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Friday, May 6, 2016

Battle of Marshall 150: Speaker tells of hardship, courage of Missouri women caught in Civil War guerrilla fighting

Monday, December 10, 2012

Virginia Laas speaks in Marshall Saturday, Dec. 8, at the second Second Saturday lecture, part of the year-long Battle of Marshall 150th Anniversary Commemoration.
(Eric Crump/Democrat-News)
In 1863, Elvira Scott of Miami, faced a difficult choice. Men, dressed in Civil War federal uniforms, but obviously southern Bushwhackers, came to her home demanding breakfast.

She told them she didn't want to provide them breakfast because federal troops in the area would burn her house down if they found out.

"Well, madam, if you don't fix our breakfast, we'll burn your house," the Bushwhackers told her, "You can make the choice."

She fixed them breakfast.

This is just one of the hundreds of stories found in provost marshal, circuit court and other records about individual women's roles in the Civil War.

Virginia Laas, professor emeritus at Missouri Southern State University told this story and many others to about 30 people on Saturday, Dec. 8, in Marshall's Wood & Huston Community Room.

Her presentation, "'No Age of Barbarism can show us such scenes of cruelty and plunder': Women and Guerrilla Warfare in Civil War, focused on the role of women in Missour during the conflict.

This lecture was the second of the Battle of Marshall 150th Anniversary Commemoration Second Saturday series of events designed to provide a rich portrayal of life in Saline County during the Civil War years.

The year-long commemoration will feature events every second Saturday until the battle re-enactment Sept. 13-15, 2013.

Laas said that civil court records after the Civil War ended have proven to be very valuable in telling the individual stories of women and their struggles.

"What historians are discovering, especially in guerilla warfare, is women were active participants in the war," she said. "With their men off fighting, they became the protectors. They were responsible for protecting their land, their possessions, their children and often they were the ones who were protecting their men."

Many of the stories came from lawsuits from women seeking damages after the deaths of their husbands at the hands of guerrillas.

"The plaintiffs can name these guerrillas, because they were their neighbors and they knew them," Laas said.

Many of the lawsuits sought $5,000 for the loss of a husband.

"That seemed to be the price on husbands, there are a number of those suits -- husband died, $5,000," Laas said.

The records show a very different kind of woman than many would expect. In the 19th century women were not considered citizens with rights to vote or own property.

"The world did not turn upside down," Laas said, "But this war did twist gender roles and self-perception."

She said there was a fundamental difference between what was expected and required of women in Civil War Missouri.

"With no one to turn to, without knowing whom to trust, with no civil government and without a sure means of support. Women faced incredibly hard times in Missouri," she said. "Somehow they found the strength to take care of their families and survive."

This program and the others are organized by the Marshall Cultural Council. They are sponsored by the Missouri Humanities Council and the State Historical Society of Missouri as part of the Show Me Missouri speaker's bureau.

The third lecture is set for Saturday, Jan. 12 at 1 p.m. in the Windmill Gallery in Marshall. Bryan Ivlow will speak about and exhibit weapons from the Civil War. At 2 p.m., local historian Marvin Wilhite will discuss the Battle of Marshall, and

Civil War era food will be available for participants.

Contact Marcia Gorrell at mgorrell@marshallnews.com

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Area? No, era. That is unless the meaning is food of the civil war era that was served at the time in the Saline County area. :)

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Mon, Dec 10, 2012, at 1:37 PM
Response by Eric Crump/Editor:
Fixed. Thanks.

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