We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.


You might say that Civil War battalions had their own “don’t ask/don’t tell” policy—historians estimate that hundreds of Yankee and Rebel women posed as male soldiers. Despite beardless chins and, as one suspicious fellow commented, “ridiculously small boots,” female enlistees often got away with their ruse. At today’s “Women in the Civil War” lecture, Lauren Cook Burgess, editor of An Uncommon Soldier: The Civil War Letters of Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, discusses 19th-century women’s roles along with Elizabeth D. Leonard, author of Yankee Women: Gender Battles in the Civil War. Burgess, who successfully sued the National Park Service after she was barred from a Civil War re-enactment on the basis of sex, has been researching female soldiers for five years; the letters by Wakeman, alias Pvt. “Lyons” Wakeman, have a local slant, for Wakeman was stationed in Alexandria, Va., from August 1862-January 1864, then saw action in the Battle of Pleasant Hill in Louisiana. Find out who wore the blue and the gray pants when Burgess and Leonard speak at noon at the National Archives, Room 105, 7th & Pennsylvania Ave. NW. FREE. (202) 501-5402. (Nathalie op de Beeck)