History raves about the heroics of men in war...
but few instances are mentioned in which female courage was displayed.
Yet during every conflict, and the peaceful years between,
they too were there.

versus 1776 .

In the beginning of the America we know there was a Revolution. And although the call to arms was for men, several women donned the uniform of a Revolutionary soldier and fought against the British. One of these women was:

In October of 1778 Deborah Samson of Plympton, Massachusetts disguised herself as a young man and presented herself to the American army as a willing volunter to oppose the common enemy. She enlisted for the whole term of the war as Robert Shirtliffe and served in the company of Captain Nathan Thayer of Medway, Massachusetts.
For three years she served in various duties and was wounded twice - the first time by a sword cut on the side of the head and four months later she was shot through the shoulder. Her sexual identity went undetected until she came down with a brain fever, then prevalent among the soldiers. The attending physician, Dr. Binney, of Philadelphia, discovered her charade, but said nothing. Instead he had her taken to his own home where she would receive better care. When her health was restored the doctor met with Robert's commanding officer and subsequently an order was issued for Robert Shirtliffe to carry a letter to General Washington. (This may also be "legend" as there is no record of her ever being in Philadelphia.)
Deborah When the order came for her to deliver a letter into the hands of the Commander-in-chief, she knew that her deception was over. She presented herself at the headquarters of Washington, trembling with dread and uncertainty. General Washington, to spare her embarrassment, said nothing. Instead he sent her with an aide to have some refreshments, then summoned her back. In silence Washington handed Deborah Samson a discharge from the service, a note with some words of advice, and a sum of money sufficient to bear her expenses home. (This, too, may well be more legend than fact.)

After the war Deborah Samson married Benjamin Gannett of Sharon and they had three children. During George Washington's presidency she received a letter inviting Robert Shirtliffe, or rather Mrs. Gannett, to visit Washington. During her stay at the capital a bill was passed granting her a pension, in addition to certain lands, which she was to receive as an acknowledgment for her services to the country in a military capacity as a Revolutionary Soldier, in part thanks to the efforts of Paul Revere.

**The correct spelling is Samson - inaccurate historians added the letter "P" in later years. There are also several different versions of the story of Deborah Samson, alias Robert Shirtliffe. This one comes from The Women of the American Revolution by Elizabeth F. Ellet, NY, Baker and Scribner, 1848, that's right, eighteen forty eight. In this book Elizabeth Ellet prefaces the story of Deborah Samson with the following:
I have been told that the Female Review about this heroine was not in any measure reliable and that Deborah Samson repeatedly expressed her displeasure at the representation of herself which she did not at all recognize. The following facts respecting her I received from a lady * who knew her personally and has often listened with thrilling interest to the animated description given by herself of her exploits and adventures. * A niece of Captain Tisdale, upon whom Robert attended in the army for some months.

This same accounting appears in Daughters of America, by Phebe A. Hanaford, Boston, B.B. Russell, 1882, in which Miss Hanaford refers to Niles, Principles and Acts of the Revolution and to a book called Mrs. Hales Biography of Distinguished Women.

The first two books mentioned above are in the personal collection of this writer.

Regardless of which is the authentic version, the fact is that Deborah Samson served her country, in uniform, in the Revolutionary War. Women have done so many unpublicized things that it is time to shed more light on their accomplishments. Did you know that women were torpedoed off the coast of Africa during WWII? Did you know that when Gen MacArthur returned to the Phillipines, Navy nurses were waiting for him on shore and were cut out of the press photos? Did you know that there were women prisoners of war? These pages will continue to light more candles that reflect the deeds and accomplishments of military hopes that future generations will remember that during every conflict Women Were There !!!

More Women of the Revolution from
"Daughters of America",1849 and
"Women of the Revolution" 1882:

There is the little known story of Rachel and Grace Martin who disguised themselves as men and assailed a British courier and his guards. They took his important dispatches, which they speedily forwarded to General Greene. Then they released the two officers who didn't even know that they were women.

Then there is Anna Warner, wife of Captain Elijah Bailey, who earned the title of "The Heroine of Groton" because of her fearless efforts to aid the wounded on the occasion of the terrible massacre at Fort Griswald in Connecticut. Anna Bailey went from house to house collecting material for bandages for the soldiers. Incidentally she denied ever having used the coarse and profane expressions ever attributed to her.

Margaret Corbin stepped up to the artillery during the attack on Fort Washington when her husband fell by her side and unhesitatingly took his place and performed his duties. In July of 1779 the Congress awarded her a pension for her heroism - and a suit of clothes.

Angelica Vrooman, during the heat of battle, sat calmly in a tent with a bullet mould, some lead and an iron spoon, moulding bullets for the rangers.

Mary Hagidorn, upon hearing the order by a Captain Hager, for the women and children to retire to the long cellar, said: "Captain, I shall not go to that cellar should the enemy come. I will take a spear which I can use as well as any man and help defend the fort." The captain seeing her determination answered "then take a spear,Mary, and be ready at the pickets to repel an attack." She cheerfully obeyed and held the spear at the pickets till hurrahs for the American flag burst on her ear and told that all was safe.

Nancy Morgan Hart, a dedicated patriot managed to kill British soldiers in her cabin in Georgia.
For a great tribute site to her please visit Nancy Hart

One of the delights of being on the Web is hearing from young students who are doing research on women in war. This particular paper, done by Suzanne Hollis, when she was a Maryland 5th grader, was so impressive, it should be shared with all who visit these pages. Here is Suzanne's paper on "Mad Anne Bailey".

