Women of the Blue and Gray: True Civil War Stories of Mothers, Medics, Soldiers, and Spies

Marianne Monson. Shadow Mountain, $19.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-62972-415-7

In her solid follow-up to Frontier Grit, creative writing instructor Monson tells the stories of women from both sides of the Civil War in “an attempt to rescue from the shadowy corners incredible stories of women from war that remain relevant to our world today.” To accomplish this, she alternates thematic chapters with biographical ones focusing on individuals, ending each with a brief list of suggested readings. The biographies zing with personality and page-turning prose, and while some of the subjects—nurse Susie Baker King Taylor, medical doctor Mary Walker, and Union recruiter and abolitionist Mary Ann Shadd Cary—will be well-known to Civil War aficionados, there are less-recognized figures presented as well, among them Anna Ella Carroll, an adviser to the Union government, and Cornelia Peake McDonald, a Confederate diarist. The thematic chapters cover a variety of topics, including cross-dressing women who served as soldiers, medical care, the experiences of enslaved people, and the Native American women whose home regions became war zones and whose male relatives enlisted on both sides. They provide some background information for the biography chapters, but the organization can be haphazard (for instance, seven chapters separate McDonald’s story from “Ink of Centuries: The Diarists.”) But this entertaining and accessible book is a suitable introduction for readers beginning their foray into Civil War history. Illus. [em](Aug.) [/em]