Jennie Hodgers

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Jennie Hodgers

Hodgers would probably be pleased that her picture here was blurry. After all, she successfully blurred gender lines for much of her life.

Image courtesy National Park Service

More than 400 women disguised themselves as men so they could fight in the American Civil War [source: Righthand]. Forbidden to enlist in either the Union or Confederate armies, they bound their breasts, cut their hair, rubbed dirt on their faces and generally kept to themselves. Until it was time for battle, of course. Then they stood shoulder to shoulder with their male comrades, serving as scouts, spies, guards, cooks, nurses and even combat soldiers.

After the war, many of these women warriors took off their disguises and lived the rest of their lives as wives, mothers and daughters. Not Jennie Hodgers. An Irish immigrant living in Belvidere, Ill., she enlisted in the Union army as Albert D.J. Cashier in 1861. For four years, she served faithfully in the 95th Illinois Infantry Regiment, which saw action in 40 battles, including the Siege of Vicksburg, the Battle of Atlanta and the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain. She never suffered a serious injury and, after her discharge, returned to Saunemin, Ill., where she continued to live and work disguised as Albert Cashier. In 1899, Cashier applied for a pension and was deemed eligible by a board of surgeons.

She might have carried her secret to the grave, except the medical community finally caught up with her. In 1911, after a car struck Hodgers, a doctor discovered the truth as he tended to her injuries. Shortly after, she began suffering from dementia and was admitted to an insane asylum in Watertown, Ill. There, doctors once again realized that the Civil War veteran wasn't a former infantryman but an infantrywoman.

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