According to Jack Darrell Crowder, author of Strange, Amazing, and Funny Events that Happened during the Revolutionary War, many females served in that conflict. Some of them were camp followers accompanying their husbands or other family members; however, others were hoping to support themselves or were simply out for adventure. In a few recorded instances, they actually fought alongside the men. Here are some examples from Mr. Crowder’s book:
“Anna Maria Lane wore the clothing of a soldier and was wounded performing her duties during the Battle of Germantown. Even though they were dressed as men, they did not pass themselves off as males. There was no doubt in anyone’s eyes that they were females.
Some women, however, went a step further. They disguised themselves as men and fought along with the soldiers. They knew that if they were discovered they would be removed from the ranks and could face jail time.
Ann (Nancy) Bailey enlisted in 1777 under the name of Samuel Gay. She served in the 1st Massachusetts Regiment, and in just a few weeks she was promoted to the rank of Corporal. After three weeks, for reasons known only to her, she deserted. Her company commander, Captain Abraham Hunt, swore out a warrant for her arrest. She was soon captured and discovered to be a woman. She was fined by a civilian court for ‘appearing in men’s clothing’ and she was sentenced to two months in prison.
A young New Jersey woman enlisted as a male in 1778 and was discovered almost at once. She was ordered to march through town while being humiliated by soldiers and townspeople.
The most famous of the impersonators was Deborah Sampson. She enlisted under the name of Robert Shurtliff and served for seventeen months. She was wounded twice in battle and her secret was not discovered until she was taken ill with a fever in 1783. She was given an honorable discharge and later awarded a pension for her service.”
Sally St. Clair disguised herself as a man and served in a South Carolina Regiment. It was reported that she fought alongside either her husband or boyfriend. They were both killed in the same battle. Her true identity was not discovered until her death.
Jack Crowder’s book, Strange, Amazing, and Funny Events that Happened during the Revolutionary War, is full of little known, funny, and inspiring accounts from the War for Independence. Check it out today, and while you’re at it, look into his other two books on that conflict covering Women Patriots who earned their fame mostly in non-combattant roles, and his detailed account from original sources of the Battle of Concord.