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They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the Civil War

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  494 ratings  ·  83 reviews
Albert Cashier served three years in the Union Army and passed successfully as a man until 1911 when the aging veteran was revealed to be a woman named Jennie Hodgers. Frances Clayton kept fighting even after her husband was gunned down in front of her at the Battle of Murfreesboro. And more than one soldier astonished his comrades-in-arms by giving birth in camp.

Paperback, 214 pages
Published September 9th 2003 by Vintage (first published September 1st 2002)
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Average rating 3.75  · 
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I've seen a few Civil War reenactments over the years, I've gone to several battlefields and forts in different states and I've toured homes still bearing the marks of the war - bullet holes in the doorways, Minié balls lodged in trees. I've heard the stories of soldiers' gallantry, young boys who lied about their ages so they could aim their weapon at the other side, families torn apart by the politics that didn't quite have so much to do with slavery as it is taught in schools. I've watched
Jan 24, 2008 rated it liked it
This one kills me...the research is amazing and impeccably done. And honestly the information is so fragmentary I don't know how you can get a fluid story going. That being said, it just becomes a series of facts thrown at you and supposedly sealed together by larger themes. I appreciate the information but almost would have preferred chapters to approach each woman independently rather than lumping them together under themes.
Apr 23, 2007 rated it liked it
Very interesting, but I'd have liked it better if each woman's story had been kept together. The same names kept appearing in different chapters, but because the information was separated in that way, it wasn't easy trying to keep a clear picture of what was happening to each of them. The authors' point could have been made with more impact if it had been presented in a more readable style.
Lisa Potocar
May 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Anyone interested in thorough research done on women soldiers during the American Civil War? Look no further. This is an amazing and highly interesting thesis. It's definitely one of a kind.
Mar 27, 2012 rated it it was ok
The subject of women warriors throughout history is often overlooked by present-day scholars; at best, it is acknowledged with a nod to Joan of Ark, and, if one studies the American War for Independence, Molly Pitcher. The topic of female soldiers in the American Civil War, which is often termed the last "old-fashioned war," is notable not only because the conflict occurred more than half a century before women's suffrage in the U.S., but also because we have documented proof of women's service ...more
Sep 21, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dnf
I read the first 50 pages of this book and gave up. I love Civil War history- and specifically I love women's history during the Civil War era. Drew Gilpin Faust's book, Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War, is one of my favorite books of all time.

This book, on the other hand, somehow made a fascinating topic utterly boring. It was not good story-telling. The first two chapters (the only two I could stomach before I gave up) simply listed things. For
Feb 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book provides an amazing account of the collective female participation in the Civil War, including insight into the conditions of enlistment that enabled women to cross-dress successfully and earn better wages than the 19th century would allow. My only complaint (and this happened often enough for me to rate it with four stars instead of five) is that the transitions between topics are monotonous and weakened by repetitive language. For example, so-and-so "wasn't the only" such-and-such ...more
Feb 10, 2009 rated it it was ok
The content of this book was great -- the execution, at best, was very poor. The authors could've taken a page out of David McCullough's guide to writing history: Make it at least vaguely interesting instead of a arduous listing of facts.
Sep 09, 2018 rated it it was ok
This non-fiction book is well researched but poorly organized. Authors organized by theme and not by woman soldier's specific story. So, the story of these women gets chopped up over the 200+ pages, and the impact of their feats gets lost.
Mar 09, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, military
The authors obviously did some extensive research in putting this book together, and I learned quite a lot about how women managed to pass as men during the civil war and have even greater respect for women who had the courage to don the uniform and fight. However, there were some weaknesses and some missing information.

I would have wished for a different method of organization or indexing. It was as though each chapter was an independent entity, with no crossover or acknowledgment of
Jun 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Civil Ware reenactors, women currently in the military
Recommended to Lisa by: bibliography of a children's book on the same topic
Scholarly written text organized by themes. Must be the most comprehensive book on this topic ever written. The authors' research was exhaustive. It would be interesting to see if any contemporary letters on this subject not already known to exist are brought to light as a result of this book. I like that it focused on the women soldiers, as opposed to nurses and others, and appreciated especially the discussion of motivation. I think that we need look no further than today's modern military ...more
Jun 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: history lovers, feminists, Civil War buffs, women's history lovers
I picked this up for a research project in high school and found it intriguing, well-written, and wonderfully in-depth. Women warriors are vastly underrepresented in historical study but Blanton and her co-author have made an excellent contribution to the canon. They use a wide variety of primary sources as their foundation, but what really makes the book is the way the authors write.

Rather than just dry, basic facts like so many other history texts, the authors instead tell a story. Even if you
Dylan C
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
I am not generally hugely into military history, but I enjoyed this book. I could see it being a great starting point for further research on the subject, because most of what it does is list names and events and dates. Not much of a narrative, not many opinions about the war or it's reasons itself. Where the record is lacking, the book is honest. For example, almost very few former slave female slaves come up, but not for lack of trying. It gave me enough of a taste to want to know the full ...more
Apr 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Wasn't what I expected, but I found it fascinating.
Geoff Sebesta
Aug 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is going to be important.

