On August 3, 1862, a nineteen-year-old Irish immigrant named Albert D. J. Cashier, enlisted in the 95th Illinois Infantry. Cashier fought in about forty battles and served until August of 1865.
It wasn’t until 1913 that Cashier, then living in the Quincy, Illinois, Soldiers’ Home, was discovered to actually be a woman. A 1915 deposition from a fellow soldier held by the National Archives found that the deception was extensive, aside from being the shortest person in the company, there was no other indication that Cashier was female.
Cashier died the following year in an insane asylum.
This image comes from the Illinois State Historical Library and the National Archives.
Another Civil War cross-dresser was Sarah Edmonds. She assumed the alias of Franklin Thompson and served with the Union Army. She was a nurse and dispatch carrier.
Edmonds ended up deserting her duties. She had contracted malaria and feared she would be revealed as a woman when she was hospitalized. Nonetheless, she ended up receiving a military pension because of her service. Seelye married L.H. Seelye, raised three children, and died in 1898 in Texas.
This image comes from the State Archives of Michigan and the National Archives.
Like the American Revolution, some women dressed as men in order to serve in the Civil War. Post-war estimates put the number at about 400, but even at the time Mary Livermore with the U.S. Sanitary Commission wrote:
I am convinced that a larger number of women disguised themselves and enlisted in the service, for one cause or other, than was dreamed of. Entrenched in secrecy, and regarded as men, they were sometimes revealed as women, by accident or casualty. Some startling histories of these military women were current in the gossip of army life.
One of those women was Frances Clayton, who dressed as a man and served many months in the Missouri artillery and cavalry units. The image comes from the Trustees of the Boston Public Library and the National Archives.
Eighty Sisters of the Holy Cross served the Navy as nurses aboard the USS Red Rover during the Civil War. The Red Rover was a hospital ship based in the Mississippi River.
They were supervised by Mother Angela Gillespie, founder of the Sisters of the Holy Cross.
This engraving of Mother Angela comes from the U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command.
During the Civil War, the the USS Red Rover. a hospital ship based in the Mississippi River, became the first Navy vessel to have women on board. The Catholic Sisters of the Holy Cross served as nurses aboard the ship.
This engraving from Harper’s Bazaar shows a sister nurse attending a patient bedside in one of the wards. It comes from the U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command.
By the Civil War, the U.S. Navy realized that it would need help from women. And since nursing was an accepted profession for women, the Navy decided that women could serve aboard ships as an experiment.
But not just any women. Nuns. Specifically the Catholic Sisters of the Holy Cross, who served in aboard the pioneer Naval hospital ship the USS Red Rover. The ship was based in the Mississippi River.
This engraving from Harper’s Bazaar shows at left a sister nurse attending a patient bedside. It comes from the U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command.
If you’ve been to the movies recently, you may have noticed ads among the previews for the Marines or the Navy SEALS. The U.S. military has always used mass media to recruit.
Starting in the Revolutionary War:
(Courtesy of historyiscentral.org)
The Civil War:
Click Here for an article from the Atlantic on Civil War recruitment posters and more detail about the one shown above
World War I:
(Courtesy of North Carolina state archives)
And of course in World War II:
(Courtesy of University of North Texas)
Posters played a significant role in World War II, not only to recruit, but to encourage involvement and support from civilians. WAVES recruitment posters were sending specific messages to women. Many who joined the service discovered the WAVES because of their placement in papers, on billboards, etc.
Our Website features an exhibit all about recruitment posters. See quotes from women interviewed and learn more about wartime propaganda.