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The Civil War Home Front

During the Civil War more than two million soldiers left their families, homes, farms, and jobs to join the fight. The women were left to maintain the home front. This shift brought increased responsibility and opportunity that would shape the country long after the war ended.

Fold3 Image - Unidentified Civil War soldiers with women and child
Women were needed to fill critical gaps outside of their typical domestic spheres. In addition to managing homes and families, women worked in factories, mills, and munition plants. They sewed uniforms and bandages. Some served as nurses, such as Carrie Wilkins Pollard, who spent two years caring for the wounded. In 1892, she appealed to Congress and was granted a pension. Although women weren’t eligible to enlist as soldiers, as many as 400 did; many under male aliases.

Occasionally, the battlefront and the home front merged into one. Such was the case for Susan M. Alsop. The young widow was in her early 20s and struggling to maintain her farm when in 1864, the Battle of Spotsylvania raged in her front yard. Her property became a burial ground for many. Twenty years later, soldiers visited the Alsop farm, hoping to mark the exact spot where Union Gen. John Sedgwick was killed. One of them presented a $5 bill to the son of Susan Alsop saying, “On this day twenty years ago I stole a side of bacon from your mother, and I want you to give her this to pay for it.” When Alsop sold her farm in 1895, a newspaper article noted that “the Confederate earthworks were still in a good state of preservation.”

During the war, many soldiers suffered injuries that resulted in life-long disabilities, including thousands of amputation surgeries. After the war, men and women had to navigate and define new roles and responsibilities. Many women had become accustomed to making decisions, managing finances, and operating farms and businesses. With the men back home, adjustments were required. Some had to adjust to the fact that their men were never coming home. The death of 620,000 Americans left the country stunned and mourning. Typical of mourning practices at the time, many widows donned black dresses to express their grief.

Widows of Union soldiers were entitled to a federal pension. Confederate soldiers and widows weren’t eligible and needed to apply to the individual state where they resided to receive a state pension. It wasn’t until the 1900s that federal pensions were available to all Civil War soldiers and widows.

Women emerged from the Civil War with a taste of social empowerment that permanently shifted their attitudes. Wartime exposure to responsibilities traditionally managed by men taught women that they were, in fact, capable of filling these roles. This gave a boost to the suffrage movement, and in 1869, the National Woman Suffrage Association formed with the goal of procuring the vote for American women. Search our Civil War archives, including the Civil War Pensions Index and the Civil War Widows Pensions file to learn more about the role women played during the Civil War!


  1. Terrie M. says:

    Great article. When people think of the Civil War and how women were affected by it, they typically think of the poor widow who was left to make ends meet when her husband was killed on the battlefield. But this story flips the script on that and instead shows the strong, female figure that emerged from the shadows and lit the fire for the women’s movement. Way to go “thinking outside the box” and portraying the important role women played during this famous war and the years that followed.

    • Ron Smith says:

      I have personally four great grandmothers that were the wives of confederate soldiers and also more that were of the revolutionary period. This is a very important article and I have to wonder at the brave women of the revolutionary period that did the same as the confederate widows. That was a side that I’ve never before heard. Perhaps someone could investigate and publish the findings.

  2. Virginia Stone says:

    Looking through the records of my husband’s great grandfather, we find that even though he returned from Spotsylvania alive, with wounds to the hip and foot, he continued to work in the coal mine, but his wife went to the County Home. There was a widow with two children in his home., 1870 census. Tragedy all around.

  3. Stanley Long says:

    My Paternal 4 Grand Father was killed by bushwacker in front of wife and family his son my 3 grand father was killed same time,
    They just wanted to be left alone. My 4 great Grand mother and her daughter in law survived and contineud to raise the families.

    • Robert Anderson says:

      When , Sherman’s Army came through South Carolina in February 1865 they stole everything of value they could carry and burned thousands of homes of civilians. My great grand mother was 6 years old when the Yankees came. Their house was not burned but after ransacking and stealing all the valuables , the furniture and other items that could not be carried off were piled in front of the house and set on fire. Among the items on the pile was a doll. A kindly Yankee soldier pulled the doll out before it burned and handed it to the crying 6 year old little girl , my great t grand mother . This story of one man’s humanity has been told in our family for 5 generations and I will soon tell to my grand daughter .

    • James Horn says:

      Some of my ancestors were also from South Carolina. They had a town house in Charleston and a plantation near Columbia. They figured that Sherman was going to attack Charleston to avenge Ft Sumter, so they moved a lot of their valuables to the plantation.
      Of course, Sherman went inland, their town house was untouched, and the plantation was trashed. Oh well.

    • Gerrye Fielden nee Becker says:

      your 4th grandfather wouldn’t happen to be Valentine Werkman (Workman), as he was my 3rd Great grandfather who was killed by ‘bushwackers’ in his home, died in his wife’s arms in 1864 in Missouri

    • Virginia says:

      I live in Nevada, Missouri. The word Bushwacker seems to be a proud thing here. We have a Bushwackers Day in June, a Street fair, great fun!

    • Gerrye Fielden nee Becker says:

      Who were your great grandfathers? Sounds just like the family in my ancestry, one of whom was Valentine Workman – is this the same family? My mother was a Guenther.

  4. Kenalea Johnson says:

    Edward Milburn Pace, my 2nd great-grandfather, was killed by Quantrill’s Raiders during the Centralia Massacre, when Quantrill stopped the train carrying Union soldiers and killed all but one soldier. Are there more reading this post who have ancestors that were also killed in the Massacre?

