Civil War History is 80% Off

4 min read

By Geoff Schwartz

The American Civil War produced many legendary commanders whose deeds have been celebrated in song, paintings, and film. But what about the lesser-known participants, those who made an impact without the benefits of high rank and great power? Imagine someone with the guts to remove a musket ball from a jawbone with only a pocket knife, and to storm the beaches near Charleston, SC under heavy fire.


Meet Clara Barton, who in addition to her great humanitarian work serves as absolute proof that one should never judge a book by its cover. Barely 5 feet tall and in her early 40s when the war broke out, her bravery matched that of any man fighting for either side.

Determined to serve the soldiers in the field, Barton hoped to become as close to being a soldier as conditions permitted… Moving throughout Virginia and Maryland, Barton and her supplies aided the wounded and dying at Cedar Mountain, Second Bull Run, Chantilly, South Mountain, Antietam, Charleston, and in the Wilderness campaign… Her ministrations led to the nickname, “Angel of the Battlefield.” (WOODWORTH, S.E., pg. 59)

Barton’s story, along with many others, is told in Gale Library of Daily Life: American Civil War, on sale now as part of our 2014 Spring Cleaning Print Sale for only $55.80 (normally $279). In addition to Barton, the book tells of many other fascinating women, such as:

Maria Isabella “Belle” Boyd, “The Cleopatra of the Secession”

Boyd began her espionage work at the age of seventeen. When some drunken Union soldiers entered the family home on July 4, 1861, and insulted Belle’s mother, the teenager drew a pistol and shot one of them. As a result, a detachment of Union soldiers was posted around the house and the family’s activities were monitored. Belle took advantage of this close contact to charm one of the officers into revealing military secrets. It was a pattern she followed on other occasions, along with eavesdropping on Union officers through a knothole in the upper floor of the local hotel.


Boyd was not universally admired in the Confederacy in spite of her repeated success in obtaining Union military secrets. She was a flamboyant dresser, preferring richly colored clothes and wearing a feather in her hair. She also traveled alone, often on horseback, and visited Southern officers in their camp tents—behavior that shocked other women. Arrested twice and imprisoned for espionage, Boyd was released both times. In 1864 she went to England, where she met and married an officer in the Union Navy, Samuel Wylde Hardinge. (WOODWORTH, S.E., pg. 81)



Pauline Cushman

While on tour with a theatrical troupe in Louisville, Kentucky, Cushman began to fraternize with Confederate officers. She obtained battle plans and, concealing them in her shoes, attempted to carry them back to the Union lines. Cushman was caught by Braxton Bragg’s troops and sentenced to death by hanging, but was saved three days before her scheduled execution by a Union advance and Confederate retreat.


According to some sources, Cushman then disguised herself as a Union cavalry major and became known as Miss Major Cushman. By the spring of 1865 she was already giving lectures around the country on her work as a Union spy. (WOODWORTH, S.E., pg. 81)

Until June 27th, we’re offering discounts of 80 percent on more than 600 print titles. Download the title list to make your selections today! Once you’ve selected your titles and are ready to order, send your list to Lori Spallone at [email protected], or fax it to 248.699.8043 (Attn: Lori Spallone).

WOODWORTH, S.E. “Women on the Battlefield.” Gale Library of Daily Life: American Civil War. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 2008. 57-67.

WOODWORTH, S.E. “Spies.” Gale Library of Daily Life: American Civil War. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 2008. 80-83.


[alert-info]Geoff Schwartz

About the Author

Geoff is a Renaissance man, who can often be found reading about obscure historical topics, working on cars, or debating world affairs. He comes from a family of teachers and has a BA in communications.


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