Cross-dressers of the American Civil War

Cathay Williams
Cathay Williams
Jennie Hodgers
Jennie Hodgers
Loreta Velazquez
Loreta Velazquez
Frances Clayton
Frances Clayton

I guess men were not very observant during the American Civil War and afterwards. Even with a bare minimum physical examination, many women were able to crossdress into men's clothing and fight. If the brave, patriotic women did not do this, they were in the back cooking, laundry to support their army of men. Today, one might think these women were queer or transgender psychologically, from what evidence there is, most did this for a variety of other reasons. Some were patriotic, others wanted to be close to the husband, or for the money. A soldiers pay was $13 a month and to incite enlistment, many were offered $150! The most amazing thing is that their gender was seldom discovered for years and usually it was discovered if an injury or sickness. Even the discovery did not mean a discharge, sometimes the discovery remained quiet.

The most famous was Albert Cashier, born Jennie Hodgers. From the time she entered the US Army as a man in 1862, she would live out her whole life as one.When the Army discovered it, she was discharged, Yet, she continued being Albert. Jennie was a well-liked "man" and fought with the best of them, though she was only 5 ft. 2in. with a slight build. She was part of the Illinois 95th Regiment and fought under Ulysses S. Grant in 40 battles including Vicksburg. She was captured yet escaped. He was a hero until her gender was discovered. She was discharged and worked as a man in a variety of jobs. Then, in 1910, a car hit her leg and this is when her gender was discovered again. It remained a secret. By 1913, her mind was going bad, alzhiemers, she was committed to a hospital where the discovery happened for a last time. This he was forced to dress as a woman. She died in 1915 with $418.

Then, there was the first black woman, William Cathay, her real name was Cathay Williams. She was about 5 ft. 9in and 130 lb. She was with the Northern army and entered the army purely for the money at age 17 and became part of the 8th Indiana Regiment in 1861. Her first service was as a woman, but in 1866, after the war, needing a job, she reenlisted as a man and for two years the impersonation worked until she fell sick. Once the gender was discovered, she was discharged in 1868. She got married but the man was no good, and it ended. She died in 1892.

Loreta Velazquez, a cuban born woman, married, enlisted as Harry Buford in the Conferate Army without her husband's knowledge in 1861. She fought at Bull Run and when her gender was discovered, discharged. She quickly enlistaed again, as the same man and fought at Shiloh, until once again, was discovered. After her second discharge, she became a spy. She would marry three times in her life and gave birth to a boy in the late 1800's.

And then are two teen girls, Mary and Mollie Bell, who enlisted in the Confederate Army as Bob Martin and Tom Parker. For two years they were undiscovered. The girls learned how to ride horses, hunt, and scavenge for food prior to the war being on a farm. Because of their superior riding skills they were part of the cavalry. At Gettysburg, both women were commended for their fighting skill and dedication, known to their fellow soldiers as "gallant, first-class fighting men". The girls were so equal to men, one became a Sergeant and the other a Corporal. One managed to kill three enemy soldiers with a muzzle loader rifle. Once their gender was discovered, the girls were imprisoned and called prostitutes, even though those men in the rank and file new different.

Lastly, there was Jack Williams aka Frances Clalin. Some today might call her a "dike", as she had masculine features in some ways, tall, erect, smoked and drank. She was a tough woman having been raised on a farm. She handled weapons as good as any man. Battle did not seem to bother her. She joined to follow her husband into war in 1861. She was in cavalry and artillery and fought in 17 battles where she was wounded three times and taken prisoner once. It was in 1862 that her husband died only a feet from her. Her gender was discovered in 1863 from wound. After the war, she gave birth to three children.

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handymanbill profile image

handymanbill 4 years ago from western pennsylvania

Great read. i had heard about this before. It is amazing that they could be mistaken as a man. Good read

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

I have run across mention of the women soldiers but have not got around to further study of them. As a fan of folk songs I have observed several songs about women as soldiers, pirates and such.Probably the best known song I think is titled "Cruel War" in which a girl is lamenting her lover has to go to war and states that she will go with him disguised as a man.

perrya profile image

perrya 4 years ago Author

I was shocked to find this out and how they avoided detection for years!