    • Denise Lincoln says:

      I don’t have a relative, but did come across testimony of a soldier in civilian clothes that was also on the train during this incident. James Pile, was a chaplain, but was on furlough. I don’t currently have the luxury to stop to pull out the materials, but contact me again, in a week or so.

    • Kenalea Johnson says:

      Good, I will be waiting for that information.

      As a child, I would read this book, The Thrilling Record by Goodman who was taken prisoner by the Raiders. It is available here
      I will have to read it again to see if there is any information about your person.

    • Tom Murray says:

      My 2nd grandfather, Edward Fitzgerald, was killed on May 31, 1862 at the battle of Fair Oaks, VA. He was an Irish immigrant having come to this country 10 years prior. He left a wife and 5 children in New York City. The oldest boy was 14 years old. His wife was awarded a widow’s pension of $8.00 per month. To this day I can’t believe he enlisted, as he did, with five children.

    • E Dudley says:

      I live near the site of the Centralia massacre and have visited it. It is a very peaceful place now where a very brutal action took place on Sep 27, 1864.

    • Kenalea Johnson says:

      Thank you for that information. I understand that the citizens of Centralia took the bodies from the mass grave and buried them in a cemetery. That is a great way to make others feel civilians are respectful of the soldiers who were killed.

    • Paula says:

      Kenalea, in my family is a young Quaker cousin who moved with his family to eastern Kansas territory in about 1859. These relatives were abolitionists. In 1860, young Charlie Ball and some friends were planning a “liberation raid” to release the slaves of one Morgan Walker, a wealthy slave owner in Jackson County, Missouri. Charlie and his friends met a man who went by the name of Charles Hart. Hart agreed to help the boys in talking to a local slaveholder, wishing to encourage him to free his slaves. Instead, Hart betrayed them. All three boys were murdered; Charlie Ball was shot in the head. Charlie did not know that the double-crosser was actually using a pseudonym. His real name was William Quantrill.

    • Kenalea Johnson says:

      How exciting that you have that information from the past. Thank you for the information.

  5. Sherry Garey says:

    This was an excellent article. I would like to read more plus hear more of the personal family stories how their ancestors were affected by the war. Mine we all Southerners, but I have not found the personal stories yet. Thank you all for sharing!

    • Susan Ruhl says:

      Hi, I am aware of a book my family has had since my great grandfather fought in the Civil War.He served in the 4th Heavy Artillery in New York.The book I am speaking of was written by Frazier Kirkland in 1891 and is called “Reminisces of The Blue and Grey”. This book tells many stories. You may be able to find it either online or on E-bay. There is a company who has put it out and can be purchased for $25-50. I have an original copy as well as the one online I found.Please check it out, and let me know. Fascinating stories written during the Civil war.

    • Kenalea Johnson says:

      I grew up in a family that was mixed. The women who’s families had been Confederates really were mean to my Grandmother who was just from the North, although all were living in the Panhandle of Texas. The war was still fought more by the women than the men of the family. But I remember the pointed remarks that were made and as I grew older I realized what the meaning of the remarks were.

    • Ransome Welborn says:

      There was a movie that stated and showed that in New York, when Irish immigrants arrived they were told that they had to pay, I believe, about $350, which they didn’t have. If they didn’t pay, they had to enlist. That’s why there so many Irish regiments in the union Army.

    • Donna Key says:

      Mine were all Yankees but I haven’t found any stories either.

  6. David Brown says:

    Great article. There is an interesting parallel to the changes in society, especially in the UK, that occurred after World Wars 1 and 2. And in both cases, as in the American Civil War, women were the greatest beneficiaries.

    • Elaine says:

      great reply.
      however, the ‘greatest beneficiaries’, were the American people.
      Women entering the workforce drove industry and growth of the nations that had that happen. All without ‘permission’, but unable to stop it because once given the responsibility women did not yield again.
      Countries that do not use this valuable resource lag economically.
      Great article, but sad in the telling.

    • Kearin says:

      I believe if in fact anyone received a benefit, you are correct. It is always a do or die during all wars and you have no choice.

  7. Susan Russell says:

    My second great grandfather was a lieutenant in the New York 10th, and died from wounds received at the battle of Fredericksburg. His widow became a matron in the NY prison system to support herself and my great grandfather, who was 4 years old when his father died. There is a letter in the Fold3 archives where she requested that her widows pension we were increased from $12 a month to $17 a month because she was supporting a child

  8. Len Walker says:

    My great grandfather was wounded at Spotsylvania on the CSA side. He returned home to Georgia and lived to 1907.

  9. Sharon Fulton Beach says:

    Another aspect of this tragic war, was the wife left behind after finding out that her husband deserted. Not ever knowing if he was one of those left on the battlefield who was never identified, or if he ran away and took on another persona. My 2x great-grandfather, Nicholas Sylvester Fulton, deserted on 30 Apr 1863 following one of the deadliest battles, The Battle of Stones River, never to return to his wife, Mary Gilliland Fulton and his 3 children. She was left with a tax debt and had to return to her father’s homestead in PA. Can you imagine how she felt not ever knowing whatever happened to her husband?

