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Courage in the time of war

Courage in the time of war

“Courage? I should think, sir, a soldier’s wife ought to have courage.” This quote, in the introduction of Courageous Women of the Civil War from Chicago Review Press, is the first inkling of the book’s ensuing subject. However, the women in this book proved themselves to be much more than soldier’s wives.

In this volume, author M.R. Cordell includes both Union and Confederate women, divided up by their roles: soldiers, spies, nurses, and vivandières. In this reviewer’s opinion it is best to read each portion in one sitting, lest you get lost in the numerous aliases used by women soldiers and spies. Unfortunately, the sections on each woman are short in length, which leaves the reader wanting more.

One of the more compelling portions was about Mary Carroll, a Missouri teenager who was a Confederate sympathizer. When her brother was jailed by the Unionist Missouri militia for trying to join the Confederate army, Carroll did everything she could to get her brother out of jail, including agreeing to an engagement (albeit a short-lived one), hiding a crowbar under her skirts, stealing keys, and even carving a key out of wood.

Another compelling story in this book was that of Mary Jane Richards, a half-black, half-white slave who became a spy within a woman-run covert operations unit and was placed in the Confederate White House! In my opinion, this story certainly deserves a more-detailed and crafted narrative in an individual title. In fact, a number of these women’s lives have strong narratives. Therefore, each of these women deserve their own book, and that should be your next action, Chicago Review Press, in your Women of Action series.

This book is an excellent primer for continued exploration of these women’s lives, especially as author M.R. Cordell provides short “Learn More” bibliographies at the end of each woman’s section. However, this volume certainly could have benefited from some sort of conclusion or epilogue. Instead, it just ends. And that’s not adequate for the lives of these courageous women.

About this book
Courageous Women of the Civil War: Soldiers, Spies, Medics, and More
By M.R. Cordell
Chicago Review Press
256 pages
Available now

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