Thursday, February 15, 2007

Women In the Ranks - Part II

Jennie Hodgers

Jennie Irene Hodgers was born in Clogherhead, County Louth, Ireland in 1843 or '44.

No one knows why or how she came to America or why she was living in Boone County, Illinois in the summer of 1862.

Unable to read or write, Jennie overheard volunteers talking about the cursory medical examination being given by war recruiters. No disrobing was involved.

She enlisted in Company G of the 95th Illinois infantry under the name, Albert Cashier.

During the next three years, she fought under Ulysses S. Grant in 40 battles including the siege of Vicksburg, the Red River Campaign and combat at Guntown, Mississippi.

Soldiers serving with her described her as small, and a loner, but that was not uncommon for soldiers of the period.

Men described Hodgers as "unusually quiet and difficult to get to know ... he did not participate in the games and sports that often took place."

After being mustered out of the army in 1865, Jennie continued to live as a man.

"In November 1910 Cashier was hit by a car and broke his leg." The attending physician discovered Jennie's secret, but agreed to keep it quiet.

Stories of Jennie's early life and her reasons for her disguise vary. The most romantic one was given to an attending nurse at the hospital after she'd broken her leg. "In this account, Jennie said she had assumed male dress because she was in love. She said her lover enlisted at the same time, that her lover had been wounded and died during the Civil War. Before his death, he asked Jennie to promise she would never let another man see her in women's dress and that she never had."

It could also be that she enjoyed her male privileges like voting and the use of tobacco.

Jennie died at Watertown State Hospital on October 10, 1915. She was given a military funeral and buried in "Sunnyslope Cemetery, with full military honors."

Her headstone was inscribed with the name, "Albert D. J. Cashier."

For more on the life of Jennie Hodgers: All the Daring of the Soldier: Women of the Civil War Armies by Elizabeth D. Leonard.

Other links:


Anonymous said...

That's fascinating, Susan! But if Jennie was buried as Albert, and only the attending physician knew of her real gender, then how do we know? Or rather the author of All the Daring of the Soldier: Women of the Civil War Armies?

Susan Macatee said...

Her family knew, but I would guess they kept her true identity secret to honor her wishes.