It was not unusual for soldiers' wives to accompany their husbands to training camp. Some even traveled well into the South before returning home. Many officers' wives served at the front for much of the war. They helped around camp, wrote letters for soldiers, and tended the sick. At least two Wisconsin women dressed as soldiers and fought alongside their comrades. On July 29, 1861, an anonymous writer in the 5th Wisconsin Infantry applauds the positive impact of women in the army.
The propriety of women accompanying soldiers to war and other places where the danger is even greater to the moral than to the physical man, whether war is a becoming place for them, and whether their usefulness equals the extra trouble, expenses, liabilities, &e. are points upon which I now venture to offer some remarks: the objection, immodesty or impropriety, I dismiss at once, with the reply that one or a few women may behave as well or better among a thousand men than with but a single man...
I am unable to see any reason, and know of no facts, opposed to the war camp as a proper place for intelligent women. Order is essential to the service and must be had — just such order as woman desires to see and is best able to establish. Women are better qualified than men to introduce order into some departments of the camp, yet no department of camp life and conduct is necessarily immodest beyond home or domestic duty and conduct. There are swearers and vulgar-behaving persons about all our streets, more such than I have yet seen in the Fifth Regiment, yet women do not avoid the streets!
Of the usefulness of women in the army, their presence is just as essential as at our homes; their kind of work, and most of all their almost boundless influence, are just as fitful, we think more so. The rough, almost tameless man, while in the presence of women, becomes watchful over every word passing his lips; he minds his walk, would not appear filthy, desires more intelligence and more pride when women are about than if all are men; and the same is true of an army of men.
Source: E.B. Quiner Scrapbooks: "Correspondence of the Wisconsin Volunteers, 1861-1865," Volume 1, pages 216-17.
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