Anna E. Carroll
published:
When the history of this war is written," President Lincoln stated in 1862, " Anna E. Carroll will stand a good deal taller" than her father, Thomas King Carroll, a former governor of Maryland. Sadly, Lincoln was wrong. Instead she has been all but erased from the historical record. If the modern world hears of a woman active in the Civil War, it will hear about Clara Barton or Harriet Tubman or maybe Sarah Edmonds - not Anna Carroll. Her contemporaries, however, recognized her as a highly educated woman who was extremely astute in politics.
Anna Carroll, a dedicated nationalist, celebrated Lincoln's 1860 election by freeing all her slaves. Then she turned her able hand to writing letters, news articles and pamphlets responding to the vitriolic secessionist propaganda that quickly inundated the North. She was particularly supportive of Lincoln's controversial use of his presidential powers in the early days of the war. Many historians credit Miss Carroll with keeping Maryland, a state strongly sympathetic to the South, from seceding.
In 1861 President Lincoln asked Miss Carroll to go to St. Louis to assess the possibility of a Union invasion of Texas. She was accompanied by Judge Lemuel Evans. Instead she returned to Washington with very different plan. Her research included long conversations with a Mississippi riverboat pilot, Captain Charles Scott. Scott provided Carroll with the navigational details necessary to her ultimate report in which she advised Lincoln to ignore Texas and the Mississippi River in favor of driving deep into the upper South along the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers using a combined force of the army and the navy's new, untested, ironclad gunboats. Her plan was accepted. While the Confederates spent the holiday season of 1861-2, smugly rejoicing over their early victories on the fields of battle, Lincoln and his cabinet were putting Anna's plan into motion.
The resulting capture of Forts Henry and Donelson in February 1862 gave the Union its first taste of victory. Andrew H. Foote's ironclads proved their worth paving the way for Ulysses S. Grant's army. Their combined victories cut deep into the western rebel occupied territories, opening the entire region to Union supply boats and troop movement. Confederates were shocked by the quick turnaround of events. Northern newspapers transformed Brig. General Grant, an unknown entity from a small town in Illinois, into a household word. Soon everyone was calling him "Unconditional Surrender" Grant because, when Confederate General Buckner, commander of Fort Donelson, requested terms, Grant had replied, "No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted." And Buckner surrendered. Grant's honeymoon with the press, however, was brief. By April, he arrived at Shiloh where both the Blue and the Gray experienced their first real blood bath of the war. Of the almost twenty thousand soldiers either killed or wounded at Shiloh, 10,162 wore the Blue. Immediately newspapers began to vilify Grant as an incompetent drunk and to demand his immediate resignation. Lincoln, however, refused. "I can't spare this man," the President said. "He [unlike McClellan] fights."
While not a public figure like General Grant, Miss Carroll continued to advise the Lincoln administration and to publish Union propaganda. Her efforts in support of the Lincoln administration and the prosecution of the war, while virtually unknown today, clearly were apparent to at least some of her contemporaries. In 1864 when Francis Carpenter painted his fifteen foot wide canvas immortalizing the signing of the emancipation proclamation, neither Lincoln nor Congress had any money to purchase Carpenter's painting in 1864. Finally fourteen years later, Mrs. Elizabeth Thompson of New York bought it for $25,000 and donated to the U.S. government. In the painting Carpenter included Lincoln, the members of the President's cabinet and an empty chair. Many art historians feel confident that the chair littered with maps and journals represents Anna Carroll in her unofficial, yet highly respected, role as advisor to Lincoln.
But Lincoln was assassinated, and times change. Women's activities in the Civil War quickly faded from sight as the image of the war morphed into a male only, battle oriented event. By the 1880's Miss Carroll, a woman raised in wealth and privilege, found herself growing old and in financial need. Finally a bill was introduced in Congress to grant her a pension. It was not just any pension but a pension equivalent to that given to major generals. Unfortunately, somewhere in the chaos surrounding President Garfield's assassination, that bill slipped into obscurity. Instead, Congress ultimately granted her a $50 per month pension for "important military service rendered by her during the late Civil War." That pension provided Anna Carroll with a modest income until her death on February 19, 1894.
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"Lauren Cook and the Second Battle of Antietam"

 
 
The first battle of Antietam was fought on September 17, 1862. That day, 23,000 men fell in the combat, marking it as the bloodiest single day of battle in Civil War. The second battle of Antietam, fought 127 years later, had but one casualty whose name is Lauren Cook.
