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Amanda Johnson Dunlap

Amanda Johnson Dunlap (1845? – April 16, 1912)

Civil War Cook/Devoted Wife

During Black History Month 2014, the Center for the Church and the Black Experience is honoring faithful Black women freedom fighters. Today we honor Amanda Johnson Dunlap.

Considered to be the first woman who applied for a Civil War pension, Amanda Johnson Dunlap served as a cook in several camps for the Union Army, crossing enemy lines to secure provisions for the commanding officers.  She later married a white man whose mental illness was not a deterrent to her love for him.

Born in slavery around 1845 in Tennessee, Amanda Johnson made her escape after the Civil War began and found safety with the Union troops.  Because of her outstanding culinary skills, she became the private cook of Colonel Cameron.  One day, he was attacked by Confederate soldiers as she was serving him his meal.  She got away on horseback but was permanently separated from that camp.  Mrs. Dunlap then sought refuge in the camp of General John McAllister Schofield.  During the 1864 siege of Nashville, TN, the food supply ran out, so Gen. Schofield signed a passport that ensured Mrs. Dunlap’s safety as she crossed enemy lines to replenish provisions for the troops.

After the war, she traveled to Illinois and married George Dunlap, a White man about twenty years her junior.  The couple lived in Evanston, IL, and throughout their marriage, Mr. Dunlap was repeatedly incarcerated.  He was eventually committed to a mental institution.

Mrs. Dunlap applied for a government pension to supplement her income from cleaning and cooking in local homes.  Though much effort went into securing this support from Washington, DC, her request was denied.  As far as we know, Mrs. Dunlap was the first woman to seek pension payments from the War.
 
From her deathbed, which was covered with war memorabilia such as buttons, photos and the passport signed by Gen. Schofield, Mrs. Dunlap wrote a letter to a local justice, requesting that he persuade the local chapter of the Grand Army of the Republic (G. A. R.), a fraternal organization of Union Army veterans, to attend her funeral.  Many of them were present, in recognition of her faithfulness to the Union cause.

Sources:

  • Evanston Daily News 4/19/1912, 1
  • 1880, 1900, 1910 U. S. Census records

Compiled by Rhonda K. Craven

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