African American Women's Lives During the Civil War: An Annotated Bibliography

Bibliography by Juliet K. Habjan, Graduate Assistant, College of Library and Information Services, University of Maryland.

Scope Note:


The sources searched for this bibliography, while limited, should reflect the creator's desire to locate materials, both primary and secondary, from a variety of publications, for this is a subject that needs to be approached from more than one avenue. The following terms were used in various Boolean combinations and truncations for such searches: Afro-American, African-American, African American, Black, Colored, Nurses, Soldiers, Troops, and Women.


The terms noted above were searched in the following sources: America: History and Life, Dissertation Abstracts, National Union Catalog Mansuscript Collections (1975-present), Research Libraries Information Network(RLIN), Victor: UMCP's OPAC, and Women's Studies Index (1989-present).

Sources Found:

Annapolis Gazette(also called Maryland Gazette). Primary source; Noted in a lecture by Dr. Papenfuse, Marlyand State Archivist.
Published in Annapolis, Maryland, 1854-74. This newspaper would be especially useful for research on the periods of recruitment and then post-war settlement.

Anglo-African Magazine(also called Weekly Anglo-African). Published in New York City, New York, 1859-65. Primary source; Located in Ham's The African-American Mosaic.
This publication addressed issues facing African-Americans during the Civil War. Applicable information might be found in persuasive essays (eg. Green's piece urging African-Ameicans to join the military), letters to the editor, news stories, and even advertisements.

Baltimore Gazette. Published in Baltimore, Maryland, 1862-82. Primary source; Located in Documents for the Classroom, Maryland State Archives.
Issues of this newspaper would probably be helpful in research regarding the recruitement and enlistment of United States Colored Troops, African-American communities/families' involvement before, during, and after the Civil War.

Barnes, Francis G.(correspondence of). Primary source; Located in RLIN.
As Second Lieutenant of the 80th Regiment, United States Colored Infantry, Barnes wrote to his wife, sharing his various observations and experiences concerning African-Americans in the Civil War. The 69 letters and other documents are held at the Manuscripts and Special Collections, New York State Library, Empire State Plaza, Albany, New York.

Berlin, Ira, ed. Freedom: A Documentary of Emancipation, 1861-7: Series II, The Black Military Experience. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982. Secondary source with many primary documents; Located in VICTOR.
This text is a tremendous resource that documents in detail black military camp life during the Civil War with primary resources found in the National Archives. Letters, diaries, and government memoranda are among the wide range of materials included. Annotations of sources included are provided on the same page where quotes appear. An extensive index provides access to both personal names and subjects. Of particular interest is the section "Off Duty" which includes four chapters on the African-American soldier's camp life, education, health, and relationships while serving- all places where researchers are likely to find reference to women.

Black Studies: A Select Catalog of National Archives Microfilm Publications. Washington, D.C.: United States Government, 1984. Compendium that leads to primary sources; Located in VICTOR.
This work is a compendium that lists primary sources that would be of use to the researcher. As a whole, it is especially helpful because it pulls together papers and records from all the different federal agencies, many of which are surprisingly revealing sources, to cover this topic. Because it is organized by agency, one must take a little time to read the contents lists and narrative annotations; this is minimal work, however, in contrast to searching the voluminous records themselves. Widow's pension files and the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands are among the most useful primary sources that may be accessed through this guide for the given topic.

Bleser, Carol, ed. In Joy and in Sorrow: Women, Family, and Marriage in the Victorian South, 1830-1900. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991. Secondary source; Located in VICTOR.
This work is a collection of fourteen articles written by various scholars. As a whole, the articles consider male/female relationships and family life, both White and African-American during the stated time period. At least five of the articles specifically address African-American relationships during and after the Civil War. All articles have footnotes and citations which appear together at the end of the work as a whole. This is probably one of the least "meaty" works included in this bibliography with respect to the given topic; it is included, though, to provide a frame for considering how relationships figured during the Civil War, what was going on and how did it affect women's relationships?

Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands(records of), 1865-72. Primary source; Located in Black Studies: A Select Catalog of National Archives Microfilm Publications.
These records include forty-eight volumes of reports, correspondence, endorsements, circulars, and special orders. All of the above note the affairs of the Bureau which was established to work with issues surrounding the Civil War and how it affected freedmen/women, their lands, and homes. The bureau took on a role similar to present day social service agencies; for example, it was not uncommon for the bureau to help African-American soldiers and their widows collect pension and bounty. Records from such involvement are likely to provide a plethora of information about both the war and the male/female relationships. Records are held at the National Archives, Record Group 105, 1865-72, M742, M752.

Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, Assistant Commissioner for the State of Mississippi(records of), 1865-69. Primary source; Located in Black Studies: A Select Catalog of National Archives Microfilm Publications.
These records include forty-one volumes of letters sent and received, reports, endorsements, registers of indentures, and contracts of freedmen, all of which would be helpful to research on this topic. It is important to note that other states' bureau records are available and would also be helpful. This particular state was cited because its records would provide documents that might support/refute some of what Frankel considers in her article(cited below) on Mississippi African-American women. Once the researcher is familiar with where battles were fought, troops stationed, etc. (to which yet another source noted below provides aid), then state-specific records could be consulted. For example, one should look at the South Carolina bureau records (M869) because the United States Colored Troops camped and fought in the state for extended periods. Materials held in the National Archives, Record Group 105, M826.

Christian Recorder. Published in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1852-1931. Primary resource; Located in VICTOR.
This publication received support from the African Methodist Episcopal Church. It was a newspaper geared towards African-Americans that supported "news and discussion not propoganda." Because of the churches' strong political and social orientation, this publication is likely to serve as a good resource for dialogue on how African-American participation in the Civil War was perceived in various communities and how it affected relationships in both families and the community-at-large.

Douglass, Frederick.(papers of). Primary source; Located in The African-American Mosaic.
Among the plethora of applicable items in these papers are those that follow the United States Colored Troops from recruitment to performance to emancipation. Materials held in the Manuscripts Division, Library of Congress, microfilm 1841-1967.

51st United States Colored Infantry.(historic records of). Primary source; Located in The African-American Mosaic.
Part of the papers of White Union Chaplain George North Carruthers, these historic records detail the soldiers' military and personal lives while in camp. For example, data on 181 African-American marriages perfomed by Carruthers is included. These papers, which document from 1863-1866, are held in the Manuscripts Division, Library of Congress, papers 1864-69.

Fleetwood, Christian Abraham.(diaries of). Primary source; Located in The African-American Mosaic.
A Sergeant Major in the 4th United States Colored Infantry, Fleetwood kept diaries as his troops moved South. These diaries are likely to address camp life in detail which consequently might mean some mention of the women present. The diaries are held in the Manuscripts Division, Library of Congress, microfilm 1797-1945.

Fox, Charles Barnard, Col.(diary of). Cambridge: Press of J. Wilson and Son,1868. Primary source; Located in VICTOR.
This diary records the service of the 55th Regiment of Massachusetts, United States Colored Infantry. As Fox was an officer of the 55th Regiment, his diary provides the perspective of the man-in-charge, the man who probably had to grapple with issues surrounding the presence of women in the camps. For this reason, Fox's diary is potentially useful to research.

Frankel, Noralee. "The Southern Side of 'Glory': Mississippi African-American Women During the Civil War," Minerva: Quarterly Report on Women and the Military. v. 7, no. 3, Fall 1990, pp. 28-36. Secondary source; Located in Women's Studies Index.
This article closely considers the role of African-American women as both lovers and workers during the Civil War. Primary and secondary sources are both employed by the author, with an emphasis on Widow's Pension Files. In a few pages, it tells more about African-American women's lives during and immediately following the Civil War than some texts on African-American involvement in the war cover in a whole book. An important work for this topic.

Free Military School for Command of Colored Regiments.(register and scrapbook of). Primary source; Located in RLIN.
Papers record both admissions to the school which was run by the Philadelphia Supervisory Committee for Recruiting Colored Regiments and a scrapbook of clippings, telegrams, and letters related to the school and its regiments. The records are held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Greene, Thomas Sumner.(papers of). Primary source; Located in NUCMUC, accession # 77-322.
Papers in this collection include the letters, military orders, and other personal documents of this African-American Civil War Soldier. Because of the perspective and personal nature, these papers are probably very useful to research. They are held in the Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

Griffin, Farah Jasmine. "Frances Ellen Watkins Harper in the Reconstruction South," Sage: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women. Supplement, 1988, pp. 45-7. Secondary source; Located in Women's Studies Index.
This work provides a good introduction to Harper who was an African-American abolitionist lecturer. Because her main concern was the status of African-American women, it is probable that further research on this woman, perhaps starting with the secondary sources cited, would prove fruitful for learning more about the roles of African-American women during the Civil War.

