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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Hazel Carter

     During the American Civil War, an unknown number of women disguised themselves as men and fought on the front lines. These women were looking for adventure, higher wages, involvement in a cause they believed in, or they wanted to follow sweethearts or family members. While it may be difficult to fathom how a woman could get away with passing herself as a man during the Civil War day in and day out, stories and books have been written about the women who did just that. It seems impossible that women could get away with disguising themselves as men what with medical examinations (unknown in the Civil War) and the closeness that living in the field involves, but it happened as late as World War One. 
     Hazel Carter (nee Blauser) was born in 1894 and died July 12, 1918. She was a stowaway and writer from Douglas, Arizona. During World War I, she stowed away on a ship to France to stay with her soldier husband, Corporal John J. Carter. Later, she wrote about her experience for the Bell Syndicate. 
     Carter was born in the Huachuca Mountains outside of Douglas, Arizona and was known as a skilled hunter and farmer. According to her father Peter Blauser, she graduated from college but chose to live a life on a ranch where she tended to 200 cattle and 16 horses.
     She married John J. Carter on December 12, 1916. When her husband was sent to France with the first American contingent of soldiers, she first tried to join the Red Cross in Douglas, but was not accepted. She then cut her hair short and stole an Army uniform and went to the train station where she mingled with the men. She boarded the same train as the one carrying her husband and went undetected for two days. Carter claimed her husband did not know of her presence on the train until they neared Chicago. 

     When she was discovered and forced off the train and told to go back to Douglas. However, she got back on the train and when it arrived at the port she was able to get onto a ship as a stowaway. The ship was five days at sea when her identity was discovered; her voice aroused suspicion and when a Captain asked her to remove her shirt the secret was out. 
     Hazel was then held in a stateroom and upon arrival in Europe she was not permitted to disembark from the ship. Her request to remain as a nurse was refused. Her husband was demoted from corporal to private as a result. 
     Carter said her mother did not know she was stowing away until after she left. Her mother wrote to her saying, “If you wanted to be a soldier and fight with your man, it was all right with us. We’re proud of you. You’re an honor to the blood, and that has been fighting blood since before the Civil War.” Her Civil War veteran grandfather remarked how proud he was of her stating, "I knew she would do it…That girl sure has grit. I wish she could stay and fight the Germans. You ought to have seen her in uniform. She made a better looking soldier than John, I do believe. She can handle a rifle better than most men. They sure should have let her stay." 
     After arriving back in the States she was detained and questioned by the police in Hoboken, New Jersey. She then moved on to Atlantic City, New Jersey. She was provided women’s clothes and a wig prior to being sent home to Arizona. In some old newspaper articles she was even referred to as Private Hazel Carter (retired). 
     Back home she received a hero's welcome and was met by a brass band and supporters. She also wrote about her experiences and her account was published by The Bell Syndicate. She also authored a series of four articles detailing her experience that were serialized nationally by several newspapers.
     She intended on earning enough money to return to France to serve as an Army nurse, but she died in Lordsburg, New Mexico, on July 11, 1918, after being ill for two days. Her husband was still fighting overseas when she died.
     Friends claimed that her health declined after her return and they believed she died of a broken heart. Her body was returned to Douglas for burial and she was given a military funeral with a military chaplain and six soldiers as pallbearers. In 1918 after the funeral it was reported that Carter's was the first military funeral held in the United States for a woman. 
     For further reading about the 400 women who are known to fight a men in the Civil War, the following sites are of interest.
A Civil War woman soldier
American Battlefield

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