One of the main things that I have discovered in all this reading about the Civil War is that women were primary actors in both the conflict and the lead-up to it. Female participation in the Civil War, for good and for bad, was erased by successive waves of societal prejudices. First they got wrapped up with the Lost Cause after publication of Loreta Velazquez's memoirs, and then, as women started to win the right to vote in the early 20th century, society
Jan 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Very interesting topic. Unfortunately, the authors don't have much material in terms of primary or secondary sources to work with, so they resort to much duplication when referencing the same women soldiers in the various contexts (motivations, evading detection, jobs performed as army members, feats of bravery, etc) that they discuss. The writing sometimes has a choppy feel, especially when authors list various women soldiers to highlight a particular point. This breaks their narrative. Perhaps ...more
This book has such potential but to me it suffers from two major flaws. First, it reads way too much like a parade of facts with little synthesis. Second, the extent to which the authors seem unwilling to accept the intersection of this topic with LGBT history is downright galling. They even go so far as to ask on p. 201 (while explaining away how all of these people were cisgender women and none of them could possibly have been lesbian or bi) "Why would a lesbian join the Army, where she would ...more
Denise Kettering
Mar 01, 2019 rated it liked it
This book is a painstakingly researched and thorough treatment of the women known to have served in the Civil War. There is thoughtful analysis throughout the book to accompany the clear archival and documentary work done by the authors. The biggest challenge to the book is that because the stories are at times fragmented or the authors had only limited information, they grouped the women based on various aspects of service, etc. At times, this makes it hard to read the sustained narrative and ...more
Sharon Miller
Jun 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
While the writing starts out a bit awkward: many pages of lists- they are very compelling lists, and the style impressively picks up steam as the book continues and the authors find their stride. That aside, the subject alone is great. I grew up with the Civil War, being dragged to battlefields and Lincoln sites all throughout my childhood, and I never heard about these women. Makes me a little mad, you know. But this one is a keeper, I need a copy for my shelves. I hope the many lists in the ...more
A good resource with a major flaw that can't really be helped- there's so little in-depth information about the women who fought in the Civil War. Even with painstaking research through archives and newspaper clippings and letters, there is only fragmentary information about the majority of the women who fought on both sides, and so it gets frustrating to only learn about these slivers of information.

I also wasn't a huge fan of the thematic style of the book- I would have preferred an anecdotal
Krista S
Sep 01, 2018 rated it did not like it
This topic seemed so interesting and I was very excited to read this book. Then I received it and started reading and just couldnt do it. There was simply no storyline to follow. It was name, alias, date, battle, repeat. I am not a huge fan of military history so it has to have a story line and not be completely dry. With this topic, I was sure that there was a story beyond the obvious reasons for women of the time to take on male identities, but the further I read, the drier it became. I ...more
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Blanton's and Cook's They Fought Like Demons should be considered the go-to monograph for anyone interested in learning more about women's martial service in the Civil War. Motivations for joining, conditions during service, the POW experience, and life after service are adequately covered (as much as they can be with limited sources available). As a historian, I appreciated the historiography of women's war service at the end coupled with more information about the Female Warrior bold.
Vanessa Chavez
Aug 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Well written. Objective. Based on primary sources. I read this after reading Neverhome.
Apr 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful book.
Nov 02, 2019 rated it did not like it
Didn't finish. Shoddy research and the "narrative" drags alarmingly.
Jul 13, 2017 rated it it was ok
I started this after my interest was piqued by I Shall Be Near to You. I wanted to find out more about the women who disguised themselves as men and went to war. Whilst They Fought Like Demons is meticulously researched, it's quite a dry read, and not what I was looking for. I'm more interested in the human stories behind these women, rather than a catalogue of facts and figures. However, with so little known about many of the women referred to in this book, I'm not sure how it could be anything ...more
robin friedman
Oct 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
How Women Fought In The Civil War

Neither the Union nor the Confederate Army in the Civil War authorized women to enlist or welcomed women combatants. Indeed, they were actively discouraged from the traditionally male preserve of combat. Yet a small number of women had the drive to assume male disguise and to enlist and fight. This book helps tell their story.

The authors of "They Fought Like Demons" DeAnne Blanton, a military archivist, and Lauren Cook, of Fayetteville State University spent more
Amanda (Books, Life and Everything Nice)
They Fought Like Demons enlightens us to a rarely spoken about part of history. Women served in the Civil War, mainly disguised as men. Their reasons for doing so were varied, ranging from patriotism to staying with their sweethearts to escaping abusive situations. Before this book I had never heard about or really even considered women serving in this war. I learned so much and found this book interesting. I'm not a huge history buff, especially when it comes to learning about wars. Even so, ...more
Before I heard of this book, I hadn't realized there was any official record of women soldiers throughout history. This went a long way toward filling in my knowledge about the phenomenon during the American Civil War. The book even explains why it fell out of general knowledge. Altogether, though, it's more of a starting-off point than a comprehensive look.

They Fought Like Demons covers several aspects of women soldiers: the why, the how, the discovery, and what their male counterparts, the
Christian D.  Orr
Aug 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Those of us who are either currently serving in the military or are recent veterans of the US Armed Forces (I fall in the latter category) are quite accustomed to seeing female colleagues in the military--for any of us who've served in the post-Vietnam area, female troops are nothing out of the ordinary (with the exception of certain Combat Arms career fields such as the Infantry). And in this day and age of thorough physical examinations at the MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) as ...more
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