Ham, Debra Newman. The African-American Mosaic: A Library of Congress Resource Guide for the Study of Black History and Culture. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1994. Compendium listing primary and secondary sources; Noted in lecture given by Debra Ham in June 1994.
This compendium is broken down by subjects which are often chronologically based. It provides a plethora of citations to primary and secondary sources and consequently serves as an excellent starting tool for research on this topic.

Hargrove, Hondon B. Black Union Soldiers in the Civil War. Jefferson: McFarland, 1988. Primary and secondary source; Located in VICTOR.
This work provides essential political and military background to the topic at hand. In the appendix that follows the main text, specific United States Colored Troops regiments' enlistment and battles are noted by location and date. Such information provides an important link to primary sources in particular towns that are likely to more illuminate the women's role. The text itself considers camp issues including education, health, and pay in signifcant depth. The chapter notes and an extensive bibliography also include annotated citations to promising regiment histories and primary sources, such as official regiment records and correspondence.

Harper's Weekly. Published in New York City, New York, applicable years: 1861-65. Primary source; Located in The African-American Mosaic.
This publication, which was said to "favor the cause of the Negro," is especially useful because of its illustrations. During the years cited above, Harper's included elaborate war scenes, some of which could have reflected the presence of women in the camps.

Higginson, Thomas Wentworth. Army Life in a Black Regiment. Williamstown: Corner House Publishers, 1971. Primary source; Located in VICTOR.
This work provides an enlightening first hand account of one White officer. The author of the account was Colonel to the 1st South Carolina Colored Volunteers. The published work includes both diary entries and letters. An appendix includes other original records, such as a regiment roster. All of the text is indexed.

Holt, Theron P.(papers of). Primary source; Located in RLIN.
As a Lieutenant in the 8th Regiment, Louisiana Colored Infantry, Holt's papers include military records from the applicable time period and correspondence. The materials, which are actually duplicates of the originals, are held at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Archives Division, Madison, Wisconsin.

Jones, Samuel B.(papers of). Primary source; Located in RLIN.
Jones was Commander of a company in the 78th Regiment, Louisiana Colored Troops. His papers include correspondence, muster rolls, and pension applications. While each of these kinds of materials are potentially useful to research on African-American women, the correspondence and the pension applications are probably most likely to directly involve women, either as subjects of letters or applicants for pension benefits. The papers are held in the historic New Orleans Collection, New Orleans, Louisiana. MSS 288.

Kinsley, Edward W.(papers of). Primary source; Located in The African-American Mosaic.
Captain of the 54th Regiment, United States Colored Troops Volunteers. Because Kinsley's papers address issues of "pay...morale..and casualties" in particular, the likelihood that women's presence and/or effect on these issues is strong, for as companions, lovers, and nurses, they certainly played a role in how these issues panned out. Kinsley's papers are held in the Manuscripts Division, Library of Congress, papers 1863-65.

Langston, John Mercer(papers of). Primary source; Located in The African-American Mosaic.
Materials are included that cover the United States Colored Troops in recruitment and camp life settings. Because of his multi-faceted involvement, Langston's papers are probably extremely useful in revealing information surrounding the soldiers' departure from "home"(whatever that may have been) and daily military life. For example, requests at recruitment that a wife might accompany a soldier might be documented either by refusal or payroll records for her inclusion as a servant, teacher or laundress. Papers are held in the Manuscripts Division, Library of Congress, microfilm 1853-98.

The Liberator. Published in Boston, Massachusetts, 1831-65. Primary source; Located in The African-American Mosaic.
This title was the "personal weekly" of William Lloyd Garrison. As an anti-slavery African-American paper, it is very likely that essays and letters to the editor will reveal more about the various ways African-Americans contributed to the Civil War. Because at least one of the United States Colored Troops' regiments was recruited in Massachusetts, it is probable that much dialogue occurred in this publication regarding such recruitment and participation.

Livermore, Mary A. My Story of the War: A Woman's Narrative of Four Years Personal Experience as a Nurse. Hartford: A.D. Worthington Co., 1890. Primary source; Located in VICTOR.
This work presents the perspective of a White woman, tracing her involvement with the Union Army, in the hospitals, camps, and at the front. Within her "collection of experiences and reminiscences," one would think that there would lie some discussion about African-American peers, even if the two races were kept separate whenever possible. Even on the slight chance that no mention occurs in her narrative, Livermore's piece would provide a useful contrast and/or comparison to Taylor's, which is cited later in this text. Unfortunately, while Livermore's work is illustrated, it is neither annotated nor indexed.

