Saturday, November 14, 2020

Booknotes: Women Making War

New Arrival:
Women Making War: Female Confederate Prisoners and Union Military Justice by Thomas F. Curran (SIU Press, 2020).

Recent studies contextualizing the Civil War's guerrilla conflict as a "household war" have emphasized the key supporting roles assumed by women who provided food, supplies, shelter, and information to local fighters. War-torn Missouri has proved to be the most fertile ground for this work, and it is no surprise that the state provides the setting for Thomas Curran's Women Making War: Female Confederate Prisoners and Union Military Justice.

From the description: "During the American Civil War, more than four hundred women were arrested and imprisoned by the Union Army in the St. Louis area. The majority of these women were fully aware of the political nature of their actions and had made conscious decisions to assist Confederate soldiers in armed rebellion against the U.S. government. Their crimes included offering aid to Confederate soldiers, smuggling, spying, sabotaging, and, rarely, serving in the Confederate army. Historian Thomas F. Curran’s extensive research highlights for the first time the female Confederate prisoners in the St. Louis area, and his thoughtful analysis shows how their activities affected Federal military policy."

As one might have anticipated, the guerrilla war's expansion in scale and intensity coincided with harsher treatment of female civilian supporters by Union authorities. "Some Confederate partisan women were banished to the South, while others were held at Alton Military Prison and other sites. The guerilla war in Missouri resulted in more arrests of women, and the task of incarcerating them became more complicated."

More: "The women’s offenses were seen as treasonous by the Federal government. By determining that women—who were excluded from the politics of the male public sphere—were capable of treason, Federal authorities implicitly acknowledged that women acted in ways that had serious political meaning. Nearly six decades before U.S. women had the right to vote, Federal officials who dealt with Confederate partisan women routinely referred to them as citizens. Federal officials created a policy that conferred on female citizens the same obligations male citizens had during time of war and rebellion, and they prosecuted disloyal women in the same way they did disloyal men."

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