    • Kenalea Johnson says:

      I believe that wars are spending the lives and minds of our youngest and strongest. Post traumatic stress and the now recognized fatal disease caused by concussion even with just the blast force without head injury are invisible injuries. Your deserters in battle of any kind may have had either invisible injuries and the book written by Geoffrei De Charney, “A Knight’s Own Book of Chivalry,” tells of the same problems back in his time, the fourteenth century. These invisible injuries were not only visited on the soldiers but also on the families of soldiers and innocent civilians nearby. The Civil War in any country is a concurrent battle of civilians and military and involves both factions in struggles that mentally never end.

    • Nancy C Beverly says:

      It is possible that he didn’t desert, but was killed or captured. My ggrandfather was reported as a deserter on the same day that he was reported as a captive. He got parole papers, and eventually he returned home. However, your soldier could have been wounded and was not reported as wounded. He could have died from his wounds and had noone to identify him. The scenarios are endless. Good luck with finding the truth. BTW, one of my great uncles was reported killed and his name was placed on a tombstone. Imagine the surprise of his family when he returned from the war, injured, but definitely alive. Wonder who was buried in his place… Good luck.

    • My family story is similar as my paternal great-grandfather Gillison Pinkston came to MO from KY. He settled in Knox Co MO, having three 40 acre tracts of land, with documents signed by 3 different presidents. On April 1862, he was arrested for refusing to sign the
      loyalty oath to the Union when they were in the area of Kirksville MO in Adair Co. MO. His family never knew what had happened to him after his imprisonment in the 1858 Marion Co. Jail. I was told by my last cousin (on my father’s lineage) he had died from ‘complications of measles’ & they never knew where he was buried.
      I have since learned that he was taken from the Palmyra jail, to Gratiot St. Prison in St.Louis & in Sept. 1862 transferred to Alton (IL) prison where he died Nov. 1862 of ‘measles.’ Apparently he would have been buried in one of the mass graves near that prison. My grandmother was 11 yrs, old at his death, the 8th of 9 children. I never knew of this family hx until after we’d moved from the family farm. I only had a land deed with his name, not knowing what kin he was to me, as all I knew was that my grandmother’s maiden name was Pinkston. I wish that my parents had told me ALL they knew of the family lineage, as my German maternal grandfather came to America in 1880.

    • Jennifer Murnan says:

      You bring up a very good point of view. It would be so difficult to not know what happened to your spouse.

  10. Doug says:

    Thoughtful article. Liberals should consider the “silver lining” of women’s empowerment in the midst of this tragic period of American history. All political stripes should be more aware of all aspects…..

    • Eliza says:

      I believe that all involved, and those they left behind were Americans simply fighting for what they believed in. Not a liberal or conservative issue here. It was about two separate issues: the federal government did not want all the southern states to succeed from the union, and human rights. The slavery was just wrong. And the “silver lining” you mention, did empower women. It woke them up to realizing that, they too, were part of that very human rights movement. Just so horrible a way to experience such an epiphany, as so many people died for the “cause”. It is said history repeats itself. It has. If only we could all awaken to the epiphany that we truly are all equal! I am a conservative.
      Just sharing my thoughts without an argument intended. My ancestors were in Virgina at the time. And I say proudly they were heavily involved in the “underground railroad “.
      Peace, and love between all of us one day. We can only hope!
      This was the war of wars that we should all learn from.

  11. Donna Cunningham says:

    What books and additional resources will help locate these women?

    • Kenalea Johnson says:

      I find a lot of books available online for free. Just ask Dr. Google to find the name of the person you want to research and put ebook after and hit click. Books that were written before the copyright law are often available as pdf or ebooks.
      I especially like Florence Nightingale’s nursing books. Do you know that the fact that she noticed that wounds recovered much faster on the field of battle than in the hospitals was the reason for building hospitals with more windows and providing outdoor venues for long term patients to be able to use sunlight and clear air to recuperate in?

    • “N.C.women of the confederacy” written 1926, published by United daughters of the confederacy….revised and republished 2006, by cape fear3 chapter, UDC

    • Kenalea Johnson says:

      Thank you so much for the information. I have already downloaded a copy.

    • Eliz says:

      The most important resource for locating the women, any woman from the past, for that matter is a death certificate. Our parents’ names are required in this valuable piece of paper. It’s so difficult because we take our husband’s names. Just yesterday, in my late 60s, I saw a photo of my paternal grandparents for the first time!
      My grandmother died young, buried in an unmarked grave with her name mispelled! And to top that off, the “rows” of graves are alphabetical…
      She was buried in the row just below the one she should have! Good news is she is found. At last!

  12. This information is very pertinent even to today’s woman. Had it not been for Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, we women might still be living in the “dark ages” of treatment and attitudes toward the female. Thanks for the aritcle.

  13. Sue Ellen Williams says:

    Both of my maternal grandparents were orphaned as children during the Civil War era. Their losses had a profound impact upon their lives and the lives of their later generations. Indeed, whole communities were adversely affected by the War and its aftermath. Articles on this topic would be interesting and appreciated.

    • Agree. My Great Great grandmother worked at the Northern Ohio Lunatic Asylum in Newbury, Ohio during the Civil War (it is unknown if my Great Great grandfather enlisted, deserted or died prior to the war began). Her two daughters, one of which was my great grandmother (father’s side) were to St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Cleveland, Ohio and reminded there until June of 1865 and her sister until April 1866.

      My GG grandmother was able to purchase land, and built a home in 1870 (as a widow) in land that once belonged to the Sterling family in Ohio, for $205.00.

      This home still stands today.

