There are over 400 documented cases of women disguising themselves as men and fighting as soldiers on both sides during the Civil War. The case of Jennie Hodgers is one of the most famous, because she continued to live as a man after the war and was not discovered until a couple of years before her death.
Hodgers was born on December 25, 1843 in Clogherhead, County Louth, Ireland. Not much is known about her early life, as the only account available was given by Hodgers when she was suffering from dementia in 1913.
This much is certain—on August 6, 1862, Hodgers, a resident of Belvidere, Illinois, enlisted in the 95th Illinois Infantry under the name Albert Cashier. Although she was the shortest soldier in the regiment, and kept mostly to herself, Hodgers was accepted as “one of the boys” and considered to be a good soldier.
Hodgers’ regiment was part of the Army of the Tennessee and fought in over 40 engagements, including the siege of Vicksburg, the Battle of Nashville, the Red River Campaign, and the battles at Kennesaw Mountain and Jonesborough, Georgia. There is an account of Hodgers being captured and escaping by overpowering a prison guard, but no further details of this event exist.
Hodgers served a full three year enlistment with her regiment until they were all mustered out on August 17, 1865 after losing a total of 289 soldiers to death and disease.
After the war, Hodgers returned to Illinois where she settled in Saunemin. She continued to masquerade as a man, and held many different jobs, including farmhand, church janitor, cemetery worker, and street lamplighter. Hodgers even voted in elections (at the time, women did not have the right to vote) and collected a veteran’s pension.
In November of 1910, Hodgers was hit by a car and broke her leg, and her secret was discovered. The local hospital agreed not to divulge her true gender, and she was sent to the Soldiers and Sailors Home in Quincy, Illinois to recover. Hodgers remained a resident of the Home until March of 1913, when due to the onset of dementia, she was sent to a state hospital for the insane. Attendants there discovered her sex and forced her to wear a dress. The press got a hold of the story and soon everyone knew that Private Albert Cashier had been a woman in disguise.
Many of her former comrades, although initially surprised at this revelation, were supportive of Hodgers, and protested her treatment at the state hospital. When Hodgers died on October 10, 1915, she was buried in her full uniform and given a tombstone inscribed with her male identity and military service. In the 1970s, a second tombstone, with the name Jennie Hodgers, was placed next to the original grave.