6/08/2005

9 months pregnant at the Battle of Fredericksburg

And you thought your pregnancy was bad.... I've just come across an amazing story of a woman who was literally 9 months pregnant while fighting in the Battle of Fredericksburg in the Civil War. Fredericksburg occurred in Dec of 1862, and she gave birth on January 19, 1863. Nobody knew she was a woman until she gave birth to her son in camp. And Fredericksburg was not her first battle. As far as anybody knows, she had fought in at least 2 battles before that: The Seven Days, and Antietam, where she was wounded. I can't imagine how she was wounded and treated without her sex being discovered, but the wound must not have required extensive physical treatment, because her true identity went undetected until the following January. Not one of her fellow soldiers had known previously that she was a woman. Her true name and identity has never been uncovered. . I have been to two of the battlefields where this woman was known to have fought. Antietam is a huge, huge rolling field of wheat, and is basically flat. Fredericksburg is not flat. The battle took place basically along a ridge, much like the Battle of Gettysburg, but in Fredericksburg, the Confederacy had the upper hand. They were completely entrenched on the higher ground, and the incompetent Gen. Burnside sent wave upon wave of Union soldiers up this ridge to be slaughtered, cut down like dogs. Just being there in the Confederacy's stronghold and seeing what viewpoint they had of the battle, how protected they were, knowing what the Union faced, is enough to make one physically ill. And this woman fought on those fields and charged up that hill, 9 months pregnant. Nobody knows quite why she did it. It is estimated that over 350 women fought in the Civil War, dressed as men, and their motives have longed been talked about. There are a lot of plausible arguments about why the women went to war. But why didn't this woman's motherly instinct kick-in when she saw that ridge, and knew that death was fairly certain?(Union casualities at Fredericksburg were enormous.)Did she feel that her cause was more important than her unborn child? Or was she one of those women who didn't know she was pregnant? Conditions in the army were such that it's not beyond the realm of possibility that she could have stopped menstrating months before she got pregnant, but can you even get pregnant if you are not menstrating? Or does the mother love that we all know not really show up until you give birth and see that the tiny perfect being who has been growing inside of you? In any case, she was, by all accounts, a remarkable soldier who was promoted several times. I don't know what happened to her after the war, or even after she had the baby. I just hope she was as good a mother as she was a soldier. Regardless, she sounds like one strong woman.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Susan M said...

I didn't know that. How interesting. Where did you read about her?

I'm afraid my first thought when you asked how a pregnant woman could risk her baby by fighting in a war was that not everyone is a good mother.

6/09/2005 10:26:00 AM  
Blogger Liesl said...

Wow. Being 9 months pregnant myself right now, I can't imagine ANY cause or situation worth doing something like that. I can barely find enough motivation to haul myself out of bed to feed my two poor neglected other children.

6/09/2005 11:54:00 AM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

Susan-

I read about her in a book called, "They Fought Like Demons". Finding stories about women in the Civil War is kind of a new hobby I've got going, and I find out more and more that is just fascinating. Still, fighting while pregnant takes the cake for me!

Liesl-
Ditto- I can't imagine any cause that would get me off my sorry butt when I was pregnant. Good thing I didn't have to fight in a war!

6/09/2005 12:33:00 PM  
Blogger Ana said...

You can get pregnant without menstruating.

You can also be pregnant and continue menstruating. My first son's birthmom had this happen. She didn't discover the pregnancy until 5 months along.

6/09/2005 01:00:00 PM  
Blogger lchan said...

Crazy. I went through a big Civil War phase last year and read a number of stories about women fighting in the war, but that takes the whole freaking cake.

It's cool from my viewpoint, but I really can't imagine it from hers.

6/09/2005 04:45:00 PM  

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