  14. Thank you so much for this article. There are many Civil War stories in my family tree, too many to relate here. I have family who fought on both sides, and too many young men who lost their lives, including two 19-year-old great uncles, whose loss was borne by their mothers and other family. Many received pensions, some for the soldiers, and some for their widows. This article and the ensuing discussion are most welcome. I would like to know about the hospital boats and the nurses in the Civil War. I have a few stories, but would like more information.

    • William Carlton/Thomas says:

      That is the true tragedy of the civil war. Brothers against brothers, fathers against children. My 3rd, grandfather, Obediah Carlton was a Union loyalist in western Tennessee but he had 2 brothers who were confederates. The “confederate gorillas” [his words] took 7 of his mules and horses and continually harrassed him as documented in court documents I have from the archives in Tennessee.

  15. carole bacon says:

    My great grandfather was a French Canadian who came to this country to fight in the Civil War. He served 1 year with the New York infantry and then 3 years with the third Rhode Island Cavalry. He survived the war, got married and became a US citizen. He died in the state mental hospital.

  16. Terry Kyle says:

    I too am a proud Southerner – I would like to share these stories of my family’s history. My 2x great grandmother, Lydia Sheffield Bowlin had 4 sons in the Civil War she lost 2 of her sons in battle, 1 had been captured at Shelbyville and was in a prisoner of war camp when she got word that her youngest son had died. He was buried in Mulberry Church near Fayetteville, Tennessee and she lived in Ashville, St. Clair Co., Alabama. She obtained a “past port” to cross enemy lines, hitched up a wagon and set out for Tennessee to get her son. It is not known whether she went alone or if someone went with her. She finally arrived and had the soldiers dig up her son’s body and load the pine box on her wagon. She started back to St. Clair County, stopping at night at farm houses with porches. She would pull the wagon close to the porch so she could keep wild animals away. She finally got back home with her son and his large gray horse, which she had tied behind the wagon. He was buried and she could rest knowing “that he was home and not in some strange place alone. A true image of a “Mother’s Love”.

    Also, my 2x great aunt was Emma Sansom, she was considered a heroin and honored both in Alabama and Texas were she lived after the war with her husband. She was only 16 when General Forrest and his troops arrived at her home wanting help. The Union troops had burned a bridge and General Forrest needed help crossing the Black Creek. She volunteered to guide them across the creek. Her action saved the troops and the next morning the Union troops surrendered to General Forrest.

  17. Ann Kelsey says:

    My great grandfather was a drummer boy with the Union Army. He survived, but was wounded. When I located his pension records in the National Archives most of the correspondence dealt with his never ending attempts to receive compensation from the equivalent of the Veterans Administration for his war wounds which affected his ability to farm. He was not terribly successful, but he kept trying right up to his death in the nineteen twenties. I was struck by how little has changed in veterans’ compensation. His story could just as easily be one from a Vietnam War veteran or an Iraq/Afghanistan war veteran. Sad.

  18. Resting in Peace in the Presidio of San Francisco’s military cemetary is a Civil War spy Pauline Cushman – she was one of hundreds of women who spied successfully for both the Union and the Confederacy. Here is a link to find out more about her:

  19. Charlotte O says:

    All my great great, etc. grandfathers on my mother’s side fought in American wars starting with the American Revolution. My great great grandfather who fought in the Civil War was a farmer in Brooklyn, New York where he joined the Union Army. My great great grandmother ran the farm while he was away. Fortunately, he survived the Battle of Gettysburg and lived to be 98 years old! He also had 12 children, although by 1910 only 4 were still alive. My great great grandmother was amazing, too. When she was 66 yo, she opened one of Brooklyn’s first in-store bakeries with my great great grandfather. Guess who did the baking?

  20. David Harrison says:

    I too, like most had many ancestors fighting the wars.
    My 2nd great grandfather William E Cole was killed by Rebel sharpshooter 3 JUN 1864 • Cold Harbor, Virginia, when 22 year old . leaving daughter 4 years old and uncle 2 with my grandmother.
    Through pension application found so much information filling in many blanks. Dates of marriage, births etc. Also a witness fellow solder, Henry Clunis saw him shot and helped bury him , so they were able to recover his body and move to Cold Harbor National Cemetery.
    Unfortunately have found nothing about his parents or siblings…
    Also Nelson Anderson Thayer (1841 – 1863)
    1st cousin 4x removed was killed by friendly fire 2 JULY 1863 • Gettysburg, Adams County, Pennsylvania, USA.
    Here found information about his father , when he died and mother eventually remarried 2nd husband died and Nelson sent money to support her.
    Have read so many pensions telling the tales of ones left behind . how step moms raised the kids. How some wives also died and kids raised by relatives..
    Some tales of the battles and prisoners.

    Also researching the wars found many courageous women as today doing so many important roles.

    • Linda says:

      Just curious, how did you discover the details of how your ancestors were injured or died? I don’t have relatives that.can provide me with any information.
      Thank you

    • David Harrison says:

      Hi Linda ,
      Much of the information was provided in the Widows Pension Papers.
      William I was dead ended until I did find a clue from an obituary by great grandmother was daughter of William Cole and Susan Pettit , as originally was not sure of his name.
      Then hints appeared about Veterans Pension and statements in the pension gave details by a witness…
      Nelson was also hard to find as his father another grandmothers brother died and she remarried. He lived with his grandparents and earlier census listed him as Andrew.
      As i was searching some pension papers for Family of Thayers was reading his and had information about his mother being married to David , how father had died earlier , and she remarried.
      Tracked later census where he was called Nelson.
      Find a Grave also contains some of the information.
      plus New York, Civil War Muster Roll Abstracts listed some information.
      plus add the regiment your ancestor was in..

