Thursday, October 06, 2011
Book Review: I'll Pass for Your Comrade, by Anita Silvey (Clarion Books, 2008)
I'll Pass for Your Comrade is a line taken from a Civil War Ballad, "The Cruel War"; a woman is saying goodbye to her love, leaving to fight, and begs to join him in combat. She offers to "pass for his comrade" - something that, according to the National Archives, at least 250 women did during the Civil War. Many women fought to be with their husbands and fiances. Some women fought for revenge. Some women fought for the thrill of battle. Unfortunately, because they had to keep their stories silent, most of these stories have been lost. I'll Pass for Your Comrade tells the stories of some of the women who donned men's uniforms, cut their hair, and went to war.
We hear the words of the women who fought, like Loreta Janeta Velazquez, who wrote about her participation in the Battle of Bull Run as Lieutenant Harry T. Buford. We see photographs of women like Frances Clayton, featured in the book both dressed in her uniform and her dress. We learn about their lives after the War, and how some of them took their secrets to the grave, their families only discovering their truth after death.
The book has black and white photographs and primary documents reprinted throughout, offering students the chance to see history as they read about these women. The author also provides a bibliography for further reading. This would be a strong selection to use during Women's History Month or during a Civil War unit.