- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 7, 2002

Despite all the rhetoric, the pros and cons, certain women from the mythical Amazons of ancient Greece to members of the modern armed services have stepped forward to serve their countries, especially in time of war.
The Civil War was no exception, but the circumstances of enlistment and service were far different from today's. Now, women openly enter military service, serve legitimately in all branches and in almost all capacities and for the most part are accepted as peers. The situation during the Civil War was quite different. Records show that more than 400 fully armed women went into battle, but they had to conceal the fact that they were women.
Others, also zealous in their beliefs, became spies, couriers or carriers of contraband, at the risk of their lives. Still others followed the armies and worked as laundresses, cooks, provisioners and nurses and, inevitably, prostitutes and mistresses. Some even were adopted as daughters of a regiment; they acted as mascots, carrying the regimental flags and rallying men in battle. Occasionally, they took up arms themselves.
The reasons women attached themselves to the armies of both North and South were varied. Among them were love of a man, a search for adventure, patriotism and the need to earn a living. (In many cases, spies were paid or at least reimbursed for expenses, and those who worked in the camps received regular provisions.)
Most of the women who entered the military pretending to be men were discovered shortly after enlistment and discharged immediately. Some were not discovered until they were wounded. A few just departed and, dressed again in women's clothing, resumed their true identities. A few eyewitness accounts tell of soldiers identified as women only after they had been killed in battle.
One uniformed woman was Irish-born Jennie Hodgers of Illinois, who enlisted as a man, worked and fought alongside other soldiers throughout the war and came through it unharmed. Her sex was not discovered until long after the war ended.
In August 1862, 18-year-old Hodgers enlisted as Albert D.J. Cashier in the 95th Illinois Volunteer Infantry. The young soldier, short and beardless, drilled with the troops and did her share of enlisted man's work before her regiment joined Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's Army of the Tennessee in November.
She participated in the northern Mississippi Campaign and in the siege of Vicksburg. Despite her youth and small frame, Hodgers fought along with the rest of the Illinois soldiers throughout the remaining war years. A comrade later recalled that "in handling a musket in battle, he was the equal of any in the company."
As Cashier, she was mustered out of the Army on Aug. 17, 1865, along with the other members of the Illinois regiment. She eventually settled in Saunemin, Ill. There the disguised Hodgers worked as a handyman, became active in veterans' affairs, marched in ceremonial parades and in 1899 was awarded a government pension for wartime service. Still no one suspected.
Conflicting versions exist of how Hodgers/Cashier's female identity was discovered in 1911. Some say she was in an automobile accident (the Model T was in production by then) and a doctor made the discovery. The physician, however, supposedly helped her gain admittance, as a man, to a soldiers and sailors home.
Another version is given by Elizabeth D. Leonard, whose book "All the Daring of the Soldier: Women of the Civil War Armies" is extensively researched. She writes that Hodgers was working as a handyman when she broke a leg and was examined by her employer's daughter, Nettie Chesbro Rose. After some months, the Chesbros decided she would receive better care in the soldiers and sailors home in Quincy, Ill.
Hodgers' identity became more widely known during her stay at the home.
Two years later, in March 1913, her mental stability came into question. The state of Illinois declared Hodgers insane and transferred her to its Hospital for the Insane in Watertown. There she was made to wear a dress and forced to face life as a woman. When she died in 1915, however, her local chapter of the Grand Army of the Republic buried her in her soldier's uniform and with full military honors.
Her grave has two headstones. One reads, "Albert E.J. Cashier, Co. G, 95 Ill. Inf." The other, added in 1977, includes both of her names, as follows: "Albert D.J. Cashier, Co. G, 95 Ill. Inf., Civil War, Born: Jennie Hodgers, in Clogher Head, Ireland, 1843-1915."
The name "Cashier, Albert D.J., Pvt." also is inscribed on a large memorial at Vicksburg that lists the names of the soldiers who fought in that battle.
Why did she do it? Some might make modern assumptions. According to sources, however, she had early experience wearing boys' clothing when she stowed away on a ship from Ireland to America and, later, when she dressed that way to keep a job. Another source claims she enlisted with her lover, who later was killed during the war. Or perhaps the attraction was the promise of a soldier's pay of $13 a month when money, especially for a woman, was hard to come by plus the guarantee of a lifetime pension.
There may have been another explanation: According to one source, she told a sergeant who served with her, "The country needed men, and I wanted excitement."
Joanne E. Dumene is a free-lance writer in Alexandria.

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