Civil War Women: Information On Sojourner Truth, Rebecca Wright, And Mary Todd Lincoln

Women involved in the Civil War and the battle concerning slavery - speaking, writing, spying, bandaging, and in some instances, risking their lives to support the Union cause.

"During all periods of the (Civil) War, instances occurred of women being found in the ranks, fighting as common soldiers, their sex remaining unsuspected, and the particular motive in each case often unknown." F. Moore, 1866

Heroines - Sojourner Truth, Rebecca Wright, Mary Todd Lincoln - vastly diverse in upbringing but united in their belief that slavery was wrong. All three aided the Union cause, albeit in different ways.

Isabella Baumfree had been a slave of several masters. In 1827, she was sold to Isaac Van Wagener of New York. Knowing that the state was about to declare slavery illegal, Van Wagener set his servants free. Isabella sought out Harriet Beecher Stowe who renamed her Sojourner Truth, attaching the meaning that Isabella - now Sojourner - was intended to speak out concerning the religious issues of God, including the abomination of slavery. Isabella said of herself that she was called by God to "travel up and down the land, showing the people their sins, and being a sign unto them." Though illiterate, Sojourner was a powerful speaker with spellbinding stories that made her point. She was quick-witted and truthful. Many of the stories that she told were from her own experience as a slave, once awakening after a brutal beating in a pool of her own blood. Sojourner preached in the streets, sang in camp meetings and churches, and spoke in debates on the side of abolition.



Rebecca Wright was a young schoolteacher in Winchester, Virginia when the Civil War broke out. Her Quaker beliefs made her sympathetic to the Union, in that she could not abide the thought of slavery. One day after class, Rebecca opened her door to a black man posing as a peddler. Once within her home and away from prying eyes, the old man pulled a written message from his mouth. The paper read: "Ms. Wright, I know "¦ that you are a loyal lady and still love the old flag. Can you inform me of the position of "¦ rebel troops "¦ and (their) probable "¦ intentions? Have any troops arrived from Richmond or (are) any more coming?" The note was signed General Philip Sheridan of the Union Army. Rebecca Wright had allowed herself no contact with Confederate troops but she did recall overhearing a conversation between two soldiers in town. However, if she were caught passing the gist of such a conversation to a general of the Union Army, she knew she would be put to death. Her reply to the general was succinct and to the point: "The division of General Kershaw and Cutshaw's artillery, "¦ General Anderson commanding, have been sent away and no more are expected to arrive." Rebecca thought the information would disappoint General Sheridan but, quite to the contrary, it afforded him with the information that Rebel forces were scattered. General Sheridan attacked immediately, and because of Rebecca's communiqué, he was able to win the Third Battle of Winchester.

Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of President Abraham Lincoln, was born of Southern heritage which caused some suspicion as to her loyalty at the onset of the Civil War. However, Mrs. Lincoln proved herself a loyal Unionist, putting to use her position as the President's wife and hosting events that raised money for the slaves who were refugees in Washington. She frequented the hospitals, never tiring to visit the wounded and hold their hands through difficult procedures and bloody operations. The story is told of the First Lady's visit to Campbell Hospital shortly after several limb amputations had been performed. The stench was said to have been intolerable and wounded lay groaning in anguish. Many of the female volunteers left, overcome by the odor and anguished cries of the patients. Mary stayed.

Sojourner, Rebecca, Mary - heroines, all, each in her own way.

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