Monday, March 02, 2009

Women In Combat - Civil War

I read this on a blog:

"Women before the perfection of firearms in the fifteenth century were were not on the battlefield. They were simply too weak. This fact was seldom noted because it was so obvious. Women since the fifteenth century have been able to hold their own against men - if they are packing heat."

Eh, not really. The truth is that as late the Civil War, the average woman was incapable of being on the battlefield. The average CW soldier had to march 15-40 miles a day with 10 lbs. musket, and 20-50 lbs. of food and equipment. This of course was on dirt roads and paths, in mud, rain, and snow. Your typical Civil war soldier had to tote the following"

1) Musket - 10 Lbs.
2) Bayonet - 2 lbs
3) 50 rounds ammunition - 5 lbs.
4) Water and Canteen - 3 lbs.
5) 3 Days Rations - 6 lbs
6) Overcoat - 1 lbs
7) Wool Blanket - 1 lbs
8) Mess Kit - 1 lbs.
9) Change of Clothing & Misc. - 4 lbs.

This is a minimum. Sometimes troops had to march with 50 lbs. of gear.

Its doubtful many women could do this**. The very act of firing a musket in combat took a great deal of upper body endurance, since it entailed loading, lifting and firing a 10 lbs. musket 2 times a minute for long periods of time. Further, the Colt Revolver, the cost common handgun was 14 inches long and weighed almost 3 lbs. Many smaller women would have trouble loading and firing it, let alone aiming and shooting with accuracy.

There were of course women who disguised themselves and fought. But these exceptions don't prove the rule. Certainly, I woman could disguise herself and fight as a drummer boy, rear echelon type, or a member of an artillery crew. I doubt many, except of few Amazons could have fought in the Calvary or Infantry.

And the amount of hand-to-hand combat is often underestimated. Every battle had "melee's" where the two lines of combatants would merge into a mass of swinging muskets, bayonet thrusts, and grappling foes.

It should be remembered that Pike Men were found on the battlefield until 1700, and the flintlock pistol and musket were so inaccurate and unreliable that a sword and bayonet were used constantly.

** Yes, I know many women go hiking with 40 lbs. packs. But they don't march 12 hours a day, day after day, in all kinds of weather, while eating corn meal and bacon and sleeping on the bare ground without cover.

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