Tim 4 years ago

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - Two 16-year-old girls say they were attacked in Ocean View by men dressed in women's clothing.

Abby Armstrong and Georgie Jacobs told they were leaving a friend's house Thursday afternoon on Ocean View Avenue near 11th View. Georgie was on a cell phone and Abby was next to her laughing when what looked like two women started yelling at them.

"They were like 'oh you're talking to me' and I was like 'I wasn't even talking to you,'" Jacobs said.

The teens say they were punched and kicked.

"I thought I was dead," said Jacobs. "I thought I was going to die. I was about to get into the car and I turned around and she's like at my face," Jacobs added. "She punched me and I fell and I blacked out. It was like a movie, it felt like I was in a movie."

Jacobs says she was taking the brunt of the punches while Abby jumped in to try to help.

"I ripped the one girl's wig off and pushed her out of the way," Armstrong said. "She just started running away. She was gone like the wind."

That's when she realized the women were really men dressed in women's clothing. Other people then stopped the attack.

"If our friends weren't there we probably would have been left there," Jacobs said. "No one would have said anything."

Both girls ended up swollen, cut and bruised. Georgie went to the hospital with a concussion. They just want to know what they did to provoke the men in the first place.

"I've never fought a man in my life before, but I have now," Armstrong said. "They're strong. Men are very strong."

So far police have not yet made any arrests, but investigators say they know who they are looking for at this time.

Anyone with information should contact the Norfolk Police Department.

perrya profile image

perrya 4 years ago Author

What has this event to do with the hub?

Tim 4 years ago

You hub is about cross-dressers, right?

Dixie 4 years ago

I think what I am about to relate may in some way help those that are less than comfortable with their significant other's crossdressing.

We have a 13 year old son who is adopted. Now my son was adopted at birth; we do not know his birth father, and he was not introduced to ‘P’ (my husband who crossdresses) until he was 8 years old. He has never met ‘Becca’, but has seen my husband wearing a nightgown as his male self.

Many of the SO's may think that being a crossdresser is a choice or a fetish, and something that will go away. What I am about to relate to you may bring all this into perspective for you a bit, I hope.

Like I’ve said, my son has NEVER seen 'Becca' dressed, and is not even aware of what crossdressing is all about. At about 3 years old I remember him seeing a beautiful party dress at a yard sale and saying to me “Mommy can I have this?” Now this was pre Becca, and up until I met Becca, I knew nothing myself about crossdressers. And up until I met Becca, I never gave it (him wanting a party dress) another thought.

In the last couple of years we have found stashes of nylons, bras, panties and for some odd reason my husband’s grey tube socks hidden in his room. I know for a fact, since he has never met Becca that he is not trying to emulate what he has seen. I truly believe that this is a part of who he is, and a need within him, just like it is within any crossdresser; something he was born with and will live with the rest of his life.

What I would like you to think about is this... IF your husband was not a crossdresser, if you knew nothing about crossdressing, and you had a son that showed such tendencies, what would you do? Would you shun him? Would you force him to stop? Would you deny this part of him? Or would you, because of your love for your child, try to understand what he is going through and support him in any way you can? What if your son was gay? Would you treat him any differently than you have all of his life or would you still love him as you always have? A person does not turn gay any more than a crossdresser decides to become a crossdresser. It is not something you 'catch', it is not something that you wake up one morning and say “Hey, I think I'll be gay”, or “Hey, I think I will be a crossdresser”. IT is something that is within them, something that has always been there from birth, something that will NOT go away; a part of who they are as a person.

