- Women in Civil War Texas: Diversity and Dissidence in the Trans-Mississippi ed. by Deborah M. Liles and Angela Boswell
Texas differs from much of the Confederacy in regard to the Civil War's impact on the state. Separated by distance and, eventually, Union-held territory, Texans did not experience the same amount of difficulty or loss of property as those in Confederate states that were strafed by Federal troops. Similarly, women in Texas wrangled with the effects of war in different ways.
Deborah M. Liles and Angela Boswell's edited volume on the lives of women in Texas during the Civil War examines the variety of experiences faced by a diverse population. Each essay in Women in Civil War Texas: Diversity and Dissidence in the Trans-Mississippi emphasizes a distinct perspective by discussing women who were white and black, German and Tejana, and Unionists or enthusiastic supporters of the Confederacy. The authors culled much of their information not only from diaries and letters where women disclosed their opinions in a more private venue but also from newspapers of the time wherein editors discussed women's actions and lauded their feminine efforts to contribute to the war by boosting morale. Despite an inability to vote or serve in battle, women placed themselves in the thick of the war.
The volume begins with Vicki Betts's discussion of early enthusiasm for the war, which demonstrates women's fervent support for what many assumed would be a limited engagement. As the war continued, however, women pressed on with the drudgery of managing everyday life. In chapter 2, Dorothy Ewing describes the life of Caroline Sedberry, a politician's wife who found herself in wartime taking on unfamiliar tasks. In the same way, Beverly Rowe compares men's and women's wartime experiences through their letters, and both she and Ewing explore the [End Page 164] nature of battle, the meaning of the "glorious cause," and the frustrations of scarcity and other difficulties (p. 60). As Brittany Bounds suggests, while Texans struggled, women redoubled their efforts to encourage themselves and others by creating and joining aid societies, participating in social events and holidays, and relying on their faith to carry them through.
Women in Civil War Texas also explores the experiences of non-Anglo Texans. Two essays, one by Bruce A. Glasrud and the other by Linda S. Hudson, describe how black women, both enslaved and free, dealt with what Glasrud describes as a "Freedom War" (p. 100). Hudson uses records from civil and criminal court cases to illustrate how the Texas Supreme Court viewed black women as well as how black women responded to these cases. In their essay, Jerry Thompson and Elizabeth Mata focus on Tejana women and recognize that not all Tejanos were in favor of the Confederacy. The realities of anti-Tejano racism and keen poverty exacerbated the problems that Tejanas faced. In her essay, Judith Dykes-Hoffman demonstrates that German women who lived in Unionist households dealt with similar persecution and, in some cases, the murders of their Unionist husbands. Discussions of both race and ethnicity provide new dimensions to understanding the war.
Like German Texans, other women, including many in North Texas, came from Unionist families as well. Rebecca Sharpless tells the stories of Unionist women who tried to maintain their homes after their husbands had fled or were hanged. Their political opinions set them apart from the main population, leaving them isolated in many ways. One did not, however, have to be a Unionist to feel isolated. Candice N. Shockley describes how white southern women from other states became refugees in Texas, where distance protected them from the ravages of war. Some refugees, whose land had been destroyed, were welcomed; others, often members of the southern elite, were scorned as cowards fleeing their martial duties as good Confederates. Finally, Deborah M. Liles notes in her essay that Texas was not just a southern state...