Mollie Bean

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Mollie Bean or Melvin Bean was a North Carolinian woman who, pretending to be a man, joined the 47th North Carolina, a unit of the Confederate army in the American Civil War.


She took on the name of Melvin Bean[1] and was captured in uniform by Union forces outside Richmond, Virginia, on the night of February 17, 1865. When questioned at the provost marshal's office, she said she had served with the 47th for two years and been twice wounded, but neither of her wounds led to her discovery.[2] These wounds were likely minor. (North Carolina Troops 1861-1865—a Roster, vol. XI, editor W.T. Jordan). Given that unit's record in 1863, her statement indicates she may have fought at the Battle of Gettysburg.

Her captain was reported to be John Thorp.[3]

The Richmond Whig, which reported the case on February 20, 1865, assumed that other soldiers knew of Bean's true gender and insinuated that she may have had sexual relations with one or more of them. Neither assertion was, however, based on any concrete evidence, Bean's own testimony or that of any other soldier in her unit.

Subsequently, she was accused of being both a spy and "manifestly crazy", and incarcerated at Richmond's wartime prison Castle Thunder where Mary and Molly Bell would later be held prisoners on October 19, 1864.


She is a major character in Harry Turtledove's alternate history novel The Guns of the South. Her character in the book is also a prostitute who marries a fellow North Carolina soldier and a teacher who taught her how to read.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Leonard, Elizabeth D. (1999). All the Daring of the Soldier: Women of the Civil War Armies. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company Inc. p. 222. ISBN 0393047121.
  2. ^ Blanton, DeAnne (2002). Women Soldiers in the American Civil War: They Fought like Demons. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press. p. 97. ISBN 0807128066.
  3. ^ Hall, Richard H. (2006). Women on the Civil War Battlefront. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. p. 150. ISBN 0700614370.

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