America’s First Woman To Serve as Combat Soldier


An Artist Rendering of America's First Woman Soldier

General Washington Was Not the Only American Revolution Hero

On This Date in History:  Lord Cornwallis surrendered to General George Washington at Yorktown in October 1781.  This effectively ended the American but not officially.  That did not come about until the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783.  So, there was still plenty of fighting going on in the colonies.  Guerrilla bands raped and pillaged in the relative no-man’s land between the colonial lines at Peekskill, NY and the British boundary at Yonkers, NY.  For some reason, these marauders were known as “cowboys.”  I never understand when bad guys get monikered with the “cowboy” name because it tends to impugne the nobel profession. 

If they Knew that Deborah Would become famous, maybe they could have gotten a better artist for posterity

Anyway, in early to mid-June 1782,  there was a skirmish near East Chester, NY in which colonial Private Robert Shurtleff was slashed across his left cheek with a saber.    In early July, another skirmish broke out and this time the young Private took a musketball to the thigh.  Instead of accepting medical attention, Shurtleff crawled into nearby woods and remained until the wound healed over.  Shurtless rejoined the 4th Massachusetts Regiment and marched into battle against the Mohawk Indians in the Adirondack Mountains.  Shurtleff later came down with what was described as a “malignent fever.”  It’s possible that the fever was a result of the leg wound but most accounts suggest it was a bout of influenza.  There was no avoiding the doctor this time as Shurtleff was taken to the hospital.  Delirious with fever, Shurtleff was examined by Dr. Barnabas Biney who soon discovered that the young private was a woman!

A Little More Flattering Sketch of Deborah

Deborah Sampson was a descendant of the Pilgrims as she was related to Plymouth Colony Governor William Bradford.  She felt a desire to join in the revolutionary cause and chose her course.  Trouble was, women were not allowed in the army.  So, she tried to enlist as Timothy Thayer.  Apparently, it was no problem for her to pretend to be a man as she was tall and said to be as strong as most men.  I suppose that she also could party as well as any man because she made the mistake of celebrating her enlistment by indulging at a local tavern.  I’m not sure what she did but an account says that “she all too clearly revealed her identity.”   Not only was she tossed from the army, but the church exommunicated her for “very loose and un-Christian-like” behaviour as well as wearing men’s clothes.  But, Debbie did not give up.

Statue of America's First Female Soldier

Instead, she walked 75 miles to Worcester, MA where she enlisted as Robert Shurtleff and on this date in 1782, Deborah Sampson, a.k.a. Robert Shurtleff, enjoyed her first full day in the army, having successfully enlisted for the second time the previous day. Sampson was perhaps the first woman to serve in the armed forces of America, which of course was in the Continental Army as the United States had not officially been formed.   Deborah had apparently fooled her family as, following the saber wound, she wrote home that she was working in “a large but well regulated family.”  I suppose she thought that was not a lie and, when closely examined, it could be considered a truthful statement.  The army could be considered a family and it certainly was well regulated.   Well, Dr. Biney tried to keep the secret for a while but was forced to spill the beans after his niece fell in love with the “handsome young soldier.”  

Wonder How Maj. General John Patterson Broke the News To General Washington That He Had a Girl in the Continental Army?

I’m sure that his niece was crushed to find out that he was a she. Or maybe, she was crushed because her uncle, in a letter praising Shurtleff,  told General John Patterson that Shurtleff was Sampson and Patterson told General Washington who had her honorably discharged on October 23, 1782.  When the 4th Massachusetts Regminet marched through the street in review, Deborah wore a dress as they passed and not a soul recognized her.  Later she married Benjamin Gannett of Sharon, MA and had 3 kids with him.  In 1792, she successfully petitioned for her back-pay.   You may also find references to Sampson as Deborah Sampson Gannett or as “Deborah Samson” as the family apparently originally did not include a “p” in the spelling of the name. 

Slight Risk Today Methinks Might Should be Expanded South

Methinks that Wind Might Be the Issue in Our Area just south of the 15% probability line

Weather Bottom Line:   I told you a few days ago that the unsettled weather would persist through the end of the week and today will be the last hurrah.  It could be the most active too as we are in a slight risk for severe weather.  The parent low that caused all the ruckous in the South Central Plains is lifting up from the southwest and will pass to our west.  We should be plenty warm and humid enough but it remains to be seen if we get a kicker.  My guess is that the weak frontal boundary will be able to work with reasonably favorable winds and ample instability to provide some tough t’storms.  I would think that hail and strong winds will be the biggest threat in the late afternoon but it wouldn’t be out of the question for a relatively small scale tornado to perhaps spin down off the edge of a bow echo.  I betcha we get pretty windy and have a round of heavy rain…like we need it.  But, my sunflowers certainly are doing well as is my new baby poplar tulip tree.  After this stuff passes, we will have an extended period of warm and mostly rain free weather for the forseeable future.

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