Think about this... your husband was that child at one time, scared, alone and thinking he was sick for the feelings he had; the need to dress in girls clothing. It is not something he chose to do. Most likely if it could go away he would wish it to do so, because of his love for you and the struggles he is seeing within you since confiding his secret to you. It takes a LOT of courage to reveal this other self to ANYONE in a crossdresser’s life. It carries a LOT of guilt with it, because in society, it is not considered normal. In many cases the significant other feels lied to, and I can understand that, but it was not something he wanted to lie about. It is something he most likely felt he needed to keep to himself to avoid losing you!

Many of you that are struggling with this now have been married many, many years. Think back to what life was like, (not just your life but life at the time in general) back then when you were first married. There was no internet, there were no doctors that understood this, there was NO ONE for him to talk to! He felt alone, confused and thought he was the only one with these feelings. The last thing he wanted to do was lose the one person in his life he cared about by trying to explain to her something he himself did not understand. NOW with the internet, doctors becoming more aware, and people, such as the members of online groups, to talk to, he is feeling more secure. He took the step to share his secret with you, hoping because of your love for him, and his love for you, the two of you could now share this part of him that has been there all along. There, throughout your lifetime together. There, even though you never knew it, but there, none the less, a part of the core of who he is; a part of him that you fell in love with.

For those SO's that worry that their husband may be gay, rest assured that a very small percentage of crossdressers are gay. If you will think about it this way it may help you understand why. What are gay men attracted to? Women? No, they are attracted to other men, so in most cases why would a man who is gay dress as a woman to attract another gay man? Just because he is a crossdresser and likes wearing women’s clothing, does not mean he will suddenly after 20 odd years of marriage turn gay on you, so put that worry out of your head.

My point is, put yourself in your husband’s place 20, 30, 40 even 50 odd years ago. Imagine in your mind you are a young boy of 3 years old, 8 years old, or 13 years old and have this uncontrollable urge to put on your mothers hose, bra or dress. Try to imagine the thoughts that are rushing through your young mind. Imagine the guilt, the confusion and the shame you feel. Imagine keeping this secret ALL your adult life. Sharing it with no one, not even your life partner, living in fear of being caught, fear because you thought you were not normal, and perhaps even beaten by your parents in an attempt to 'make it go away' when they found out. Be thankful that he did not take the road that some have, and ended his life because he could not live with this secret any longer. Be thankful he is there now, beside you, loving you, opening his self up to you.

I am fortunate, as I have Becca in my life. Without her I would have never known about crossdressing. I would have never known that my own son is a crossdresser. I would not have the knowledge to help him understand that it is OK, that no matter what, I love him unconditionally and will always be here for him, just as I will always be here for Becca.

perrya profile image

perrya 4 years ago Author

This hub is about women who crossdressed during the civil war.

Simon 4 years ago

In the spring of 1864, Massachusetts soldiers stationed at Brandy Station, Virginia, put on a ball. The local women, secession-minded and few in number, would hardly fill the need for companions. Younger soldiers, in particular the drummer boys, dressed as ladies for the evening.

A letter home a few days later noted that "some of the real women went, but the boy girls were so much better looking they one could have told wich of the party had fell on a hatchet."

A comrade agreed: "We had some little drummer boys dressed up and I bet you could not tell them from girls if you did not know them...some of them looked almost good enough to lay with and I guess some of them did get laid with." The letter writer adds to his wife, "I know I slept with mine."

Mary 4 years ago

Simon, I'm not at all surprised by the story.

Mary 4 years ago

I've also heard many accounts about drummer boys getting a lot of unwanted attention by the soldiers. Union drummer boys were particularly concerned about getting butt raped by the colored troops because of their roughness and large penises. Some of the accounts make it seem like there was a colored troop hiding behind every tree just waiting to feed them the salami.

Jimmy771 profile image

Jimmy771 4 years ago

Mary, could you provide the documentation that made "it seem like there was a colored troop hiding behind every tree just waiting to feed them the salami."

perrya profile image

perrya 4 years ago Author

fact or fiction about drummer boys?

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