Lauren Cook, a native of Grand Rapids, is civil war re-enactor who values authenticity. In fact, re-enactments allow nothing to be used or worn that is not exactly what soldiers would have had at the time of the Civil War. But when two Antietam National Battlefield park rangers noticed Lauren leaving the ladies restroom, they stopped her and told her to either remove her uniform or leave the park immediately. According to a park spokesman, her participation violated the park's "serious commitment to authenticity."
Sadly, these park officials were not as well versed in history as they thought they were. Hundreds of women, dressed as men, fought in the Civil War. There are at least four documented cases of such women at Antietam. The key word in that statement is "documented." If there were four known cases, there undoubtedly were many more since every day historians are discovering previously unknown examples of women who donned male attire and joined the army. Frequently they went to war with their husbands or fianc�s. Even if their men folk perished, they continued to fight in disguise. Women soldiers even suffered at infamous internment camps such as Andersonville and Florence when all they had to do was reveal their gender and be released. The only real impediment to their service was discovery. Usually that came when they were seriously wounded and taken to the hospital. Even then, they often just recuperated, received their discharges and re-enlisted in other units. One young woman, Lizzie Compton, fought with seven different units including a year with the 125th Michigan cavalry. Others like Jennie Hodges aka Albert Cashier managed to keep her gender hidden not only throughout the war but into the twentieth century.
The exploits of such women were well known during and after the war. Newspapers and magazines published accounts. A few women, like Frances Clayton, went on lecture tours. Michigan's own Sarah Emma Edmonds wrote an account of her experiences. 175,000 copies sold in two years, the profits from which Miss Edmonds donated to a veterans' relief fund. Even President Lincoln knew. When he received word that the war department refused to pay Mary Ellen Wise, who had fought valiantly for the Union, he angrily ordered that she be paid immediately. And cross-dressing soldiers received pensions for their war time services.
But in the late nineteenth century, memory faltered. The Civil War became a man's war. By 1910 when journalist Ida Tarbell asked the U.S. Adjutant General for documentation of women who served, she was told that there had been no such women. The truth lay dormant for decades. Then a slow but steady trickle of information began emerging. Today there are dozens of books and articles concerning these women warriors and new information appears all the time.
Lauren Cook has been an important contributor to that stream of information. The second battle of Antietam did not end when she was removed from Antietam National Battlefield. She filed a law suit against the national Park Service in federal court. The court ruled in her favor two years later. Her story was publicized in many magazines including Smithsonian which helped enlighten the general public concerning female soldiers in our nation's past. One of the readers of all this press was Ruth Goodier of Chipley, Florida. She wrote to Cook telling her that she was well aware women, pretending to be men, had fought in the Civil War because her great grandmother's sister had. In fact, said Ms. Goodier, she had a trunk full of letters and a daguerreotype of her great, great aunt, Sarah Rosetta Wakeman aka Lyon Wakeman. Cook was stunned. No such letters had ever been found. Historians have gleaned much of their information from letters men wrote home mentioning a woman in the ranks.
Sarah Rosetta Wakeman was a simple New York farm girl of limited education. Born in 1843 she was the eldest of nine children. She left home at nineteen seeking work as a woman only to find her opportunities and potential for income extremely limited. So she slipped into male attire and immediately got a job on a canal boat where she met some Union soldiers and decided to enlist. She received $152 for signing up and wrote home that she was "as independent as a hog on the ice." Later in 1863 she wrote that she like it so well that she was considering signing up again when her term ended. That was not to be. Wakeman died, as was so common during the war, not of wounds but of disease in June 1864.
The second battle of Antietam marked a new phase in Lauren Cook's life. She married fellow re-enactor Fred Burgess in 1990. For this important day in their lives, they chose to dress in period costumes and cut their cake with a 130 year old Civil War sword. In 1996, she published Ms. Goodier's cache of letters in a book entitled An Uncommon Soldier: The Civil War Letters of Sarah Rosetta Wakeman. Seven years later she and DeAnne Blanton published They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the Civil War. Both of these volumes are helping to provide a more balanced - a more authentic- portrayal of the Civil War.
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"Crime and Punishment for 19th Century Michigan Women"
published:Chronicle Vol 35 #4 Winter 2013
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