Book Review: Women of the Blue and Gray: True Civil War Stories of Mothers, Medics, Soldiers, and Spies by Marianne Monson

Rating: 5 out of 5.


This novel is a collection of accounts of the women of the American Civil War, many of whom are not well-known. We follow women of both the North and the South who made sacrifices for what they felt was for the good of their country. These are the women who enlisted themselves as disguised soldiers, escaped slavery, became diarists, were employed as doctors and nurses as well as women with holy professions, and those who hailed from Native American origins as well.


Marianne Monson has written a lot about American History in the genres of nonfiction, young adult historical fiction, and children’s historical fiction/fantasy, based on the titles of hers I have already seen at Deseret Book. Some of her other titles include Frontier Grit: The Unlikely True Stories of Daring Pioneer Women (Nonfiction), Her Quiet Revolution: A Novel of Martha Hughes Cannon: Frontier Doctor and First Female State Senator (YA Historical Fiction), and The Enchanted Tunnel Series (Children’s Historical Fiction/Fantasy). From my judgments of this book, I like her style of writing; she gives her readers enough information without overwhelming the reader. I look forward to reading some of her other nonfiction.

Union – probably the Women’s Brigade.

Book Strengths

  • No info-dumps (“show, not tell”): these were more teasers rather than full biographies
  • Well-researched: a nice compilation of sources is listed at the back
  • Inclusive: she includes women of various backgrounds, cultures, and races in her research
  • Narration: I listened to this via audiobook; and thought the interested tone, steady pacing, and charisma of the voice kept the story interesting.

Book Weaknesses

  • Not many, just one suggestion: I think I would have liked if it read more like a novel instead of a narration in certain parts.

Overall Thoughts

I learned a lot more about the historical context of the American Civil War in this book than I thought I would, such as the origins of Arlington Cemetery, the large number of women who enlisted alongside their husbands and had babies while still enlisted, the fact that there were women doctors, and accounts from the Confederate side of the war. I especially liked when Monson referenced her own account of an interaction with a man at a Fredericksburg gift shop who teased her about choosing a side when she bought postcards of both Grant (a Northerner) and Lee (a Southerner).

“‘I respect both these men,’ I said returning his banter, ‘and the war is over now, so I don’t have to choose.”’

Women of the Blue and Gray, page 380-381

I think this is an appropriate attitude when learning about a topic as touchy and complicated in our nation’s history as the American Civil War; one must learn the good and the bad unbiased facts from both sides before making an educated decision about which ideals to support and which to not.

Published by Ashley Weaver

I am a writer, reader, student, and teacher of literature and the English language.

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