Selected Women’s Autobiographies on the American Civil War

Women’s Autobiographies


The linked titles of the autobiographies are connected to an entry in GWonline that provides you with an abstract and additional information.


This collection of more than 160 letters from Cora Benton Beach to her husband Oliver Charles Benton, who was fighting in the 17th New York Artillery during the American Civil War (1861–65), traces Cora’s life as she transforms from a young woman “who didn’t know how to wash her handkerchief” to a proud wife who becomes “a woman to walk with, not a child to lead.” The collection follows her three-year journey though war filled with worries, not just for her husband’s safety, but also for her four brothers, all of whom serve in the war.

History’s Women site on: Cora Beach Benton


This gripping autobiography by Canadian-born Sarah Emma Edmonds (1841–98) portrays the American Civil War (1861–65) from the perspective of a woman who played different roles in the conflict. Edmonds served as a cross-dressed soldier with in the Union Army under the name Franklin Thomas, but she also helped as a field nurse in numerous battles, including Bull Run, Williamsburg, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. In addition, she was a spy and succeeded in penetrating the enemy’s lines in various disguises no less than eleven times, and she saved many lives both through her work as an informant as well as through her nursing skills.

Text Online : Hathi Trust

Wikipedia site on: Sarah Emma Edmonds


The autobiography of Susie King Taylor (1848–1912), a woman of color, was the first of its kind. It recounts her remarkable experiences as a young black woman serving with the 33rd U.S. Colored Troops during the American Civil War (1861–65). King was 17 when she started as a laundress for the troops, but soon became an informal adjunct, willing to do whatever task was needed. Exhilarated by President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, she was devastated by the Jim Crow laws that soon followed the failed attempts at integration during Reconstruction in the South.

Text Online : Hathi Trust

Wikipedia site on: Susie King Taylor


Sarah Rosetta Wakeman (1843–64) was one of several hundred women who disguised themselves as men to fight in the American Civil War (1861–65). Unlike most of these women however, the letters that Wakeman wrote home were preserved by her family and later published. They provide a rare glimpse of what life was like for a woman fighting as a common soldier in the Civil War under the guise of a man. The young farm girl from Bainbridge, NY was the eldest of nine children and joined the Union forces in 1862 under the name of Lyons Wakeman. Her regiment departed for Washington, D.C. in October 1862. Wakeman was involved in several battles but died, like so many other soldiers during the war, not on the battle field but from illness on June 19, 1864.

Text Online : Hathi Trust

Wikipedia site on: Sarah Rosetta Wakeman