View single post by cklarson
 Posted: Sun May 10th, 2009 06:41 am
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Joined: Sun Sep 23rd, 2007
Posts: 111

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Dear ONS,

Thanks for your kind response. Three of the 4 authors of the books on the women soldiers are professional researchers. Dick Hall, as I remember, worked for the Congressional Research service; Deanne Blanton is a senior military archivist at NARA; and Eliz. Leonard is a professor at Colby College. Clearly govt. records are best. I've gone through all the official navy records and probably 25% of army records. But most accounts come from newspapers, often in the towns where the women were discharged. Then other papers would circulate the accounts. For instance an AR paper printed an account of a young woman who tried to enlist in Monmouth IL, my aunt's hometown. So it's like playing telephone, the story gets distorted as it goes along. But Dick, Deanne, and Lauren have spent more than 10 years researching these women, and many have multiple sources. Often there are pension bills and files as in the cases of S. Emma E. Edmonds, aka Franklin Thompson, 2nd MI, who wrote her autobio in 1864, Unsexed; or the female soldier; Annie Etheridge; Nadine Turchin and others. Also you have to pick through memoirs, e.g., NY Herald reporter Richardson for Union scout Melvina (last name, don't remember). I just learned one of my Beresford cousins is related to Diane Smith, one of the WVA Moccasin Rangers, along with Nancy Hart. That's why I did my website, so teachers and students would have access to govt. documents, memoir material, articles, and biographies that are reliable, from the period and in the public domain.

Now as to the question, what do you believe? The 2 biographers Edmonds and Loreta Janeta Velazquez fictionalized parts. So, for instance, in reviewing the new bio of Pauline Cushman, I wrote that you have to judge each major incident on its own merits. Christen questioned Cushman's tale about aborting a poisoning of US soldiers by a boarding house owner while kept in her house, when Cushman was operating as a US army detective. But I asked why? There were other instances of poisoning of supplies and persons during the war, e.g.., owners by slaves and other women's detective duties were similiar. On the other hand, Christen took at face value, the charge that Cushman, later in life, had stolen goods. But there was no other indication of dishonesty on her part. Annie Oakley was accused of the same thing and the criminal turned out to be an impersonator. Oakely spent years suing newspapers on this case. Anna Ella Carroll, currently, has been accused of suborning perjury and concocting documents, when she had nothing but a sterling record and operated at the highest govt. and political levels for 25 years--in other words, she would have been found out earlier, had she been a fraud. But the blame is with the researchers and she is a particularly lightning rod because people don't want her to be so important--sorry, but she was--an advisor to Lincoln and all that. So once you see the range of things all the women did and do enough general research to know the kinds of incidents that were occurring, you get a feel for what is suspect and what is not. But as you say, the dates and facts have to match. Indeed, one Sat. afternoon, I called Dick screaming, it's Loreta, it's Loreta! She wrote that in the fall of '61, she got transportation papers to go west from VA to Fort Donelson. In the _Rebel Clerk's Diary_, a soldier enters his office in the fall of '61, giving a funny unit name and demanding transportation papers. She makes the mistake of curtseying as she leaves. So this matches Loreta's account. There are other funny incidents, like the women who were discovered because they forget themselves: one reached to catch apples in an apron she wasn't wearing and another, in a slip of the mind, started to put her pants on over her head, forgeting it wasn't a dress. Also as judged by the Monmouth incident, after a while recruiting officers were on the look out for women.


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