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When Jennie Comes Marchin' Home

Alani Hicks-Bartlett
Calvert Home School, Park Forest

On Veterans Day, 1993, a memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C. to the women who served in the Vietnam War. But what about the women who served in the Civil War? According to historian Richard Hall at least fifty-seven women served in that war. One of the most interesting women was Jennie Hodgers, alias Albert D. J. Cashier. Throughout most of her life Hodgers dressed as a man.

Little is known about Hodgers' early life because her true identity was not discovered until a few years before her death, and then she told conflicting stories. She was probably born in Ireland around 1844. She may have been a stowaway who landed in New York. All that is known for sure is that on August 6, 1862, she enlisted in the army at Belvidere, Illinois. Hodgers was five feet, three inches tall and weighed 110 pounds. She was the shortest person in her regiment. She had volunteered to be an infantryman in the Ninety-Fifth Regiment. Her unit fought in forty battles, the most important of which was the Battle of Vicksburg. Hodgers was an exceptional soldier who endured all of the long marches and fought well. One notable thing she did was when she was captured by a Confederate soldier, she knocked his gun out of his hand and ran back to safety. When she was off duty she kept to herself and did not associate with the other soldiers.

After three years of service in the Army, Hodgers was discharged with her unit on August 15, 1865. She continued to dress like a man and became a handyman around Belvidere. In 1869 she arrived in Saunemin, Illinois, where she remained until 1911.

Hodgers went to work for Joshua Chesebro, a farmer, and he built her a one-room house that is still standing. According to Ruth Morehart, who lived near her, Hodgers lighted the street lamps, rang the bells for different occasions, and stoked the church fire at night. Morehart, now eighty-nine years old, said that Hodgers was also very kind to children and always had a treat for them when they visited her house. She was eccentric and sometimes would offer her guests food, telling them it was poisoned "to fool the rats." On Memorial Day Morehart recalls seeing Hodgers parade around in her uniform. When there was a storm, she would come over to the Morehart home to protect the children, but Morehart believes that Hodgers was the one who was really afraid. According to Cathy Lannon's master's thesis on Hodgers, some children would tease her by calling her "drummer boy," which made her very angry.

Jennie Hodgers's identity was first discovered in 1910. She was ill, and Mrs. Patrick Henry Lannon sent a nurse to check on her. When the nurse returned she exclaimed, "My Lord, Mrs. Lannon he's a full-fledged woman!" Hodgers' identity was revealed a second time later that same year when she was doing work for Senator Ira M. Lish. He accidentally ran over her leg, and a doctor was called. As she had done with Mrs. Lannon, she begged them not to tell anyone about her being a female. In 1911, with help from Senator Lish, Hodgers was admitted to the Illinois Soldiers' and Sailors' Home since she could not take care of herself. The home's administrators promised to keep her identity a secret.

After two years at the Soldiers' and Sailors' Home, Jennie Hodgers' secret was revealed to the public as a result of two male nurses trying to give her a bath. Hodgers' unique case was widely publicized and many people, especially in Saunemin, were surprised. In 1913 Hodgers was transferred to an insane asylum, where she was forced to dress as a woman for the first time in her adult life. She died on October 10, 1915, and was buried in Saunemin, in her Civil War uniform.

What is the significance of the life of Jennie Hodgers? She was the only woman to serve in the Civil War for the full time that her unit served,

When Jennie Hodgers was buried, her tombstone bore her male alias, Albert D.J. Cashier. In the 1970s another headstone bearing her female name was placed next to this one.
Tombstone

30 ILLINOIS HISTORY / FEBRUARY 1994


which was over three years. She was the only woman to receive a pension for her service during the Civil War. Finally, as Albert D. J. Cashier, she was the first woman to vote in Illinois.

What memorials are there for this Civil War veteran? Hodgers is honored on the Illinois memorial at Vicksburg by the inscription, "Cashier, Albert D. J., Pvt." She is also remembered by two headstones on her grave. Jennie Hodgers was buried with a marker which read, "Albert D. J. Cashier, Co. G, 95 Ill. Inf." In the 1970s another headstone was added, which included both of her names. Lastly, the Saunemin Historical Society is trying to preserve her home as a fitting memorial to one of its most original citizens.—[From Gerhard P. Clausius, "The Little Soldier of the 95th: Albert D. J. Cashier," Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, 1958; Gordon A. Cotton, "Illinois Civil War roster includes woman soldier—Saunemin's Jennie Hodgers," Vicksburg Evening Post, no date, copy from Saunemin Grade School; Rodney 0. Davis, "Private Albert Cashier As Regarded by His/Her Comrades," Illinois Historical Journal (1989); Richard Hall, Patriots in Disguise: Women Warriors of the Civil War; Mary Catherine Lannon, "Albert D. J. Cashier and the Ninety-Fifth Illinois Infantry (1844-1915)," Master's thesis (1969); student historian's interview with Ruth Morehart, Nov. 14, 1993; Edward Zuckerman, "When Jennie Comes Marchin' Home," undated paper in files at Saunemin Historical Society.]

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