Sexist. Harsh. Cruel. These are the best words to describe these two books about women fighting in the Civil War. I read two books over women fighting in the civil war. The first book was nonfiction and the name of the book was I’ll Pass For Your Comrade by Anita Silvey. This book talked about how women got turned down because it was unlady-like to fight in a war. The women who wanted to fight in the war had to disguise themselves as men and hope that they weren’t going to be examined when they enrolled. The other book that I read was fiction and the name of it was A Soldier’s Secret by Marissa Moss. This book talked about how she signed up to fight in the war, but was turned away because she looked too young. She later signed up again, but this time to be a field nurse. What she didn’t realize was that she was going to do more than just be a nurse when she entered the war. After reading both of these books I can say that they were very similar, but the fictional depicted the situation well and was better at telling me more about how they disguised themselves for war, what jobs they had to do while on duty, and the relationships with people she loved and the caring things she did for others.
After reading the fiction and nonfiction it was obvious that women had to change how they looked and what they did so they would not be questioned if they were a woman. These women had to change how they lived and what they did on a daily basis because one wrong move or act could completely expose who they were, and then they would get kicked out for being the opposite sex. In the nonfiction book, women had to completely change how they looked so they could enter the war. “Among them marched a Confederate officer known as Lieutenant Harry T. Buford. Harry, in real life Loreta Janeta Velazquez, had constructed an elaborate costume to disguise herself as a man and a soldier” (Silvey 2). Women had to be careful of when they changed into clean clothes because they would be exposed, so when they changed they made sure to either go out into the dark and change or hide in a tent. “Since we wash clothes every few weeks, I can keep my bandaged breasts hidden under the shirt I always wear, changing only in the darkness of the night…” (Moss 11). Women who entered the war did their best to look and act like men. Women had to avoid the trenches that were dug for bathrooms. Women took extra precautions when they went on trips. “A sudden storm causes it to rain for two days… I’m afraid my wet shirt clinging to me might reveal the shallow mounds of my breasts, so I keep my jacket buttoned…” (Moss 83). Women taped their chest so that it would be hard to tell that they had breasts. Women had to do whatever they could so that they didn’t go to the hospital because if they went they would be exposed for who they were and then would get kicked out of the war. When women had babies while they were serving in the war and ended up hiding in people’s houses and barns so they would not have to fight. Therefore, if women wanted to fight in the war they were going to have to disguise themselves as men to fight in the war as well as act like a man.
Another thing that was depicted really well in the fiction book was relationships with random people and the ones they loved. In the fiction book, this woman shows up to fight in a war and ends up finding someone she loves when she works in the hospital. She ends up finding the man she likes when she was helping a patient and his friend yelled at her to help him. She then has a long talk with the patient's friend and finds out that he is going to be a nurse. He then tells her that she is a good person and she blushes. “Something happens when he touches me… my skin tingles where his fingers rested, and my stomach clenches… I blush to the sight of him and his voice” (Moss 46). She loves him, but she doesn’t know he loves her back. Later in the book, Jerome is taken away by the rebels when he stayed back to help the sick. He was then released in exchange for a rebel. Another thing that she does is write letters to the families who have lost a loved one. “… packing up and sending out the keepsakes and letters the dying soldiers entrusted to me. I write many letters like this, to wives, sisters, mothers, and fathers” ( Moss 41). She does this because she feels that everyone should know what has happened to their loved one. Sometimes people write letters back saying thanks and that they are praying they will survive in the war. Another relationship she had was with her family. She left her family mainly at a young age because of her father who sold her horse, beat her or her family over something they didn’t do, and was going to force her to marry an old guy who bought her horse. Therefore, this is some of the relationships that she had with family loved ones and family.
Lastly, the fiction book describes more about the jobs that they had as they fought in the war. Women had to do many jobs during the war when they were at their home base. These women who went into war did everything they needed to do to not get caught, even if the job seemed impossible. Women who dressed like men were field nurses, which mean they nursed people who needed it if they were not a rebel. “I’m not a soldier— I’m a nurse. I race to the center of the explosion, where a man lies broken in a pool of his own blood” (Moss 29). She was later mad at herself that she had not shot anyone, because she signed up due to her being determined to shoot people and win the war. Women were also mail people who rode around on a horse and delivered the mail as fast as possible so they could get back in time to fight. One very important job that she was assigned was to be a spy. When she was a spy, she saw a traitor who switched sides and learned how they planned on tricking the union with the shiny batteries to make it look like they were looking at a gun barrel. They also had many days of training, which some found to be the best part about being at camp until they started fighting. “Before battle units would have to receive instructions on how to fire their weapons and would later learn how to fire heavier equipment like cannons” (Silvey 11). Most of the new recruits didn’t know how to operate a weapon, so they received training a couple days a week, and if they didn’t train in that day they were on guard checking for any rebels make ground towards them or maybe anything suspicious that could be harmful to them. Finally, these are some of the many jobs that these women had to do if they were fighting in the war.
Therefore, women had to disguise themselves as men by changing their entire way of living, they also had many relationships with family, loved ones, and other families who she wrote to let them know what has happened, and they had many distinct jobs at which they did on a daily basis. I felt that these were both amazing books to read, but the fiction book held my interest better because of how it got more in depth of their life, which you then felt like you were almost living that moment with them. Finally, this had a big impact on the world, because the president made a law stating that women have the right to fight in the war if they want, because they were getting turned down for something that was their will.
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