Anne Bailey
Mad Anne, who was she? During my research I found there were two Anne Baileys. As there being two of them, I would like to tell you what they have in common. Believe it or not, both Anne's had been called "Mad Anne"! They both were living around the same time too. Also they both had husbands who were soldiers. As you can see, they have many things in common.

First I'll tell you about Anne Warner Bailey. This Anne happened to be born in October 1758 in Grotton, Conn. Anne was brought up by her uncle Edward Mills. She was married to Elijah Bailey. The Battle at Grotton Heights was one thing she is famous for. It happened in Fort Grizzwald on Sept. 6,1781. After the fighting, Anne walked three miles to the Fort in search of her uncle. She found him heavily wounded. Her uncle asked to see his wife and child before he died. Anne hurried home. When she got there, she had to catch and saddle the family's horse. Anne got the wife and child. and then returned to her uncle . The wife rode the horse while Anne walked and carried the baby. She received the name "Mother Bailey" because of that trip. After she brought the family to the dying uncle, Anne went around to help all others wounded.
There was a flannel shortage at Grotton. Flannel was used to make cartridges for muzzle loader guns. On July 13, 1813, Anne went door to door, collecting flannel for the soldiers. She even gave up her own flannel petticoat. It was this patriotic act that gave her the name "Heroine of Grotton". The "Martial Petticoat" has become celebrated in song and story. Anne died on January 10, 1851.

Now let me tell you about Anne Trotter Bailey. She was born in Liverpool, England as Anne Hennis in 1742. She went to live with relatives when her parents passed away in 1761. Her relatives lived in Virginia near Staunton in the Shenandoah Valley, U.S.A. She married Richard Trotter in 1765. She had one son named William. When William was 7 his father passed away. Richard was killed in a battle on October 19, 1774. After he died, Anne left William with a neighbor named Mrs. Moses Mann. Then Anne dressed like a man and joined the army. She went to many militia meetings to tell the men to fight the British or the Indians.

Anne had four nicknames. They were: "A Daughter of the Revolution", "The Pioneer Herione of the Great Kanawah shore", "Mad Anne" and "The White Squaw of Kanawah". The most fascinating nickname she had, I think, was "Mad Anne". The Indians named her that because they thought she was possessed by an evil spirit and that she was insane. They thought that because she could ride through Indian territory without harm. One time the Indians were chasing Anne. She knew she couldn't out run them so, she jumped off her horse and hid in a hollow log. Although the Indians looked everywhere, they couldn't find her so they took her horse. Later that night, Anne snuck into their camp and stole her horse back. She rode away and at a safe distance, she screamed and yelled like a wild woman.

The ride in 1791 was what Anne is most famous for. A runner was sent from Point Pleasant to Ft. Lee to say Indians were going to attack with a large army force within a few days. The ammunition was low in Ft. Lee at the time. They needed ammunition so they could fight off the Indians. Anne rode a very dangerous trail alone. She rode 100 miles to Lewisburg across wilderness without roads to get the gun powder. She returned with the much needed supply of ammunition. Anne died in November 1825 of old age. A poem was written in 1861 by Charles Robb about this ride. It was called " Anne Bailey's Ride".

Before I close this report, I would like to say that I think Anne Trotter Bailey is the real "Mad Anne" because she would swear, get drunk and do crazy things, while Anne Warner Bailey said she never used profane language in her life.
Who do you think is the real "Mad Anne"?

Congratulations Suzanne for a job well done!

Q. Why nothing on Molly Pitcher?

A. Because we don't really know that there ever was a Molly Pitcher.
I'm inclined to agree with historians like Dr. Linda Grant DePauw, President of The Minerva Center, who says in part: "Molly Pitcher is the name of a legendary figure of the American Revolution. She is associated with the Battle of Monmouth and since 1876 has been identified with a woman veteran of the war, Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley, who lived in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. As part of the centennary events of that year, an unmarked grave believed to be hers was opened and the remains were reburied with honors under a plaque delaring her to have been the real embodiment of the famous Molly Pitcher.
The central theme of the Molly Pitcher story is of a woman whose husband was wounded or killed while serving at an artillery piece at the Battle of Monmouth. She took his place to the admiration of the other soldiers who admired her courage and devotion to her husband. The story has seemingly endless variations, often including a cameo appearance by George Washington who gives her either a gold coin -- in one version a whole hatful of gold coins -- or a promotion to sergeant or captain. Some books even provide elaborate dialogue said to have passed between the camp woman and the commander in chief. In many of these, she speaks with an Irish brogue, but sometimes she is represented as German.
Often students doing school projects on "Molly Pitcher" ask for details about her place of birth or childhood experiences and education. There are no historical sources that can provide such information about a legendary character.
The real woman, Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley was awarded a pension by the State of Pennsylvania in1822 "for services rendered" during the war -- this was more than the usual widow's pension which was awarded to soldiers' wives who marched with the army. So one assumes she did something special. But when she died there was no mention of a cannon or the Battle of Monmouth in her obituary. Historical sources do confirm that at least two women fought in the Battle of Monmouth -- one was at an artillery position and the other was in the infantry line. There is no evidence linking either of them to McCauley."

For more about The Minerva Center please visit: Minerva

As always, Women Were There!

For more about women in war: Civil War Women

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Unless otherwise noted contents © 1996 to date by Captain Barbara A. Wilson, USAF (Ret)