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Civil War Sesquicentennial

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It’s been 150 years since the start of the Civil War.  In case you were wondering, yes, I’m from South Carolina and no, I don’t call it the “War of Northern Aggression.”

I remember hearing a news story about a woman serving in disguise during the Civil War and thought I’d look more into it from a legal perspective.  Sarah E. E. Seelye, née Edmonds, served two years as a soldier in Company F, Second Michigan Infantry Volunteers.  She disguised herself as a man, using the alias Franklin Thompson. She served faithfully, according to House Report 820, accompanying H.R. 5334, until “she was taken sick at Lebanon, KY, and being unable to obtain a furlough, and fearing the discovery of her sex, she absented herself without leave, and from that time was borne upon the rolls as a deserter.”  H.R. 5334, 23 Stat. 598, ch. 298, of the 48th Congress was passed July 5, 1884 and granted Mrs. Seelye a pension of twelve dollars per month (seen at right).  That would be about $271.99 per month in today’s dollars.

This bill was also part of a National Archives exhibit on Discovering the Civil War.  I found some other information on Mrs. Seelye , which also contains an excerpt from the memoir she published about her service titled Nurse and Spy in the Union Army.

In addition, this year’s Presidential Proclamation for African American History Month notes that this year’s theme is “African Americans and the Civil War.”

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