Deborah Sampson Gannett - Women Soldiers of the Revolutionary War

While their stories and bravery are something to acknowledge (and have been widely covered), one would think that men were the only ones that bravely took part in the Revolutionary War. Endless numbers of women, and even children, took care of soldiers in time of need. Many volunteers whose names have been lost to time. They were probably not even that well known during the active years of the war against the British crown. Yet, it doesn't make them any less important to our nation's history. In many cases, they are a very important part of history

Sybil Ludington, who i'd already written about at Sybil Ludington - The Female Paul Revere. She is considered to be the female Paul Revere. At 16, she was involved with alerting a militia about British troop movements. Her night ride lasted through a rainy night and she traveled a distance of 40 miles, stopping off at multiple areas. Her alert aided the militia to push the British soldiers back in battle and caused them to retreat to their ships near Long Island, New York.

By Engraving by George Graham. From a drawing by William Beastall, which was based on a painting by Joseph Stone. Used as the frontispiece of The Female Review: Life of Deborah Sampson, the Female Soldier in the War of Revolution, by Herman Mann (1771-1833). [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Deborah Sampson (Gannett), in her late teens, was present at Boston and probably working as a teacher when she saw the British take more control over the city, including controlling citizens' speech and freedom of movement. She also saw the movement of British troops into the city and setting up in private homes, seizing them from their owners. She was also present at the reading of the Declaration of Independence. It was those words that inspired her to also become a part of the fight alongside military-aged men. SO she dressed up as a man and looked to enlist into the military. In 1782, she had enlistment papers and signed them but, out of nervousness, didn't show up to report for duty the next day. Not much in the year of 1782, she got past the nervousness and signed enlistment papers against. This was on May 20, 1872 and she joined up with the 4th Massachusetts Regiment under the name Robert Shurtleff. Her disguise was good enough to get her mustered into the Captain George Webb's force.

Meanwhile, in Boston, word of her entry into the military spread around and her church, seeing her actions of dressing up as a man to get into the military as un-Christian, they excommunicated her. A "punishment" that was common amongst men and women alike back in those days. The company she was with were headed to lower New York where guerrilla attacks were happening regularly. Their company was tasked with helping other companies in the area in halting these attacks. Near Tarrytown, a larger battle broke out and she was wounded in the head and her thigh when they were retreating. Not long after, she was brought to a field hospital and they took care of her head wound but she didn't tell them about her leg wound. Instead, she tried to treat her thigh wound on her own but couldn't get the musket ball out of her leg. She just left the musket ball in her thigh and it caused her thigh to not heal properly.

After a few weeks though, it was healed well enough for her to head back into action. Not long after returning to active duty, she came down with an illness and was sent to rest at the home of the doctor. As her was treating her, he discovered that she was wasn't a young man and the doctor passed the information on to a Fort Knox General. She was then honorably discharged not long after, on October 23, 1783. As "Robert", she gained a lot of respect from them as a soldier but they never knew her secret.

After the war, she married Benjamin Gannet but their marriage was rough because they always had money troubles. They had to borrow money pretty often and Paul Revere, who was her good friend of hers, heard about their situation and had the Massachusetts government give her a back pay of 37 pounds. Though it wasn't enough to help them with all their debts. So she began to travel and do lectures. Which was another great achievement since she was the first female to do so in the colonies. She would travel around cities speaking about her experiences during the Revolutionary War. It still wasn't enough to pay off debts but she was given a veteran's pension in the early part of the 1800s. A pension that afforded her $4 a month. After her death on April 19, 1827 in Sharon, Massachusetts (at 67 years old), her pension was passed on to her husband and he was paid monthly until his death.
When you click links to various merchants on this site and make a purchase, this can result in this site earning a commission. Affiliate programs and affiliations include, but are not limited to, Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the eBay Partner Network.