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The War Between the States was also a war between brothers, cousins, friends and neighbors – and some of them were women. We know from certain military records, antique books, and lately some newer books, that women served as nurses, vivandieres, sutlers, spies, prostitutes, nuns, Sanitary Commission workers, laundresses, seamstresses, cooks, refugees & everything in between. Some even had the distinction of being Confederate & Union soldiers. No exact number can ever be given, but there were in excess of 60 women found dead on the battlefields. Women were not allowed to fight and all joined the ranks disguised as men, even so far as to take on a man’s name & cut their hair. Most were never discovered, but the few that were discovered were found out by being wounded or dead on the field. A vivandiere, by the way is a French army term applied to women who provided food, provisions, and liquors to soldiers.


Most often they were a relative of the commanding officer of a unit. Sutlers were peddlers who sold goods to military units in the field. Not all civilians were women & an equal number of men offered their trades for the military, such as: Carpenters, Undertakers, Blacksmiths, Photographers, Engineers, Sutlers, Doctors, Grave diggers, Tailors & on & on. The list takes on as many occupations as there are jobs to be performed & by the need of the military during the war.

  Living history isn’t just about the military. It highlights civilian activities and attitudes from manners to music, lifestyle to fashion, politics to domestic chores, recreating the daily chores of civilians, men, women, and children. During the American Civil War, the total population was approximately 34.3 million. Total military enrollment was 3.9 million or 11% of the American population. That left 88.9% or 30.4 million civilians at home, on farms, in factories, running the country while the youth of the nation was out defending what they believed in.

  During the Civil War, numerous civilians would perish while defending their homes & families. At last tally approximately 500,000+ civilians would perish during the Civil War. Some would succumb to bombing, gunfire, starvation, disease, or simple cruelty at the hands of others. Many would be tortured, raped, and beaten. In comparison, the loss in military personnel for 4 years on both sides equaled approximately 650,000. It is easy to say that this war was anything but "civil".

   The cost of this war would exceed approximately 2 million/day or $250 Billion in 4 years of war. The cost of re-construction would at least double that, in the years following the war. As inflation rose during the war, a barrel of flour which cost $20 in 1861, by 1864, that same barrel would cost you $250. The average wage of a soldier trying to provide for his family was $13/month.

Belle Boyd "Spy" 


A Proper "1860" Lady

A Proper Lady

A Typical Southern Belle



• Women wore up to 7 layers of underpinnings under their dresses.

The fan, parasol, gloves, and handkerchiefs all had a language of their own, which women used very effectively to communicate.

• It was improper for a single lady to flirt, but quite acceptable for a married lady to do so.

• There were 4 stages of mourning for widows, but widowers were expected to re-marry as soon as possible.

• A lady is never introduced to any gentleman without first giving her permission to be introduced.

• A woman does not converse with a man in public unless she has been previously acquainted with the gentleman through proper social introduction.

• Upon introduction, a married lady could offer her hand, an unmarried woman, never.

• A Lady, whether young or old, would never try to attract the attention or admiration of the opposite sex when on a public street.

• It is considered vulgar for a lady to lift both sides of her skirt when stepping onto a curb or manipulating a staircase. The only time lifting both sides of the skirt is acceptable is when a lady is crossing a muddy spot and then the practice is tolerated for only a moment.

• A women may never show her bare legs at anytime, in public.

• In any social situation, whether on the street or at a ball, a lady never takes the arm of two men, one on each side, at the same time.

• It is the mark of ill-breeding for a lady to draw her gloves on, in the street.

• A lady never swings her arms while walking.

• A lady never looks back. It is excessively ill-breed to do so.

The 118th Civilian Ladies' handbook

Please click the PDF icon to view or download the complete PDF document.

A Period Homestead.

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