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Cross-Dressing Women in the Revolutionary and Civil War


There were perhaps more than a thousand women who cross-dressed as men to join in both the Revolutionary War and in the Civil War but only the most famous or those that were written have survived the test of time. Here are some short biographies of these cross-dressing women:



Jennie Hodgers - Albert Cashier (1843-1915) - Civil War - Union Army



 Jennie was born in Clogherhead, Ireland. When she was young, her step-father would dress her as a boy so she could get a job to support the family. Eventually, to move away from her family, she stowed away on a boat that ended up in Illinois. At this point, Jennie had become Albert Cashier and lived her life as a man. In 1862, he enlisted in the 95th Illinois Infantry, Union Army as "Albert D. J. Cashier."  He remained in the army for three years until returning to civilian life. Cashier fought in the Civil War as a male Union soldier and lived out his life as a male drawing a military pension. Some reports indicated he had a girl friend at different times in his life. In his old age, he lived in the Illinois Soldiers and Sailors Home where a medical exam revealed his secret. As per regulations in the Soldier's Home, he was required to wear a dress until his death. When he passed away, he was buried in his full military uniform. 







Challenging Gender Boundaries: Albert D. J. Cashier - http://outhistory.org/exhibits/show/tgi-bios/albert-cashier 

National Park Service. Jennie Hodgers, aka Private Albert Cashier - https://www.nps.gov/articles/jennie-hodgers-aka-private-albert-cashier.htm 

In Civil War, Woman Fought Like a Man for Freedom (NPR) - http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=104452266 

Albert, the Musical - https://www.albertcashierthemusical.com/ 



Loreta Velazquez - Harry T. Buford (1842 - 1897) - Civil War - Confederate Army 


Loreta was born in Cuba to a wealthy family. She was sent to school in New Orleans where she, at the age of 14, eloped with an officer in the Texas army. When Texas seceded from the union in 1861, her husband joined the Confederate Army and she wanted to join him in the fight, but he refused. She had a uniform made for herself and enlisted as Harry T. Buford.  She helped organize a regiment of volunteers in Arkansas and fought in the Battle of First Manassas (Bull Run), one of the first battles of the Civil War. She would dress as a woman to gather intelligence for the Confederacy and was part of the detective corps. She was shot in the foot at one point and fled back to her home in New Orleans where she was treated. However, she was arrested for being a possible Union spy but was cleared of these charges, but was fined for impersonating a man. She joined her original volunteer regiment and fought in the Battle of Shiloh where she was wounded in the side and could no longer continue as a male soldier. However, she continued her spy work for the Confederacy, sometimes dressing as a man and sometimes as a woman. She married at least two more times and then published her memoir, The Woman in Battle." Historians today think that parts of the book are fictionalized because some of the information in the book is not able to be confirmed. She is thought to have died in 1897 or perhaps 1923. One author (Davis, 2016) believes she died in 1923 under the name of Loretta J. Beard.



Loreta Janeta Velazquez Biography. https://www.civilwar.org/learn/biographies/loreta-janeta-velazquez 

Madame Loreta Janeta Velazquez: Heroine or Hoaxer. http://www.historynet.com/madame-loreta-janeta-velazquez-heroine-or-hoaxer.htm 

Exploits, Adventures, and Travels of Madame Loreta Janeta Velazquez, Otherwise Known as Lieutenant Harry T. Buford. 1876. Google Book: https://books.google.com/books?id=i7kNAQAAMAAJ 

Davis, William C. Inventing Loreta Velasquez: Confederate Solider Impersonator, Media Celebrity , and Con Artist. 2016. https://muse.jhu.edu/book/48035 










