KINSTON – They were no shrinking violets, the women who took up arms to join the fray during the Civil War. “They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers of the American Civil War” will be presented on Aug. 11 in this summer’s final 2nd Saturdays program for the CSS Neuse/Caswell Memorial. The free program will be led by Lauren Wike and examines women warriors. It is co-hosted by the Lenoir County Visitor’s Bureau and will be presented at the county’s Visitor Center at 2 p.m.
For more than 10 years Wike researched documents and co-authored the book “They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers of the American Civil War.” It presents the experiences of 250 women who disguised themselves as men to go fight in the Civil War. Wike says about 400 women are believed to have fought on the Union side, and many additional women bore Confederate arms, but because they enlisted under an alias, it’s particularly hard to document the numbers.
“We find women in all branches, all ranks up to major. I’m still looking for a general,” she explains, adding, “Women’s experiences as soldiers were like their male comrades. Because no one knew, they were given the same duties and responsibilities, and oftentimes were promoted at somewhat better rates than the men.”
Among the women Wike discovered are Sarah Wakeman, who spent a month in a military hospital in New Orleans with dysentery, and was undiscovered the entire time. Sarah Edmonds wrote about her military exploits as if she had been a female Civil War nurse and spy to conceal her male masquerade.
Another veteran, Loretta Velasquez, recounted her Civil War experiences as Lt. Harry Buford and also a spy in her book, “The Woman in Battle.”
The Aug. 11 program concludes this summer’s statewide 2nd Saturdays programs organized by the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources and presented at historic sites and museums all across North Carolina. Each venue crafts a program of arts/history/culture specific to that site.
The CSS Neuse has moved to 101 North Queen St., and limited exhibits will open this fall. The Gov. Richard Caswell site remains open on Vernon Avenue.
For additional information call (252) 522-2091. The CSS Neuse/Gov. Caswell site is part of the Division of State Historic Sites in the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.
About the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources
The N.C. Department of Cultural Resources annually serves more than 19 million people through its 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, the nation’s first state-supported Symphony Orchestra, the State Library, the N.C. Arts Council, and the State Archives.
Cultural Resources champions North Carolina’s creative industry, which employs nearly 300,000 North Carolinians and contributes more than $41 billion to the state’s economy.
To learn more, visit www.ncdcr.gov.