Monday, May 27, 2019

Women Civil War POW’S? Certainly.

A surprising number of women dressed as men and went to war in 1860’s. It’s not known exactly how many, but there is documentation, by means of hospital records, diaries, and prison records, that women fought beside their male counter parts.
The Civil War era prison, Castle Thunder, was located in Richmond Virginia. It was, like most other prisons of this time period, filthy, disease ridden, 
Castle Thunder Prison, VA
overcrowded, and lacked in food and medical care. Over the course of the war, Castle Thunder housed over one hundred women, and had one area specifically for female inmates—“deprived and abandoned” women. Some inmates were prostitutes, but most where smugglers, spies and political prisoners. The most famous prisoner of war was Doctor Mary Edwards.

Dr. Edwards was the second college trained, female doctor in the nation. After obtaining a second medical degree, she worked as a field surgeon near the Union front lines after the Battle of Chickamauga, the first female surgeon in the United States Army. After being taken prisoner by the Confederates, while treating a confederate soldier on the battlefield, Mary
Dr. Mary Edwards
championed better prison conditions at Castle Thunder and indeed, the inmates received an increase of grains and the addition of cabbage to their diets. Four months after being taken prisoner, Mary was released in a prisoner exchange.

Andersonville Prison in Georgia is famous for its brutal living conditions. Here are the abbreviated stories of three known women prisoners who were imprisoned in Andersonville. 

One soldier, who was not discovered to be a woman until after her death, is buried in a grave marked with “Unknown”. I can’t help but wonder who this woman was. Did her family know she fought in the war? Was she missed?

The second, Florena Budwin, (it’s unknown if this is her real name) decided she didn’t want to send her husband to war alone. So, she dressed as a man and enlisted. It is believed that Florena’s husband was killed in battle, though there is speculation that he died in Andersonville by the hand of the guards. Regardless, Florena was captured and sent to Andersonville. She kept her identity hidden during her stay. It’s unknown why she decided to remain in disguise, had she told the truth she would’ve probably been released. Florena died after being transferred to Florence Stockade in Florence, SC. She was only twenty years old.   

The third, Janie Hunt, married Captain Harry Hunt. On the day of their wedding the bride and groom, along with their wedding guests, boarded Captain Hunt’s boat for a short pleasure cruise. After a few hours, a Federal revenue cutter stopped the vessel and ordered Captain Hunt to pick up a load of corn in North Carolina. For whatever reason, all guests stayed aboard and sailed to North Carolina. While picking up the corn, Confederates seized the ship. Most of the wedding guests were released, but the new Mrs. Hunt chose to stay with her husband in hopes he’d soon be freed. Her hopes were quickly dashed when Janie learned her new husband would be sent to the newly opened prison in Andersonville, Georgia. Janie Hunt was allowed, after much begging and bribing, to dress as a man and accompany her husband, Harry, to prison. To help conceal her identity, the newlyweds made camp in a far, out of the way corner of the open prison yard. Janie was four months pregnant when she arrived at camp. After giving birth to a baby boy (the young family named the baby Harry Jr. also called little Harry) in the couple’s tent, the prison doctor heard the cry of the baby and the family was discovered. The doctor took pity on the young Hunt family and arranged for Janie and her son to stay at a local farmer’s home close to the prison so she could often visit her husband. The doctor also made Captain Hunt his assistant and therefore kept him safe through the war.

It seems each woman’s reason for participating in the Civil War was as different as each individual woman. But the one thing each had in common was determined bravery. I think that determination is a part of each woman’s over-all make-up. We all have the capability to make hard choices for the good of ourselves and the ones we love.

I hope today’s post has inspired you just a bit. Thank you for stopping by Heroes, Heroines and History. Unit next month…

May your days overflow with blessings,


 Multi award-winning author, Michele K. Morris’s love for historical fiction began when she first read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House book series. She grew up riding horses and spending her free time in the woods of mid-Michigan. Married to her high school sweetheart, they are living happily-ever-after with their six children, three in-loves, and ten grandchildren in Florida, the sunshine state. Michele loves to hear from readers on Facebook, Twitter, and here through the group blog, Heroes, Heroines, and History at

Michele is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency.


  1. Wouldn't it be great to find a diary of one or more of these women and find out why they chose to follow their husbands to prison or war? You wouldn't find many modern day women choosing to go that far with their men, I don't think. Although families do travel and live on bases to be together but to actually go to war? And I don't think the spouses could actually be in the same military unit, could they? Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

  2. I've heard stories of women fighting in the Civil War--even read a fiction book about it, but I didn't realize that some women actually did dress as men and went to fight. It sure would be interesting to know the motivation of the unmarried women.

  3. wow, Michele. I've studied the Civil War for decades and never came across this! Great post. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about these brave women who chose to serve and suffer for their cause, be it family, patriotism, or other.