Sarah Emma Edmonds - Frank Thompson (1841-1898) - Civil War - Union Army 


Emma grew up in Nova Scotia (Canada) in a home where her father had wished she had been born a boy and let her know that in a variety of ways when she was growing up. When her father's treatment of her became so abusive, she fled her home and moved to the United States. She was living in Flint, Michigan when the Union was looking for enlistments. She cut her hair short and got a man's suit and became Frank Thompson. It took her four tries to enlist in the Union Army where she became a male nurse in the 2nd Michigan Volunteers. Eventually she became a spy as part of General George McClellan's campaign where her job was to learn about the military movements of the Confederate army. As a spy, she would change her looks and became a Confederate slave (she actually darkened her skin) or an Irish peddler woman - some times as a man and some times as a woman to learn secrets about the movements of the Confederate armies. When she became ill with malaria, fearing that her true identity would be discovered, she deserted, changed back to a woman and entered a hospital for treatment. After the war, Emma continued dressing and living as a woman. She wrote her memoirs in a book titled, Nurse and Spy in the Union Army. She eventually married a man and they had three children. She was one of the only women granted a Civil War pension and an honorable discharge through a special act of Congress in 1884 (House Bill 5335). 



Civil War Biography - http://www.civilwarhome.com/edmondsbio.html 

National Park Service Biography - https://www.nps.gov/resources/person.htm%3Fid%3D209 

Edmond's digitized Book, Nurse and Spy in the Union Army - https://archive.org/stream/nursespyinuniona00edmo#page/n7/mode/2up 

Audio Book of the book, Nurse and Spy in the Union Army - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0BEN7AWDis 








Deborah Sampson - Robert Shurtleff (1760 - 1827) - Revolutionary War



Deborah was born in Plympton, Massachusetts, the oldest of seven children, and was a direct descendent of Mayflower pilgrims William Bradford and Miles Standish. Her father left the family which left Deborah's mother to raise seven children on her own. As a result, Deborah was hired out as an indentured servant at the age of ten. She was always a woman that was not happy with her limited options as a woman, so she came up with the idea to cross-dress as a man. She sewed her own men's coat, waistcoat and breeches and decided she wanted to join the military as a male soldier.  She enlisted in the 4th Massachusetts Regiment under the command of Captain Webb. She was wounded in battle, first in the thigh (she removed this bullet herself) and then in the shoulder. In 1783, she was hospitalized and the attending physician learned of her secret. The physician took Deborah into his home to help get her back to health at which time she reported to General Patterson who granted her an honorable discharge and “He told her, she might not only think herself safe, while under his protection, but that her unrivalled achievements deserved ample compensation – that he would quickly obtain her discharge, and she should be safely conducted to her friends.” Deborah lived out the rest of her life as a female, marrying Benjamin Gannett in 1785 living most of her life in Massachusetts with their three children. She became a public speaker and shared her story about disguising herself as a male in the Civil War. She eventually earned a pension for her military service thanks to the support of Paul Revere. 



Deborah Sampson: Woman Warrior of the American Revolution - http://historyofmassachusetts.org/deborah-sampson-woman-warrior-of-the-american-revoultion/ 

Vinton, John Adams. Life of Deborah Sampson: The Female Solder in the War of Revolution. 1797. 


Proctor, Judd and Brian Burns. "America's First Gender Bending Soldier Fought in the Revolutionary War." LGBTQ Nation. 2017.  https://www.lgbtqnation.com/2017/08/americas-first-gender-bending-soldier-fought-revolutionary-war/ 

Women's Service in the Revolution War - http://www.history.org/history/teaching/enewsletter/volume7/nov08/women_revarmy.cfm

Women in the Revolutionary War - http://historyofmassachusetts.org/the-roles-of-women-in-the-revolutionary-war/ 

Stiehm, Judith. It’s Our Military Too!: Women and the U.S. Military; 1996
Kneib, Martha. Women Soldiers, Spies, and Patriots of the American Revolution; 2004


Charlotte Parkhurst - Charley Parkhurst (1812-1879) - Westward Movement - California

 Born a white female in New England. Deborah was born in Plympton, Massachusetts, the oldest of seven children, and was a direct descendent of Mayflower pilgrims William Bradford and Miles Standish. Her father left the family which left Deborah's mother to raise seven children on her own. She lived at an early age in an orphanage and then changed her name from Charlotte to Charley at age 12. Moved to California in 1849 and lived as a male. He developed a reputation as one of the best stagecoach drivers on the West Coast and was known as “One Eyed Charley.”  



U.C. Berkeley History-Social Science Project. “Remembering Charley Parkhurst: New Opportunities in Gold Rush Era California” lesson plan.





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