7 Mar 2019

Women’s History Month Spotlight

Women’s History Month Spotlight

Guides. Nurses. Mothers. Spies. Soldiers. The women of America's founding century powerfully illustrate the many ways one can serve their country. For some of these women, the best way to serve was as a man. Here are three of their stories.

With the Best of Them. When Deborah Sampson enlisted in the Light Infantry Company of the Fourth Massachusetts Regiment under the name of her deceased brother, Robert Shurtliff, she joined an elite group of soldiers known for their speed and agility. (This elite status may have also made it less likely that someone would question her manhood.) Sampson worked double duty, serving the Patriot cause while keeping her secret, which it seems was never more difficult than on the occasions when she was injured in battle or fell sick and needed medical care. Finally, in 1783, a doctor discovered her secret and outed her to her commanding officer. Sampson received an honorable discharge and, after years of petitioning, a pension for her service.

The Other Buford. Sure, you've heard of John Buford, but what about Harry T. Buford? This was the pseudonym of Loreta Janeta Velazquez, author of The Woman in Battle: A Narrative of the Exploits, Adventures, and Travels of Madame Loreta Janeta Velazquez, Otherwise Known as Lieutenant Harry T. Buford, Confederate States Army. Historians debate how much of her story is true, but parts of it have been verified and it certainly makes for colorful reading. According to Velazquez's narrative, following her husband's departure to join the Confederate Army, she had an officer's uniform made for herself, adopted the name Buford, ranked herself lieutenant and organized a regiment to march to Florida to find him. When he died several days later, Velazquez continued to fight on the front lines, first a soldier and later as a spy for the Confederacy.

A Lifetime Commitment. In 1862, Irish immigrant born under the name Jennie Hodgers enlisted to fight for the Union in the 95th Illinois Infantry as Albert Cashier. The shortest soldier in the regiment, Cashier kept mostly to himself but was accepted as "one of the boys" and considered to be a good soldier. Cashier's regiment was part of the Army of the Tennessee and fought in over 40 engagements. A brave and capable fighter, Albert Cashier served a full three-year enlistment with his regiment until all were mustered out in August of 1865. After the war, this veteran chose to maintain his identity as Albert Cashier. Historians may never know whether Cashier truly identified as a man or simply found it a more convenient way to navigate the world but he would go to the grave with the name he chose for himself decades before and the military honors that went with it.

Hundreds of women secretly served as soldiers in the Civil War. Read more about these bold individuals on our website, then learn more about the many other ways women contributed to America's founding century.


American Battlefield Trust

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