It is often said that he who wins the War, writes the history. Maybe that is true, I’m certainly not in a position to give support or descent to its accuracy.
What I do know is that there is always – always – two sides to a story. And it is the clear and stated aim of the legacy societies of the Confederacy to give true and honest testimony to their side of the War Between the States….or as some put it, The War of Northern Aggression.
In the telling of the story, what is often lost is the voice of the women – on both sides. One book seeks to rectify this problem with respect to Missouri women. Reminiscences of the Women of Missouri During the Sixties compiled and published by the Missouri Division United Daughters of the Confederacy is a compilation of stories – first person narratives – of and by the Southern Women of Missouri. It is their hope that future generations know and not forget the trials and sacrifices that this generation endured during the War.
Here are a few of the story titles:
- The Founder of Decoration Day
- Drink it Down, Southern War Song
- Execution of Lieutenant Brownlee
- Spent the Night Alone with the Dead and Wounded
- Saved by the Bible
- How One Prisoner Escaped
- Refused to Be Exchanged
- A Christmas Dinner in 1862
- Recollections of Quantrill
- Mark Ye Their Graves
- Seige of Lexington [Missouri]
As you can see from just a couple of excerpts the women lived the War up close and personal and suffered its trials and traumas along with their husband- and son-soldiers.
“The next day two or three men ventured to come and dig a grave to bury the dead. It was impossible to get coffins or even planks to make a box. The men lined the grave with rough boards, I washed the blood from their faces and hands, and had each wrapped in a clean sheet and blanket and we laid them to rest side by side in the same grave.”
“These were the days of the long ago though, when ladies did not consider it their duty to attend solely and entirely to the wants of their male patients, and soldiers only half recovered from their own sickness were detailed to aid the ladies in the care of the sick, they ministering in all cases where the ladies felt it were better to have such assistance. The women of that day were not then so far unsexed, even their ministrations to the sick, nor do I think it has been any advantage to them that such a condition has been attained in the present day.”
We are very fortunate to have first-person, female narratives to add color and context to such a monumental event in American History.
If your ancestors were not part of the Missouri conflict, look for others specific to the area where your ancestors lived. I have compiled a collection of Confederate Women’s Stories on HathiTrust (an online book repository) from across the South. You can file that collection here. There are compilations and individual diaries and journals to be found in my collection on HathiTrust. If you’re looking for more, look to the actual manuscripts of diaries and letters found in manuscript collections at a university or state archives. It will be a literary journey worth taking.