Jennie Hodgers: The Irishwoman Who Fought as a Man in the Union Army

Private Albert D.J. Cashier served in the ranks of the 95th Illinois from their muster in on 4th September 1862 until they were discharged in August 1865. A member of the regiment’s Company G, he witnessed some hard fighting at battles such as Vicksburg and Nashville. A comrade later remembered that he was the shortest person in the company, kept to himself and didn’t take part in any of the sports or games organised by the unit. The Irishman was not all he appeared; though he served as Private Albert Cashier, he had in fact been born Jennie Hodgers- a woman. (1)

Albert D.J. Cashier 95th Illinois

Private Albert D.J. Cashier (Jennie Hodgers) in the 95th Illinois Infantry

Jennie Hodgers was born in Clogherhead, Co. Louth in 1843. She emigrated to the United States shortly before the outbreak of the Civil War. It is thought her uncle may have got her a job in an all-male shoe factory on her arrival in America, a position that perhaps opened her eyes to the possibilities of masquerading as a man. She next appears when she presented herself for enlistment in Belvidere, Illinois on 3rd August 1862 as one Albert Cashier. No detailed medical examination took place, which might have revealed her true sex. She was duly signed up, and was described on her enrollment as having a light complexion, blue eyes and auburn hair. For the following three years she would march across the South with her regiment, never raising any suspicions as to her true identity. (2)

It is remarkable that Jennie/Albert successfully concealed her womanhood on campaign, a task that must have been a considerable additional burden to carry on top of what was already a tough war. She clearly felt that life as a male offered her more opportunities, for on mustering out she chose to continue as Albert Cashier. After some time as a laborer in Belvidere Jennie moved to Saunemin, Illinois in 1869. She would remain here for over 40 years, living out her life as a man. (3)

Albert D.J. Cashier Pension Index Card

The Pension Index Card of Albert D.J. Cashier (Image via Footnote)

Jennie Hodger’s successfully lived as Albert Cashier well into the 20th century. An illness and a leg-break had led to her true sex being revealed to some friends, but they agreed not to disclose it publicly. As age caught up with her she moved to the Soldiers and Sailors Home in Quincy, Illinois, and it was here in 1913 that Jennie’s secret came out. The news caused a sensation as papers around the country broke the story. A reporter writing in the The Hartford Republican went to visit Cashier (her real name did not emerge for some time) and described the scene: I had expected to meet an amazon. A woman who had fought in the death grapple of a nation and had lived and toiled as a man through half a century should be big, strong and masculine. And when I entered her hospital ward there rose and came to meet me, in her faded soldier’s uniform, just a little frail, sweet-faced, old-lady, who might be anybody’s grandmother. (4)

Unfortunately Albert/Jennie was eventually moved to an insane asylum, where she died on 11th October 1914. The house where she lived still survives in Saunemin, and her headstone in the local cemetery now bears both of the Irishwoman’s names; Jennie Hodgers, the girl who emigrated to the United States, and Albert Cashier, the veteran of the American Civil War. (5)

(1) Woods 1915: 15- 226, Himes 1915: Deposition; (2) Dawson 2005: 5, Salt Magazine: 3, The Democratic Banner, Blanton 1993: Part 2; (3) Hicks-Bartlett 1994; (4) Hicks-Bartlett 1994, Blanton 1993: Part 2, The Hartford Republican; (5)  Blanton 1993: Part 2;

References

Blanton, DeAnne 1993. Women Soldiers of the Civil War 

Dawson, Lon P. 2005. Also Known As Albert D.J. Cashier

Hicks-Bartlett, Alani 1994. When Jennie Comes Marchin’ Home

Himes, J.H. 1915. Deposition in the Case of Albert D.J. Cashier 

Woods, Wales W. 1865. A History of the Ninety-Fifth Regiment Illinois Infantry Volunteers

Salt Magazine “What Part am I to Act in this Great Drama” Women Soldiers in the American Civil War

The Democratic Banner May 6th 1913

The Hartford Republican June 6th 1913

Jennie Hodgers/Albert D.J. Cashier Grave

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Categories: Civil War Women, Illinois, Louth

Author:Damian Shiels

I am an archaeologist based in Ireland, specialising in conflict archaeology.

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7 Comments on “Jennie Hodgers: The Irishwoman Who Fought as a Man in the Union Army”

  1. Liam McAlister
    August 18, 2011 at 11:23 am #

    I have been telling Jennie’s/Albert’s story for a number of years now at various talks I do on ACW, especially with school kids.

    • August 18, 2011 at 1:52 pm #

      Hi Liam,

      It is an incredible story, and made for the retelling. I imagine it must be a popular one when you tell it, with adults and kids alike!

      Kind Regards,

      Damian.

  2. Dennis J. Francis
    August 27, 2011 at 4:39 pm #

    Did a piece on her on my own web page some years ago: http://homepages.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~cwirish/Cashier.html
    Link at bottom had a collection of newsclippings and pix but broke when the Illinois library system merged.

    Found a link with an audio interview with someone who knew her: http://transom.org/?p=2426

    Evidently she was quite a character :-)

    Dennis

    • August 29, 2011 at 11:49 am #

      Hi Dennis,

      Thats a really good piece! I will have a listen to the clip as well, thats a really excellent resource. She was certainly an interesting woman!

      Kind Regards,

      Damian.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Jenny Hodgers:Soldier in American Civil Warcan Civil war | A SILVER VOICE FROM IRELAND - August 23, 2011

    [...] Read the amazing story of Jenny Hodgers  from Clogherhead, Co Louth, who enlisted and  served as a man on the Union side in the American Civil War,under the name of Albert D Cashier.  Read her story here . [...]

  2. Saunemin, Illinois Remembers Private Albert Cashier « Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog - September 3, 2011

    [...] Many of you will have heard the story of Pvt. Albert D. J. Cashier, Co. G, 95th Illinois Infantry. Private Cashier was born a woman, Jennie Hodgers (1843-1915). My colleague Damian Shiels, who blogs at Irish in the American Civil War, recently told her story here. [...]

  3. Monday Inspiration – Jennie Hodgers « Susan Macatee Romance Writer - June 11, 2012

    [...] more on Jennie Hodgers, visit these sites: http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2011/08/17/jennie-hodgers-the-irishwoman-who-fought-as-a-man-in-thehttp://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=104452266 [...]

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