Balancing the Scales of American History–Victorian Style

Kathy Hudson Portraying Harriet Tubman

Kathy Hudson
Portraying Harriet Tubman

At the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site (National Park Service) in New York, Kathy Hudson, pictured to the right,  portrays the globally acclaimed Harriet Tubman, an Underground Railroad Leader, Nurse, and Cook during the American Civil War.   If you Google “Harriet Tubman Reenactors,” you will find several 21st Century women who transform into Harriet Tubman as either Living Historians or Civil War Reenactors.

When we recognize women during the American Civil War, double standards should not exist in regards to who is portrayed.  The African American women who remained in the south likewise deserve to be remembered because their stories balance the scales of American History.   Under dire circumstances of war, southern black women rose to the occasion as humanitarians, caretakers, and guardians.   Two such women are Catharine and Hannah Dawson who were mustered into military service as hospital cooks with the 63rd Georgia Infantry (CSA).

The 63rd Georgia Infantry (CSA) was organized in December, 1862 (Savannah, Georgia).  Catharine and Hannah Dawson are listed as “colored” on the Hospital Muster Roll. (See image below.)  What information exists today in regards to the Dawson family?  What facility was used as the hospital–a church, a home, or a medical field tent?  If the hospital was a home or a church, is it still standing today?  What was the “day in the life” of Catherine and Hannah as hospital cooks with a Georgia regiment?  How old were they when they were mustered into military service? Do they have any ties to Cornelius Dawson?  These are the types of questions researched if transformed into Catherine Dawson as a Living Historian.

Text on Catharine Dawson63rd Georgia InfantryConfederate Soldier Service Record

Text on Catharine Dawson’s
63rd Georgia Infantry
Confederate Soldier Service Record

If we as a community do not take interest, who will preserve the individual stories of women such as Catharine and Hannah?

Highlighting the good in humanity,
Ann DeWitt

For Featured Document, reference:  Catharine Dawson, Confederate Soldier Service Record, Georgia 63rd Infantry, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Catalog ID 586957 and NARA Microfilm # M266.