  21. Carolyn McAuley says:

    My great grandfather , Robert Miller Town 1844-1900 and his 2 brothers all fought in the civil war. Robert died in 1900 of consumption so my great grandmother applied for his pension for her and her 2 daughters, one being my grandmother and was awarded $8.00 for her and $2.00 each for the girls. I wonder how she managed.

  22. Shara Gray Mooney says:

    I Have many ancestors that fought in the war between the states, on both sides, some on each side of my parents families and both side of the war. My second G Grandfather and his oldest son both died of Yellow fever. Seamore was 17 or 18, and died before his father enlisted. They were from WI. GG Grandfather died in Georgia, Kennesaw Mt. My GG Grandmother was left with 4 Children Her elderly Mother was living nearby so moved her into her home and the two women turned their home into a boarding House. She was getting $8 a month pension. In 1970 census My Great Grandfather Is listed as the head of house.
    On my mothers side of family Her 2nd Great grandfather From Tennessee took a bullet in the lower jaw as well as having dysentery that plagued him for the rest of his life but being from the south never had any pension.

  23. I was astounded as I started researching my families. Almost every single man in all of my families of an age fought in the Civil War. They were all in infantry regiments. The highest rank was a corporal, no dashing cavalry officers for us! The few who didn’t fight had some kind of disability. All of my 2nd great grandfathers fought and a few of my 3rd greats too. My most amazing fact was that my Yankee husband’s 2nd great fought at the battle of Chicamauga as did my favorite 2nd great. They were actually shooting at each other. I figured this out from the beautiful maps that are available at
    The Rebs sent those Yankees skedaddling all of the way back to Tennessee.

  24. Mark Haselberger says:

    “Jimmy” Dugan, bugler-boy for the band at Carlisle Barracks, (Pa.), cavalry depot. Stood three feet, six inches tall, allegedly served under fire. Photo of him on page 189, volume 8, Miller’s Photographic History. What ever happened to him?

  25. Nice article! If anyone is interested in learning more about women soldiers of the Civil War, please visit my website where you will find links to my blog, Facebook page, and information regarding my upcoming book.

    • Janet T says:

      Just signed up for your blog and FB page, then found a link to Andersonville somewhere in your writing, so now will be adding that to my Georgia visit! Looking forward to your book!

  26. reply to Tom Murray:

    My 3x gr grandfather as well died on May 31, 1862 at the Battle of Fair Oaks.
    Enlisted at age 51 as a blacksmith and leaving 8 children at home.

  27. Patricia says:

    Thank you for this article. If not for Fold3, I would not have discovered that two of my great great grandfathers died in the Civil War, where they died, and the manner of their deaths. They both lived on the same street in Utica, and my great grandfather fought as well as a teen, and was wounded twice. And, in going through the widow’s pension files, so much information was given on the often forgotten wives: country of origin, marriage dates, officiants, even maiden names and young children who didn’t survive between census reports to be recorded. I am grateful that none of them, or their sacrifices are forgotten.

  28. Carolee Uits says:

    My ancestor fought for the Confederacy. After the long bruising war, he made his way home to his homestead in northern Virginia. Totally burned out, his slaves having fled, he took what he had to make a new beginning. The family story is that he took a cart and peddled produce, foodstuffs, and anything else he could find – all the way to Kansas City Missouri. The story continues that he had a small grocery there, married, and settled down. Ancestry has helped me find census materials where he is listed as a grocerer – and his wife, a clerk. His son became a master carpenter, and my father, an artist accomplished enough to do his artistic magic for a living. Today many of his western-inspired watercolors are found in the Wichita (Kansas) Museum of Art. He never tired of telling of his Confederate heritage. From his mother, we learned the story of how she was a descendant of Henry Hudson and was part Native American. I can’t wait to verify these stories – or discover even more fantastic ones!

  29. Charlie Cochran says:

    My Great Grandfather, James Allen Cochran was on the March to The Sea as a corporal in the Illinois 116th infantry. He was captured at Atlanta and sent to Andersonville Prison in 1864. When he returned to the farm in Illinois in 1865 after the war ended, his wife and 5 year old son, my Grandfather, did not believe it was him and told him there were no tramps allowed on the property! He apparently convinced them he was their husband/father even though the year in Andersonville and the walk from Georgia to Illinois had changed his appearance radically.


  31. Charlie Cochran says:

    By the way, James Allen Cochran helped found the GAR in Springfield, Illinois and lived to be 90 years old, passing away in 1927. Tough guy for sure!

  32. Mary says:

    Hi Linda,
    I too have great great cousins that served in the Union Cavalary from Indiana. When I started doing research into genealogy, I remember what my aunt said many, many years ago when I was growing up. Even trying to rermember some of the information about them. I even asked my older brother about our great grant cousins. After getting the information, I then hit the computer and off I went. I contacted National Archives in Washington, D. C. I really got a lot and I mean a lot of information about our great great cousins. Oh my, did I ever get large packages from Natl Archives with all of the information about my great great cousins. Whew. and I even contacted the State Of Indiana for more information. I even went onto the Find a Grave. I never knew anything about that website. You can even get information from that website. There you will be able to do more research about the survivors of the deceased person. Also, you can subscribe to a magazine called “Family Tree”. Also tract down Federal Census from that time. Also, if you have the time, contact your local library for more help. The library is a great source of information and librarian will help you with your research. Also contact the Mormon Church that is near you. They too will help you.