Loewenberg, Bert James and Bogin, Ruth, eds. Black Women in Nineteenth Century American Life: Their Words, Their Thoughts, Their Feelings. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1976. Secondary source that includes many full text primary documents; Located in VICTOR.
This work importantly is focused on the perspective of nineteenth century African-American women. This group's diverse background/history is painted through personal narratives, including diaries and correspondence. While most of the forty-plus women included in the text were not actually in the military camps themselves, their lives clearly were affected by kins' involvement in the war and/or the passing through of the troops in their towns. The work includes an excellent bibliography which cites both primary and secondary sources. Especially helpful in this section is a list of bibliographies to primary sources on the topic. Names and places appearing in the various narratives are also indexed at the end of the work.

Mays, Joe H. Black Americans and Their Contributions Toward the Union Victory in the American Civil War, 1861-5. Lanham: University Press of America, 1984. Secondary source; Located in VICTOR.
It is critical that a researcher on this topic fully read this text. Because its focus is on the roles of "Black Americans and their contributions," more than the soldiers are considered. While the text still covers the soldiers more than any other group, orators, servants, educators, etc. and their roles/contributions in the Civil War are acknowledged and described in significant detail. As a result, the roles of African-American women are covered in greater depth than any other secondary text that this researcher found. For example, the wage disparities amongst African-American servants to the White officers are noted: men earned about $8/month, the women $4. Footnotes support the figures and points articulated throughout the text, revealing that both primary and secondary sources were employed. The bibliography provides a significant number of journal articles citations that one might not easily encounter otherwise in research. Index is minimal.

Murray, Pauli.(papers of). Primary source; Located in RLIN.
Murray was an African-American activist and historian. Series III of the papers includes her research on African-Americans' (including women, not limited to soldiers) involvement in the Civil War, 1861-65. They are held at the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Newman, Debra L., comp. Black History: A Guide to Civilian Records in the National Archives. Washington, D.C: United States Government, 1984. Compendium primarily listing primary sources; Located in bibliography compiled by Dr. Marilyn Pettit, June 1994.
This is an excellent tool to be used with both specific places of campsites and battles, as well as for general browsing and serendipitous finds, discovering applicable materials that one never would have guessed as such simply because of the record groups in which they are contained.

Quarles, Benjamin. The Negro in the Civil War. New York: Russell and Russell, 1968. Secondary source; Located in VICTOR.
This text has an excellent bibliography of primary and secondary sources with helpful annotation. In fact, this might be the most helpful aspect of the work as a whole. The main text has no footnotes or direct citations for quotes; minimal chapter notes at the end of the main text do not sufficiently compensate for this deficiency.

Ridson, Orlando.(papers of). Primary source; Located in NUCMUC, accession # 75-1698.
Ridson was a Union officer, organizer of the 53rd Regiment, United States Colored Infantry. The papers, which include useful correspondence, military documents, financial records, and visuals such as maps and photos, are held at the Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio.

Roberts Family.(papers of). Primary source; Located in NUCMUC, accession # 78-1751.
These records include the correspondence, free papers, and United States Colored Troops documents from several members of the Roberts family. The materials reveal somewhat what life was life on both ends of a "war family": for the soldier and loved ones. The papers are held in the Library of Congress, Manuscripts Division, Washington, D.C.

Stevenson, Brenda, ed. The Journals of Charlotte Forten Grimke. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988. Primary source with annotation; Located in VICTOR.
This text includes journal entries that span form 1854- 92. As this particular Grimke was an African-American woman, her entries provide a special perspective on this topic. The entries are full original text and are annotated. This edition also provides a chronology of Grimke's life and a glossary which describes the various individuals mentioned in the journal; both of these items are revealing in and of themselves.

Taylor, Susie King. A Black Woman's Civil War Memoirs: Reminiscences of My Life in Camp with the 33rd U.S. Colored Troops, Late 1st South Carolina Volunteers. New York: M. Wiener Pub., 1988. Primary source; Located in VICTOR.
This work, because of its unique nature, must be included in research on this topic. In published form, this text is the writings of an African-American woman who was involved with the troops from age 14 to age 17; she served as a nurse, t

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