Deborah Sampson

On this special day of celebration, it's only fitting that we highlight a woman with a unique involvement in the American Revolution. Deborah Sampson was a Massachusetts woman who disguised herself as a man so that she could serve in the Continental Army. Her first attempt at joining she enlisted as "Timothy Thayer" but was recognized by a local resident and was asked to repay the bonus she had collected and issue an apology.

Undeterred she attempted again and thanks to her larger than average height for her time (she's believed to have been 5'9") and by wrapping her chest tightly, she was able to sign in to a specially trained infantry as "Robert Shirtliff". In one of her first battles she fought valiantly however she suffered a cut to the forehead and was shot in the thigh by 2 musket balls. In fear of being discovered she refused to be treated for the shot wounds, attempted to extract the balls herself using a penknife and needle, but was only able to dig out one.

With permanent damage to her leg she was reassigned as an assistant to General John Paterson and it wasn't until she became ill in 1783 that a doctor Barnabas Binney discovered her secret. However, instead of revealing her female identity, he and his family nursed her back to health and sent her home with money and a note of honorable discharge. 

She later married and had 3 children and after struggling to make ends meet she petitioned Congress to grant her military pay for her service. Her first 2 requests were refused but after several recommendations from other men, including one Paul Revere in which he wrote about her in a letter, " "I have been induced to enquire her situation, and character, since she quit the male habit, and soldiers uniform; for the more decent apparel of her own gender...humanity and justice obliges me to say, that every person with whom I have conversed about her, and it is not a few, speak of her as a woman with handsome talents, good morals, a dutiful wife, and an affectionate parent", she was finally given 34 pounds plus back-pay from the time of her discharge which relieved a huge burden for her and her family. The order of payment was signed by John Hancock.  

Deborah was a mighty woman who didn't let gender stereo types define her life. She spent her life fighting for what she knew was right and on this day we celebrate the birth of our wonderful country we also honor her. 


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