  33. Becky Barnhardt says:

    Sally Louisa Tompkins, a native of Mathews County, Va., was the first woman to be commissioner an officer in the CSA. She opened Robertson Hospital in the home of Judge John Robertson at 3rd and Main Street in Richmond soon after the first battle of Manassas on July 21, 1861. Soon after Sally opened her hospital, Surgeon General Samuel P. Moore decided that large military hospitals that would be operated by commissioned officers should replace the many private hospitals since they did not necessarily provide their patients with sufficient care. When Jefferson Davis realized that Robertson Hospital had the highest number of former patients returning to duty, he commissioned her a captain on September 9, 1861 to keep her hospital open. She refused payment for her service and wrote on her military commission “I accepted the above commission as Captain in the CSA. when it was offered. But, I would not allow my name to be placed upon the pay roll of the army.” Robertson Hospital remained open until June 1865, when the last of the patients were discharged.

  34. Julie Pearce says:

    I was born and lived in New Zealand all my life and knew very little about the Civil War in the US. It was only when I was researching my family history that I learned about it, My Dad was Canadian and his Gr Grandfather James W. Brenton died in Farmington Mississippi not of wounds but of typhoid leaving a wife and six children, one of whom was born while he was away fighting for the Union. I wonder if he ever saw his son or even knew about him.I believe that the bitterness of that war lasts even til this day in some places. From where I am this seems to be a bit silly as the US is now one country.

  35. Flora Kay Turner says:

    My Indiana Great Grandfather Isaac Davis & wife Mary Francis Phillips sent six sons to the Civil War. Only the oldest three returned. Also, a 40 yr old nephew whom they had reared enlisted leaving a wife & 9 children on the farm. Abel (Allen)Benjamin has a beautiful tombstone in the Hughes Cem in White Co, IN but his body is in a mass grave near Vicksburg, MS. Abel was named after Isaac’s father as was Abel Welch whose mother Nancy Davis was Isaac’s sister, making my grandparents 2nd cousins. My mother knew none of this. History is really enlightening.

    • Kenalea Johnson says:

      I believe we may be cousins Welch is my mother’s maiden name and her grandfather was James able Welch

  36. Jeanette says:

    My g-grandfather was with the Union; he was severely injured at Chancellorsville May 3 ’63 while guarding POW; retreating across the Rappahannock river, his left hip and hand were shattered by a shell, leaving him helpless. Someone, maybe a kind POW, carried him to safety and medical care. He did not have any amputations, though the medical statements in his record show he would have had a better life if they had amputated. He spent from May ’63- Feb ’64 in a DC hospital, and was discharged from the military/hospital at the same time. He also received $8.00/mo pension. My g-grandmother married him in May ’65, she managed the farm, birthing 12 children, burying 6 before they were out of childhood, and caring for an invalid husband; he became an invalid by ’66 and survived until 1901. She is my inspiration.

  37. Michael W Winternheimer says:

    My 3X Great Grandfather JW Rader was part of the 5th Texas Mtd. Cavalry, Sibleys Brigade, a lancers brigade, he fought in the battle of Val Verde, somehow ended up in hospital in Hempstead Tx. Where according to muster records, he died. I have not been able to locate the Burial Location or cause of death but someday hope to, ty for interesting articles.

  38. All the stories I’ve read are riveting and mostly sad. My great grandfather was John Henry Sweitzer of Washington County, Maryland. He was a Union soldier as was his father, Henry, his brothers George and Ellis Vascoy “Clark” Sweitzer, several brother’s in law as well as my Maine great grandfather, Benjamin F. Stokes who ‘married’ and lived in Allegany, Maryland. I am a genalogist and have read and re-read what I know about them. John H. was injured and lay in the Clarysville Inn made into a hospital just a mile down the road where I grew up in western Maryland. He was there with his brother in law, Jacob Eli Creek. His brother Clark, entered the war in 1862 and died within 6 weeks. He has two graves. One grave marked Ellis Vascoy Sweitzer and the other Clark Sweitzer. It took me forever to figure out they were the same person but always wonder if two separate people are born in these two graves or he was in parts! Benjamin Stokes lost his right hand and wore a hook. He had been a blacksmith but then became a farmer after the war. I also have several Virginia grandfathers and uncle who fought for the Confederacy but do not know their stories well. I did notice the daughters born of Henry Sweitzer, sisters of John H. and Clark never married. As I did more researching on other families I found many young women stayed widows or spinsters as there were not that many young men to marry. If they had sweethearts or husband that were killed; they did not marry unless another veteran lost his wife. Having been born in one of the many states involved in this terrible war and having family on both sides; it becomes clear we were all touched somehow by this difficult war; especially being on a border state called ‘the Free State”. I’ve been through the underground railroad tunnels in Cumberland, Maryland former Fort Cumberland now Emmanual Episcopal Church. I’ve been to Antienam (such a sad, horrendous battle), Gettysburg and other spots. My Ohio family lost Gregory family members a few days after their first few days; one died drowning crossing a stream just doing some training. As a granddaughter of grandparents who have been in this country since the Mayflower and John Smith’s settlement in Virginia; I thank Fold3 & other websites for the information online that helps fill in the information on all the battles my family has fought in for 400 years. I am especially grateful for the 21 pages of War of 1812 and land deeds, pensions, etc. found on my 4th g grandfather, John Gregory of Virginia then Ohio. It was awesome!!

