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87 years ago: Jennie Hodgers: Army Vet

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

She died at the Watertown State Hospital for the Insane in Illinois at the age of 72. But what made her death worthy of notice in many newspapers across the country was the fact that she was buried in a Union Army uniform with full military honors. The reason? Jenny Hodgers served three years in the Union Army under the pseudonym Albert D.J. Cashier and lived out the rest of her life in the guise of a man.
Hodgers was born in Clogher Head, Ireland, in 1843. How she came to America is not clear. One account said she stowed away on a ship, another that she emigrated as a young girl with her family to upstate New York. One thing is clear — she grew up in poverty, never learning to read or write. She was 18 years old and living in Illinois when the Civil War broke out in April 1861.
When President Abraham Lincoln issued a call in July 1862 for an additional 300,000 volunteers, Hodgers wondered if she might find a way into the Union Army. After hearing from several young men that the medical examination for new recruits consisted of little more than a quick once-over in full clothing, she decided to try her luck. On Aug. 6, 1862 Hodgers, now going by the name Albert D.J. Cashier, walked into the local recruiting office and enlisted. With the stroke of a pen, she became a private first class, Company G, 95th Illinois Infantry Volunteers.
After weeks of training, Hodgers’s regiment left on Nov. 4 for Kentucky to serve under the command of Major Ulysses S. Grant. For the next three years Hodgers and the 95th would see some of the fiercest fighting of the war, including the siege of Viksburg, the Red River Campaign, and the Battle of Guntown in Mississippi. In all, Hodgers fought in more than 40 battles and earned a reputation for bravery and tenacity under fire. On one occasion, at the siege of Vicksburg, she was briefly captured but escaped after grabbing a guard’s rifle and knocking him senseless. Remarkably, Hodgers escaped the war without serious injury, a fact that allowed her to keep her true identity a secret. Decades later, after her identity was revealed, fellow soldiers were shocked. “I never suspected at any time all through the service,” attested one, “that Cashier was a women.” Said another, she “seemed to be able to do as much work as anyone in the company.”
Four months after Lee surrendered and the Civil War came to a close, the 95th Illinois was mustered out of service. Hodgers and her fellow soldiers returned to Illinois where they were honored with a huge public rally. Then they returned to civilian life. Hodgers retained her guise as Albert Cashier and went in search of work. She cast about for a while as a farm hand before taking a job as a dry goods clerk in the town of Sanemin, Ill. Hodgers stayed there for the next 40 years, working in many capacities (including janitor and lamplighter), and living in a small house she bought. Every year on Decoration Day, the precursor to our Memorial Day, she donned her Union Army uniform and marched in the local parade. And every year on election day, she did what no woman would be permitted to do in her lifetime — she voted.
Hodgers kept secret her real identity until 1911. While working as a groundskeeper on a nearby estate, she was struck by a car in the driveway and suffered a broken leg. During the subsequent examination, the doctor discovered the “Albert” was actually a woman. Hodgers pleaded with him not to reveal her identity and he agreed. But he did insist that she consent to being admitted to the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home in Quincy, Ill. Officials there accepted Hodgers as a man, but the truth eventually became known. In 1913, the state of Illinois, apparently believing Hodgers delusional for claiming to be Private Albert D.J. Cashier, sent her to Watertown State Hospital for the Insane.
Alerted to the strange case, the federal government’s Pension Bureau launched an investigation to see if Hodgers was entitled to the veteran’s pension she’d been receiving since 1890. After careful review of the evidence and interviews with dozens of Hodgers’s fellow soldiers in the 95th, the bureau decided that Hodgers and Cashier were one in the same and maintained the pension.
Hodgers lived 18 months at the Hospital and died on Oct. 10, 1915. After her funeral with full military honors, she was buried beneath a marker that read, “Albert D.J. Cashier, Co. G, 95th Ill. Inf.” In 1977, the townspeople of Saunemin replaced it with a larger stone that bore witness to her extraordinary story:
Albert D. J. Cashier
Co. G, 95th Inf.
Civil War
Born: Jennie Hodgers
in Clogher Head, Ireland
Why Hodgers chose to pose as a man for most of her life is a question that will never be answered. Illiterate, she left no letters or diary that might offer some clue as to her state of mind. Still, one thing is certain: Jennie Hodgers fought as well as any man in the Union Army, well enough to evade detection for three years of hard fighting and to earn nothing but praise from fellow soldiers decades later.

Oct. 9, 1946: Eugene O’Neill’s masterpiece, “The Iceman Cometh,” opens at Martin Beck Theater in New York City.
Oct. 11, 1860: Col. Michael Corcoran, leader of the 69th Regiment of the New York State Militia, refuses to march his men in a parade in New York honoring the visiting Prince of Wales. Court martial proceedings begin, but are dismissed when Civil War breaks out.
Oct. 11, 1984: Astronaut Kathleen Sullivan becomes first woman to walk in space while a crew member aboard the space shuttle Challenger.

Oct. 9, 1903 Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley is born in the Bronx.
Oct. 10, 1900: Actress Helen Hayes is born in Washington, D.C.
Oct. 14, 1882: President and taoseach of Ireland Eamon De Valera is born in New York City.
Oct. 15, 1858: Heavyweight boxing champion John L. Sullivan is born in Boston.

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