performance of roles by women Civil War soldiers.For them, the rates of casualties, disease, and wounds offer themeasure of soldiers’ contribution to their nation`s war effort.When the women were able to maintain their positions of fiction, inopposition to the unspecified spheres philosophy of their time, thewomen soldiers showed their dedication and abilities. The historicalmethod employed in the book inspires and satisfies readers. The bookwill be critical to readers and history students due to its wealth ofinformation. The thematic advance, however, requires that few storiesget told whole and that personal fragments of stories are oftenrepeated as the relevant parts are applied to expand the claims ofdifferent chapters.
Blanton,DeAnne, and Lauren M. Cook. Theyfought like demons: womensoldiersin the AmericanCivilWar.NewYork:Vintage, 2003.
1DeAnne Blanton and Lauren M. Cook, They fought like demons: women soldiers in the American Civil War (New York: Vintage, 2003), 21.
2DeAnne and Lauren, 12.
3 DeAnne and Lauren, 19.