During the American Civil War did army officers treated women differently according to their social statuses?

Aug 2013
I live in Chesapeake, Virginia in the United State
Greetings Everybody!

1. Did Union and Confederate Army officers treated women of different social statuses (Like Upper Class, Middle Class, and Lower Class Women.) differently according to their social statuses? If so, why and how differently according to their social status? Was if partly because the middle class and particularly the lower class were looked down upon?

2. Also would Union and Confederate Army officers treat other officers' wives and children differently according to their social status or pretty much as equally as possible because just because they are another officer's family if they came to visit? Also if the Union and Confederate Army officers wives and children were of low status (Like for example if a enlisted soldier who was married just got promoted to being a officer would likely would have a wife and children of lower social status than most of the other officer's wives and children.) would they be treated by and looked down upon by other Union and Confederate Army officers and their families as "new money", their wives as "half way ladies" meaning the merely appeared as "ladies" but, they would still never be a true "lady", still not good of enough, not one of them, and/or as fakes? Just wondering.

The example I am going to use for question number one is a example I read in a book on google books but, very unfortunately I can't remember the name of the book and I can not find the book on google books anymore. I will really try my very best to remember what I read in the book but, I don't know if I will remember 100% exactly what happened in the book so try to bear with me guys. Sorry about this.

For example: A Union Army officer was stationed near a bank on a road doing security checks looking for smuggled weapons hidden in carriages and wagons that were traveling on the road that he was stationed on. One day, a Southern Belle was traveling to the bank (Her father owned the bank.) to put in or to take some money from bank when the Union Army officer stopped her carriage doing security checks. When the Union Army officer opened the carriage door, she was smiling so much that she kind of "disarmed" him and kind of made him put his guard down a little bit but, he still ended checking her carriage for smuggled weapons anyways. After the Union Army Officer was done with the security check he sent her and her carriage on his way

Later on, when the Southern Belle and the Union Army Officer finally got to know each other and when she came to visit the North after the Civil War and met him at a party. He told her about that time when they first met (The time that I was talking about above.) that she "disarmed" him with her smile and as a result, he put his guard down a little bit and she got a less strict/rigid security check (She would have gotten away with some things if they had been noticed during the security check than most people would have.) than most people.
At the end of the passage the author said that if the Southern Belle was a middle class or a lower class woman in the same situation the Union Army officer would have treated her slightly differently according to her social rank. That means if the Union Army Officer came upon a middle class woman or a lower class woman and she was smiling a whole lot. The Union Army officer wouldn't have been "disarmed" no matter how much she was smiling and she would still ended getting equal treatment in regards of how rigid and strict the security check is according to her social status. Is that true? Just wondering.

Thanks so much answering my questions everybody! Have a nice day! Peace! :) ;)


Forum Staff
Aug 2016
The way I read that story, she disarmed him with charm, not status. There probably was some relationship between wealth and charm. Girls who grow up in wealthy families learn that their primary value lies in making other people happy - first Daddy, later gentleman callers. Girls who grow up poor are more likely to learn that their value is economic. They're too busy doing chores to learn how to be charming. Wealth can also influence beauty. Wealthier women wear nicer clothes. Their happy, carefree life means they don't prematurely age. A better diet can yield a healthier, clearer complexion, etc. So yes, a man is more likely to be influenced by a wealthier woman than a poor one.


Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
In the mid 19th century social status played a very significant part in social interaction. Military officers were expected to be gentlemen first and foremost and treat all women with respect. They would not see a lower class woman as their equal, but they would certainly show a level of courtesy to any woman regardless of status. There were no doubt exceptions, saloon girls and prostitutes would probably not rate much courtesy or respect and given that during the ACW many officers were not from the traditional background but promoted solely due to wartime necessity, some of these men may not have had the manners that society had come to expect from officers and gentlemen.