The best books on women in the Civil War

DeAnne Blanton Author Of They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War
By DeAnne Blanton

Who am I?

DeAnne Blanton retired from the National Archives in Washington, DC after 31 years of service as a reference archivist specializing in 18th and 19th century U.S. Army records. She was recognized within the National Archives as well as in the historical and genealogical communities as a leading authority on the American Civil War; 19th century women’s history; and the history of American women in the military.


I wrote...

They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War

By DeAnne Blanton, Lauren Cook,

Book cover of They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War

What is my book about?

Popular images of women during the American Civil War include self-sacrificing nurses, romantic spies, and brave ladies maintaining hearth and home in the absence of their men. However, as DeAnne Blanton and Lauren M. Cook show in their remarkable new study, that conventional picture does not tell the entire story. Hundreds of women assumed male aliases, disguised themselves in men's uniforms, and charged into battle as Union and Confederate soldiers--facing down not only the guns of the adversary but also the gender prejudices of society. They Fought Like Demons is the first book to fully explore and explain these women, their experiences as combatants, and the controversial issues surrounding their military service.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Behind the Rifle: Women Soldiers in Civil War Mississippi

By Shelby Harriel,

Book cover of Behind the Rifle: Women Soldiers in Civil War Mississippi

Why this book?

When Lauren Cook and I published They Fought Like Demons, we knew that our book, although groundbreaking, was only the tip of the iceberg in the story of women soldiers in the Civil War, and we always hoped that another scholar would pick up the torch and move the story forward.  Shelby Harriel has done just that.  Behind the Rifle is a meticulously researched and ably written account of the distaff soldiers who hailed from Mississippi, or found themselves there.  Citing previously unknown sources along with revealing newly-located photographs, Harriel’s contribution to the history of women soldiers is remarkable.


Tara Revisited: Women, War, & the Plantation Legend

By Catherine Clinton,

Book cover of Tara Revisited: Women, War, & the Plantation Legend

Why this book?

This book completely debunks every romantic Old South and Lost Cause myth. Relying on a plethora of primary sources, especially letters and diaries, Clinton reveals the real and often heartbreaking lives of white plantation women and black enslaved women. Always an engaging writer, Clinton narrates the deep and troubled subject with empathy and a level hand. 


All the Daring of the Soldier: Women of the Civil War Armies

By Elizabeth D. Leonard,

Book cover of All the Daring of the Soldier: Women of the Civil War Armies

Why this book?

This book is the best introduction to the many women who cast off traditional gender roles, and served the armies of the Union and Confederacy as spies, vivandierres, and soldiers.  Leonard uses contemporary sources to prove that valor, complexity, and patriotism are not the sole purviews of men.  This well-written book will make readers want to find out more about the Civil War women who refused to stay in their socially-mandated place.


Three Weeks At Gettysburg

By Georgeanna Muirson Woolsey Bacon,

Book cover of Three Weeks At Gettysburg

Why this book?

This pamphlet, although only 24 pages, is one of the best first-hand depictions of Civil War nursing.  Miss Woolsey and her mother travelled to Gettysburg in the aftermath of the battle and immediately launched into the nursing ranks of the U.S. Sanitary Commission.  She published her account shortly after returning home, when her services were no longer needed.


Women of the Civil War (Women Who Dare)

By Michelle A Krowl,

Book cover of Women of the Civil War (Women Who Dare)

Why this book?

This book provides outstanding biographies of the female luminaries of the Civil War, such as Clara Barton, Harriet Tubman, and Dr. Mary Walker, while also introducing readers to lesser-known women who made an impact during the great sectional conflict.  Beautifully written and full of rare photographs, Women of the Civil War is captivating.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the American Civil War, women, and South America?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the American Civil War, women, and South America.

The American Civil War Explore 200 books about the American Civil War
Women Explore 346 books about women
South America Explore 24 books about South America

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe, The Women's Fight, and River Run Red if you like this list.