A Civil War “Joan” with a Michigan connection

B. Nash in the Lincoln Room of his home


My Lincoln blog has just completed it’s third year. It’s been a very rewarding undertaking for me. It has given me the opportunity to learn more about Mr. Lincoln, the Civil War era,  and my own family’s connection to the history. I don’t feel like stopping the blog anytime soon. So here is my latest posting! This one comes from the pages of Civil War Times Illustrated (May 1969).  It’s a story about a female who joined the Union ranks in Mr. Lincoln’s army. I will copy in bold type the Michigan connections to the story. The article is found on page 47 of the issue and is entitled:


An Unrecognized Joan


Nearly every war has its maid who longs to be a Joan of ‘Arc. The Civil War’s Joan died on the field of Chickamauga. She was a girl from Willoughby Street in Brooklyn, who in early 1863, when Federal armies were meeting disaster and the Union appeared to many to be lost, believed she heard the call of Providence to save her country.

Her parents thought that she was mentally unbalanced. They consulted their pastor and friends to send her to visit an aunt in Ann Arbor, Michigan. There she was held a virtual prisoner. Escaping, but finding herself unable to reach Washington and tell President Lincoln of her mission, she concealed her sex, eluded detectives sent by her family to trail her, and enlisted as a drummer boy in a Detroit regiment.

Finding her way into Van Cleve’s division, she sustained the rigors and rapid marching of the Tullahoma campaign. Her sex was not discovered until she was hit in the left side and fatally wounded by a minie ball on Sunday, September 20, at Chickamauga.

When the surgeons told her the wound was fatal, she dictated a letter to her father: “Forgive your dying daughter. I have but a few moments to live. My native soil drinks my blood. I expected to deliver my country, but the Fates would not have it so. I am content to die. Pray, pa, forgive me. Tell ma to kiss my daguerreotype. Emily.”

“P.S. Give my old watch to little Eph.”


She was buried on the field where she fell. Her story was contained in one of the unidentified clippings of anecdotes culled by Frank Moore in 1865 for his Civil War in Song and Story. Unhappily neither he nor the newspaper scribe left the maiden’s name.


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