    • Pat Kramer says:

      Please email me about your Jamestown folks. I have quite a few. UPCHURCH, DELK, WARREN, DEMAREST, etc.

    • Gregory, Barnett, Campbell, Catlett, Clement, Power, Johnson, Gay, Lockridge to name a few. You can check out my tree under Mullenax family. If interested I will just need to get you name and email so I can invite you.


      Joan Christiansen

  39. Sandy Knapp says:

    I am trying to track the capture, imprisonment at Danville, VA prison, and death there in Jan. 1865 of a young man from my hometown. His name was Nathanial (Nat) Westgate from Haverhill, NH. If anybody’s history or stories can provide me with more info I’d be grateful. He was 19 years old and the son of a well to do family when he joined for the Union cause. He has a burial site at Danville Cemetery and one with his family at Ladd Street Cemetery in Haverhill, NH. He was captured in a battle and died in Jan. ’65.

    • David Chamberlain says:

      My paternal ancestry is from that area, specifically from Newbury & Bradford, VT, across the river. I looked in “History of Haverhill, NH” by William F. Whitcher, 1919, and found an entry regarding Nathaniel Westgate, but it doesn’t say much more than what you said in your post about him, so I suspect you are aware of this source. But in case you are not, the entry I found is on page 236 of this book, which can be accessed for free on the internet. Maybe there is more about him elsewhere in the book. There is a genealogy section at the back of the book that I did not check. Good luck in any case!

  40. Terry Melton says:

    Oral family history passed down through 3 generations told of the death of my great great grandfather, Osburn Kilgo, who survived the Civil War only to be killed by outlaws for his horse on his way home. I discovered in 2014 while researching on that this oral history was wrong. Not only did he survive the war, he didn’t die until 1898. While it appears that Osburn was somewhat of a rounder, the women he married were strong, independent, and resourceful.
    He first married in 1845, Diza Ann Mitcham, in Meriwether County, GA. He fathered 2 children with her before her death in 1853. He then married my great grandmother, Nancy Rainwater in Campbell County, GA, and fathered 3 sons, Henry Allen (1855), Moses M. (1857), and Hugh James (1861). Apparently in early 1861, while Nancy was pregnant with Hugh James, he abandoned his family, moved 50 miles away and married Sophia Hardy in Cass (Bartow) County, GA.
    In early 1862 Osburn Kilgo shows up on the muster rolls of Company F, 1st Regiment, Georgia State Line Militia (Home Guard) (Georgia Blues). This unit was not technically a part of the Confederate Army, but was formed at the behest of Gov Joe Brown to protect the railway infrastructure after the raid by Union spies that lead to the “Great Locomotive Chase” in 1862. (Later it was attached to Confederate forces in opposition to Sherman’s march through Georgia)
    After the war Osburn and Sophia move to Alabama, where he worked as a “collier” (coal miner). It was his 1895 application for a Confederate Veteran’s Pension that proved to me that he survived the war. Later in 1915 Sophia Hardy Kilgo applied for a Veteran’s Widow’s Pension, telling of Osburn’s death in 1898, and related her own war story as follows:

    “The State of Alabama: Before me, A. P. Longworth, Judge of Probate, Shelby County and for said county personally appeared Mrs Sofia Kilgo(re) being duly sworn deposeth and saith that her husband Osburn Kilgo(re) served in the Confederate War and was a member of Company F, 1st Georgia, that she was his wife and went to war with him in 1862 and cooked & washed for the soldiers until the close of the war in 1865, that the company surrendered in Kingston, Georgia, that she accompanied her said husband all the way through the war into South Carolina and back into Alabama, and then before the war closed we went back into the state of Georgia. She was near the company when the battle of Honey Hill in South Carolina was fought. Affiant says that her said husband served in all about three years in the war; and further says that all the comrades who served with him are now dead. She further says that the two witnesses who made proof for her are now dead, and she is unable to find any other one who served in the war with him.”
    She was awarded a pension and lived until 1921.

    Meanwhile my great great grandmother, Nancy Rainwater raised her 3 sons alone by farming. She survived the difficult war years and reconstruction – never remarried and died at the age of 69 in 1902. I believe that Nancy was the originator of the story of Osburn’s death in the war, perhaps as a convenient untruth to hide the fact that she and her sons were abandoned by him. At any rate, while I’m not exactly proud of my ancestor Osburn, the women of my family were truly remarkable.

  41. Bruce Thompson says:

    My great grandfather joined the Union Navy at a young age. My recollection, based upon what my mother has told me, was that he was 16 and lied about his age in order to be allowed to join. His ship went down the Mississippi and was captured (maybe during the attempt to take Vicksburg?). He spent time in the Libby Prison in Richmond Virginia. He later got out (presumably in one of the prisoner exchanges that took place in the earlier years of the war). When he came home, his mother did not recognize him. He moved to San Diego later and killed himself there. There were wounds suffered in that war that were internal as well as external.

  42. Lee Jenkins says:

    A war that never should’ve been fought. Hot headed Southern leaders wanted out of the US rather than to use their political power, which although diminished, was still formidable, to wait until Lincoln could be ousted in 1864. Northern leaders who were determined to force the Southern people to live under their version of “government for, by, and of the people” even if it meant killing those very people to prevent them from living under a government of their choosing.

    In addition to holding the home and farm together, Southern women also had to somehow avoid a slave insurrection. Seems that if the slaves so hated their masters, as the 21st century narrative now goes, a revolt would’ve been easy to make happen. But things are not always an easy fit into the picture today’s media likes to put forth.

