19th Century Female Soldiers

The image above is two depictions of Frances L. Clalin Clayton also known as Jack Williams. She fought in the Civil War and served with the 4th Mo. heavy artillery Co. I and the 13th Mo. Calvary Co. A. She served 22 months. The images date to ca. 1865. Images courtesy of Library of Congress.

Record of Service card for William Newcomb, 1847. Images courtesy of the Missouri State Archives.

Females who enlisted into military service during the 19th century kept up their disguises in many ways. It was easy to disguise themselves as soldiers because many men at the time were small in stature. Female soldiers could pass as young men due to their lack of facial hair, loose fitting uniforms, and they blended in with the vast amount of underage boys who enlisted. Some women even bound their breasts, cut their hair, padded their trousers, added padding to their uniforms to look more muscular, practiced moving with a masculine gait, wore fake facial hair, and smoked cigars and pipes.

"The home guard" White Mountain rangers, c1861


Some women did not disguise themselves to fight for their country. Vivandières were women who aided regiments during war. Vivandières first appeared in European armies, mainly in France. They provided spirits and other luxuries not easily available to soldiers. They also attended to the sick and wounded. The term “Vivandière” derives from French and Latin and translates to “hospitality giver.” Vivandières wore their own regimental uniforms that included a cask usually filled with some type of alcohol. Vivandières made their way to America and served in the U.S. Civil War where they could be found in dangerous parts of battlefields. They sometimes even fought alongside soldiers.