It may never be known exactly how many women fought in the Civil War. There are over four hundred documented cases of Union and Confederate women who disguised themselves as soldiers. Seventeen of these women were from Ohio and joined the Union Army. While these women were the exception, their stories of determination and bravery should not be overlooked.
Above are some of the National Colors of the Regiments these brave women belonged to. They are, in order, the 74th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (O.V.I.), 41st O.V.I., 21st O.V.I., 52 O.V.I., 1st O.V.I., 128th O.V.I., and the 15th O.V.I. Below are a collection of the stories of Ohio women who fought bravely for the Union.
On July 1862, Mary Scaberry, a seventeen year old from Columbus, Ohio, enlisted in Company F of the 52nd O.V.I. as "Charles Freeman." After serving for sixteen weeks, she was admitted to the general hospital at Louisville, Kentucky with remittent fever. The physicians also diagnosed the seventeen year old as having "sexually incompatibility" after discovering that the boy had female anatomy. By December 13th, 1862, Mary was discharged (1).
Fannie Lee of Cleveland served with the 6th Ohio Calvary. She was discovered in Washington, D.C., and requested to stay on as a nurse to work in one of the local hospitals. The Provost who discovered her was irate and refused, stating that she had "so far unsex[ed] herself" as to be unworthy of the job and was sent home (2).
Ida Bruce from Atlanta traveled to Ohio to join the 7th Ohio Calvary after the death of her parents (3).
Katie Hanson had lived as a man prior to the Civil War. She was working on a Great Lakes steamboat when she enlisted in an Ohio regiment in 1861 because she was "an expert rifle woman." She quickly rose to the rank of sergeant (4).
Sgt. Jenni R. Gregg from the 128th O.V.I. served at the Johnson's Island Military Prison, where elements of her regiment were employed as guards, was discovered to be female. She was discharged and her discharge documents stated that her civilian occupation was "Lady (5)."
It was also reported that two women served in the 59th O.V.I., avoiding detection for three years and completing their service term (6).
- Leonard, Elizabeth D. All the Daring of the Soldiers: Women of the Civil War. Penguin Books, New York: New York, 1999. p. 210
- Blanton, DeAnne and Lauren M. Cook. They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers of the Civil War. Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge: Louisiana,2002. p.117
- Ibid, p.36
- Ibid, pp. 39, 72
- Ibid, p.72
- Hall, Richard. Patriots in Disguise: Women Warriors of the Civil War. Paragon Press, New York: New York, 1993.p.199