    • The core of the issue: The Constitution ratified in 1788, Its first three words – “We The People” – affirm that the government of the United States exists to serve its citizens. Lincoln and people of the North felt that the Constitution was meant to include all citizens to include slaves. The southern democrats felt that slaves were not and should not be considered citizens and the constitution did not apply to them. This is aside from the issue that the North felt it was immoral to own people. So its not just the North imposing its will on the south. Its to support the Constitution and correct a moral issue.

  43. Such is the case in all wars to include WWI and WWII. Women were responsible for home, and making a living for the family.

  44. John Martin says:

    My Grt Grt Grandfather was captured when Sherman came through S.C. He was sent to a POW camp at Pt Look Out , Md. He died there a few months after the war ended. I am assuming he was too sick to get home after the war , as the only way home was to walk from Md to SC. He is buried at Pt Look Out. I’m hoping to do a road trip to see the monument to those prisoners .

  45. Claudia Wagner says:

    To Ron Smith: Cokie Roberts wrote a great book called “Founding Mothers” about the women during the Revolution era and how they helped shape our nation. This was mostly about the wives of our founding fathers but there were many others that had to keep the presses turning and the farms producing as well as feeding and clothing the soldiers who were fighting. During that time there was no machine made clothing and most or all of the cloth was home spun and woven on home looms. She tells about Martha Washington who wintered at Valley Forge organizing the women of Philadelphia to sew clothing for the troops. A great book!

  46. Judy R says:

    Thank you for this very interesting and enlightening article and the ensuing discussions.

  47. Patrick M Murphy says:

    I just want to give thanks for this story, and ALL of your stories. As a 61 year old front Illinois (originally), whose Irish and Italian ancestors arrived in America from 1890s on, I have read and watched quite a bit about the Civil War. I still simply cannot imagine that we did this to each other. I cannot fathom slavery. But I honor and respect you all, your families, this chapter in the human story. Yes, war is a horrible waste that humanity will hopefully be rid of soon. I have my doubts and fears. Thank you so much for sharing the truly personal experiences of your people. May we never repeat this war.

    • Julie Pearce says:

      I agree with Patrick Murphy: Coming from a country, New Zealand, where even the police officers don’t carry guns it is hard to understand how people can take up arms against one another. But it happened and it is part of the history of the US. All we can do is learn from it and move on. Thanks to all for their stories, it must have been really hard for all on either side, in those times.My Great Great grandmother Nancy Caroline Polk’s five children were brought up by her father and his wife after her husband died fighting the war and went on to remarry and have three more children. I wonder sometimes what she went through.

  48. Tina Tillert says:

    This is awesome info! I only have 1 story from my family dealing with the Civil War. My mother had told me, there was a pair of brothers in her line. She was born and raised in Allentown and Easton, North Umberland county, PA. Both of the brothers wanted to go off and fight. The older brother goes off and dies. Somehow, the younger brother, too young to fight, finds out his brother is dead before the rest of the family knows it. So, the younger takes the older’s name. Later, he had gotten married and lived as his brother. After he is dead, the family comes to identify his body. The figure out, that is not the older brother, but the younger brother. I have no other info.
    I am a history nut, but have very little info on my own family.

  49. Thanks for all the wonderful resources. I am just starting my search of ancestors who were in the civil war. So far, I have found it very interesting that in the beginning, the civil war wasn’t over slavery. It was started over taxes related to the south wasn’t benefiting as much as the northern states from the increased taxation levied on it. Slavery was an additional issue. I should have paid more attention to my US history! I also discovered that at the end of the civil war, the Emancipation Proclamation signed by Abraham Lincoln only freed the slaves owned by southern states. The slaves in the north had to be freed by each state. I am looking forward to finding all the information I can about my ancestors and
    which side they fought on. My paternal great grandfather was born in the early 1800s and his father was born in the late 1700s. Since they came from Virginia, I am pretty sure I would have ancestors involved in the civil war.

  50. Susan Hockett says:

    My husband’s family passed down a book to him about his ancestors in North Carolina who were Quakers and refused to join the Confederate Army and when forced to join, refused to support the effort, would not work in the kitchens, with the animals or the hospitals and were jailed, tortured and killed in some cases (Southern Heroes: The Friends in War Time by Fernando G. Cartland, 1895- it can still be found online). It is also the story of the women and families who were left behind. Thankfully they had their community of other Quaker families who all held fast to their convictions and loved them through it. The book is signed by every father to the eldest son in my husband’s line since 1896.

  51. John Blackmon says:

    Being from South Caroina and have four great grandfathers along with uncles and cousins too numerois to mention who fought as well, I love arguing about the war of the Northern Agression.

    Two questions I always ask are if there was no right to secede, why was Massachusetts considering seceding during the war of 1812. No one that I can find at that time said they didn’t have the right. Several other New England states were also talking about seceding as well. Most people don’t even know about this part of our country’s history. The second question is if South Carolina didn’t have the right to secede, why did the federal government require SC to change it’s constitution to say that they no longer had the right to secede before the government would authorize removal of the occupying troops from SC.

    Of course the southern states had the right to secede and if Lincoln hadn’t insisted on “preserving the union”, just think what bloodshed could have been avoided. Many in the North agreed with the South’s right. You can find twenty to thiry or more northern newspapers that took the position to “let them go, they will soon come begging to be taken back in”.