An Uncommon Soldier
The Civil War Letters of Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, alias Pvt. Lyons Wakeman, 153rd Regiment, New York State Volunteers, 1862-1864
Written by Lauren Cook Burgess
With a Foreword by James M. McPherson
“I don’t know how long before I shall have to go into the field of battle. For my part I don’t car. I don’t feel afraid to go. I don’t believe there are any Rebel’s bullet made for me yet.” -Pvt. Lyons Wakeman
Similar sentiments were expressed by tens of thousands of Civil War soldiers in their diaries and in their letters to loved ones at home. What transforms the letters of Pvt. Lyons Wakeman from merely interesting reading into a unique and fascinating addition to Civil War literature is who wrote them – for Private Wakeman was not what “he” seemed to be. The first five-foot tall soldier’s true identity was that of a simple young farm girl from central New York state named Sarah Rosetta Wakeman.
Written Shortly after she left home to pursue her fortune in 1862, Wakeman’s letters provide a rare glimpse of what life was like for a woman fighting as a common soldier in the Civil War under the guise of a man. The letters (the only such correspondence known to exist) tell of army life in the defenses of Washington D.C. and on the march and in battle during the 1864 Louisiana Red River Campaign. In them, Private Wakeman expresses her determination to perform honorably the duty required of a soldier, and her pride in being able to “drill just as good as any man” in her regiment. Although Wakeman did not survive the war, her letters remain as a singular record of female military life in the ranks, a phenomenon largely ignored by historians and researchers. This unique collection of letters offers a firsthand look at the personality and character of a woman who defied convention to take a man’s place in the Union army.
Softcover, 110 pages