US Army Women's Museum - Fort Lee, Virginia
Deborah Sampson Gannett
American Revolutionary War (1775 - 1783)
|Deborah Sampson Gannett, early one morning in
1778, left the family with whom she was living, telling them she was going
to find work; however, when she reached the edge of town, she exchanged
her skirts for male clothing and enlisted in the nearest Army camp.
Giving her name as Robert Shirtliffe (alternately "Shurtleff,"
"Shurtliffe," and "Shurlieffe"), she joined the
company of Captain Nathan Thayer, which later became a part of the 4th
Massachusetts Regiment under the command of Colonel Richardson. She
enlisted in the Army for three years but utimately served for 18 months.
During her career with the Army, she showed courage and
After she was wounded and sent to the hospital, it was discovered by the doctor that she was female. When she recovered, she was sent to Washington's headquarters with a personal letter to the Commander-in-Chief. General Washington read the letter, and without speaking to her, handed her a discharge from the Army.
In later years, the American Congress recognized Gannet's claims as a Revolutionary soldier by granting her husband a widow's pension after her death.
Archives of the US Army Women's Museum: Photo (personal donation).
Archives of the US Army Women's Museum: Women's Army Corps Journal, Volume VI (January/March, 1975): p. 12.
Freeman, Lucy and Bond, Alma H. America's First Woman Warrior: The Courage of Deborah Sampson. NY: Paragon, 1992.
Kellner, H.T. "'Private Robert Shurtleff'": America's First Woman Soldier." Liberty (March/April, 1976): p. 13.
Return to: Notable Army Women Page