If it dresses like a man, and says it’s a man, she must be a woman

Sometimes I find the coolest things hunting and pecking around the interwebs researching my ancestors in an attempt to flesh out their lives. This one was a very convoluted find, because it all started with questions about a probate record for Samuel Billings of Vermont, and ended up in Massachusetts during the Revolutionary War.

So, here’s what happened — I was working on creating a timeline for Samuel, to get a general sense of the whens and wheres, and it turns out that he had been a Captain in Colonel Learned’s 4th Massachusetts Regiment during the Revolutionary War. Upon further research into this regiment I find out that this is the same one that William Shepard took over after Learned died. Cool. Now I know that Samuel served under my 5x great grandfather Col. William Shepard. That, in and of itself, is pretty interesting. But then, this little gem pops up on my radar:

In 1778 Deborah Sampson wanted to enlist in the army as a Continental soldier. But the army said no, because, well, because women can’t serve you silly ninny. So, she disguised herself as a man. She had little difficulty passing as a man because she was 5′ 7″ in height, which was tall for a woman at that time. She ended up serving 17 months in the army, as “Robert Shurtlieff,” (wounded in 1782, honorably discharged in 1783).

Sampson was chosen for the Light Infantry Company of the 4th Massachusetts Regiment under the command of Captain George Webb. The unit, consisting of fifty to sixty, er…, men, was first quartered in Bellingham, Massachusetts and later the unit mustered at Worcester under the Fourth Massachusetts Regiment, commanded by Colonel William Shepard.

~~ taken from (and, well, edited a bit by me, a girl has to spice things up a bit): https://military.wikia.org/wiki/Deborah_Sampson
Deborah Sampson statue.

In the town where she died, Sharon, Massachusetts, they have statues of her, buildings named after her, and lots of history honoring her service and life. I seriously doubt that William or Samuel ever knew they being snookered at the time. Good for her! Of course, it would have been even better if the military had said “by all means, the more warm bodies to help us kick English ass, the better.” But they didn’t.

3 thoughts on “If it dresses like a man, and says it’s a man, she must be a woman

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