The Civil War in Missouri

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Frances Clayton

ca. 1863
Boston Public Library

An unknown number of women fought for Missouri, but Frances Clayton is perhaps the best known because of photographs taken of her as a civilian and as a soldier, and because of a wartime interview she gave. Clayton, a native Minnesotan, served for the Union with Missouri artillery and cavalry regiments. She was able to conceal her true identity in part by adopting the persona of a male soldier—she learned to swear, smoke, drink, chew, gamble, and walk with a “masculine stride.” Her comrades described her as an accomplished swordsman, horse rider, and all-around good soldier. Clayton was wounded at Fort Donelson, Tennessee, and fought alongside her husband at the Battle of Stones River until he was killed just steps away from her. She left the service shortly thereafter.