""From my early childhood,"" wrote Loreta Janeta Velazquez, aka Confederate Army Lieutenant Harry T. Buford,""Joan of Arc was my favorite heroine."" Inspired by the Maid of Orlean's zeal for the glorious fields of battle, Velazquez/Buford, as well as the other women profiled in this collection of short biographies, had an often-overlooked influence on the course of the Civil War. While some of Tsui's subjects are nurses, spies and genteel abolitionists whose fighting was done more in drawing rooms than on battlefronts, most chapters recount the tales of cross-dressing warriors who hid their gender beneath either blue or gray uniforms. They were, according to the author, infatuated with the glory of war and driven by a patriotic quest. That's as far as Tsui goes, however, in illuminating her subjects' motivations. Aside from the cursory mention of lovers, families and death-defying moments, she does not delve deeply into the psychology of these unusual soldiers. (Tsui admits that these women did not leave behind many personal testimonies, save for a few memoirs and diary entries.) There is plenty of information, however, about how women served the war effort. From the""daughters of the regiment,"" an informal group of camp-followers, laundresses and nurses, to the vivandieres, food vendors and morale boosters whose presence among the troops was rooted in a Napoleonic tradition, the dynamism with which women served among the ranks is well documented. Tsui rounds out her book with profiles of valiant nurses, like Clara Barton, as well as of abolitionists-turned-spies Elizabeth Van Lew and Harriet Tubman. Using a swift, efficient prose style, Tsui, a magazine writer and editor, assembles her facts into competently written summaries. In the end, this thorough but dry historical account succeeds in stoking our desire to learn more about these brave women. 13 b&w photos.
Reviewed on: 09/01/2003 Release date: 09/01/2003 Genre: Nonfiction